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Lawrence Wilkerson and David Swanson Debate Colin Powell's Lies at the United Nations

When I wrote about MSNBC's documentary on Iraq war lies this week, I linked to an earlier blog post of mine that drew heavily on a House Judiciary Committee report on the same topic, as well as to Lawrence Wilkerson's recent debate with Norman Solomon on Democracy Now!

When Brad Friedman reposted my Hubris review, he suggested I ask Wilkerson for a response.  I did and here it is:

 

David,
 
Several misleading and even spurious bullets and headlines that make strong claims that are not supported in the surrounding narrative.  For example, no one ever DID warn Powell about Curveball, in fact quite the opposite. This particular source--billed as an Iraqi engineer who had defected--was George Tenet's--the DCI's--strongest weapon.  And incidentally, the title "Curveball" was never heard until well after the 5 Feb presentation.
 
Your use of INR's assessment of "weak" repeatedly, is weak itself.  INR was at the time one of 15 intelligence entities in the US intelligence architecture at the federal level. (Add Israel  France, the UK, Jordan, Germany, et al, and of course you get even more).  INR's assessments were often viewed--indeed still are--as maverick within that group (and were particularly so viewed by George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin.  Indeed, INR's insistence on putting a footnote in the October 2002 NIE with regard to its doubts about Saddam's having an active nuclear weapons program was only grudgingly acknowledged and allowed by Tenet.  And in truth, INR itself concurred in the overall NIE's finding that chems and bios existed (and the NIE was the root document of Powell's 5 Feb presentation). 
 
I have admitted what a hoax we perpetrated.  But it actually spoils or desecrates a fair condemnation of what is already a bad enough set of misstatements, very poor intelligence analysis, and--I am increasingly convinced, outright lies--to take the matter to absurdity with one man, in this case Powell.   
 
To see my point dramatically, one must realize that whether Powell had given his presentation or not, the President would have gone to war with Iraq. That doesn't relieve Powell or me or any of us who participated in preparing Powell of responsibility; it simply places the bulk of that responsibility squarely where it should rest. 
 
You, Ray McGovern, and I will never reach accord on this I'm certain; but I must say that just as I may have biases from my long association with Powell, I believe both of you should examine your biases with regard to the man.  Just as it was very difficult for me to face the fact I had participated in a hoax, it probably is just as difficult that you two admit you may be too aggressively critical of Powell. Both our conditions are recognizably human and yours more forgiveable than mine to be sure.  lw
 
 
Here's my reply:
 
Larry,
Thanks for this response.
I'm CCing Brad Blog which posted my commentary and might want to post your reply.
Here's my reply to your reply (also available to publish) :-)

Whether or not anyone told Powell of Curveball's reputation, Powell's own staff, the INR, told him the claims were weak, the claims that came from Curveball and from numerous other sources.  The INR told him the claims were weak and questionable and even implausible. 
 
Powell used fabricated dialogue.  He used evidence from a source who had admitted all the weapons had been destroyed years ago, but failed to mention that bit.  Again, here is the catalog of bogus claims: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/021811a.html
 
You yourself in Hubris state that claims you'd rejected were put back in.  That is a moment to resign in protest, not to move forward and dismiss the INR, the State Department's own experts, as "maverick." 
 
When the Pentagon and the White House build a transparently fraudulent case for war, rejected by countless experts, many nations, and much of the public, the State Department's job is to support fact-based analysis regardless of whether it is "maverick." 
 
You recently accused Norman Solomon on DemocracyNow! and all other truth tellers of that time of having failed to warn you -- as if we weren't shouting into every available microphone.  If word had slipped through to you, it seems you would have rejected it as "maverick." 
 
This is highly discouraging.  If analysis within our government consciously engages in groupthink, where will we find the whistleblowers necessary to prevent the next war? 
 
Please do not imagine that any of us suppose the President wasn't intent on going to war at all costs.  It was the transparency of that intention that created the largest public protest in world history.  But to suggest that Powell and you did no harm by supporting a war that might have gone ahead even if you'd resisted is a complete breakdown in morality.
 
I don't believe blame works that way.  Blaming Bush more doesn't blame Powell or you less.  It just blames Bush more.  Blame is not a finite quantity born of a drive for vengeance and distributable to a limited number of people.  Blame is what we each deserve when we fail to take the best actions available, as explained here.

When Is a Cut Not a Cut? When It's in the Pentagon's Budget

Bloomberg:

Even if the budget cuts happen, U.S. defense spending is projected to grow about 2.4 percent annually through 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The military, the defense industry and their allies in Congress have gone to war over the automatic cuts, called sequestration, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other leaders saying they would devastate the military.

Read both paragraphs together a few times.

Hubris Isn't the Half of It

As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air.  The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week, and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world, as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.

From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.

But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris.  This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC's role.

Yet, my primary response to that is joy rather than disgust.  It is now cool to acknowledge war lies.  Truth-tellers, including truth-tellers rarely presented with a corporate microphone, made that happen. 

MSNBC host and Obama promoter Rachel Maddow even introduced Hubris by pointing to another war lie -- the Gulf of Tonkin incident that wasn't -- and a war lie by a Democrat in that case.  Similar lies can be found surrounding every war that has ever been, which is why I wrote War Is A Lie.  We have to stop imagining that "bad wars" are a subset of wars.

But, of course, using Maddow as the presenter and narrator of a film about Republican war lies during a period of unacknowledged Democratic war lies unavoidably gives the thing a partisan slant.  Watching Hubris, I was reminded of something that Michael Moore tweeted last Friday: "Senate Repubs: U started 2 illegal wars that broke the treasury & sacrificed the lives of thousands of our troops & countless civilians."

Of course, the Senate that gave us the two wars in question was in reality controlled by Democrats, and the war lies were pushed hard by Senators Kerry, Clinton, and their comrades.  Hubris touches on this reality but not with sufficient clarity for most viewers -- I suspect -- to pick up on it.

The film presents a great deal of good evidence that the war on Iraq was based on lies.  Unavoidably, endless terrific bits of such evidence were not included.  Less excusably, also left out was an analysis of the evidence that only dishonesty -- not incompetence -- explains the propaganda that was produced.

Hubris is the wrong word for what took the United States into war with Iraq.  The forces at work were greed, lust for power, and sadistic vengeance.  The word "hubris" suggests the tragic downfall of the guilty party.  But the war on Iraq did not destroy the United States; it destroyed Iraq.  It damaged the United States, to be sure, but in a manner hardly worthy of mention in comparison to the sociocide committed against Iraq. 

Hubris, the film, provides a reprehensibly ludicrous underestimation of Iraqi deaths, and only after listing U.S. casualties. 

It was not pride but a disregard for human life that generated mass murder.  Congressman Walter Jones, who voted for the war, is shown in Hubris saying that he would have voted No if he had bothered to read the National Intelligence Estimate that very few of his colleagues bothered to read.

Another talking head in the film is Lawrence Wilkerson.  He is, of course, the former chief of staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Wilkerson is shown explaining that the reason not to attack Iraq was that doing so would take a focus away from attacking Afghanistan.  Clearly this was not a reason that led to Wilkerson or Powell taking any kind of stand. 

Wilkerson says in this film that he and Powell knew the war was based on lies, that the claims were junk, that no WMDs were likely to be found, etc.  Yet, when confronted last week by Norman Solomon on Democracy Now! with the question of why he hadn't resigned in protest, Wilkerson claimed that at the time he'd had no idea whatsoever that there were good arguments against the war.  In fact, he blamed opponents of the war for not having contacted him to educate him on the matter.

The Hubris version of Colin Powell's lies at the United Nations is misleadingly undertold.  Powell was not a victim.  He "knowingly lied."

The same goes for Bush, Cheney, and gang.  According to Hubris it may have just been incompetence or hubris.  It wasn't.  Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: "What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

What's the difference?  In a society based on the rule of law, the difference would be a criminal prosecution.  MSNBC and Hubris steer us away from any ideas of accountability.  And no connection is drawn to current war lies about Iran or other nations. 

But the production of programs like this one that prolong Americans' awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq are the best hope Iran has right now.  MSNBC should be contacted and applauded for airing this and urged to follow up on it.

Pseudo-Protests and Serious Climate Crisis

"You elected this president. You reelected this president. . . . Stop being chumps!" --Van Jones

Going in, I was of mixed views regarding Sunday's rally in Washington, D.C., to save the earth's climate from the tar sands pipeline.  I still am.

Why on a Sunday when there's no government around to protest, shut down, or interfere with? 

And why all the pro-Obama rhetoric?  Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical.  Obama won't allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has "a strong moral core" and doesn't do really evil things.

As a belief, that's of course delusional.  This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it.  This is the guy who's derailed international climate protection efforts for years.  This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year's election.  If he had been compelled to take a stand as a candidate there would be no need for this effort to bring him around as a lame duck.

As a tactic, rather than a belief, the approach of the organizers of Sunday's rally is at least worth questioning.  For one thing, people are going to hear such comments and take them for beliefs.  People are going to believe that the president would never do anything really evil.  In which case, why bother to turn out and rally in protest of what he's doing?  Or if we do turn out, why communicate any serious threat of inconvenience to the president?  On the contrary, why not make the protest into a campaign rally for the president through which we try, post-election, to alter the platform on which the actual candidate campaigned?

