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Pakistan Anger Boils as US Drone Attacks Continue July 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
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Roger’s note: This is not the first nor will it be the last time I post an article on drone warfare.  It is cowardly and criminal, and it needs to be denounced over and over again.  That it has been accelerated and is being carried on by a Nobel Peace laureate is beyond irony.
 
Published on Saturday, July 7, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

Protests lash out at Obama, NATO following re-opening of supply routes and continued bombing campaign

- Common Dreams staff

Populer anger in Pakistan is growing and demonstrations against NATO spreading as the US-led drone campaign continues unabated. The death toll count grew to near 20 overnight following the latest missile attack on Friday.

 Supporters of Awami Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan stand next to a burning image of U.S. President Barack Obama during an anti-American rally in Quetta July 6, 2012. About 120 demonstrators gathered on Friday to protest against the resumption of NATO supplies transiting into Afghanistan through Pakistan. A pair of trucks carrying NATO supplies crossed into Afghanistan on Thursday, Pakistani customs officials said, the first time in more than seven months that Pakistan has allowed Western nations to use its roads to supply troops in Afghanistan. (REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed)

 Imran Khan, former cricketer and current head of the Tehrik-e-Insaf workers party in Pakistan, joined with many angry Pakistanis in condemning the latest attack by US forces. In Quetta on Friday, protesters burnt portraits of US President Barack Obama and hurled their shoes at effigies of American and NATO officials.

According to Pakistan newspaper The Nation, Khan demanded that details of the strike and the identities of the casualties should be investigated and released so that Pakistanis would know how many women, children and ordinary civilians had been killed. Condemning his own government, he questioned the reasoning of a country that would allow the indiscriminate killing of its citizens and claimed that the Pakistani leadership was equally responsible for those killed in US drone strikes.

The latest assault on comes just days after Pakistan agreed to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan following a mea culpa from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a cross-border incident last year that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. Pakistan had also called for a cessation of drone strikes on its soil, but neither Clinton nor the US State Department succumbed to those demands. “Demands from Pakistan’s national security commission for the ‘immediate cessation’ of the unmanned Predator strikes were simply ignored,” wrote Ben Doherty in the Sydney Morning Herald.

News of the reopened supply lines and the continued drone strikes has led to elevated protests across Pakistan. Protests were also organised in Islamabad, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Mardan, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Dir. A coalition of groups have promised string of demonstration, including a ‘long march’ that would stretch from Lahore to Islamabad in protest against the reopening of the supply lines and ongoing NATO policy.

Pentagon to soon deploy pint-sized but lethal Switchblade drones June 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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 Roger’s note: According to the Pentagon, this weapon is developed to reduce civilian casualties.  This is no surprise, as we know the Pentagon to be nothing less than a humanistic and peace-loving organization.  So now Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama has another weapon in his arsenal of terror.  It is nightmarish to think of the potential uses for this weapon, at HOME as well as abroad.

 

The drones, which U.S. officials hope will help reduce civilian casualties in war zones, pack tiny explosive warheads that can destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy.

 

W. J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

June 11, 2012, 5:00 a.m.

 
Seeking to reduce civilian casualties and collateral damage, the Pentagon will soon deploy a new generation of drones the size of model planes, packing tiny explosive warheads that can be delivered with pinpoint accuracy.

Errant drone strikes have been blamed for killing and injuring scores of civilians throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, giving the U.S. government a black eye as it targets elusive terrorist groups. The Predator and Reaper drones deployed in these regions typically carry 100-pound laser-guided Hellfire missiles or 500-pound GPS-guided smart bombs that can reduce buildings to smoldering rubble.

The new Switchblade drone, by comparison, weighs less than 6 pounds and can take out a sniper on a rooftop without blasting the building to bits. It also enables soldiers in the field to identify and destroy targets much more quickly by eliminating the need to call in a strike from large drones that may be hundreds of miles away.

“This is a precision strike weapon that causes as minimal collateral damage as possible,” said William I. Nichols, who led the Army‘s testing effort of the Switchblades at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Ala.

The 2-foot-long Switchblade is so named because its wings fold into the fuselage for transport and spring out after launch. It is designed to fit into a soldier’s rucksack and is fired from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, it begins sending back live video and GPS coordinates to a hand-held control set clutched by the soldier who launched it.

When soldiers identify and lock on a target, they send a command for the drone to nose-dive into it and detonate on impact. Because of the way it operates, the Switchblade has been dubbed the “kamikaze drone.”

The Obama administration, notably the CIA, has long been lambasted by critics for its use of combat drones and carelessly killing civilians in targeted strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. In 2010, a United Nations official said the CIA in Pakistan had made the United States “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world.

In recent weeks, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the issue at a recent news briefing, and he said the Obama administration is committed to reducing civilian casualties.

Although Carney did not mention the Switchblade specifically, he said “we have at our disposal tools that make avoidance of civilian casualties much easier, and tools that make precision targeting possible in ways that have never existed in the past.”

The Switchblade drone appears to be an improvement as an alternative to traditional drone strikes, in terms of minimizing civilian harm, but it also raises new concerns, said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School.

She pointed out that when a drone strike is being considered there are teams of lawyers, analysts and military personnel looking at the data to determine whether lethal force is necessary. But the Switchblade could shorten that “kill chain.”

“It delegates full responsibility to a lower-level soldier on the ground,” she said. “That delegation is worrisome. It’s a situation that could end up in more mistakes being made.”

Arms-control advocates also have concerns. As these small robotic weapons proliferate, they worry about what could happen if the drones end up in the hands of terrorists or other hostile forces.

The Switchblade “is symptomatic of a larger problem thatU.S. militaryand aerospace companies are generating, which is producing various more exotic designs,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn. “This technology is not always going to be in the sole possession of the U.S. and its allies. We need to think about the rules of the road for when and how these should be used so we can mitigate against unintended consequences.”

The Switchblade is assembled in Simi Valley by AeroVironment Inc., the Pentagon’s top supplier of small drones, which include the Raven, Wasp and Puma. More than 50 Switchblades will be sent to the war zone in Afghanistan this summer under a $10.1-million contract, which also includes the cost of repairs, spare parts, training and other expenses. Officials would not provide details about where the weapons would be used, how many were ordered and precisely when they would be deployed.

AeroVironment, based in Monrovia, developed the weapon on its own, thinking the military could use a lethal drone that could be made cheaply and deployed quickly by soldiers in the field, said company spokesman Steven Gitlin.

“It’s not inexpensive to task an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet from a base to take out an [improvised explosive device] team when you consider fuel, people, logistics support, etc.,” he said.

About a dozen Switchblades were tested last year by special operations units in Afghanistan, according to Army officials, who said the drone proved effective.

The Army is considering buying $100 million worth of the drones in a few years under a program called the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System, Nichols said. The Air Force and the Marine Corps have also expressed interest in the technology.

AeroVironment is not the only company pursuing small, lethal drones. Textron Defense Systems is also working on a small kamikaze-style drone. Named the BattleHawk Squad-Level Loitering Munition, the drone is being tested at an Army facility in New Mexico.

Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare, said the Switchblade’s entry into the war zone is typical of today’s weapons procurement path. Defense contractors, he said, are on their own developing smaller and cheaper but powerful high-tech weapons vital to waging guerrilla-type warfare in the 21st century, and they are finding success.

“This weapon system is the first of its kind,” he said. “If it works, there’s little doubt others will follow.”

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

Obama Confirms US Drone Program in Pakistan ‘US Drones Very Precise’ January 31, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
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Roger’s note: President Obama: sending missiles into sovereign nations?  No problem.  Killing innocent bystanders?  Not that many, no problem.
Published on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 by Common Dreams

In frank admission, Obama argues he has authority to bomb sovereign nations and that ‘drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties’

  – Common Dreams staff

On Monday, as President Obama was answering questions during an interview conducted by several Americans through a Google+’s “hangout” group video chat feature, he acknowledged publicly the use of US drones and airstrikes inside Pakistan.

In answering, Obama argued that “first of all, drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties.” A claim that belies evidence. The question came from a young man named, Evan, from Brooklyn, New York, who said: “Mr. President, since you took office you’ve ordered more drone attacks in your first year than your predecessor did in his entire term. These drone attacks cause a lot of civilian casualties. I’m curious to know how you feel they help the nation and whether you think they’re worth it.”

In answering, Obama first argued that “first of all, drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties. For the most part they have been very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates. We have been very careful in how it’s been applied.” He goes on to say that the drone program is “kept on a very tight leash” and that it’s not “just a bunch of folks in a room some where making decisions.”

In a follow up question regarding the degree to which US drone incursions might be “perceived” as interference in other countries, Obama responded that even in “sovereign nations” its better to have pinpoint capabalities, suggesting airstrike accuracy lessens the infringment of sovereignty in those nations, and, in fact, are helpful to those countries because they could not otherwise apprehend (or annihilate) these targets.

Subsequently, Obama confirmed that “a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA [Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas].”

 

 

***

Pakistan Calls Drone Use, Missile Strikes ‘Unlawful’ and ‘Counterproductive’

Al-Jazeera reports:

The controversial drone programme run by the CIA has often been met with protests in Pakistan amid concerns of civilian casualties. The Pakistani government publicly protests the operations, but is believed to support them.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry reiterated the government’s public protest in response to Obama’s comments.

