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What Localities and States Can Do About Drones
Note: Actions taken by cities apart from resolutions, as in Lincoln, NE, and Seattle, WA, are not listed here. While Iowa City, Iowa, is listed in various places as having passed a resolution, we have not seen confirmation of final passage.
UPDATE: Berkeley (no. 10?) did this.
UPDATE: Woodstock, NY, is number 8.
UPDATE: Amherst, MA, is number 7, and they passed two!
UPDATE: Leverett, MA, is number 6.
UPDATE: Syracuse, NY, is number 5.
Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude 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 pledged that Charlottesville would "abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones."
St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville plus a ban on anyone operating a drone "within the airspace of the city," making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.
Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.
Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits "the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft" and that "landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the 'public right of transit' through this private property," and urging the state and Congress and the FAA "to respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace."
See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions
Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had "banned drones" or "passed an anti-drone resolution." The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones. By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support. By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections. Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself. Less can be more.
Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. 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. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook 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. No locality is 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 any city or state to keep them out.
How to pass a local resolution: Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues. Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences. To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials. Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people. Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control. Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception. The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm. If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare. You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak. Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a "No" vote with support for cameras in everyone's windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a "Yes" vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.
STATES: See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions
Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.
Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance "absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct" except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or they are reasonably suspicious it's needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or there's a warrant or there's suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for ... too many exceptions to list.
Congressman Grayson passed an amendment to a DHS funding bill banning DHS from using weaponized drones, a step that must be repeated each year for this and other agencies unless a full national or international ban is put in place.
This article as a double-sided, single-page handout: PDF.
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;
The same week in which a Washington Post columnist claimed that interracial marriage makes people gag, a USA Today columnist has proposed using the U.S. military to aid those suffering in the Philippines -- as a backdoor means of getting the U.S. military back into a larger occupation of the Philippines.
While the Philippines' representative at the climate talks in Warsaw is fasting in protest of international inaction on the destruction of the earth's climate, and the U.S. negotiator has effectively told him to go jump in a typhoon, the discussion in the U.S. media is of the supposed military benefits of using Filipinos' suffering as an excuse to militarize their country.
The author of the USA Today column makes no mention of the U.S. military's history in the Philippines. This was, after all, the site of the first major modern U.S. war of foreign occupation, marked by long duration, and high and one-sided casualties. As in Iraq, some 4,000 U.S. troops died in the effort, but most of them from disease. The Philippines lost some 1.5 million men, women, and children out of a population of 6 to 7 million.
The USA Today columnist makes no mention of Filipinos' resistance to the U.S. military up through recent decades, or of President Obama's ongoing efforts to put more troops back into the Philippines, disaster or no disaster.
Instead, our benevolent militarist claims that budgets are tight in Washington -- which is of course always going to be the case for a government spending upwards of $1 trillion a year on militarism.
He claims that the United States "stations troops throughout the world in the hope of shaping the political environment so as to avoid sending them into combat" -- a perspective that ignores the alternative of neither sending them into combat nor stationing them abroad.
The terrorist attacks that the U.S. uses to justify its foreign wars are, according to U.S. officials, provoked by the over a million troops stationed in 177 countries, the drone strikes, and other such "preventive" measures.
"[D]eploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective -- and inexpensive -- investment in the future. One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million. That's roughly the price of three days' operations in Afghanistan last year."
Or of 15,500 teachers in U.S. schools, or of enormous supplies of far more edible food than an aircraft carrier full of troops and weapons.
Much of the world has long-since learned to fear U.S. Trojan horses. As I noted in War Is A Lie:
"By 1961, the cops of the world were in Vietnam, but President Kennedy's representatives there thought a lot more cops were needed and knew the public and the president would be resistant to sending them. For one thing, you couldn't keep up your image as the cops of the world if you sent in a big force to prop up an unpopular regime. What to do? What to do? Ralph Stavins, coauthor of an extensive account of Vietnam War planning, recounts that General Maxwell Taylor and Walt W. Rostow, '. . . wondered how the United States could go to war while appearing to preserve the peace. While they were pondering this question, Vietnam was suddenly struck by a deluge. It was as if God had wrought a miracle. American soldiers, acting on humanitarian impulses, could be dispatched to save Vietnam not from the Viet Cong, but from the floods.'"
What a blessing! And how well it helped to prevent warfare!
Of course, today's enlightened punditry means well. The thought of Southeast Asians marrying their daughters might make some of them gag, but philanthropy is philanthropy after all, even if we'd never stand for some other country stationing its military here on the excuse that it brought some food and medicine along. Here's the USA Today:
"The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of 'Asian rebalancing' The Obama administration recognizes the value of disaster relief. As the Pentagon attempts to shift more of its weight to the Asian Pacific region while balancing a shrinking budget, this could turn out to be one of the best decisions it could make."
But good will is dependent on not dominating people militarily and economically -- yet that seems to be exactly the goal.
What's wrong with that, some might ask. The sneaky abuse of disaster relief might be thought to give aggressive war "prevention" an undeserved bad name were it not for the fact that nobody is threatening war on the United States and nobody is about to do so. Don't take my word for it. Listen to one of our top veteran warmongers, via PopularResistance:
"During a recent speech in Poland, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned fellow elitists that a worldwide 'resistance' movement to 'external control' driven by 'populist activism' is threatening to derail the move towards a new world order. Calling the notion that the 21st century is the American century a 'shared delusion,' Brzezinski stated that American domination was no longer possible because of an accelerating social change driven by 'instant mass communications such as radio, television and the Internet,' which have been cumulatively stimulating 'a universal awakening of mass political consciousness.' The former U.S. National Security Advisor added that this 'rise in worldwide populist activism is proving inimical to external domination of the kind that prevailed in the age of colonialism and imperialism.'"