The advantage to the expect-the-best-and-the-facts-be-damned approach is clear.  Lots of people like it.  You can't have a mass rally without lots of people.  The organizers of this event are not primarily to blame for how the U.S. public thinks and behaves.  But, then again, if you're trying to maximize your crowd at all costs, hadn't you better really truly maximize it?  Sunday's rally probably suffered from being held on a bitterly cold day, but I suspect that most people who planned to come did come; and I've seen more people on the Mall in the summer for no reason at all, and many times more people on the Mall in the winter for an inauguration (which, in terms of policy based activism, is also nothing at all). 

What if the celebrities generating the news with arrests at the White House were to speak the truth?  What if they committed to nonviolently interfering with the operations of a government destroying the climate?  What if they committed to opposing the Democratic and Republican parties as long as this is their agenda?  What if they said honestly and accurately that the personality of a president matters less than the pressures applied to him, that this president can do good or evil, and that it is our job to compel him to do good?

Sunday's rally, MC'd by former anti-Republican-war activist Lennox Yearwood, looked like an Obama rally.  The posters and banners displayed a modified Obama campaign logo, modified to read "Forward on Climate."  One of the speakers on the stage, Van Jones, declared, "I had the honor of working for this president."  He addressed his remarks to the president and appealed to his morality and supposed good works: "President Obama, all the good that you have done . . . will be wiped out" if you allow the tar sands pipeline.

The pretense in these speeches, including one by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, was consistently that Obama has not already approved part of the pipeline, that he is guilty of inaction, that the government is failing to act, that what's needed is action -- as if our government were not actively promoting the use of, and using vast quantities of fossil fuels, not to mention fighting wars to control the stuff.

Van Jones ended his remarks by addressing himself to "the next generation."  And this is what he had to say: "Stop being chumps! You elected this president. You reelected this president.  You gave him the chance to make history. He needs to give you the chance to have a future. Stop being chumps!  Stop being chumps and fight for your future, thank you very much."

Reading these words, one would imagine that the obvious meaning they carry is "Stop electing people like this who work for parties like this and serve financial interests like these."  What could be a more obvious interpretation?  You elected this guy twice.  He's a lame duck now.  You've lost your leverage.  Stop being such chumps! 

Nothing could be further, I think, from what Van Jones meant or what that crowd on Sunday believed he meant.  This was a speaker who had, just moments before, expressed his pride in having worked in Obama's White House.  The fact that this crowd of Obama-branded "activists" had elected him twice was not mentioned in relation to their chumpiness but as grounds for establishing their right to insist that he not destroy the planet's atmosphere.  They would be chumps if they didn't hold more rallies like this one.

Wait, you might ask, doesn't everyone have the right to insist that powerful governments not destroy the earth's atmosphere? 

Well, maybe, but in Van Jones' thinking, those who committed to voting for Obama twice, no matter what he did, and who have committed to voting for another Democrat no matter what he or she will do, deserve particular attention when they make demands.  Paradoxically, those who can be counted on regardless, who demand nothing and therefore offer nothing, should be the ones who especially get to make demands and have them heard and honored. 

Needless to say, it doesn't actually work that way.

Our celebrity emperors attract a great deal of personal affection or hatred, so when I suggest an alternative to packaging a rally for the climate as a belated campaign event, it may be heard as a suggestion to burn Obama in effigy.  What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate? 

We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family.  But would we really lose that many?  If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same busses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday's unimpressive rally have really been?

(And couldn't such a crowd be enlarged enough to more than compensate for any loss, by the simple tactic of promising ahead of time to keep the speeches to a half-hour total and to begin the march on time?  I'd pay money to go to that rally.)

The problem, of course, is that the celebrities and organizers themselves tend to think like Obama campaign workers.  It's not an act.  It's not a tactic aimed at maximizing turnout.  And it's not their fault that they, and so many others, think that way. 

But imagine a realistic, policy-based approach that began to build an independent movement around principled demands.  It would have the potential to grow.  It would have the potential to threaten massive non-cooperation with evil.  It would have the energy of Occupy.  It would have the potential to make a glorious declaration out of what now appears to be self-mockery when oversmall crowds of hungover campaign workers shout "This is what democracy looks like!" as they plod along a permitted parade route.

No.  It really isn't.

The Foodopoly: Too Big to Eat


We've come to understand that the banks are too big to fail, too big to take to trial, too big not to let them write our public policy, too big not to reward them for ruining our economy.

Why have we come to understand that? 

We've been told it by a mega media cartel that has itself been deemed too big to fail, too big not to subsidize with our airwaves, too big not to reward with political ads buying back our airwaves in little bits and pieces.

Speaking of which, the buying of elections is moving rapidly in the direction of monopoly ownership itself.

Nine Brave People Arrested Blocking Gate to Hancock Drone Murder Base in Upstate NY

(UPDATED WITH THEIR STATEMENT BELOW)

Nine opponents of killing human beings with missiles shot from drones were arrested on Wednesday nonviolently interfering with the drone kill program (taken to include the routine use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the targeted kill list) at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, NY.

The nine arrested for disturbing the war were: Matt Ryan, Carmen Trotta, Nancy Gowan, Bill Pickard, Bill Streit, Jim Clune, Ellen Grady, Linda Letender, and Mary Anne Grady Flores.

Below are signs they displayed while blocking the gate.

Report and photos courtesy of Ellen Grady.

Via Malachy Kilbride, here's a list of 35 names of people from across the country who will be going to court at some point for actions against the drones.  Others, of course, already have been to court and in some cases are behind bars: Dan Burgevin, Jim Clune, Jack Gilroy, Martha Hennessy, Bryan Hynes, Ed Kinane, Rae Kramer, Julienne Oldfield, Mary Snyder, Elliott Adams, Judy Bello, Mark Colville, Paul Frazier, Clare Grady, Mary Ann Grady-Flores, Andrea Levine, Bonny Mahoney, Mike Perry, James Ricks, Mark Scibilia-Carver, Paki Weiland, John Heid, David and Jan Hartsough, Sharon Delgado, Jane Kesselman, Shirley Osgood, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Toby Blome, Alli McCracken, Joan Nicholson, Eve Tetaz, and Jonathon Tucker.

 9  ARRESTED AT HANCOCK AIR BASE TODAY FOR OPPOSING REAPER DRONE WAR CRIMES

Around 3:30pm today, 9 individuals were arrested by DeWitt Police and Onondaga County Sheriffs for peaceably blocking the main entrance to

Hancock Air Base on East Molloy Rd in the town of DeWitt, a Syracuse, NY suburb.  Hancock is the regional hub for the hunter/killer Reaper drone deployed over Afghanistan, Pakistan and, increasingly, elsewhere.

This nonviolent civil resistance is the most recent in a series of actions at Hancock meant to expose and deter the Reaper war crimes originating there. Over the last two years dozens of Upstate Drone Action members have been arrested as we sought to communicate our concerns to the Base Command and personnel by delivering to them a Citizens’ War Crimes Indictment [see attached]. Ironically, at a base bristling with lethal weaponry, the bases Mission Support Group Commander, Col. Earl A. Evans, once again, requested and received from the Dewitt Town Court an order of protection against the nonviolent activists. The activists are bewildered by the request and the Courts acquiescence to it, not merely for its demeaning implications but for its as yet unknown legal ramifications. Currently, 20 non-violent citizens have received this order.  

According to Upstate Drone Action member,  Jim Clune, 

        “The Reaper strikes and the United States’ killer drone policies have taken the lives of thousands in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. These strikes are illegal and immoral. Under international agreements, which the US has signed, the killing of civilians, extra-judicial murder, violation of national sovereignty, and violation of due process are all illegal acts.”

Father Bill Pickard , member of Pax Christi, further noted:

        “We came to Hancock Air Base this Ash Wednesday to repent for the actions of our government and to ask God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people we daily terrorize with these weaponized drones.”

Those arrested today include:

   Bill Frankel-Streit, Trevilians, VA…. Nancy Gowen, Richmond, VA…. Ellen Grady, Ithaca, NY….

   Linda LeTendre, Saratoga Springs, NY….Rev. Bill Pickard, Scranton, PA…. Matt  Ryan, Ithaca...

   Mary Anne Grady, Ithaca, NY…. Carmen Trotta, New York, NY,  Jim Clune, Binghamton.###

 

Statement of the Defendants

We come to Hancock Airfield, home of the National Reaper  Drone Maintainence and Training center, this Ash Wednesday -- to remember the victims of our drone strikes and to ask God's forgiveness for the killing of other human beings, most especially children.
      The killer drone strikes and the US's killer drone policies have taken the lives of thousands in a number of countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.   These strikes are illegal and immoral.  Under international agreements, which the US has signed, the killing of civilians, extra-judicial murders, violations of national sovereignty, and violations of due process are ALL illegal acts.
      We come to Hancock Airfield this Ash Wednesday to repent for the actions of our government and to ask God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people we daily terrorize with these drones.
      We remind ourselves that our lives are brief and mysterious, and that "from dust we were created and to dust we shall return!"  The significance of our brief animation is the degree to which we love one another.
      Lent is a time to repent--literally, to change our minds.   It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' command to love our neighbors and our enemies.  It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' radical, non-violent message  love.
       Stop the Killing.  Ground the Drones. STOP the Wars.

