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Some of Us Remember When the Department of Defence Was (Rightly) Called the War Department March 26, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Only nation to have ever used atomic weaponry in war; more conventional and nuclear weapons stockpiled than the rest of the nations of the world combined; world’s largest manufacturer and vendor of armaments; supplier of arms to some of the world’s most brutal dictators, past and present; and, oh yes, the nation’s current wartime president, recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. 

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
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.
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

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

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

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

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

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/

  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
  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/

The More Things Change… May 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in War, Women.
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(Roger’s note: this article caught my attention for two reasons.  I have for some time been using the phrase “Plus ca change … you can believe in” to characterize the Obama presidency.  Further, I always stop to read anything under the byline of Cindy Sheehan, whom I consider to be one of the most courageous and patriotic of Americans.  It is clear that her son’s death has caused her unfathomable grief, but instead of internalizing and being paralyzed by that grief, it has become a springboard for her to work tirelessly to the end that other mothers do not have to suffer what she has.  In a sense she has politicized her grief into a no-holds-barred struggle to analyze, understand and combat the ugly, avaracious, parasitic and bloodthirsty government-led war machine that on a wholesale basis takes the lives of mothers’ sons on all sides of any conflict.  She has achieved political wisdom and sophistication, which she often expresses in the most simple yet profound way.  For instance: “I guess many people still believe to love one’s child who has been wrongfully killed in war, means one has to support that war and the lying American presidents? I didn’t buy it in 2004, and I buy it even less now.”).  She has been slandered and maligned but she keeps on keepin’ on, and she remains a hero in my book).


I think many of us know the origins of Mother’s Day were for Peace and a universal declaration that we mothers won’t send our children to die in wars or to kill the children of other mothers.


“Angelique and Child” by Edna Hibel 


Even though we have always been a genocidal, war-like culture, we have gone so far afield from the original meaning of Mother’s Day it’s ridiculous! Now it’s a day that’s a boon for Hallmark cards and long distance phone carriers. We American mothers are still sending our children off to die in Robber Class wars and to kill the children of other mothers.


For my part in being co-dependant with the Robber Class in its wars for imperial profit, I am “celebrating” my sixth Mother’s Day without my oldest child, Casey. No matter what the right-wing spin-doctors like to accuse me of: I do love my son and he loved me.

Just because I think the leaders of his country betrayed him and his good intentions, does not diminish our love. I guess many people still believe to love one’s child who has been wrongfully killed in war, means one has to support that war and the lying American presidents? I didn’t buy it in 2004, and I buy it even less now.


Because of my campaign for Congress, I have been operating in high drama-trauma mode for months now, but everything was put into perspective to me this week when my surviving son, Andy, fell very ill and was put into intensive care. He had an astronomically high fever and his liver and spleen were enlarged and the doctors were operating on the theory that he was ill with hepatitis or lymphoma. All of the previous stress became very minor compared to having an extremely sick child. For the first time since Casey was killed, I had a hard time getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other.


I am thrilled beyond belief to report that Andy (who is thankfully not one of the 50 million Americans without health insurance) is much better and has been moved out of intensive care to a regular room and looks like he is moving on the road to full recovery: the liver biopsy showed that there was no cancer or hepatitis and he probably has been suffering all week from a bacterial or viral infection.

Even though I don’t have Casey with me this Mother’s Day, I have my other son, two daughters and a wonderful grandson.


In spite of all of the challenges of my daily life, I am so blessed. I am beyond blessed when I think of all of the mothers in US-war torn countries that have lost far more than I have.


No matter what you personally think of our new president, the Robber Class wars for profit are continuing as bad or even worse than during the last regime and mothers are still losing their children all over the world by and for the empire.


Again, the Robber Class wars for profit will never end as long as we in the Robbed Class allow our children to participate.

Healthcare not Warfare! January 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Peace, War.
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People First! Issue #4, January 10, 2009

International Health Worker for Peace Over Profit (IHWPOP)

Dublin demo.JPG

by Susan Rosenthal – Canada

What are our social priorities?