“Notwithstanding tactical advantages of drone strikes, we are of the firm view that these are unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable,” Abdul Basit said.

The New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years.

The New America Foundation report, Year of the Drone, which studied drone attacks and civilian casualties, strongly refutes Obama’s claim that drones “have not caused a great number of civilian casualties.” According to the report:

Our study shows that the 283 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 70 in 2011, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 1,717 and 2,680 individuals, of whom around 1,424 to 2,209 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 17 percent. In 2010, it was more like five percent.*

We have also constructed a map, based on the same reliable press accounts and publicly available maps, of the estimated location of each drone strike. Click each pin in the online version to see the details of a reported strike. And while we are not professional cartographers, and Google Maps is at times incomplete or imperfect, this map gives our best approximations of the locations and details of each reported drone strike since 2004.

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

With Its Deadly Drones, the US is Fighting a Coward’s War

As technology allows machines to make their own decisions, warfare will become bloodier – and less accountable

The ancient Greeks, unlike the Jews or the Christians, invested their gods with human failings. Divine judgment, they believed, was neither flawless nor dispassionate; it was warped by lust, vengeance and self-interest. In the hands of Zeus, the thunderbolt was both an instrument of justice and a weapon of jealousy and revenge.

(Illustration by Daniel Pudles)

Those now dispensing judgment from on high are not gods, though they must feel like it. The people striking mortals down with drones are doubtless as capable as anyone else of self-deception, denial and cognitive illusions. More so, perhaps, as the eminent fictions of the Bush years and the growing delusions of the current president suggest.

Barack Obama began last week’s state of the union address by claiming that the troops who had fought the Iraq war had “made the United States safer and more respected around the world”. Like Bush, like the gods, he has begun to create the world he wants to inhabit.

These power-damaged people have been granted the chance to fulfill one of humankind’s abiding fantasies: to vaporize their enemies, as if with a curse or a prayer, effortlessly and from a safe distance. That these powers are already being abused is suggested by the mendacity of those who are deploying them. The CIA, which is running the undeclared and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan, insists that there have been no recent civilian casualties. So does Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan. It is a blatant whitewash.

As a report last year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed, of some 2,300 people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 until August 2011, between 392 and 781 appear to have been civilians; 175 were children. In the period about which the CIA and Brennan made their claims, at least 45 civilians have been killed. As soon as an agency claims “we never make mistakes”, you know that it has lost its moorings, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suggested in his story of that title. Feeling no obligation to apologize or explain, count bodies or answer for its crimes, it becomes a danger to humanity.

It may be true, as the US air force says, that because a drone can circle and study a target for hours before it strikes, its missiles are less likely to kill civilians than those launched from a piloted plane. (The air force has yet to explain how it reconciles this with its boast that drones “greatly shorten decision time”.) But it must also be true that the easier and less risky a deployment is, the more likely it is to happen.

This danger is acknowledged in a remarkably candid assessment published by the UK’s Ministry of Defense, which also deploys drones, and has also used them to kill civilians. It maintains that the undeclared air war in Pakistan and Yemen “is totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability – it is unlikely a similar scale of force would be used if this capability were not available”. Citing the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, it warns that the brutality of war seldom escalates to its absolute form, partly because of the risk faced by one’s own forces. Without risk, there’s less restraint. With these unmanned craft, governments can fight a coward’s war, a god’s war, harming only the unnamed.

The danger is likely to escalate as drone warfare becomes more automated and the lines of accountability less clear. Last week the US navy unveiled a drone that can land on an aircraft carrier without even a remote pilot. The Los Angeles Times warned that “it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently“. The British assessment suggests that within a few years drones assisted by artificial intelligence could make their own decisions about whom to kill and whom to spare. Sorry sir, computer says yes.

“Some would say one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist,” George HW Bush opined on when he was vice-president. “I reject this notion. The philosophical differences are stark and fundamental.” Perhaps they are, but no US administration has convincingly defined them or consistently recognized them. In Latin America, south-east Asia, Africa and the Middle East, successive presidents have thwarted freedom and assisted state terrorism. Drones grant governments new opportunities to snuff out opposition of any kind, terrorist or democrat. The US might already be making use of them.

In October last year, a 16-year-old called Tariq Aziz was traveling through North Waziristan in Pakistan with his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. Their car was hit by a missile from a US drone. As always, their deaths made them guilty: if we killed them, they must be terrorists. But they weren’t. Tariq was about to start work with the human rights group Reprieve, taking pictures of the aftermath of drone strikes. A mistake? Possibly. But it is also possible that he was murdered out of self-interest. If you have such powers, if you are not held to account by Congress, the media or the American people, why not use them?

The danger to democracy, and not just in Pakistan but one day perhaps everywhere, should be evident. Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

<!–

–>

George Monbiot

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

24 Comments so far

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Posted by secretarybird
Jan 31 2012 – 10:20am

“a drone can circle and study a target for hours before it strikes”

Only because the people down below lack anti-aircraft weapons (a pretty good sign that they are actually civilians).

Posted by pjd412
Jan 31 2012 – 12:47pm

Or, if not civilians, then no threat whatsoever to US citizens minding their own business within their borders.

Posted by Thalidomide
Jan 31 2012 – 10:42am

The Americans have been fighting cowardly wars ever since the end of world war 11. They only go after poor third world countries dropping their bombs from on high on innocent civilians. I remember their massive slaughter of the Vietnamese using napalm and cluster bombs. They are so vicious and dumb that killing poor people that have done nothing against them makes them feel good and they hate foreigners so much they don’t even bother to count the number they kill because it might remind people how uneven their wars are.

Posted by tiozapata
Jan 31 2012 – 11:34am

Amerikans/ Europeans have been slaughtering/ carrying out terrorist atrocities, aka wars; since 1492 ! Manifest Destiny, amerikan imperialism, terrorism, all deadly semantics; all have come Full Circle…..the fascist amerikan empire IS sliding into the abyss !!!

Posted by hummingbird
Jan 31 2012 – 12:37pm

“The ancient Greeks, unlike the Jews or the Christians, invested their gods with human failings. Divine judgment, they believed, was neither flawless nor dispassionate; it was warped by lust, vengeance and self-interest. In the hands of Zeus, the thunderbolt was both an instrument of justice and a weapon of jealousy and revenge.”–George Monbiot ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “unlike the jews or christians”? i find that curious, george, because somewhere in the old testament we learn that g_d is a jealous g_d.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide.”–George Monbiot ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

good point! i find it amazing that people continue to expect the elect of mount olympus d.c. to solve all problems. we might blame that “faith” in the ruling class on the greeks, too. plato, realising that certain humans among us have such extraordinary qualities of leadership, intellectually wise and morally superior that they most naturally should be entrusted to manage all our affairs. why to even the landed gentry,  is tantamount to questioning the gods themselves!

plato went on to say that these most exalted ones know best which sciences a government supports and which sciences waste time and money. the sciences which lead to more magnificent weaponry should get the lion’s share for should another society attempt to wrest the g_d given (*see divine right of kings) land always makes weaponry top priority. we immoral, mortal commoners who glory in our leader’s success must see their altruism for what it is. they protect and manage the wealth for all of us.

Posted by Rainborowe
Jan 31 2012 – 2:09pm

The first, the original, meaning of “jealous” was “watchful” or “careful.”  This is the sense in which the translators of the King James Bible used it.

Posted by Obedient Servant
Jan 31 2012 – 3:10pm

Since you raise the point, Rainborowe, I’ve often wondered why the term “jealous” has gotten muddled in popular usage.

In addition to the synonyms you present, the original pejorative sense of jealous meant, and still sometimes means, “protective” or “possessive” (to a fault).  But in modern usage it’s also a synonym for “envious” or “covetous”,  which isn’t really the same thing.

‘Tis a semantic puzzle.

Posted by hummingbird
Jan 31 2012 – 11:04am

“god bless america…..and nobody else!”

“patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels!” –dr. samuel johnson

Posted by onemorethought
Jan 31 2012 – 11:19am

When was the last time the U.S. actually won a war?

Posted by DogStarMan69
Jan 31 2012 – 11:51am

Reminds me of the late Bill Hicks’ view on the first Gulf slaughter;

“War? Well, a war is when *two* armies are fighting.”

Posted by raydelcamino
Jan 31 2012 – 7:17pm

When a war “ends”, so does the revenue stream for the banksters and their military industrial complex. No US war will ever end as long as the banksters own the US Government.

Posted by craigdp
Jan 31 2012 – 12:11pm

This is drivel, for two reasons:

Using drones is no more dastardly than using suicide bombers – both are indiscriminate and presume ‘collateral’ damage.

In the larger picture, all war is a crime. attempting to parse discrete levels of culpability is absurd prima facie.

Posted by pjd412
Jan 31 2012 – 1:14pm

Except suicide-bombing arises only as a desperate measure by a vastly out-gunned people trying futilely to defend themselves against an invader and occupier.  Stop the invasions and occupations and the suicide-bombings will stop.  Alternatvely, if the defenders were given the same advanced weaponry as the invader, they would discard their inaccurate suicide bombs too.