 



WAR CRIMES INDICTMENT

To President Obama, to Secretary of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to the full Military Chain of the Command, including Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, to all Service Members and civilian staff of Hancock Air Base, and to the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of De Witt, NY:

Each one of you, when you became a public servant, serving in a government position or when you joined the United States Armed Forces or police, you publicly promised to uphold the United States Constitution. We take this opportunity to call your attention to Article VI of the US Constitution, which states:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary not with standing.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the Constitution and laws of the U.S., including treaties made under authority of the U.S. shall be supreme law of the land.

The Supremacy Clause provides part of the Supreme Law of the Land.

One Treaty duly ratified by the U.S. is the United Nations Charter. It was ratified by a vote of 89 to 2 in the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President in 1945. It remains in effect today. As such, it is part of supreme law of the land.

The Preamble of the U.N. Charter states that its purpose is to “save future generation from the scourge of war” and it further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”

This Treaty applies both collectively and individually to all three branches of government, on all levels, U.S. federal, state and local governments, starting with the executive branch: the U.S. President and the executive staff; the judicial branch: all judges and staff members of the judiciary; the legislative branch: all members of the U.S. Armed Forces and all departments of Law Enforcement and all civilian staff, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes Article VI.

Under the U.N. Charter and long established international laws, anyone--civilian, military, government officials, or judge- who knowingly participates in or supports illegal use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Today you must recognize that when you promised to uphold the Constitution, you promised to obey Treaties and International Law – as part of the Supreme Law of the Land and furthermore, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of the U.S., you are required to disobey any clearly unlawful order from a superior.

Based on all the above,
WE, THE PEOPLE, CHARGE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARAK OBAMA AND THE FULL MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND TO COMMANDER COLONEL GREG SEMMEL,
EVERY DRONE CREW, AND SERVICE MEMBERS AT
HANCOCK AIR BASE, WITH
CRIMES AGAINST PEACE &
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, WITH
VIOLATIONS OF PART OF THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS, VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS,
WARS OF AGGRESSION, VIOLATION OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, AND KILLING OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS.

We charge that the Air National Guard of the United States of America, headquartered at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, under the command of the 174th Fighter Wing Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, is maintaining and deploying the MQ-9 Reaper robotic aircraft, called drones.

These drones are being used not only in combat situations for the purpose of assassinations but also for killings far removed from combat zones without military defense, to assassinate individuals and groups far removed from military action.

Extra judicial killings, such as those the U.S. carries out by drones are intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force to commit murder in violation of U.S. and International Law.

It is a matter of public record that the US has used drones in Afghanistan and in Iraq for targeted killings to target specific individuals which has nearly always resulted in the deaths of many others.

There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used, no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassinations.

In support of this indictment we cite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who has said that the use of drones creates “a highly problematic blurring and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force.... The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum.... In terms of the legal framework, many of these practices violate straightforward applicable legal rules.” See United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council Study on Targeted Killings, 28, May 2010.

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14 .24.Add6.pdf

The drone attacks either originating at Hancock or supported here are a deliberate illegal use of force against another nation, and as such are a felonious violation of Article VI of the US Constitution.

By giving material support to the drone program, you as individuals are violating the Constitution, dishonoring your oath, and committing war crimes.

 

We demand that you stop participating in any part of the operations of MQ-9 drones immediately, being accountable to the people of United States and Afghanistan.

As citizens of this nation, which maintains over 700 military bases around the globe, and the largest, most deadly military arsenal in the world, we believe these words of Martin Luther King still hold true, ”the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government”.

There is hope for a better world when WE, THE PEOPLE, hold our government accountable to the laws and treaties that govern the use of lethal force and war. To the extent that we ignore our laws and constitution and allow for the unchecked use of lethal force by our government, allowing the government to kill who ever it wants, where ever it wants, how ever it wants with no accountability, we make the world less safe for children everywhere.

We appeal to all United States citizens, military and civilian, and to all public officials, to do as required by the Nuremburg Principles I-VII, and by Conscience, to refuse to participate in these crimes, to denounce them, and to resist them nonviolently.

Signed by:
THE UPSTATE COALITION TO
GROUND THE DRONES AND END THE WARS

 

Talk Nation Radio: "I Killed People in Afghanistan: Was I Right or Wrong?"

Tim Kudo is a U.S. Marine who has participated in the war on Afghanistan.

He's authored these columns:

Washington Post: I Killed People in Afghanistan. Was I Right or Wrong?

Washington Post: How the Marines Video Made the Afghan War Even Tougher

New York Times: On War and Redemption

Kudo discusses the morality of war with, and disagrees with, host David Swanson.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

 

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ICYMI the SOTU Is SNAFU

A mountain of bad, in fact deadly, ideas that Congress will eagerly support, and a handful of good proposals that no one will work for and Congress will strive to bury: the SOTU is SNAFU, ICYMI. 

Obama's hiring Romney campaign staff, pushing for a massive corporate trade deal with Europe as well as the Pacific nations, militarizing the Mexican border, and promising not to spend a dime before listing all the good things he'll spend it on.  He'll defend human rights in Egypt (but not mention billions of dollars' worth of weapons he'll give the Egyptian government).  "Sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness," he said.  Readiness for what, Mr. President?

"We have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts," Obama lied about his drone kill program, and Congress cheered.  He said he'd end the war on Afghanistan, and they cheered.  They sat silently through the next few sentences as he promised NOT to end that war, and then they picked up the cheering again.  He hyped the military as a jobs program.  He committed to cutting Medicare.  Cheers, cheers, cheers.

"We produce more oil at home," he bragged.  "We produce more natural gas than ever."  We need "a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on."  Inspiring!


EXTREME WHETHER

I recently read the script of a new play by Karen Malpede called "Extreme Whether."  The title picks up on the crisis of global warming and the choice it presents to our species.  The play will be performed in New York as part of a Festival of Conscience along with Malpede's brilliant antiwar play "Another Life."

"Extreme Whether" is a riff on the story of James Hansen, the NASA scientist who has been trying to tell Congress that the environment is collapsing since 1988.  Malpede invents  a family story for a character like Hansen.  At least in reading (much different from watching) the story at first seems insufficiently tragic.  But as the play advances, so does its vision of the damage being done.  Yet the closer the play gets to communicating the apocalypse that may be to come, the more it appears to have fallen short, although it is of course the play itself that is waking one up to the horror.  Some things defy description even as they're told to you.  In the end, the play is sufficiently tragic, but it presents an image of people as irrational, hedonistic, and therefore hopeless -- an image we should be constantly correcting if possible, except that it, too, seems pretty accurate.

The real Hansen will be speaking at the Festival of Conscience, as will I.  See the schedule below.

 

FEBRUARY 17th

First, this Sunday is a day to rally in Washington, D.C., for serious action on climate change.  Be there.  And make sure anyone who's not on board with this movement watches a performance of "Extreme Whether."

And that evening, help mark 10 Years of D.C. Poets Against the War.

Ann B. Knox, read a poem called "This Moment" in front of the White House on February 12, 2003:

 

We meet in this wind-harsh square

            with some expectation,

some hope our presence will count,

            our voices be heard.

 

We speak from what we know

            and we know no poem

stirs from a closed mind.

            Has the mailed fist

so closed on its own purpose

            we speak to stone?

 

Pay attention, our words matter,

            these bare trees matter,

the Potomac flowing black

            under white ice matters,

kids, woods, a leashed dog,

            poems matter.

 

All our lives converge

            on this moment

and what follows tonight,

            tomorrow, next week

will change our whole

            desperate earth.

 

##

 

"Sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness," he said. 

Readiness for what, Mr. President?

 

##

 

ANOTHER LIFE
Written by KAREN MALPEDE

ANOTHER LIFE
Performances Thursday - Sunday, March 28 - April 21
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00pm
Sunday at 3:00pm

starring George Bartenieff with Abbas Noori Abbood, Christen Gifford, Abraham Makany, Alex Tavis & Di Zhu. 

Another Life is a surreal romp through the post-9/11 decade; an out-sized mogul (George Bartenieff) controls, cashes-in, and is undone in the only American play about the U.S. torture program.  Another Life has been excerpted in The Kenyon Review, given a staged reading at the National Theater of Kosovo, was a centerpiece of the Art of Justice: 9/11 Performance Project at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, and was further acclaimed during a workshop run at the Irondale Center last March.  The play, written in a fast-paced lyric language, is based on research, interviews, testimonies, the words of torturers and tortured, and has been widely praised by experts in the field of human rights, for its inventiveness, power and ability to create empathy.  George Bartenieff gives a tour de force performance as the Cheneyesque mogul Handel. Christin Clifford is his wife Tess and Abbas Noori Abood his prisoner Abdul.  Di Zhu is  his wounded physician daughter who becomes a whistle-blower; Alex Tavis a disgraced F.B.I. officer becomes head of Handel’s private contracting interrogation business. Abraham Makany is Geoff, Lucia’s fiancé who died in the Twin Towers, and retains the innocence of a previous age.  With lighting by Tony Giovennetti, video design by Luba Lukova, costumes by Sally Ann Parsons and Carissa Kelly, set by Robert Eggers and music by Arthur Rosen, and written and directed by Karen Malpede, Another Life is a challenge to the legacy of torture. March 28-April 21, Thurs-Sat. at 8pm, Sun at 3pm; special Saturday, April 13 matinee at 3 pm.

Please Note: On Saturday, April 13, there will be a 3pm Matinee performance of ANOTHER LIFE. There will be no 8pm performance on April 13.