The amount of global resources devoted to war indicates that our primary goal is to destroy ourselves.

In 2008, the world spent $1.5 trillion on warfare, 48 percent of which was spent by the United States. Over 40 percent of US tax dollars is spent on the military, compared with just 3 percent on social programs.(1)

Since 2001, US military spending has more than doubled, and the rise in US military spending is driving the escalation in global military spending.

Who decides to devote our resources to war instead of solving social problems and developing human potential?

It can only be the rich and powerful people, who are determined to keep their obscenely unequal share of the global wealth.

The vast majority of humanity would never make such a choice. They would say that the wealth produced by human hands should be used to improve people’s lives, not kill and maim them.

As long as we allow the warmongers to dominate our world, they will fill it with deprivation, death and the threat of global annihilation.

The resources currently devoted to war could eliminate world poverty. They could provide every child with a good education. They could provide every person on the planet with clean water, sanitation, good food and healthcare. They could restore our environment. More than that, our decision to put people first would create a world of peace and prosperity.

We have two urgent tasks. We must dismantle the deadly war machine. And we must organize a very different social system, one that puts people first.

Susan Rosenthal works as a physician-psychotherapist in the Toronto area.

Does Old Glory Have a Dark Side? December 20, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Political Commentary.
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(artwork: vsi.com)


19 December 2008

by: Lee Drutman, Miller-McCune.com

initial reluctance to wear a flag pin caused some opponents to question his patriotism. After all, some conservatives argued, the flag is the quintessential symbol of American patriotism, and by not wearing it on his lapel, well, one could only assume … Markus Kemmelmeier, a professor of social psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and colleagues show that gazing upon the red, white and blue actually does very little to stoke feelings of patriotism. an article Kemmelmeier co-authored with David G. Winter, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. The study describes two specific experiments, one in which undergraduates responded to a survey with and without a large American flag in the room and one in which undergraduates responded to a questionnaire with and without three American flags printed on the paper. lost letter study in which handwritten and stamped but undelivered letters were left on car windshield wipers, all with the same post office box. Half of the letters were addressed to a fictitious Muslim charity; half were addressed to a fictitious Christian charity. Among each group, half had an American flag on them, and half didn’t. David A. Butz (formerly a graduate student at Florida State University and now a postdoc at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), E. Ashby Plant (a professor of psychology at FSU) and Celeste E. Doerr (a psychology graduate student at FSU) recently administered word identification tests to undergraduates to measure how long it took them to discriminate between real and nonsense words that came up on a computer screen. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. ‘real-life’ overt political behavior.” In his experiments, participants – all Israelis – who saw the flag flashes answered questions with a more “mainstream Zionist” tilt than those who didn’t. Carey Baker Freedom Flag Act) that mandates flags be placed in every public classroom – kindergarten to college – in the state. (A similar law also recently passed in Arizona.)

 Early in the presidential campaign that was, Barack Obama’s

    But are the stars and stripes as much a symbol of patriotism as many make them out to be? Probably not, according to some new research on the effects of exposure to the American flag. Experiments conducted by

    But it does make people more individualistic, more materialistic and – perhaps most troublingly – more nationalistic.

    Researchers tend to define patriotism as love of one’s country; nationalism, on the other hand, tends to measure feelings of superiority. “Nationalism takes into consideration that there are others and that your own country is not just only loveable but also different and better than others,” Kemmelmeier explained.

    Originally from Germany, Kemmelmeier said he was struck by the omnipresence of the American flag when he arrived in the United States in 1994. “Every plumber has one on his plumbing uniform; churches even have flags in them,” he said. “This is strange to people in other countries.”

    Ten years ago, Kemmelmeier and colleagues at the University of Michigan (where he was then getting his Ph.D. in social psychology) were trying to prime feelings of patriotism by showing people the American flag, testing the conventional wisdom that the flag made people more patriotic. But try as they might, the only feelings they were able to elicit by showing people the flag were feelings of national superiority (i.e., nationalism).