Also, with all the atrocities being done in our name by our governent, which are precipitating the suicide bombings to begin with, and all the work to be done resisting them, I frankly don’t have the indignation left to invest in the suicide bomber’s actions.  So, the symmetry you are trying to draw is no quite correct.  There is no symmetry between effect and casue – at the macroscopic non-quantum level anyway.

Posted by RV
Jan 31 2012 – 1:31pm

What is really absurd is failure to distinguish between the culpability of those who seek to impose imperial tyranny and those who attempt to defend their homes and families against it.

Posted by Lingum
Jan 31 2012 – 2:22pm

As some Palestinian once said, give us planes and tanks so we don’t have to use suicide/human bombers.

Posted by Siouxrose
Jan 31 2012 – 12:50pm

I appreciate Mr. Monbiot’s use of Greek mythology. His initial point was to show that the deities of Olympus have critical flaws unlike the premise of a more perfect God, one alone who is flawless, and governs our world as the sovereign ruler.

I take issue, however, with Mr. Monbiot’s conclusion:

“Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide. “

The MIC acts like a stand-in for Divine authority as it sees no need to take input from citizens. It is this Luciferic force, masquerading as a god of indiscriminate death, that makes the decisions that eliminate all debate. It is not the citizenry, particularly those who advocate FOR world peace and see through the law-defying rationales of the “War on Terror,” who choose these outcomes!

WE is a dangerous notion when decisions are taken by a few (very damaged souls) on alleged behalf of all others.

Posted by medmedude
Jan 31 2012 – 1:09pm

this guy monbiot is an odd guy – i saw him last month “debating” helen calddicott about nuclear energy – he was shilling for the industry and his disrespect for this world renown expert was offensive

he’s one of these guys who says a little radiation is “good” for you – it ain’t

as far as the drones go – trying to make this sound like a man up situation is very macho on his part but i’ll bet 20 bucks he has never been under fire

as much as i hate our current military situation around the world i don’t want to see another one of our men or women injured or killed, not even one more

4800 dead – hundreds of thousands wounded emotionally and physically is quite enough

we need to stand down the war machine manned and unmanned and stop all this killing

our soldiers are not cowards but the likes of obummer, cheney, bush baby and mittens oromney who put them in harm’s way – they are truly cowards and when it was time for them to serve they had “other priorities” as cowards often do…

Posted by pjd412
Jan 31 2012 – 1:25pm

I really think you need some lessons in civility in the way you write your posts.  You write like an arrogant asshole.

Monbiot, as I do, regard the catastrophic consequences of AGW to be a far more dire issue than nuclear power plant safety issues – which are manifestly exaggerated by oppnents compared to any other industrial process – especially the mining and burning of coal.  The facts are, when a nuclear power plant is closed, it is replaced with a coal-burning one.  And even if it were replaced with renewables, it means that a coal power plant somewhere could have, but will not, be replaced with renewables.  As Monbiot has noted, this is madness.

Posted by medmedude
Jan 31 2012 – 1:53pm

i think that shilling for nuclear power exposes your ignorance of the dangers of nuclear energy its either willful ignorance or you work in the industry

go and live near one and count the days until your tumors arrive

death count from chernobyl – 1 million

fuskushima: well that is being written – the prefecture where that monstrosity sits is now uninhabitable for the half life of the isotopes being released – around 30,000 years or so

3 mile island – oh yeah we didn’t even measure that one

shill on bro – ignorant one – each to his own

If nuclear power plants are safe, let the commerical insurance industry insure them – they don’t and won’t and for good reason

shill on bro shill on

Posted by Lingum
Jan 31 2012 – 2:17pm

Regarding  Mr. Monbiot, I believe he was against nuclear power before he was for it. He now displays the passion of a convert.

Posted by justbreath
Jan 31 2012 – 7:24pm

Man, If you don’t wear metaphorical boots while posting on this site, one is likely to step in a pile of dung. PJD is lecturing med on civility at the same time calling him or her an “arrogant asshole.” (Pot calling the Kettle black.)

Since when did CD establish etiquette laws?

Posted by Cynthia
Jan 31 2012 – 2:20pm

But having a bunch of limp-wristed gays in the military now makes it okay for us to be cowardly and wimpish in the way we fight our manly wars of aggression. ;~)

Posted by ctrl-z
Jan 31 2012 – 2:53pm

Border

n. 2. Archaic A line separating two political or geographical areas, esp. countries.

Posted by Obedient Servant
Jan 31 2012 – 3:20pm

“With Its Deadly Drones, the US is Fighting a Coward’s War”

“With these unmanned craft, governments can fight a coward’s war, a god’s war, harming only the unnamed.” ________________________

I get the point, but I think conceptualizing technobarbaric warfare as “cowardly” is unfortunate in one respect:  it’s susceptible to the inference that manunkind was better off when warmongers initiated good old-fashioned brave, heroic, glorious wars– wars against “named” targets, give or take a bunch of innocent bystanders.

You know, a MANLY war.

America, arms-dealer to the world January 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 11:23 AM 20:32:35 EST

Munitions is the one U.S. industry that’s booming — with devastating global consequences

By William Astore
Assembly line workers work on a F-35 fighter aircraft at a production plant in Fort Worth, Texas

Assembly line workers work on a F-35 fighter aircraft at a production plant in Fort Worth, Texas    (Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)

This originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” a hard-bitten rock & roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college.  It’s about auto workers back in 1955 who were “young and proud” to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, “the plants have changed and you’re lucky if you work.” Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.

If the U.S. auto industry has recently shown sparks of new life (though we’re not making T-Birds or Mercuries or Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs or Saturns anymore), there is one form of manufacturing in which America is still dominant. When it comes to weaponry, to paraphrase Seger, we’re still young and proud and makin’ Predators and Reapers (as in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) and Eagles and Fighting Falcons (as in F-15 and F-16 combat jets), and outfitting them with the deadliest of weapons. In this market niche, we’re still the envy of the world.

Yes, we’re the world’s foremost “merchants of death,” the title of a best-selling exposé of the international arms trade published to acclaim in the U.S. in 1934. Back then, most Americans saw themselves as war-avoiders rather than as war-profiteers. The evil war-profiteers were mainly European arms makers like Germany’s Krupp, France’s Schneider or Britain’s Vickers.

Not that America didn’t have its own arms merchants. As the authors of “Merchants of Death” noted, early on our country demonstrated a “Yankee propensity for extracting novel death-dealing knickknacks from [our] peddler’s pack.”  Amazingly, the Nye Committee in the U.S. Senate devoted 93 hearings from 1934 to 1936 to exposing America’s own “greedy munitions interests.” Even in those desperate depression days, a desire for profit and jobs was balanced by a strong sense of unease at this deadly trade, an unease reinforced by the horrors of and hecatombs of dead from the First World War.

We are uneasy no more. Today we take great pride (or at least have no shame) in being by far the world’s number one arms-exporting nation. A few statistics bear this out. From 2006 to 2010, the U.S. accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s arms exports, easily surpassing a resurgent Russia in the “Lords of War” race.  Despite a decline in global arms sales in 2010 due to recessionary pressures, the U.S. increased its market share, accounting for a whopping 53 percent of the trade that year.  Last year saw the U.S. on pace to deliver more than $46 billion in foreign arms sales. Who says America isn’t number one anymore?

For a shopping list of our arms trades, try searching the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute database for arms exports and imports. It reveals that, in 2010, the U.S. exported “major conventional weapons” to 62 countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen, and weapons platforms ranging from F-15, F-16 and F-18 combat jets to M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Cobra attack helicopters (sent to our Pakistani comrades) to guided missiles in all flavors, colors, and sizes: AAMs, PGMs, SAMs, TOWs — a veritable alphabet soup of missile acronyms. Never mind their specific meaning: They’re all designed to blow things up; they’re all designed to kill.

Rarely debated in Congress or in U.S. media outlets is the wisdom or morality of these arms deals. During the quiet last days of December 2011, in separate announcements whose timing could not have been accidental, the Obama Administration expressed its intent to sell nearly $11 billion in arms to Iraq, including Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter-bombers, and nearly $30 billion in F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, part of a larger, $60 billion arms package for the Saudis.  Few in Congress oppose such arms deals since defense contractors provide jobs in their districts — and ready donations to Congressional campaigns.

Let’s pause to consider what such a weapons deal implies for Iraq.  Firstly, Iraq only “needs” advanced tanks and fighter jets because we destroyed their previous generation of the same, whether in 1991 during Desert Shield/Storm or in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Secondly, Iraq “needs” such powerful conventional weaponry ostensibly to deter an invasion by Iran, yet the current government in Baghdad is closely aligned with Iran, courtesy of our invasion in 2003 and the botched occupation that followed. Thirdly, despite its “needs,” the Iraqi military is nowhere near ready to field and maintain such advanced weaponry, at least without sustained training and logistical support provided by the U.S. military.

As one U.S. Air Force officer who served as an advisor to the fledging Iraqi Air Force, or IqAF, recently worried:

“Will the IqAF be able to refuel its own aircraft? Can the Iraqi military offer adequate force protection and security for its bases? Can the IqAF provide airfield management services at its bases as they return to Iraqi control after eight years under US direction? Can the IqAF ensure simple power generation to keep facilities operating? Will the IqAF be able to develop and retain its airmen?… Only time will tell if we left [Iraq] too early; nevertheless, even without a renewed security agreement, the USAF can continue to stand alongside the IqAF.”