EXTREME WHETHER
Play reading Monday, April 8 at 7pm
Saturday, April 13 at 8pm

Extreme Whether, a new play, will be given two premiere readings; itdraws inspiration from two earlier eco-conscious writers, Ibsen and Chekhov. It is a family drama set on an endangered wilderness estate in an endangered world; as immediate and startling as today’s extreme weather news.  With fierce commitment to truth-telling and heroic persistence against the censorship of science a famous climate scientist and his younger colleague and lover battle industry climate change deniers to alert the wider public to the need for action.  An old environmentalist, a wise child and a frog complete the cast.  An original musical score by Arthur Rosen creates the cosmic dance.  George Bartenieff, Kathleen Chalfant, Zack Grenier lead the cast alongside Soraya Broukhim, Kathleen Purcell and Alex Tavis in the two readings of this new play by Karen Malpede.  April 8 at 7pm and April 13 at 8 pm, only.

FESTIVAL OF CONSCIENCE

Both plays are presented in conjunction with A Festival of Conscience, a series of post-show dialogues with major voices.  These post-show talks are free to all.

March 28: Noor Elashi, writer, daughter of Ghassan Elashi, currently serving 65 years in a CMU prison in Colorado, for having led a Muslim charity that sent donations to Gaza, Pardiss Kabriaei, CCR lawyer representing Muslim’s in the U.S.

Thursday, April 4, David Swanson, author War Is A Lie, blogger, radio host

Sunday, April 7 (post-matinee): Elizabeth Holtzman, Cheating Justice & Karen J. Greenberg, Director, Center on National Security, Fordham Law.

Monday, April 8: 8 pm Reading Extreme Whether, post-show talk by Dr. James Hansen, NASA, America’s foremost climate scientist

Thursday, April 11, 8pm Another Life, tba post-show discussion

Friday, April 12, 8 pm Another Life, post-show Victoria Brittan, journalist, co-author, Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Duty; Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror

Saturday, April 13: 2 pm matinee of Another Life. 4:30-6 Post-show panel, Ramzi Kassem, lawyer for Gitmo detainees, Jesselyn Radack, Government Accountability Project, lawyer for many of the whistle blowers, including John Kiriakou; and Tom Drake, whistle blower and former intelligence officer.

Sunday, April 14: 2 pm matinee of Another Life. 4:30-6 post-show panel, Michael Ratner, Exec. Director of CCR and lawyer for Julian Assange; and Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, and other books, and contributing editor to The Nation.

Drones and Our National Religion

The national religion of the United States of America is nationalism.  Its god is the flag.  Its prayer is the pledge of allegiance. 

The flag's powers include those of life and death, powers formerly possessed by traditional religions.  Its myths are built around the sacrifice of lives to protect against the evils outside the nation.  Its heroes are soldiers who make such sacrifices based on unquestioning faith.  A "Dream Act" that would give citizenship to those immigrants who kill or die for the flag embodies the deepest dreams of flag worship.  Its high priest is the Commander in Chief.  Its slaughter of infidels is not protection of a nation otherwise engaged, but an act that in itself completely constitutes the nation as it is understood by its devotees.  If the nation stopped killing it would cease to be.

What happens to myths like these when we discover that flying killer robots make better soldiers than soldiers do?  Or when we learn that the president is using those flying robots to kill U.S. citizens?  Which beliefs do we jettison to reduce the dissonance in our troubled brains?

Some 85% of U.S.ians, and shrinking rapidly, are theists.  Flag worship may be on the decline as well, but its numbers are still high.  A majority supports a ban on flag burning.  A majority supports the power of the president to kill non-U.S.ians with drones, while a significantly smaller percentage supports the president's power to kill U.S. citizens with drones abroad.  That is to say, if the high priest declares someone an enemy of god, many people believe he should have the power to kill that enemy . . . unless that enemy is a U.S. citizen.  In secular terms, which make this reality seem all the crazier, many of us support acts of murder based on the citizenship of the victim.

Of course, the Commander in Chief kills U.S. citizens all the time by sending them into wars.  Drones don't change that.  Drone pilots have committed suicide.  Drone pilots have been targeted and killed by retaliatory suicide bombings.  Drones have killed U.S. citizens through accidental "friendly" fire.  The hostility that drones are generating abroad has motivated terrorist attacks and attempted attacks abroad and within the national borders of the United States. 

But feeding corpses to our holy flag looks different when we're feeding them directly to the president's flying robots without a foreign intermediary.  And yet to approximately a quarter of the U.S. public it doesn't look different after all.  The president, in their own view, should have the power to kill them, or at least the power to kill anyone (including U.S. citizens) so contaminated as to be standing outside the United States of America -- a frightening and primitive realm that many U.S.ians have never visited and feel no need to ever visit.

Popular support for murder-by-president drops off significantly if "innocent civilians may also be killed."  But a religious belief system perpetuates itself not through the positions it takes on existing facts so much as through its ability to select which facts one becomes aware of and which facts remain unknown.  

Many U.S.ians have avoided knowing that U.S. citizens, including minors, have been targeted and killed, that women and children are on the list of those to be killed, that hundreds of civilian deaths have been documented by serious journalists including victims' names and identities, that U.S. peace activists went to Pakistan and met with victims' families, that the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan said there was a U.S. government count of how many civilians had been killed but he wouldn't say what it was, that the vast majority of those killed are not important leaders in any organization, that people are targeted and killed without knowing their name, that people are targeted and killed merely for the act of trying to rescue victims of previous strikes, that the wounded outnumber the dead, that the traumatized outnumber the wounded, that the refugees who have fled the drone strikes are over a million, that the drone wars did not replace ground wars but began war making in new nations so destabilized now by the drone strikes that ground wars may develop, that some top U.S. military officials have said the drones are creating more new enemies than they kill, or that what drones are doing to our reputation abroad makes Abu Ghraib look like the fun and games our media pundits said it was.

If our courts killed without trials there would be by definition a risk of killing the innocent.  The same should be understood when a president and his flying robots, or missiles, or night raids, kill without trial. 

If we were being bombed we would not deem it any more acceptable to kill those who resisted than those who did not.  Therefore, the category of "innocent civilian" (as distinct from guilty non-civilian) is suspect at best.

The vast majority of the "worst of the worst" locked away in Guantanamo have been exonerated and freed, something that cannot be done with drone victims.  Yet John Brennan, once deemed unacceptable for his role in detention and torture, is now deemed acceptable.  The goodness of his murdering evil beings outweighs the badness of his detaining and torturing people who were sometimes misidentified.  The dead cannot be misidentified.  The president has declared that any unidentified dead male of fighting age was, by definition, a militant.  After all, he was killed.

Yet, this we know for certain: He was someone's child. He was someone's loved one.  He was someone's friend. 

We have a responsibility right now to grow up very, very quickly.  Our government is breaking down the rule of law and stripping away our rights in the name of protecting us from an enemy it generates through the same process.  Drones are not inevitable. Drones are not in charge of us.  We don't have to fill our local skies with "surveillance" drones and "crowd control" drones.  That's a choice that is up to us to make.  We don't have to transfer to mindless hunks of metal the heroism heretofore bestowed just as nonsensically on soldiers.  There is no excuse for supporting the murder of foreigners in cases in which we would not support the murder of U.S. citizens.  There is no excuse for supporting a policy of murdering anyone at all. 

There is no excuse for allowing your government to take your son or daughter and give you back a flag.  There is no excuse for allowing your government to take someone else's son or daughter.  Ever.  Anywhere.  No matter how scared you are.  No matter what oath of loyalty you've robotically pledged to a colored piece of fabric since Kindergarten.  Actual robots can perform the pledge of allegiance as well as any human.  They do not, however, have any heart to place their hand over.  We should reserve our hearts for actions robots cannot do.

Audio: David Swanson and Coy Barefoot

Go Here.

Charlottesville Right Now (Subscribe)
Charlottesville Right Now: 2-8-13 David Swanson
David Swanson joins the program to talk about drones.

Talk Nation Radio: Robert Pollin: There Is No Fiscal Crisis

There is no fiscal crisis. There is an unemployment crisis. And there is a solution: tax the banks. The support for this argument is explained by Robert Pollin, the co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.  His latest book and papers discussed during the program are here: http://backtofullemployment.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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The Colin Powell Memorial BS Award

John Brennan's performance at his Rejection Hearing in the Senate Lack of Intelligence Committee on Thursday will likely be a contender for this year's Colin Powell Memorial Bullshit Award.

Colin Powell set the standard on Feb. 5, 2003, at the United Nations.

Powell relied on the testimony of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law to persuade us of the supposed need to attack Iraq.  Powell recited his claims about weapons of mass destruction but carefully left out the part where that same gentleman had testified that all of Iraq's WMDs had been destroyed.

Think of that.  Someone tells you about a bunch of old weapons and at the same time tells you they've been destroyed, and you choose to repeat the part about the weapons and censor the part about their destruction. How would you explain that?

Well, it's a sin of omission, so ultimately Powell could claim he forgot. "Oh yeah, I meant to say that, but it slipped my mind."

But how would he explain this:

During his presentation at the United Nations, Powell provided this translation of an intercepted conversation between Iraqi army officers:

"They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes.

"Yes.

"For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.

"For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo?

"Yes.

"And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."

The incriminating phrases "clean all of the areas" and "make sure there is nothing there" do not appear in the official State Department translation of the exchange:

"Lt. Colonel: They are inspecting the ammunition you have.

"Colonel: Yes.

"Lt. Col: For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.

"Colonel: Yes?

"Lt. Colonel: For the possibility there is by chance, forbidden ammo.