    The nationalism-eliciting findings are published in the October issue of Political Psychology in

    In both cases, according to the article, “the flag not only prompted participants to think about their own country as superior to and dominant in the world, but also induced a mode of hierarchical thinking as evidence in elevated group-dominance scores.” In other words, according to Kemmelmeier, the flag makes people think that some people and some countries are better than others, a mode of thinking, he said, that makes people “feel more entitled to express prejudice.”

    The paper also notes that “nationalism has been implicated in aggression, oppression, and warfare.”

    Kemmelmeier is now in the process of writing up two other sets of studies on exposure to the American flag. In one group of experiments, he found that seeing the stars and stripes elicits stronger feelings of individualism and materialism and much less collectivist feeling. “It brings forth an idea of ‘I’m my own person; I am free here; I have the freedom to enjoy these inalienable rights,’” Kemmelmeier explained.

    The other group of experiments (also in the process of being written up) is a

    The return rate for the letters without a flag was consistently between 50 and 60 percent, regardless of whether the charity was Christian or Muslim. But when the American flag was on the envelope, a remarkable 90 percent of the letters addressed to the Christian charity consistently came back to the post office, while only between 30 and 40 percent of the Muslim charity letters were returned.

    “As soon as there was a flag sticker, that changed the meaning completely,” Kemmelmeier explained. “Adding the flag shapes how you should interpret what religion somebody is.”

    But while Kemmelmeier’s studies point to a somewhat unsettling take on what Americans take away from seeing the flag, another set of studies offers a more positive perspective, suggesting that the presence of Old Glory primes egalitarian concepts and also may make Americans less hostile to Arabs and Muslims.


    Participants who saw a flag before the test more quickly identified words associated with egalitarianism than those who didn’t. Exposure to the flag also elicited more favorable attitudes toward Muslims and less nationalism in a survey. The findings were reported in 2007 in the

    “What we show is that the flag is associated with egalitarian concepts,” Butz said. “This is true for both high- and low-nationalism people. It’s not moderated by political party. What it means is that through socialization experiences, we gain these egalitarian concepts with the flag.”

    However, Butz speculated that “perhaps this is a surface meaning.” He was actually a little surprised by the egalitarianism-priming findings, given other research suggesting that exposure to the American flag increases nationalism and the hierarchical, anti-egalitarian feelings that come with that.

    “The flag has a complex range of associations,” he said. “Symbols like the flag can be multireferential. They can mean different things to different people. It shows how tricky it is to study the symbols.”

    In Israel, cognitive scientist Ran Hassin studied the association that subliminal flashes of the Israeli flag had on discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found that “subliminal presentation of a national flag can bring about significant changes not only in a citizen’s expressed political opinions within an experimental setting but also in their

    Whether that meant the flag drew viewers to the political center, as Hassin theorized, or that symbols primed people based on their pre-existing associations was a question he left for future research – such as that of Kemmelmeier and Butz – to answer.

    Butz got interested in studying the flag in light of a 2004 Florida law (the

    These laws worry Butz. “We don’t know a lot about the potential for symbols to influence behavior,” he said. “It’s scary to think that there are laws out there on the thinking that flags influence patriotism, and there’s no evidence for that.”

    Another reason for concern comes from some research that Butz has done on student performance in the presence of the American flag. With a flag in the room, he found, white students perform about 10 percent better on math tests than they do otherwise. But non-white students perform at the same level.

    “What we find in studies – and this is now being replicated – is that whites are getting a performance boost, and that’s disturbing,” Butz said. He speculated that it might have something to do with whites feeling more included in the presence of the flag.

    Both Kemmelmeier and Butz stress that the psychology of the American flag is complicated. It can prime a wide range of emotions, depending on the person and the situation. There may also be regional differences. And while the flag is not necessarily the pure symbol of inspired patriotism that some might make it out to be, neither is it necessarily a pure symbol of nationalism and individualistic materialism. A lot depends on the context.

    “It can have a negative impact, but nowadays there is a real opportunity to re-interpret what it means to be an American,” Kemmelmeier said. “The flag is always amorphous, and the meaning is always dependent on how it is used.”


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