Put bluntly: We doubt the Iraqis are ready to field and fly American-built F-16s, but we’re going to sell them to them anyway. And if past history is a guide, if the Iraqis ever turn these planes against us, we’ll blow them up or shoot them down — and then (hopefully) sell them some more.

Our Best Arms Customer

Let’s face it: the weapons we sell to others pale in comparison to the weapons we sell to ourselves  In the market for deadly weapons, we are our own best customer. Americans have a love affair with them, the more high-tech and expensive, the better. I should know. After all, I’m a recovering weapons addict.

Well into my teen years, I was fascinated by military hardware. I built models of what were then the latest U.S. warplanes: the A-10, the F-4, the F-14, -15 and -16, the B-1, and many others. I read Aviation Week and Space Technology at my local library to keep track of the newest developments in military technology.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, I went on to major in mechanical engineering in college and entered the Air Force as a developmental engineer.

Enamored as I was by roaring afterburners and sleek weaponry, I also began to read books like James Fallows’s ”National Defense” (1981) among other early critiques of the Carter and Reagan defense buildup, as well as the slyly subversive and always insightful “Augustine’s Laws” (1986) by Norman Augustine, later the CEO of Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin. That and my own experience in the Air Force alerted me to the billions of dollars we were devoting to high-tech weaponry with ever-ballooning price tags but questionable utility.

Perhaps the best example of the persistence of this phenomenon is the F-35 Lightning II. Produced by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 was intended to be an “affordable” fighter-bomber (at roughly $50 million per copy), a perfect complement to the much more expensive F-22 “air superiority” Raptor. But the usual delays, cost overruns, technical glitches and changes in requirements have driven the price tag of the F-35 up to $160 million per plane, assuming the U.S. military persists in its plans to buy 2,400 of them. (If the Pentagon decides to buy fewer, the cost-per-plane will soar into the F-22 range.) By recent estimates the F-35 will now cost U.S. taxpayers (you and me, that is) at least $382 billion for its development and production run.  Such a sum for a single weapons system is vast enough to be hard to fathom. It would, for instance, easily fund all federal government spending on education for the next five years.

The escalating cost of the F-35 recalls the most famous of Norman Augustine’s irreverent laws: “In the year 2054,” he wrote back in the early 1980s, “the entire defense budget will [suffice to] purchase just one aircraft.” But the deeper question is whether our military even needs the F-35, a question that’s rarely asked and never seriously entertained, at least by Congress, whose philosophy on weaponry is much like King Lear’s: “O, reason not the need.”

But let’s reason the need in purely military terms.  These days, the Air Force is turning increasingly to unmanned drones. Meanwhile, plenty of perfectly good and serviceable “platforms” remain for attack and close air support missions, from F-16s and F-18s in the Air Force and Navy to Apache helicopters in the Army.  And while many of our existing combat jets may be nearing the limits of airframe integrity, there’s nothing stopping the U.S. military from producing updated versions of the same. Heck, this is precisely what we’re hawking to the Saudis — updated versions of the F-15, developed in the 1970s.

Because of sheer cost, it’s likely we’ll buy fewer F-35s than our military wants but many more than we actually need. We’ll do so because Weapons ‘R’ Us. Because building ultra-expensive combat jets is one of the few high-tech industries we haven’t exported (due to national security and secrecy concerns), and thus one of the few industries in the U.S. that still supports high-paying manufacturing jobs with decent employee benefits.  And who can argue with that?

The Ultimate Cost of Our Merchandise of Death

Clearly, the U.S. has grabbed the brass ring of the global arms trade.  When it comes to investing in militaries and weaponry, no country can match us. We are supreme.  And despite talk of modest cuts to the Pentagon budget over the next decade, it will, according to President Obama, continue to grow, which means that in weapons terms the future remains bright.  After all, Pentagon spending on research and development stands at $81.4 billion, accounting for an astonishing 55 percent of all federal spending on R&D and leaving plenty of opportunity to develop our next generation of wonder weapons.

But at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the world?  We’ve become the suppliers of weaponry to the planet’s hotspots.  And those weapons deliveries (and the training and support missions that go with them) tend to make those spots hotter still — as in hot lead.

As a country, we seem to have a teenager’s fascination with military hardware, an addiction that’s driving us to bust our own national budgetary allowance. At the same time, we sell weapons the way teenage punks sell fireworks to younger kids: for profit and with little regard for how they might be used.

Sixty years ago, it was said that what’s good for General Motors is good for America. In 1955, as Bob Seger sang, we were young and strong and makin’ Thunderbirds. But today we’re playing a new tune with new lyrics: What’s good for Lockheed Martin or Boeing or [insert major-defense-contractor-of-your-choice here] is good for America.

How far we’ve come since the 1950s!

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William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel. He has taught cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, officers at the Naval Postgraduate School, and currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is the author of “Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism,” among other books. He may be reached at wastore@pct.edu.  More William Astore

Santa Blown out of the Sky: World’s Children Mourn December 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Religion, Right Wing, War on Terror.
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Dateline: North Pole, December 25, 2012

R. Hollander reporting:

A U.S. CIA launched Predator missile went astray shortly after midnight this morning and made a direct hit on Santa and his reindeer just over the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Santa and sleigh were totally obliterated.  Locals reported finding scattered pieces of reindeer flesh and cheap plastic in fields located miles from the point of contact.  Santa had just picked up his payload from his major suppliers in China and was near the beginning of his run.  This unfortunately means that virtually none of the world’s children received Christmas presents this year.  Mrs. Claus is reported in deep mourning.

How this tragedy came to pass is just beginning to emerge.  First reports from the CIA cited Taliban hackers having found their way into the guidance system and sending the missile, originally intended to wipe out Taliban wedding guests, off its course.  President Obama, in sending his condolences to the world’s children, hinted at al Queda terrorist involvement.  This was later confirmed by an anonymous CIA spokesperson, who added that it was also likely that Julian Assange and Bradley Manning were also somehow involved behind the scenes.  When asked by a reporter how Manning could possibly be involved from his prison cell, the spokesperson responded with a wry smile and a winking gesture.

However, within the past hour a previously little known organization is claiming responsibility for the action.  In a communique singed by “White Knight,” representing Knighted Koalition of Khristians Indignant for the Lord of Lords (K.K.K.I.L.L.), details were given about the Predator’s guidance system that gave serious credibility to the claim.  His allegation that the organization recently has received the endorsement of key Republican presidential candidates has not been confirmed.  In explaining the motives for the attack, White Knight claimed that taking out Santa Claus was necessary in order to reverse the trend of children focusing on St. Nick rather than the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.  He suggested that this was an act of “tough love” toward the world’s children, who needed to learn that the worship of Jesus was more important that Chinese-made gizmos and gadgets.

The reaction of several Christianity’s leading evangelicals was echoed by the Rev. Pat Robertson who suggested that in using exclusively male elves, Santa was in effect promoting homosexuality, and that this could not be allowed to continue.

Others have taken a softer line, characterizing the hit on Santa Claus as collateral damage in the War on Terror.

In his attempt to elicit a reaction from a child to this tragedy, this reporter was unable to find a child who was not so tear ridden so as being able to make a statement.

The CIA’s Unaccountable Drone War Claims Another Casualty November 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Pakistan, War on Terror.
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Published on Monday, November 7, 2011 by the Guardian/UK

 

If Tariq Aziz, the 16-year-old soccer fan I met last week in Pakistan, was a dangerous Taliban terrorist, let the CIA prove it.

by Pratap Chatterjee

Last Friday, I met a boy, just before he was assassinated by the CIA. Tariq Aziz was 16, a quiet young man from North Waziristan, who, like most teenagers, enjoyed soccer. Seventy-two hours later, a Hellfire missile is believed to have killed him as he was traveling in a car to meet his aunt in Miran Shah, to take her home after her wedding. Killed with him was his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan.

Over 2,300 people in Pakistan have been killed by such missiles carried by drone aircraft such as the Predator and the Reaper, and launched by remote control from Langley, Virginia. Tariq and Waheed brought the known total of children killed in this way to 175, according to statistics maintained by the organization I work for, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The final order to kill is signed allegedly by Stephen Preston, the general counsel at the CIA headquarters. What evidence, I would like to know, does Mr Preston have against Tariq and Waheed? What right does he have to act as judge, jury and executioner of two teenage boys neither he nor his staff have ever met, let alone cross-examined, or given the opportunity to present witnesses?

It is not too late to call for a prosecution and trial of whoever pushed the button and the US government officials who gave the order: that is, Mr Preston and his boss, President Barack Obama.

There are many people whom I know who can appear as witnesses in this trial. We – a pair of reporters, together with several lawyers from Britain, Pakistan and the US – met the victim and dozens of other young men from North Waziristan for dinner at the Margalla hotel in Islamabad on Thursday 27 October. We talked about their local soccer teams, which they proudly related were named for Brazil, New Zealand and other nations, which they had heard about but never visited.

The next morning, I filmed young Tariq walking into a conference hall to greet his elders. I reviewed the tape after he was killed to see what was recorded of some of his last moments: he walks shyly and greets the Waziri elders in the traditional style by briefly touching their chests. With his friends, he walks to a set of chairs towards the back of the hall, and they argue briefly about where each of them will sit. Over the course of the morning, Tariq appears again in many photographs that dozens of those present took, always sitting quietly and listening intently.