"Colonel: Yes.

"Lt. Colonel: And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas.

"Colonel: Yes."

Powell was writing fictional dialogue. He put those extra lines in there and pretended somebody had said them. Here's what Bob Woodward said about this in his book, Plan of Attack.

"[Powell] had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light. Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of 'forbidden ammo,' Powell took the interpretation further: 'Clean out all of the areas. . . . Make sure there is nothing there.' None of this was in the intercept."

For most of his presentation, Powell wasn't inventing dialogue, but he was presenting as facts numerous claims that his own staff had warned him were weak and indefensible.

Powell told the UN and the world: "We know that Saddam’s son, Qusay, ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam's numerous palace complexes." The Jan. 31, 2003, evaluation of Powell's draft remarks prepared for him by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research ("INR") flagged this claim as "WEAK."

Regarding alleged Iraqi concealment of key files, Powell said: "key files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and added "Plausibility open to question." A Feb. 3, 2003, INR evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell's remarks noted:

"Page 4, last bullet, re key files being driven around in cars to avoid inspectors. This claim is highly questionable and promises to be targeted by critics and possibly UN inspection officials as well."

That didn't stop Colin from stating it as fact and apparently hoping that, even if UN inspectors thought he was a brazen liar, U.S. media outlets wouldn't tell anyone.

On the issue of biological weapons and dispersal equipment, Powell said: "we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK":

"WEAK. Missiles with biological warheads reportedly dispersed. This would be somewhat true in terms of short-range missiles with conventional warheads, but is questionable in terms of longer-range missiles or biological warheads."

This claim was again flagged in the Feb. 3, 2003, evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell's presentation: "Page 5. first para, claim re missile brigade dispersing rocket launchers and BW warheads. This claim too is highly questionable and might be subjected to criticism by UN inspection officials."

That didn't stop Colin. In fact, he brought out visual aids to help with his lying

Powell showed a slide of a satellite photograph of an Iraqi munitions bunker, and lied:

"The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions . . . [t]he truck you [...] see is a signature item. It's a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and added: "We support much of this discussion, but we note that decontamination vehicles – cited several times in the text – are water trucks that can have legitimate uses... Iraq has given UNMOVIC what may be a plausible account for this activity – that this was an exercise involving the movement of conventional explosives; presence of a fire safety truck (water truck, which could also be used as a decontamination vehicle) is common in such an event."

Powell's own staff had told him the thing was a water truck, but he told the UN it was "a signature item…a decontamination vehicle." The UN was going to need a decontamination vehicle itself by the time Powell finished spewing his lies and disgracing his country.

He just kept piling it on: "UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons," he said.

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this statement as "WEAK" and added: "the claim that experts agree UAVs fitted with spray tanks are ‘an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons’ is WEAK."

In other words, experts did NOT agree with that claim.

Powell kept going, announcing "in mid-December weapons experts at one facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive inspectors about the work that was being done there."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and "not credible" and "open to criticism, particularly by the UN inspectorates."

His staff was warning him that what he planned to say would not be believed by his audience, which would include the people with actual knowledge of the matter.

To Powell that was no matter.

Powell, no doubt figuring he was in deep already, so what did he have to lose, went on to tell the UN: "On orders from Saddam Hussein, Iraqi officials issued a false death certificate for one scientist, and he was sent into hiding."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and called it "Not implausible, but UN inspectors might question it. (Note: Draft states it as fact.)"

And Powell stated it as fact. Notice that his staff was not able to say there was any evidence for the claim, but rather that it was "not implausible." That was the best they could come up with. In other words: "They might buy this one, Sir, but don't count on it."

Powell, however, wasn't satisfied lying about one scientist. He had to have a dozen. He told the United Nations: "A dozen [WMD] experts have been placed under house arrest, not in their own houses, but as a group at one of Saddam Hussein's guest houses."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and "Highly questionable." This one didn't even merit a "Not implausible."

Powell also said: "In the middle of January, experts at one facility that was related to weapons of mass destruction, those experts had been ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors. Workers from other Iraqi military facilities not engaged in elicit weapons projects were to replace the workers who’d been sent home."

Powell's staff called this "WEAK," with "Plausibility open to question."

All of this stuff sounded plausible enough to viewers of Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. And that, we can see now, was what interested Colin. But it must have sounded highly implausible to the UN inspectors. Here was a guy who had not been with them on any of their inspections coming in to tell them what had happened.

We know from Scott Ritter, who led many UNSCOM inspections in Iraq, that U.S. inspectors had used the access that the inspection process afforded them to spy for, and to set up means of data collection for, the CIA. So there was some plausibility to the idea that an American could come back to the UN and inform the UN what had really happened on its inspections.

Yet, repeatedly, Powell's staff warned him that the specific claims he wanted to make were not going to even sound plausible. They will be recorded by history more simply as blatant lies.

The examples of Powell's lying listed above are taken from an extensive report released by Congressman John Conyers: "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War."

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie at http://warisalie.org

Do We Care About People Even if They Live in Bahrain?

Monday evening I went early to my local City Council meeting in Charlottesville, Va., where the council passed a resolution I supported against drones.

Going early in order to line up to speak means conversing with a Fox News viewer or two who always go super early in order to speak first.  One nice and beautifully unapathetic, but deeply misinformed woman, has on more than one such occasion let me know what a threat to our safety the evil Iranians are and how tyranical the Iranian government. 

At the January meeting, as she seemed to be outraged about 1979 as if it were yesterday, I asked if she remembered 1953.  She was old enough to remember that year, as I am not, and she proudly said so.  But she had no idea what had happened then, so I tried to tell her.

First City in U.S. Passes Resolution Against Drones

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, February 4th, the City Council of Charlottesville, Va., passed what is believed to be the first anti-drone resolution in the country.  According to my notes, and verifiable soon on the City Council's website, the resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.

The same City Council passed a resolution on January 17, 2012, calling for an end to drone wars, as well as ground wars, excessive military spending, and any possible attack on Iran.

(Photo by Ted Strong of Daily Progress)

The wording of Monday's resolution comes largely from a draft suggested by the Rutherford institute. An initial line was deleted and two amendments were made to the final paragraph, one endorsing a two-year moratorium on drones (something that had passed in committee in both houses of the Virginia legislature as of Saturday in the House and Monday in the Senate), the other committing the City not to use drones for surveillance or assault.

The wording was not as comprehensive as the draft that had appeared in the City Council's official agenda for Monday's meeting, a draft I had authored.  See it here in the city agenda or on my website

At the previous meeting of the City Council on January 7, 2013, I and a few other residents had spoken in support of a resolution, and three of the five city council members agreed to put it on the agenda for the February 4th meeting.  Some of the public comments were excellent, and the video of the meeting is on the city's website

On Monday, citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m.  Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city's site.  The council members did not discuss and vote on the matter until shortly after 11 p.m.  The discussion was quite brief, coming on the heels of hours devoted to other matters. 

The same three city council members who had put the item on the agenda voted in favor of the resolution, passing it by a vote of 3-2.  They were Dave Norris, Dede Smith, and Satyendra Sing Huja.  Norris and Smith negotiated the slight improvements to the Rutherford Institute's draft with Huja, who initially favored passing that draft as it was written.  Norris and Smith favored banning the City from purchasing drones, but Council Member Kristin Szakos argued that there might be a positive use for a drone someday, such as for the fire department.  Kathy Galvin joined Szakos in voting No.

Norris has been a leader on the City Council for years and sadly will not be running for reelection at the end of his current term.

Following the January meeting, I submitted my draft to the city, asked people to phone and email the council members, published a column in the local daily newspaper, and organized an event in front of City Hall on Sunday, the day before the vote.  Anti-drone activist John Heuer from North Carolina delivered a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern.  Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper.  I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page.  The room ended up packed, and when I asked those who supported the resolution to stand, most of the room did so.

No organized pro-drone lobby ever developed.  We met and confronted the argument that localities shouldn't lobby states or Washington.  And, of course, some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad.  Charlottesville's City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing.  But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well.  The problem there, according to Smith, was that "we don't own the air."

Yet, we should. And Oregon is attempting to do so with its draft state legislation.

In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies.  Let us hope this one is no exception.

Rape as Collateral Damage

Where I live in Virginia a member of the county board of supervisors was recently charged with the crime of "forcible sodomy," which carried a sentence of five years to life in prison.  He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus probation, etc.  He professed his innocence of the original charge. 

But what is sexual battery if not forcible sex?  The fine line drawn between 30 days and life may have less to do with the action being alleged than with the persuasiveness of the allegation, the prosecutor's confidence of winning a conviction, the schedule and budget of the court, the desire of the accuser or victim to participate in a trial, etc.

If the man was guilty, his penalty seems too light, the lack of a trial seems wrong, and some creative restorative justice seems in order.  Little has been done to aid the victim or heal the community.

It is entirely possible that he was entirely innocent.  People plead to 30-day sentences in our legal system to avoid a risk of life in prison (including the possibility of becoming a serial rape victim while in prison) all the time.  Had the threat been five years rather than "five-years-to-life," an innocent man might have been more likely to risk a trial to declare his innocence. 

If this man was innocent, his penalty is of course too great.  Any penalty would be too great.  And the lack of any charges against his false accuser would be a miscarriage of justice.

I have no way of knowing which direction our justice system misfired in this case.  I know only that it compromised, choosing to lessen the harm done, but aware of necessarily doing harm.  And I can think of many ways the system might be improved.

At the same time, I'm aware that there are systems in the world immeasurably worse.  There is no system that imprisons people at the rate the United States does, including largely for nonviolent and victimless crimes.  But there are epidemics of rape, of gang rape, of rape and torture, of rape and murder.  There are epidemics of rape in societies in which no man can be punished in any way, but in which a woman known to have been raped is herself punished, along with her family, along with her children -- children who grow up seeing only one path to an existence of reduced shame and humiliation: the path of becoming a soldier in the war that produced the epidemic of rape.  And there are echoes of all of this in our own society.

Such horrific situations are described in Ann Jones' book, War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War.  They lead her to an interesting conclusion:

"One stronghold of the battered women's movement -- in Maryland, if I remember rightly -- distributed T-shirts bearing the words WORLD PEACE BEGINS AT HOME.  I believed it.  Raise up children in peaceful homes free of violence, I thought, and they will make peace.  But now, having spent the last many years in and around wars, I think the motto is painfully idealistic.  The relationship it describes is reciprocal, but not fair.  World peace may begin at home, but violence just as surely begins in war; and war does not end."

Jones documents the use of rape in war and its continuation after the announced end of wars, including its adoption by civilian men who did not participate in the war.  The rapes that Jones describes are often viciously brutal and sometimes deadly.  The physical injuries are severe and lasting, including the inability to sit or to walk, internal bleeding, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases.  And then there is the mental damage, the societal damage, and the economic damage. 

Jones takes her readers to Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burmese refugees in Thailand, and Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.  Liberia was founded by former U.S. slaves who, Jones writes, brought to Africa "a few of America's worst features: elitism, discrimination, forced labor, religiosity, and a penchant for violence."*  Liberia's modern history has been no happier.  The World Health Organization in 2005 estimated that 90 percent of Liberian women had suffered physical or sexual violence and 75 percent had been raped.

Following war in the DRC, teachers, pastors, and fathers took up the practice of rape.  The same pattern was found in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where horrors unknown or rare before war (civilian rape, child rape, gang rape) became normal.  In the DRC, Jones observed a vicious cycle.  Husbands abandon raped wives, sometimes departing the village out of shame; so raped wives without visible injuries try to conceal the rape from their husbands.  Women are afraid to go outside for wood or water or to work in their fields (much as female U.S. soldiers in Iraq were so afraid of male U.S. soldiers that they would not venture outside to the bathrooms at night).  With no crops to sell, women have no money, and their children cannot go to school without money to pay for it.  Girls are also afraid to go to school where they may be raped.  With nothing left, women and girls turn to prostitution while men turn to the military.  A local famine develops, and women are afraid to make the trip to a hospital when ill; so people begin to die from diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria.  A study found 5.4 million "excess deaths" in the DRC between 1998 and 2007, 2.1 million of them after the war "ended."

Good news in war reporting is not always accurate.  In 2007 (and right up to this moment with no let-up in sight) USians heard of a successful "surge" in Iraq.  Iraqis saw increased civilian death and displacement, increased sectarian segregation, and a surging population of refugees.  That war created what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees calls "the most significant displacement in the Middle East" since the Nakba.  Iraq now confronts a situation in which millions of its citizens have fled and a million of its women are widows:

"There is more than one way to lose a husband.  Illness, accident, assassination, murder, warfare.  Rape is another.  Many women lose their husbands to rape.  How many thousands of Iraqi women and girls have been raped is impossible to know; but rape is commonplace.  Of 4,516 cases of sexual violence in Iraq reported to UNHCR in Jordan, women were the victims in 4,233 cases; and for each reported case, there are countless others."

Iraqi men lost their houses, their land, their status, and their self respect.  As refugee families in neighboring nations, Iraqis rely on women to make a living.  One way in which men try to reassert their authority is domestic violence.

SOMETHING POSITIVE

Jones didn't just visit war-torn areas.  She brought there something that the U.S. and other western governments would never think to send.  When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; and when all you spend money on is soldiers and missiles, you imagine those tools capable of things they are not suited to.  Jones brought with her a different tool: photography lessons. 

Jones gave women who had never seen a camera or a photograph, cameras and memory chips and lessons in using them.  The women did not recoil in superstitious horror.  They became artists, activists, and empowered members of communities that until that moment had treated women as objects to be owned. 

"Prudence in Zokoguhe photographed a man beating his wife with a broom.  Martine in Zokoguhe photographed a woman landing in the dirt face-first and the man who had thrown her to the ground.  Jeanette in Koupela-Tenkodoko photographed a man beating his wife with a stick." 

Change began swiftly. 

"One woman reported that her husband, who had never before shared the proceeds from the family field, now proposed to give a little something to his photographer wife.  Another reported that her husband, who had never before provided money for a sick child's medicine, rode his bike all the way to the health center to make sure that his photographer wife and child, who had gone ahead on foot, were being served by the pharmacy.  Another told of her neighbor, an habitual wife beater, never deterred by others who tried to intervene.  When she threatened to fetch her camera, he stopped hitting his wife and ran away."

Women showed their photographs in a public meeting.  Never having spoken in public before, women took over the meeting.  The village chief took their side and followed their lead.  They began participating in writing laws to stop the violence in their village. 

Jones collected her cameras to take them to another country, and by that time the women no longer needed them.  But wouldn't it be nice if they could keep them?  With a $1.3 trillion military budget in the United States alone, you'd think we could afford a few cameras that actually accomplish things that missiles and soldiers are falsely advertised as accomplishing.  In fact, I don't just want to give women cameras.  I want to give them websites.

Jones is an advocate for making women part of peace negotiations, part of government.  Give women power and rights, and things will improve, Jones believes.  And she's right, of course, up to a point.  But the notion of "no justice, no peace" has to be reversed.  Without peace we cannot build justice.  We must end the wars.  HOME VIOLENCE BEGINS IN WAR. 

We must keep our priorities straight as critics soften their complaints with the pro-torture and pro-murder movie Zero Dark Thirty in part because it was made by a woman, and as a pro-war woman named Hillary Clinton positions herself to run for a presidential office that has been given single-handed power of life and death over great masses of human beings.

*****

* Jones is wrong, I believe, that the first African-American settlers arrived in Africa in 1822, since a group sailed from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in 1792 including slaves who had escaped to fight for the British, including a man formerly owned by George Washington.

Join David Swanson on Harvey Wasserman's Show on Monday

DRONES & PEACE IN THE AGE OF OBAMA with the great David Swanson at 3-4pm (eastern) Monday on HarveyW's Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show.  David is one our most persistent, effective and unstoppable activists on issues of war, the environment and our Constitution.  Our action-packed hour will feature some serous strategizing about ending the empire and getting to Solartopia as we celebrate an age when activists like David really do make a difference.  Join us at 888-874-4888.   http://prn.fm/shows/environmental-shows/green-power/#axzz2Jm0zCWMs

Wars That Aren't Meant to Be Won

In War Is A Lie I looked at pretended and real reasons for wars and found some of the real reasons to be quite irrational.  It should not shock us then to discover that the primary goal in fighting a war is not always to win it.  Some wars are fought without a desire to win, others without winning being the top priority, either for the top war makers or for the ordinary soldiers.

In Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them, David Keen looks at wars around the world and discovers many in which winning is not an object.  Many of the examples are civil wars, many of them in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, some of them dragging on for decades.  Wars become sources of power, wealth, and prestige.  Exploiting civilians can take precedence for both sides over combatting each other.  So can exploiting international "aid" that flows as long as wars are raging, not to mention the international permission to commit crimes that is bestowed upon those fighting the communists or, more recently, the terrorists.  Of course a "war on terror" is itself blatantly chosen as an unwinnable goal around which to design a permanent emergency.  President Obama has just waived, again, sanctions on nations using child soldiers.  Those child soldiers are on our side.

"The weak (or nonexistent) criticism by aid agencies of human rights abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq in the context of a 'war on terror' -- for example, the massacres of prisoners of war in Afghanistan in November 2001 and the torture at Abu Ghraib -- was used by the government in Sri Lanka (as well as by governments in Russia, Colombia, Algeria and Pakistan) as evidence of 'double standards' on the part of aid agencies that tried to criticise them."

Keen treats Western wars with the same analytical eye as any other wars, and with similar results.  The wars to combat "terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq have actually increased terrorism.  If the overriding goal were to reduce terrorism, we wouldn't continue making war on Muslim nations.  Killing Afghan farmers for supporting the Taliban turns more of them to the Taliban.  And so, more of them are killed.  Paying for safe passage for U.S. materiel funds the Taliban.  Humanitarian aid is tied to the military occupation and resisted as such, fueling corruption and resentment rather than good will.  It also fuels an interest in prolonging a war without end on the part of locals profiting from it. 

Is winning the objective?  Sometimes appearing to be winning in the short term overrides and actually impedes the work of winning in the long term.  One reason this goes unnoticed, I think, is that there is no coherent concept of what winning would look like.  We're less aware, therefore, of not having reached it.  Rather than winning or losing, we think of wars as merely "ending."  And if they end following a "surge" by our side, we imagine they've ended well, even while averting our eyes from the results. 