Tariq was attending a “Waziristan Grand Jirga” on behalf of drone strike victims in Pakistan, which was held at the Margalla hotel the following day. As is the Pashtun custom, the young men, each of whom had lost a friend or relative in a drone strike, did not speak. For four hours, the Waziri elders debated the drone war, and then they listened to a resolution condemning the attacks, read out by Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer from the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. The group voted for this unanimously.

Neil Williams, a volunteer from Reprieve, the British legal charity, sat down and chatted with Tariq after the jirga was over. Together, they traveled in a van to the Pakistani parliament for a protest rally against drone strikes led by Imran Khan, a former cricketer, and now the leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaaf political party.

The next day, the group returned home to Waziristan. On Monday, Tariq was killed, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.

The question I would pose to the jury is this: would a terrorist suspect come to a public meeting and converse openly with foreign lawyers and reporters, and allow himself to be photographed and interviewed? More importantly, since he was so easily available, why could Tariq not have been detained in Islamabad, when we spent 48 hours together? Neither Tariz Aziz nor the lawyers attending this meeting had a highly trained private security detail that could have put up resistance.

Attending that jirga, however, were Clive Stafford Smith and Tara Murray, two US lawyers who trained at Columbia and Harvard. They tell me, unequivocally, that US law is based on the fact that every person is innocent until proven guilty. Why was Tariq, even if a terrorist suspect, not offered an opportunity to defend himself?

Let me offer important alternative argument – the US government has a record of making terrible mistakes in this covert war. On 2 September 2010, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan claimed to have killed Muhammad Amin, the alleged Taliban deputy governor of Takhar province in Afghanistan, in a drone strike. There was only one problem: Michael Semple, a Taliban expert at Harvard University, subsequently interviewed Muhammad Amin and confirmed that he was alive and well and living in Pakistan in March 2011.

The man who was killed was Zabet Amanullah, who was out campaigning in parliamentary elections – along with nine of his fellow election workers. This was confirmed by exhaustive research conducted by Kate Clark, a former BBC correspondent in Kabul who now works for the Afghanistan Analysts Network, who had met with Zabet Amanullah in 2008. The error could have been avoided, Clark points out in her report, if US military intelligence officers had just been “watching election coverage on television”, instead of living in its “parallel world” remote from “normal, everyday world of Afghan politics”.

If Barack Obama’s CIA believed in justice and judicial process, they could have attended the Islamabad jirga last Friday and met with Tariq. It was, after all, an open meeting. They could have arrested and charged Tariq with the help of the Pakistani police. If a prosecution is ever mounted over the death of Tariq, those of us who met him on several occasions last week would be happy to testify to the character of the young man that we had met. But if the CIA has evidence to the contrary, it should present it to the world.

Unless the CIA can prove that Tariq Aziz posed an imminent threat (as the White House’s legal advice stipulates a targeted killing must in order for an attack to be carried out), or that he was a key planner in a war against the US or Pakistan, the killing of this 16 year old was murder, and any jury should convict the CIA accordingly.

© 2011 Pratap Chatterjee

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Pratap Chatterjee

Pratap Chatterjee is the author of two books about the war on terror: Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War and Iraq, Inc. (Seven Stories Press, 2004). He is the former executive director of CorpWatch and a shareholder of both Halliburton and KBR.

Presators and Robots at War September 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, Science and Technology, War.
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Roger’s note: read about your tax dollars at work to provide deadly war games for young marines on the PlayStation killing machines.  Since virtually every country in the world has terrorists within and since the US is at war with terrorism, it can “legally” in the name of self-defense bombard at will.  And unmanned predators may be coming soon to a police station near you!

// by Christian Caryl, http://www.opednews.com/Quicklink/Predators-and-Robots-at-Wa-in-General_News-110919-829.html

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the
Twenty-first Century

by P.W. Singer
Penguin,
499 pp., $17.00 (paper)
Predator: The Remote-Control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan: A
Pilot’s Story

by Lieutenant Colonel Matt J. Martin with Charles W.
Sasser
Zenith, 310 pp., $28.00

caryl_01-092911.jpgMax Becherer/Polaris

The US Air Force’s 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance
Squadron launching an unmanned Predator drone with laser-guided Hellfire
missiles mounted on its wings, Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, November 2009

Drones are in the headlines. We read daily about strikes against terrorist
targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs)—remote-controlled aircraft equipped with elaborate sensors and sometimes
weapons as well. Earlier this summer the US sent
Predator drones into action against militants in Somalia, and plans are
reportedly afoot to put the CIA in charge of a drone
offensive against al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. NATO has
dispatched UAVs to Libya. State-of-the-art stealth drones cased the house where
Osama bin Laden was living before US Navy seals staged
their now famous raid. And in a speech a few weeks ago, White House
counterterrorism chief John Brennan made it clear that drones will continue to
figure prominently in the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy. On
August 22, a CIA drone killed the number-two al-Qaeda
leader in the mountains of Pakistan.

Most of us have probably heard by now how extraordinary this technology is.
Many of the UAV strikes in South Asia are actually
orchestrated by operators sitting at consoles in the United States. US Air Force Colonel Matt Martin gives a unique first-person
account of the strange split consciousness of this new type of warfare in his
book Predator. Even as his body occupies a seat in a control room in
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, his mind is far removed, following a suspicious
SUV down a desert road in Iraq or tailing Taliban
fighters along a mountain ridge in Afghanistan. “I was already starting to refer
to the Predator and myself as ‘I,’ even though the airplane was thousands of
miles away,” Martin notes ruefully.

Notifying Marines on the ground that he’s arriving on the scene in
Afghanistan, he has to remind himself that he’s not actually arriving
anywhere—he’s still in his seat on the base. “Although it was only shortly after
noon in Nevada,” he writes, “I got the yawns just looking at all that snow and
darkness” on the ground outside Kabul. He can hardly be blamed for the
confusion. The eerie acuity of vision afforded by the Predator’s multiple
high-powered video cameras enables him to watch as the objects of his interest
light up cigarettes, go to the bathroom, or engage in amorous adventures with
animals on the other side of the world, never suspecting that they are under
observation as they do.

Even though home and wife are just a few minutes’ drive down the road from
his battle station, the peculiar detachment of drone warfare does not
necessarily insulate Martin from his actions. Predator attacks are
extraordinarily precise, but the violence of war can never be fully tamed, and
the most gripping scenes in the book document Martin’s emotions on the occasions
when innocent civilians wander under his crosshairs in the seconds just before
his Hellfire missile arrives on target. Allied bomber pilots in World War II killed millions of civilians but rarely had occasion to
experience the results on the ground. Drone operators work with far greater
accuracy, but the irony of the technology is that its operators can see their
accidental victims—two little boys and their shattered bikes, in one especially
heartrending case Martin describes—in excruciating detail. Small wonder that
studies by the military have shown that UAV operators
sometimes end up suffering the same degree of combat stress as other
warfighters.1

And yet the US military does little to discourage the
notion that this peculiar brand of long-distance warfare has a great deal in
common with the video-gaming culture in which many young UAV operators have grown up. As one military robotics
researcher tells Peter Singer, the author of Wired for War, “We modeled
the controller after the PlayStation because that’s what these eighteen-,
nineteen-year-old Marines have been playing with pretty much all of their
lives.” And by now, of course, we also have video games that incorporate drones:
technology imitating life that imitates technology.

Drones are not remarkable because of their weaponry. There is
nothing especially unusual about the missiles they carry, and even the largest
models are relatively lightly armed. They are not fast or nimble. What makes
them powerful is their ability to see and think. Most of the bigger drones now
operated by the US military can take off, land, and fly
by themselves. The operators can program a destination or a desired patrol area
and then concentrate on the details of the mission while the aircraft takes care
of everything else. Packed with sensors and sophisticated video technology, UAVs
can see through clouds or in the dark. They can loiter for hours or even days
over a target—just the sort of thing that bores human pilots to tears. Of
course, the most significant fact about drones is precisely that they do not
have pilots. In the unlikely event that a UAV is shot
down, its operator can get up from his or her console and walk away.

So far, so good. But there are also quite a few things about drones that you
might not have heard yet. Most Americans are probably unaware, for example, that
the US Air Force now trains more UAV operators each year than traditional pilots. (Indeed, the
Air Force insists on referring to drones as “remotely piloted aircraft” in order
to dispel any suspicions that it is moving out of the business of putting humans
into the air.) As I write this, the US aerospace
industry has for all practical purposes ceased research and development work on
manned aircraft. All the projects now on the drawing board revolve around
pilotless vehicles. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies around the country
eagerly await the moment when they can start operating their own UAVs. The
Federal Aviation Administration is considering rules that will allow police
departments to start using them within the next few years (perhaps as early as
2014). Soon, much sooner than you realize, your speeding tickets will be issued
electronically to your cell phone from a drone hovering somewhere over the
interstate. The US Customs Service has already used UAVs
to sneak up on drug-smuggling boats that easily evade noisier conventional
aircraft.