Do U.S. war makers want their wars to end?  Perhaps if they can end without slowing the flow of war spending, and if they can end violently -- that is, in a manner seeming to justify war.  Leading up to the recent NATO war on Libya, a U.S. weapons executive was asked by NPR what would happen if the occupation of Afghanistan ended.  His reply was that he hoped we could invade Libya.  During President Clinton's second term, this ad was posted on a wall in the Pentagon:

"ENEMY WANTED: Mature North American Superpower seeks hostile partner for arms-racing, Third World conflicts, and general antagonism.  Must be sufficiently menacing to convince Congress of military financial requirements.  Nuclear capability is preferred; however, non-nuclear candidates possessing significant bio chemical warfare resources will be considered. . . ."

Jokes?  No doubt.  But not funny ones and not meaningless ones.

Drastic increases in U.S. military spending in the early 1950s, early 1980s, and early 2000s all followed economic recessions.  Money could have been spent on schools or solar panels or trains, and the economy would have benefited significantly more, but that would have been Socialism.

One reason for the U.S. bombing of Laos: the halting of the bombing of North Vietnam left a lot of planes and bombs without targets.  One reason that Keen offers for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait: Iraq had an oversized military in desperate need of a war.  And when the U.S. occupation recklessly disbanded that military, fuelling the resistance, the goal may not have been to fuel the resistance, but clearly an irrational drive to de-Baathify took precedence over achieving peace.

Beyond profits, wars create support for rightwing politics, and excuses to eliminate civil rights.  This is true at home, but also abroad.  Sanctions on Iran are moving the Iranian government away from where liberal reformers claim to want it.  Providing limited aid to a hopeless opposition in Syria that does not aim for democracy won't produce democracy, but it will produce war.  And not just immediately, but lastingly.  U.S. backing of jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s fueled war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, and the attacks of 911, just as the recent war in Libya is fueling war in Mali.

What lessons can be drawn?  Aid should go first and foremost to places free of war.  Rather than prioritizing the militarization and bombing of areas suffering human rights abuses (militarizing Bahrain when it backs the Pentagon, bombing Libya when it doesn't), our top priority should be disarmament and demilitarization, that is to say: conversion of economies and societies to peaceful sustainable production.  One part of this work should be the enforcement of laws against war.  This week we can look to Guatemala and Italy for signs of hope, and to Washington for evidence that plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

New CRS Reports on Drones

The Congressional Research Service has released two new reports on drones.  The first is called

Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues

Some highlights:

Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, P.L. 112-95, Congress has tasked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, into the national airspace system by September 2015. Although the text of this act places safety as a predominant concern, it fails to establish how the FAA should resolve significant, and up to this point, largely unanswered legal questions....

... Perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens. With the ability to house high-powered cameras, infrared sensors, facial recognition technology, and license plate readers, some argue that drones present a substantial privacy risk.66 Undoubtedly, the government’s use of drones for domestic surveillance operations implicates the Fourth Amendment and other applicable laws.67 In like manner, privacy advocates have warned that private actors might use drones in a way that could infringe upon fundamental privacy rights.6 ...

...If Congress chooses to act, it could create privacy protections to protect individuals from intrusive drone surveillance conducted by private actors. Such proposals would be considered in the context of the First Amendment rights to gather and receive news. Several bills were introduced in the 112th Congress that would regulate the private use of drones. Additionally, there are other measures Congress could adopt. ...

... Additionally, Congress could create a cause of action for surveillance conducted by drones similar to the intrusion upon seclusion tort provided under Restatement § 652B.151 ...

... Congress could also create a privacy statute tailored to drone use similar to the anti-voyeurism statutes, or “Peeping Tom” laws, enacted in many states.154 These laws prohibit persons from surreptitiously filming others in various circumstances and places.155 ...

...There may be instances where a landowner is entitled to protect his property from intrusion by a drone.  ...

... The legal issues discussed in this report will likely remain unresolved until the civilian use of drones becomes more widespread. ...



OR, OF COURSE, until people and localities and states speak up.

The other report is


Summary: There's gold in them thar drones.


Drones Are a Local Issue

No city is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.

I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well.

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

States and localities can ban or regulate such actions.  Or they can proceed to endanger our health and our civil rights.

In Montgomery County, Texas, the Sheriff showed off a drone to the media but crashed it into his armored vehicle (thereby, I guess, proving that he needed an armored vehicle). 

When the Dept. of Homeland Security challenged the University of Texas-Austin to hack into a drone and take control of it, the response was "No problem," and it was quickly done.

Drones are not safe.  Surveillance by drones cannot comply with the Fourth Amendment.  And the arming of drones with tear gas and rubber bullets, already underway in many U.S. localities, is an outrageous threat to our First Amendment right to assemble and petition our governments for a redress of grievances.

If Charlottesville were to remain silent while (how shall I put this delicately?) crack-pot cities continue setting de facto law, we would all be worse off. 

Charlottesville City Council routinely informs the state general assembly of its wishes.  That state assembly has already been considering legislation on drones.  Charlottesville has a responsibility to speak up, as well as to act locally on its own behalf. 

Moreover, Charlottesville's influence spreads.  Its past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well.  Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.

This is how our republic is supposed to work.  City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across America. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.

In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."

Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc.

We are not an island.  If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate.  If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders.  And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out. 

Just over a year ago, the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution calling for an end to "foreign ground and drone wars."  U.S. drone wars are now under investigation by the United Nations as possible crimes.  We now know that individuals are targeted without so much as identifying their names.  We now know that hundreds of children have been killed.  We now know that at least three Americans have been targeted and killed.  The view of our city should be restated in the context of local and state actions on drones.  This is an action desired by local people, affecting local people, and costing the local budget exactly nothing.

Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind.  Therefore, send not to know  For whom the bell tolls,  It tolls for thee.
--

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  Subscribe or unsubscribe from David's email lists here.

Look Not Unto the Morrow

Robert Fantina, the author of a tragically nonfictional survey of the lives of soldiers in all past U.S. wars, has now published a devastatingly fictional account of the war that the Vietnamese call the American War.

I say devastatingly fictional, because Fantina condenses and concentrates into one small book and the lives of a very few characters the lead-up to, the experience of, and the aftermath of a U.S. soldier's participation in that war.  The extreme horror and tragedy recounted (leavened by much human goodness) would require the watering down of thousands of additional pages of extraneous information were it nonfiction, and yet it is all based in typical experiences endured, overcome, or surrendered to by many thousands of Americans.

The plot is not predictable, the lessons not pedantic, but the story of Look Not Unto the Morrow is a story that grabs you more firmly by the throat because of the knowledge of how many people have lived it.

Here we meet a young man who only figures out what war is once he's in it, and a young woman who loves him and who only begins to give a damn about the world and the people in it when her lover goes to war.  I find myself, as I read this, desperately hoping that someone young will read it too and get themselves together faster, before it's too late. 

Then I realize that when I grew up believing war was a sick barbaric atavism, I was growing up after the peace movement of the 1960s had happened.  Perhaps people had learned.  Perhaps that learning had reached me.  I also had the option of going to college.  I also was not drafted.  The accounts of veterans at the Winter Soldier event during the war on Iraq, just like those during the war on Vietnam, are tales of disillusionment.  These are young men, and now women too, who believed the hype, believed some good purpose could be served by mass murder, headed off to participate, and then began to have grave doubts.

The accounts of some veterans are, in fact, very mixed and complicated.  Some believe a soldier should tell the truth about a horrible genocidal crime and also continue to take part in it if so ordered.  Some believe our current wars should be denounced and actively resisted, but that a good war might start next month or next year. 

A young man recently published a column in the Washington Post headlined "I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong?"  I interviewed him and will air the interview on my radio show.  He told me that he had opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, supported the ongoing occupation once begun, and supported the war on Afghanistan.  I asked what he would do if another invasion were launched that he was opposed to.  He replied that he would go and fight in it.  He would go and kill people in it. 

Beneath all the differences between our era and the 1960s/1970s that come through in Fantina's novel, there is much that is the same.  Combining Fantina's novel with Nick Turse's new nonfictional account of the extended atrocity and marathon "war crime" that was the assault on Vietnam (all war is a crime, not certain bits of it) should give one a serious understanding of what was, is, and must not continue to be the fundamental error of our ways. 

I've read more autobiographical accounts of our current wars than fiction, so please send me your recommendations for the latter, as well as for accounts from Vietnamese and Iraqi and Afghan (etc.) points of view.  Autobiographies have their own advantages.  I used to wish Ralph Waldo Emerson's prediction might come true and novels might be displaced by memoirs. 

I say I used to wish that, because a good writer can invent truths, can show us what's happening inside the heads of multiple characters, can personalize public affairs with the power of mythology.  To see what I'm talking about, read Look Not Unto the Morrow.

Talk Nation Radio: Marcy Wheeler: Brennan Is Obama's Cheney

Marcy Wheeler blogs as Emptywheel at Emptywheel.net. She says John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director, has been Obama's Dick Cheney, operating outside the law, lying about bin Laden, and lying about drones; the White House has killed an American for his speech; the CIA has stopped lying to Congress only by starting to tell Congress nothing at all; Senator Diane Feinstein is complicit in the drone kill program; Congress has asked President Obama 10 times for a legal basis for the drone kill program and been blown off every time; the prosecutorial abuse in the case of Aaron Swartz is not uncommon, but evidence suggests retribution for Swartz's making accessible the Department of Justice's own public information, requesting of information on the treatment of Bradley Manning, and possible (entirely legal) assistance to WikiLeaks.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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A Blowback Hurricane

Most violence we face we've provoked.  Those confronting us with violence are exactly as wrong as if we hadn't provoked them.  But we are not as innocent as we like to imagine.