Robots that fly get most of the attention. In fact, though, UAVs represent
only one small part of the action in military robotics. As Singer recently told
me, there are already more robots operating on the ground (15,000) than in the
air (7,000). The US Army uses its mechanical warriors to
find and disarm roadside bombs, survey the battlefield, or shoot down incoming
artillery shells. Though these land-based robots may seem a bit more primitive
than their airborne cousins, they are catching up quickly. The models in
development include the bizarre BigDog, an eerily zoomorphic quadruped designed
to help soldiers carry heavy loads over difficult terrain, and BEAR, a vaguely humanoid machine on caterpillar tracks that
can lift loads of up to 500 pounds.

The US Navy is experimenting with machines of its
own. It recently unveiled a robot jet ski designed to sniff out attackers who
might try to sneak up on US ships underwater. The Navy
has developed harmless-looking (and environmentally friendly) sailboats packed
with high-tech surveillance gear that can pilot themselves around the world, if
need be. Robot submersibles, too, are in the works. Unconstrained by the
life-support requirements of manned submarines, these automated spies could
spend months on underwater patrol, parking themselves at the bottom of enemy
harbors and observing everything that goes in or out. So battery life becomes
the main constraint. Some scientists are trying to solve it by enabling the
underwater drone to feed off organic matter lying on the sea floor (known as a
“mud battery”).

So far none of these water-borne robots seem to be carrying torpedoes. The
army, however, is already experimenting with robots that can shoot. In his book,
Singer describes SWORDS, a tracked vehicle equipped with
a suite of cameras that see farther than the human eye even while covering
multiple angles. The machine can be armed with a 50-caliber machine gun or a
variety of other weapons. The SWORDS zoom camera and its
weapon can be perfectly synchronized, and the machine makes for a much more
stable platform than a soft, breathing, frightened human body lying prone in the
midst of a battlefield. Singer writes:

In an early test of its guns, the robot hit the bull’s-eye of a
target seventy out of seventy tries. In a test of its rockets, it hit the target
sixty-two out of sixty-two times. In a test of its antitank rockets, it hit the
target sixteen out of sixteen times. A former navy sniper summed up its
“pinpoint precision” as “nasty.” …Since it is a precisely timed machine pulling
the trigger, the “one shot” mode means that any weapon, even a machine gun, can
be turned into a sniper rifle.

Singer described this system two years ago. In the feverish world of military
robotics, 2009 already feels like a distant era, so we can only surmise how far
SWORDS has progressed since then. Researchers are now
testing UAVs that mimic hummingbirds or seagulls; one model under development
can fit on a pencil eraser. There is much speculation about linking small drones
or robots together into “swarms”—clouds or crowds of machines that would share
their intelligence, like a hive mind, and have the capability to converge
instantly on identified targets. This might seem like science fiction, but it is
probably not that far away. At ETH in Zurich,
Switzerland’s equivalent of MIT, engineers have linked
miniature quadrocopters (drones equipped with four sets of rotors for maximum
maneuverability) into small networks that can deftly toss balls back and forth
to each other without any human commands.

The technology transfixes. The capabilities are seductive; so,
too, is the lure of seeming invulnerability. The Taliban has no air force. Its
foot soldiers do not have night vision or the ability to see through overcast
skies, but they can sometimes hear the drones circling in the sky above. David
Rohde, the New York Times correspondent who was held captive by the
Taliban for seven months in 2009, described in his account of the experience
what it is like to be on the ground while Predators and Reapers are on the
prowl. “Two deafening explosions shook the walls of the compound where the
Taliban held us hostage,” he writes. “My guards and I dived to the floor as
chunks of dirt hurtled through the window.” A missile fired by a US drone has obliterated two cars a few hundred yards
away:

It was March 25, and for months the drones had been a terrifying
presence. Remotely piloted, propeller-driven airplanes, they could easily be
heard as they circled overhead for hours. To the naked eye, they were small dots
in the sky. But their missiles had a range of several miles. We knew we could be
immolated without warning….

Later, I learned that one guard called for me to be taken to the
site of the attack and ritually beheaded as a video camera captured the moment.
The chief guard overruled him.2

This particular strike, it turns out, has killed seven militants, zero
civilians. Most of the attacks are remarkably precise, as Rohde writes. Yet this
is almost beside the point: “The Taliban were able to garner recruits in their
aftermath,” he writes, “by exaggerating the number of civilian casualties.”

His point is borne out by a recent study conducted by Peter Bergen and
Katherine Tiedemann, two analysts at the New America Foundation in Washington
who have been tracking drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan ever since
the US began conducting attacks there in June 2004.
Though reliable information from that part of the world is extremely hard to
come by—the story of Rohde’s kidnapping explains why foreign journalists tend to
steer clear of the area—Bergen and Tiedemann have carefully analyzed media
reports for the details of each attack. While acknowledging the difficulties of
obtaining reliable data (and the wildly divergent information issued by American
and Pakistani official sources), they conclude that the attacks have grown
steadily more accurate. According to Bergen and Tiedemann, “During the first two
years of the Obama administration, around 85 percent of those reported killed by
drone strikes were militants; under the Bush administration, it was closer to 60
percent.”3 At the same time the authors
note that the strikes have probably been far less successful than US officials claim at killing militant leaders. Most of the
dead, Bergen and Tiedemann conclude, are likely rank-and-file fighters. (A newer
study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London arrives at a somewhat
higher overall civilian casualty rate.)

Though such statistics are remarkable when measured against the history of
warfare, they are, of course, little consolation to the families of those
innocent bystanders who have been killed along with the jihadis. And, as Bergen
and Tiedemann rightly note, the precision of the killing is only one small part
of the story. Polls show, just as Rohde suspected, that Pakistanis
overwhelmingly believe that most of those who die in the attacks are civilians—a
perception that is undoubtedly aggravated by the impunity with which the drones
stage their raids on Pakistani territory. Dennis Blair, director of national
intelligence from 2009 to 2010, recently made a similar observation in The
New York Times
: “Our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our
soldiers is bitterly resented in a country that cannot duplicate such feats of
warfare without cost to its own troops.” (While the Pakistani government
publicly expresses its disapproval of the strikes, in private Pakistani leaders
have provided intelligence and logistical support for the campaign—a fact that
they are eager to conceal from the public.) The number of terrorist attacks in
Pakistan has risen sharply as the drone campaign has accelerated. Bergen and
Tiedemann conclude that the broader political effects of the UAV campaign may well cancel out some of its tactical
benefits.

One remedy they propose is to take control of the drone program away from the
CIA, which currently runs the campaign in the tribal
areas, and transfer it to the military.4
This offers several advantages. In contrast to the CIA,
which denies the very existence of the program and accordingly reveals nothing
about the criteria by which it chooses its targets, the US Department of Defense can at least be held publicly
accountable for its conduct and is much more likely to respond to pressure to
keep its use of UAVs within the bounds of international law. This cannot be said
of the CIA’s use of drones for the purposes of “targeted
killing”—particularly given that the strikes are being secretly conducted
against targets in Pakistan, a country with which the United States is not at
war, under ill-defined and murky circumstances.

The legal issues involved are complex. Philip Alston, an expert in
international law appointed by the United Nations to examine the question,
asserted in a report that, “Outside the context of armed conflict, the use of
drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.”5 The trick, of course, is how we define “armed conflict”
in an age of non-state-affiliated terrorist and insurgent groups operating from
places where the writ of a central government does not extend. International
law, some experts say, gives the US the right to protect
its forces in Afghanistan against attacks staged by al-Qaeda and its allies in
the tribal areas—while whether the drone strikes violate Pakistani sovereignty
depends largely on agreements we have with the Pakistani government, a point
that remains somewhat mysterious.

The Obama administration might help matters by providing an explanation of
the legal rationale for the program. But so far it has declined to do so, aside
from a brief statement by a leading State Department legal adviser that cited
the internationally recognized right to self-defense.6 In this respect it is only to be welcomed that scholars
around the world are engaged in an active debate about the legal implications of
the drone campaigns. Given that more than forty countries around the world are
now experimenting with military robots of their own, the United States cannot
rest on the assumption that it will retain a monopoly over this technology
forever. The day when US forces are attacked by a
drone—perhaps even one operated by a terrorist—is not far away.

Many of the recent books on UAVs predictably dwell on the
technical specs and astonishing capabilities of these new weapons systems.
Singer provides us with plenty of the same, but the great virtue of his book is
precisely that he also devotes space to the broader questions raised by the
breakneck expansion of military robotics. As he writes, the US government is using drones to conduct a military campaign
against the sovereign state of Pakistan. Yet no one in Congress has ever pressed
the President for any sort of legal declaration of hostilities—for the simple
reason that the lives of American military personnel are not at stake when the
Predators set off on their missions.

In fact, as Singer shows, the ethical and legal implications of the new
technology already go far beyond the relatively circumscribed issue of targeted
killing. Military robots are on their way to developing considerable autonomy.
As noted earlier, UAVs can already take off, land, and fly themselves without
human intervention. Targeting is still the exclusive preserve of the human
operator—but how long will this remain the case? As sensors become more powerful
and diverse, the amount of data gathered by the machines is increasing
exponentially, and soon the volume and velocity of information will far exceed
the controller’s capacity to process it all in real time, meaning that more and
more decision-making will be left to the robot.