This seems like a simple concept awaiting only factual substantiation, but in fact it is dramatically at odds with most people's ridiculously ill-conceived notion of how blame works.  According to this common notion, blame is like a lump of clay.  Whoever holds it is to blame.  If they hand it to someone else, then that person is exclusively to blame.  If they break it in half, then two people can each be half to blame.  But blame is a finite quantity and the clay is very difficult to break.  So once the clay is attached to one person, everybody else is pretty well blameless. 

I faulted President Obama for instructing the Justice Department not to prosecute anyone in the CIA for torture, and someone told me that Attorney General Holder was in fact to blame, and therefore Obama was not.  I faulted easy access to guns for mass shootings, and someone told me that antidepressant medications were to blame, and therefore gun laws were not.  If you're like me, these sorts of calculations will strike you as bizarrely stupid.  The question of whether Obama is to blame is a question of what he has done or not done; Holder doesn't enter into it at all.  The question of whether Holder is to blame comes down to whether Holder acted against the interest of the greater good; it has nothing to do with Obama.  One or both or neither of them could be to blame.  Or they could both be to blame and 18 other people be to blame as well.  We have problems with gun laws, psychiatric drugs, films, tv shows, video games, examples set by our government's own violence, and many other elements of our culture; none of them erase any of the others. 

Blame is unlimited.  Rather than a finite lump of clay, blame should be pictured as water droplets condensing out of the air on a cold glass.  There is no limit to them.  They appear wherever another glass is cold.  Their quantity bears no relation to the quantity of the harm done.  A million people can carry the blame for a trivial harm, or one person can be alone to blame and to blame only slightly for a most horrible tragedy.

Another type of example may help explain where the common conception of blame comes from.  A man convicted of murder is proven innocent, but loved ones of the victim want him punished anyway (and in proportion to the harm done).  Another is proven insane or incompetent or underage, but he is punished just the same.  Blame is perceived as a burning hot ball of clay that must be tossed from person to person desperately until it can be attached to someone deserving of it.  Once that is done, there is no rush to find anyone (or anything) else who might also be to blame.  Blame is a concept that is tied up in people's muddled minds with the concept of revenge.  It's hard to seek revenge against numerous people or institutions all bearing different types and degrees of blame.  It's much easier to simplify.  And once the demand for revenge is satisfied in the aggrieved, it ceases to search for new outlets.

When hijackers flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they were given blame.  Anyone who helped them was given blame (after all, it's hard to seek revenge against the dead).  But anyone who provoked or accidentally permitted those crimes was deemed absolutely blameless.  There wasn't any more clay to go around.  To blame the U.S. government for having spent years arming and training religious fanatics in Afghanistan and provoking them in Palestine and Saudi Arabia would mean unblaming the hijackers.  To blame the U.S. government for not preventing the hijackings would mean unblaming the hijackers. 

This kind of infantile thinking has prevented us from grasping anything like the true extent of blowback our nation has encountered. 

There are individual encounters in which zero-sum blame thinking appears to work.  Someone who kills in self-defense is given less blame than someone who kills an innocent victim.  But translating this to the public or even international arena seems to me to fail.  Violent social movements are wrong and to blame even when they are resisting injustice.  Crimes of resistance by Native Americans and slaves can be seen as crimes even as we understand them as blowback.  The World War II era crimes of Japan create a great deal of blame for Japan, and that is unchanged by understanding the history of how the United States brought war making and imperialism to the Japanese.  Often in U.S. history we have been confronted by a Frankenstein monster of our own creation, and one intentionally provoked at that.  This is different from the myth of our innocence and of the other's irrational random aggression.  A more informed understanding doesn't excuse the aggression.  It erases our (the U.S. government's) innocence. 

Saddam Hussein was our creature.  So was Gadaffi.  And Assad.  "Intervene" is Pentagon-speak for "switch sides."  Our dictators remain guilty of their crimes when we learn that we funded them.  Every graduate of the School of the Americas who heads off into the world to murder and torture is to blame for doing so, and so is the School of the Americas, and so are the taxpayers who fund it and the governments that send students to attend it. 

We imagine that crazy irrational Iranians attacked us out of the blue in 1979, whereas the CIA's coup of 1953 made the embassy takeover predictable -- a completely different thing from justifiable. 

Britain and its apprentice / master-to-be the United States long feared an alliance between Germany and Russia.  This led to facilitation of the creation of the Soviet Union.  And it led to support for the development of Nazism in Germany.  The goal was Russian-German conflict, not peace.  When war is imagined to be inevitable, the great question is where to create it, not whether.  The post-World War I talks at Versailles laid the groundwork for World War II, helped along by the West's financial and trade policies for decades to come. 

Also at Versailles, President Wilson refused to meet with a young man named Ho Chi Minh -- an initial bit contribution perhaps to a great deal of future blowback.  The Cold War was of course provoked by lies, threats, and weapons development. 

Even if you assume that the United States should dominate the globe militarily, some of the military bases being built right now are very hard to explain, except as thoughtless overreach or intentional provocation of China.  One can guess how China is perceiving this.  And yet, while the U.S. military spends many times the amount of money spent by China's each year, Chinese increases provoked by U.S. troop deployments, are being used in the U.S. media to justify U.S. military spending.  Most Americans have no more idea that their own government is provoking China than most Israelis have a remotely accurate conception of what their government does to Palestinians.  Watch these young Israelis exposed for the first time to their nation's occupation of Palestine.  Their world is altered. 

Imagine if people in the United States were to learn what their funding and weaponry are used for.  U.S. weapons account for 85% of international weapons sales.  While the NRA bought a political party, Lockheed Martin bought two.  We don't talk about it, but many U.S. wars have been fought against U.S. weapons.  U.S. wars like the recent one in Libya result in more violence in places like Mali.  U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and Afghanistan are generating intense anger, and blowback that has already included the targeting and killing of drone pilots, as well as attempted acts of terrorism in the United States.

When will we ever learn?  The hacker group Anonymous replaces government websites with video games to "avenge" Aaron Swartz, and we laugh.  But vengeance is at the root of our inability to think sensibly about blame, which is in turn at the root of our inability to process what is being done to the people of the world in our name with our funding.  Because war is not inevitable, everywhere we stir it up is somewhere that might have lived without it.  We spend $170 billion per year on keeping U.S. troops in other people's countries.  Most people living near U.S. military bases do not want them there.  Many are outraged by their presence.  The blowback will keep coming.  We should begin to understand that it is normal, that it is the theme of our entire history, that its predictability does not of course justify it, that we are to blame, and that there's plenty of blame for anyone else who's earned it.

A Map and a Mule

A Map and a Mule: A Peace Story of Queen Isabel of PortugalHere's a great short story for children or anyone else who thinks achieving peace is a goal worth striving for.

And this story is a true one, drawn from history -- as could be many more if we chose to look in the right places.

But don't take it from me. I read it to a 6 year old who liked it too, so you can take if from him.

Amazon.

A New Model Drone Resolution

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

Concerns include the following: drones can crash into airplanes, buildings, and each other; drones can fall out of the sky; drones can produce noise pollution; drones can produce visual pollution if put to the same use that everything from brick walls to urinals has been put to, viz. advertising; drones can be used to spy on us whether by private or public entities; police surveillance with drones will violate our Fourth Amendment rights as all existing technologies are currently used to do; police forces that view the public as their enemy will deploy drones armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, or other weapons; and ultimately a program run by the U.S. military and the CIA that has targeted and murdered three U.S. citizens that we know of, along with thousands of other men, women, and children, may eventually find it acceptable to include U.S. soil in its otherwise unlimited field of operations.

Contrary concerns over banning or restricting drones include these: drones could conceivably be put to positive or non-offensive use by departments fighting forest fires, first responders in rural areas, farmers, artistic photographers, real estate agents, tourism offices, and hobbyists; states and localities are limited in their control of air space by federal law.

Few if any localities have thus far made their desires known or created ordinances to regulate the use of drones, but state legislatures, including the General Assembly here in Virginia, are taking up bills.  With the City of Charlottesville, where I live, planning to address the issue on February 19th, I've taken a look at (and plagiarized liberally from) numerous draft resolutions, including those from several cities that are now considering taking action: Berkeley, Buffalo, Madison, Ft. Wayne, et alia, as well as a draft resolution from anti-drone activist Nick Mottern, and one from the Rutherford Institute.  The result is the following draft resolution that I offer for consideration, comment, and modification:

A RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, with up to 87,000 flights per day;

WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation;

WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;

WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;

WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans;

WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;

WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;

WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;

WHEREAS, Vanguard Defense Industries has confirmed that its Shadowhawk drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, will be outfitted with weapons, including a grenade launcher or a shotgun, tear gas, and rubber buckshot, and such aerial police weapons send a clear and chilling message to those attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by taking to the streets and protesting government policies -- the message: stay home;

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville;

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States;

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, "double-tap" strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental "friendly fire," drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them, and drones having proved a tremendously costly expense for taxpayers;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, declares Charlottesville a No Drone Zone, and instructs the City Attorney to perform the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into an Ordinance wherein drones are hereby banned from airspace over the City of Charlottesville, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that violation of the ordinance shall be considered a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000, and each offense that is more than one offense of flying a drone within said airspace will be considered to be an additional misdemeanor, with jail time and fines based on the number of violations. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or private residence or equipped with any weapon.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of Charlottesville.

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