A move is already underway toward systems that allow a single operator to
handle multiple drones simultaneously, and this, too, will tend to push the
technology toward greater autonomy. We are not far from the day when it will
become manifest that our mechanical warriors are better at protecting the lives
of our troops than any human soldier, and once that happens the pressure to let
robots take the shot will be very hard to resist. Pentagon officials who have
been interviewed on the subject predictably insist that the decision to kill
will never be ceded to a machine. That is reassuring. Still, this is an easy
thing to say at a point when robots are not yet in the position to take the
initiative against the enemy on a battlefield. Soon, much sooner than most of us
realize, they will be able to do just that.

We have only just begun to explore what this means. Singer quotes Marc
Garlasco, a recognized expert on the law of war at Human Rights Watch. “This new
technology creates pressure points for international law,” Garlasco says. “You
will be trying to apply international law written for the Second World War to
Star Trek technology.” Singer continues:

Another fundamental premise of the human rights group, and for
broader international law, is that soldiers in the field and the leaders who
direct them must be held accountable for any violations of the laws of war.
Unmanned systems, though, muddy the waters surrounding war crimes. “War crimes
need both a violation and intent,” says Garlasco. “A machine has no
capacity to want to kill civilians, it has no desires…. If they are incapable of
intent, are they incapable of war crimes?” And if the machine is not
responsible, who does the group seek to hold accountable, and where exactly do
they draw the line? “Who do we go after, the manufacturer, the software
engineer, the buyer, the user?”

Later Singer notes that the US has consistently
applied an expanded right of self-defense for its aircraft operating in
conflicts around the world. When an enemy radar “lights up” a US plane, the pilot has the right to fire first without
waiting to be attacked. All fine and good. But then imagine that the aircraft
involved is not a plane but a UAV:

If an unmanned plane flying near the border of another nation is
fired on, does it have the right to fire back at that nation’s missile sites and
the humans behind them, even in peacetime? What about the expanded
interpretation, the right to respond to hostile intent, where the drone is just
targeted by radar? Is the mere threat enough for the drone to fire first at the
humans below?

The answers depend on how wide the “self” in self-defense is
defined.

It turns out, Singer explains, that the US Air Force
currently operates according to the principle that a pilotless aircraft, as an
entity representing the people who sent it on its mission, “has the same rights
as if a person were inside it,” and that this “interpretation of robot rights is
official policy for unmanned reconnaissance flights over the Persian Gulf.” But
the situation is evolving rapidly. The next generation of military robots is
likely to have a high degree of operational independence without yet achieving
the kind of intelligent self-awareness that entails responsibility. Luckily
there is already something of a legal precedent for handling similar situations.
“As odd as it sounds,” Singer writes, “pet law might then be a useful resource
in figuring out how to assess the accountability of autonomous systems.”

This is a particularly thought-provoking conclusion given that the
researchers now working on military robots seem especially eager to ransack the
biological world for elegant solutions to the design problems that have to be
overcome. There is a snake-shaped robot that can rear itself up in the grass
when it wants to scan its surroundings. Tiny surveillance robots scuttle up
walls like bugs, and robot flyers flap their wings. The Navy is testing
submersibles that swim like fish. Researchers in the UK
have developed a robot whose sensors mimic rat whiskers—since so far no engineer
has managed to come up with a sensor system that is better at navigating in
total darkness.

Whether we like it or not, war has often been a powerful goad to
technological innovation. Now technology is on the verge of supplanting the
human soldier altogether—with consequences that can only be guessed. The
question in the case of military robotics, even at this relatively early stage,
is the extent to which we will manage to retain control over the process.
Whether we are ready or not, the answer will soon be clear.

—August 30, 2011

1 See Scott Lindlaw, “Remote-Control Warriors Suffer War Stress,” Associated
Press, August 7, 2008.

2 “A Drone Strike and Dwindling Hope,” Part Four of “Held by the Taliban,”
The New York Times , October 20, 2009.

3 Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, “Washington’s Phantom War: The
Effects of the US Drone Program in Pakistan,” Foreign Affairs ,
July/August 2011.

4 The CIA operates its drones from control stations in or around its
headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It is likely that many of the operators are
actually civilian contractors.

5 Philip Alston, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary
or Arbitrary Executions,” United Nations, Human Rights Council, May 28, 2010.
See also David Kretzmer, “Targeted Killing of Suspected Terrorists:
Exra-Judicial Executions or Legitimate Means of Defence?” The European
Journal of International Law
, Vol. 16, No. 2 (2005).

6 Harold Koh, the legal adviser to the State Department, devoted a few brief
remarks to the subject in a speech last year, available at http://www.state.gov/s/l/
releases/remarks/139119.htm.

  1. 1See Scott Lindlaw, “Remote-Control Warriors Suffer War Stress,” Associated
    Press, August 7, 2008.
  2. 2″A Drone Strike and Dwindling Hope,” Part Four of “Held by the Taliban,”
    The New York Times , October 20, 2009.
  3. 3Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, “Washington’s Phantom War: The Effects
    of the US Drone Program in Pakistan,” Foreign Affairs , July/August
    2011.
  4. 4The CIA operates its drones from control stations in or around its
    headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It is likely that many of the operators are
    actually civilian contractors.
  5. 5Philip Alston, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or
    Arbitrary Executions,” United Nations, Human Rights Council, May 28, 2010. See
    also David Kretzmer, “Targeted Killing of Suspected Terrorists: Exra-Judicial
    Executions or Legitimate Means of Defence?” The European Journal of
    International Law
    , Vol. 16, No. 2 (2005).
  6. 6Harold Koh, the legal adviser to the State Department, devoted a few brief
    remarks to the subject in a speech last year, available at http://www.state.gov/s/l/
    releases/remarks/139119.htm.

Study: CIA drones strikes have killed 168 children August 12, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I have been re-thinking the Vietnam War lately.  Some 60,000 US soldiers lost their lives, and millions of Vietnamese.  That is not to mention the destruction rained on that country by the US military and the ruined lives of countless thousands of returning American GIs.  Apart from the militaristic quasi-fascist right, common wisdom says that the war was a failure.  The naive analysts refer to it as if it were a mistaken policy (and not as the crime that it was).  I am thinking that from the perspective of US geo-political objectives, the war was not a failure.  It showed the world how much death and destruction the United States government was prepared to wreak on a peoples who oppose the American Empire.  Today President Obama is making a big fuss over the deaths of the government’s trained professional assassins know as the Navy Seals.  The Lyndon Johnsons, the Robert McNamaras, the George Bushs, the Dick Cheneys, the Donald Rumsfelds, the Barack Obamas, the Bill and Hillary Clintons … they kill and destroy with impunity.  They are the front men (Mrs. Clinton included)  for the military-industrial complex, about which ex-president Eisenhower warned in his farewell address.  I have no doubt that they believed or believe in their cause and consider their actions justifiable.  That, however, does not change the fact that they commit crimes against humanity

 

Justin Elliott, www.salon.com, August 12, 2011

AP/Noor Behram, HOIn this Aug. 23, 2010 photo provided by photographer Noor Behram, a man holds debris from a missile strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan.

Based on international and Pakistani news reports and research on the ground, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has issued a new study on civilians killed by American drones, concluding that at least 385 civilians have been killed in the past seven years, including at least 168 children.

Here’s a taste of the report, which can be read in full here (warning: graphic images):

Pakistani father Din Mohammad had the misfortune to live next door to militants in Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan. His neighbours were reportedly part of the Haqqani Network, a group fighting US forces in nearby Afghanistan.

On September 8 2010, the CIA’s Reaper drones paid a visit. Hellfire missiles tore into the compound killing six alleged militants.

One of the Hellfires missed its target, and Din Mohammad’s house was hit. He survived. But his son, his two daughters and his nephew all died. His eldest boy had been a student at a Waziristan military cadet college. The other three children were all below school age.

 

An Obama administration official told ABC that these numbers are “way off the mark” — but, tellingly, did so on the condition of anonymity, meaning he or she will be protected from any accountability.

Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Scott Shane has an important article reviewing the same issue and in particular Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan’s claim in June that for the previous year CIA drone strikes hadn’t caused “a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Shane finds that basically every outside observer — including those of all ideological stripes — finds this claim to be preposterous:

 

Others who question the C.I.A. claim include strong supporters of the drone program like Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, who closely tracks the strikes.

“The Taliban don’t go to a military base to build bombs or do training,” Mr. Roggio said. “There are families and neighbors around. I believe the people conducting the strikes work hard to reduce civilian casualties. They could be 20 percent. They could be 5 percent. But I think the C.I.A.’s claim of zero civilian casualties in a year is absurd.”

 

Brennan issued a new statement to the Times suggesting that the CIA has merely “not found credible evidence of collateral deaths” from the drone strikes:

“Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq, and we will continue to do our best to keep it that way,” Mr. Brennan said.

Given that the drones are operated remotely, it’s far from clear how the CIA even knows who is being killed in many of these strikes.

  • Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin More: Justin Elliott

Daniel Berrigan: A Lifetime of Peace Activism May 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, Religion, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Monday, May 9, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

 
by Deena Guzder

Jingoistic crowds erupted with frat-boy glee shortly after President Barack Obama announced the extrajudicial assassination of Osama Bin Laden earlier this month. After all, America’s public enemy Numero Uno — our own veritable Darth Vadar – had lost what the mainstream media depicts as a Manichean battle ten years in the making.  The lone voices in the wilderness that dared to point out the covert operation violated elementary norms of international law were quickly dismissed as “fanatics”. 

According to prevailing wisdom in the United States today, the best way to eradicate the world of a hateful ideology is by deploying 80 commandos on the home of an unarmed suspect and murdering him on the spot.  Yet, we already see the entirely predictable consequences of the Osama bin Laden raid.  In Portland, Maine, a mosque was defaced just hours after the news broke of bin Laden’s death. The graffiti read, “Osama Today, Islam tomorow” [sic].  Less than a week later, any misconception that the so-called Global War on Terror was winding down was dispelled when a drone attack killed at least eight people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.  Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disingenuously conflated al-Qaeda with the Taliban and, with bellicose bravado, declared the U.S. would continue its war in Afghanistan. And, in Pakistan, hundreds of Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists prayed in Karachi for their new martyr: Osama bin Laden. 
 
Many great minds have questioned the logic of retributive violence, but perhaps none as persistently and unwaveringly as Father Daniel Berrigan. Today, the lifelong social justice activist and renegade Jesuit priest turns 90 years old. At a time when self-proclaimed Christian politicians espouse a Tea Party-inspired theology of xenophobia and vengeance, Berrigan is a rare soul that continues tirelessly opposing violence in its many forms.  Along with his late brother Phillip, he has publicly opposed aid to alleged anti-Communist forces in Southeast Asia, the use of American forces in Grenada, the installation of Pershing missiles in West Germany, aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, intervention in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, the Cold War, and the Gulf War.  Berrigan also vocally opposed the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[1]  For Berrigan, Christianity is a counter-cultural practice directly at odds with the prevailing national culture of retributive justice. Arrested more times than he can count — but “fewer than I should have been,” Berrigan says — he has spent over half a century digging mock graves on the Pentagon’s front lawn, pouring vials of his own blood on Capitol Hill, vandalizing army airplanes, hammering on nuclear nosecones, turning his back on judges during his sentencing hearings, staging hunger strikes in prisons, undergoing strip searches for educating his fellow inmates, and standing in court on charges ranging from “criminal mischief” to “destruction of government property” to, most egregiously, “failure to quit.” [2]  Berrigan fears moral suicide over physical death and regards moral autonomy as more liberating than physical freedom. 
Last year, after badgering members of the Catholic Worker community across the country, I tracked down America’s most famous living priest. When I arrived at Berrigan’s Lower West Side friary in Manhattan, I half expected to find a Bible-toting warrior, but on that clement morning, I walked into the friary’s cozy hallway to find a slightly hunched elderly man with a meek smile and skin crinkled like aluminum foil. Greeting me with the softest, gentlest “hello” that I’ve heard since my first day at Montessori school, Father Berrigan clasped my hand and led me into his tastefully decorated office. The walls of his office showcased posters of freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi, a child’s drawing of a circus clown, and framed quilts of butterflies. Among his impressive collection of books are volumes by his longtime heroes: Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Merton. Just shy of his ninetieth birthday, Berrigan spoke with me for an hour and a half, patiently answering my many questions and stopping only twice or so to cough.
 
Berrigan told me of surviving a Depression-era boyhood, an abusive father, and countless wars to emerge with a startlingly simple message: stop the violence. If Berrigan had lived during slavery, he would have fought with the abolitionists, but he would not have joined John Brown in leading violent slave insurrections. Even at the height of his Vietnam antiwar activism–or, as his detractors would say, the height of his arrogance–Berrigan never condoned violence. A tape-recorded message to the Weatherman Underground, attributed to Berrigan in 1971, pleads with the militant group to return to nonviolence, warning,: “No principle is worth the sacrifice of a single human being.”
 
In a world still wracked by violence, Berrigan’s peace testimony remains largely unheard and his pacifist views are too often dismissed as naïve.  As we celebrate his lifelong commitment to social justice activism on his birthday, may we remember his startlingly clear message that violence is not the answer even when it’s seems most tempting and most justified.  As Berrigan and so many others have noted, our convictions matter most when they’re tested on the crucible of life — not when they are easy, safe, and fashionable. If we believe in a world in which international law triumphs over unilateral action; mercy triumphs over vengeance; and clemency over sacrifice then Berrigan’s lifelong testimony teaches us that there are no exceptions.  

Notes:
[1] Joe Sabia, “The Cornell Catholic Community is in Crisis” Cornell Daily Sun. September 23, 2003

[2] For more see Gary Smith, “Peace Warriors,” The Washington Post Magazine, June 5, 1988, W22. June 5, 1988. 

 

Deena Guzder

Deena Guzder is an independent journalist who has reported on human rights issues across the globe. She is the author of Divine Rebels (Chicago Review Press 2011), which includes a profile of Daniel Berrigan. Please visit her website: www.DeenaGuzder.com

The Predators: Where is Your Democracy? May 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
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Monday, May 9, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

On May 4, 2011, CNN World News asked whether killing Osama bin Laden was legal under international law. Other news commentary has questioned whether it would have been both possible and advantageous to bring Osama bin Laden to trial rather than kill him.  

World attention has been focused, however briefly, on questions of legality regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden.  But, with the increasing use of Predator drones to kill suspected “high value targets” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, extrajudicial killings by U.S. military forces have become the new norm.

Just three days after Osama bin Laden was killed, an attack employing remote-control aerial drones killed fifteen people in Pakistan and wounded four. CNN reports that their Islamabad bureau has counted four drone strikes over the last month and a half since the March 17 drone attack which killed 44 people in Pakistan’s tribal region. This most recent suspected strike was the 21st this year.  There were 111 strikes in 2010. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that 957 innocent civilians were killed in 2010.

I’m reminded of an encounter I had, in May, 2010 ,when a journalist and a social worker from North Waziristan met with a small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation in Pakistan  and described, in gory and graphic detail, the scenes of drone attacks which they had personally witnessed:  the carbonized bodies, burned so fully they could be identified by legs and hands alone, the bystanders sent flying like dolls through the air to break, with shattered bones and sometimes-fatal brain injuries, upon walls and stone.  

“Do Americans know about the drones?” the journalist asked me.  I said I thought that awareness was growing on University campuses and among peace groups.  “This isn’t what I’m asking,” he politely insisted.  “What I want to know is if average Americans know that their country is attacking Pakistan with drones that carry bombs.  Do they know this?” 

“Truthfully,” I said, “I don’t think so.”  

“Where is your democracy?” he asked me. “Where is your democracy?”

Ideally, in a democracy, people are educated about important matters, and they can influence decisions about these issues by voting for people who represent their point of view. 

Only a handful of U.S. officials have broached the issue of whether or not it is right for the U.S. to use unmanned aerial vehicles to function as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner in the decision to assassinate anyone designated as a “high value target” in faraway Pakistan or Afghanistan.  

Would we want unmanned aerial vehicles piloted by another country to fly over the U.S., targeting individuals deemed to be a threat to the safety of their people, firing Hellfire missiles or dropping 500 pound bombs over suspected “high valuetargets” on the hunch of a soldier or general without evidence and without any consideration of which innocent civilians willalso be killed?  

Fully informed citizens might be invited to consider the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but they would certainly be involved in the debate over how we will be treated in future years and decades when these weapons have proliferated. In 1945, only one country possessed the atomic bomb, but within decades, the “nuclear club” had expanded to five declared and four non-declared nuclear-armed states in a much less certain world.  Besides the risk of nuclear war, this weapon proliferation has consumed resources that could have been directed toward feeding a hungry world or eradicating disease or easing the effects of impoverishment.

As of now, worldwide, 49 companies make 450 different drone aircraft. Drone merchants expect that drone sales will earn $20.2 billion over the next 10 years for aerospace war manufacturers. Who knows? One day drone missiles may be aimed at us. 

Also worth noting is the observation that drones will make it politically convenient for any country to order military actions without risking their soldiers’ lives, thereby making it easier, and more tempting, to start wars which may eventually escalate to result in massive loss of life, both military and civilian.

Voices for Creative Nonviolence believes that standing alongside people who bear the brunt of our wars helps us gain needed insights.  Where you stand determines what you see.

In October and again in December of 2010, while in Afghanistan, I met with a large family living in a wretched refugee camp. They had fled their homes in the San Gin district of the Helmand Province after a drone attack killed a mother there and her five children. The woman’s husband showed us photos of his children’s bloodied corpses. His niece, Juma Gul, age 9, had survived the attack. She and I huddled next to each other inside a hut made of mud on a chilly December morning. Juma Gul’s father stooped in front of us and gently unzipped her jacket, showing me that his daughter’s arm had been amputated by shrapnel when the U.S. missile hit their home in San Gin. 

Next to Juma Gul was her brother, whose leg had been mangled in the attack. He apparently has no access to adequate medical care and experiences constant pain.

It’s impossible to conjecture what would have happened had Osama bin Laden been apprehended and brought to appear before a court of law, charged with crimes against humanity because of his alleged role in masterminding the 9/11 attacks.  But, I feel certain beyond doubt that Juma Gul posed no threat whatsoever to the U.S., and if she were brought before a court of law and witnesses were helped to understand that she was attacked by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle for no reason other than that she happened to live in proximity to a potential high value target, she would be vindicated of any suspicion that she committed a crime.  The same might not be true for those who attacked her.

Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kathy Kelly’s email is kathy@vcnv.org

 
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