If this master warmonger recognizes that the age of colonialism and imperialism is gone, how do millions of Americans still manage to bark out the Pavlovian response "What about the next Hitler?" whenever someone proposes ending war?
The fact is that no governments are plotting to take over the United States. Old-fashioned imperialism and colonialism are as gone as 1940s clothing and music, not to mention Jim Crow, respectability for eugenics, established second-class status for women, the absence of environmentalism, children hiding under desks to protect themselves from nuclear bombs, teachers hitting children, cigarettes being good for you. The fact is that 75 years is a long, long time. In many ways we've moved on and never looked back.
When it comes to war, however, just propose to end it, and 4 out of 5 dentists, or doctors, or teachers, or gardeners, or anybody else in the United States will say "What about the next Hitler?" Well, what about the dozens of misidentified next-Hitlers of the past 70 years? What about the possibility that within our own minds we're dressing up war as disaster relief? Isn't it just possible that after generations of clearly aggressive, destructive, and criminal wars we describe militarism as a response to the second-coming of Hitler because the truth wouldn't sound as nice?
Manuel Perez-Rocha is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the coordinator of the Network for Justice in Global Investment. He discusses the damage done by NAFTA and DR-CAFTA, and what we should be doing instead.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Happy 96th Armistice Day!
By Larry Everest
excerpted from The Illegality, Illegitimacy & Immorality of U.S. Drone Strikes
There is a logic and a reason the "double-tap" and mass civilian casualties. It's rooted in the nature and objectives of the U.S. "war on terror," and imperialist logic and necessities driving it.
In his May speech, Obama claimed, "America's actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. ... Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war—a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense."
This statement is packed with distortions, half-truths, and outright lies. The U.S. "war on terror" is, at heart, an unjust war for greater empire—not a "just" war to liberate people, "defend the American homeland," or rid the world of violence and terror. A key aim of this war is defeating al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other "associated" Islamist forces. This is not simply or mainly because these groups are plotting attacks on the U.S. It's mainly because they pose a big challenge to U.S. control of Central Asia and the Middle East, including because they're directly clashing with U.S. client regimes. This could greatly weaken the U.S. hold on these regions, which are key to U.S. global dominance and the functioning of its empire of exploitation. And provide openings for rival regional and global powers.
The U.S. initially tried to deal with this problem by invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. But this strategy has, in many ways, backfired. The U.S. has not succeeded in either outright defeating the Islamists or in "draining the swamp"—restructuring these societies to undercut the societal roots of the Islamic fundamentalist opposition. And these occupations have cost the U.S. dearly, and have further fueled anti-U.S. Islamist trends.
So the U.S. has wound down the occupations of Iraq and now Afghanistan. But it hasn't abandoned the "long war" to defeat Islamic fundamentalism and maintain control of the arc from Morocco through Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rather it is increasingly employing drone warfare and other covert operations to achieve its imperial objectives, while avoiding, as Obama has put it, American "boots on the ground."
The U.S. drone war in North Waziristan in northwest Pakistan is a key front in this war, which shows a lot about what it's actually about, and why so many are being blown to bits. North Waziristan, home to some 840,000 people, borders Afghanistan. It's where Zowi Sidgi, Ghundi Kala, and Miranshah are located and is a base area for the Taliban fighters from both Afghanistan and Pakistan and other Islamist forces. These groups oppose the U.S. puppet government in Afghanistan and the current regime in Pakistan, and are fighting for reactionary Islamic states in both countries.
This is why U.S. drone surveillance is constant and drone strikes have been concentrated in this region. Here the U.S. is targeting individual Taliban, al Qaeda, or other Islamist leaders or fighters.
Even when the targets of U.S. drone attacks actually are commanders of jihadist forces who may be plotting or carrying out terrorist attacks, these attacks are not about "saving lives." U.S. drone attacks, regardless of the intended victim, create a state of ongoing terror among all the people in large regions of the world. They are in the service of imposing the U.S. empire, which has brought so much misery to the Middle East, North Africa, and the rest of the world.
Again, the U.S. drone strikes are not at all limited to targeted strikes on jihadist leaders. There is also the "double-tap" logic at work of attacking any who might be Islamists or their supporters, or "associated forces"—a definition which can be stretched to mean most anything. This leads to murdering, injuring, and terrorizing whole groups—even whole populations—of people who may support, sympathize or just tolerate the Islamists, or who're just part of the population the fundamentalists draw from. And so these drone attacks perpetuate and accelerate the vicious cycle of U.S. imperialist aggression driving people into the arms of the jihadists.
These patterns have been evident since the drone strikes began a decade ago. Wedding parties in Afghanistan were obliterated. Funerals have been attacked. And then there were widely used "signature strikes" targeting people or groups of people based on "behavior patterns"—not because they'd been specifically identified as members of al Qaeda or "terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people."
The New York Times report (October 22, 2013) on the impact of the drone war on Miram Shah [Miranshah], a small town of some 3,500 in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, paints a picture of systematic terror impacting a whole population:
[V]iewed from Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, the campaign has not been the antiseptic salve portrayed in Washington. In interviews over the past year, residents paint a portrait of extended terror and strain within a tribal society caught between vicious militants and the American drones hunting them. "The drones are like the angels of death," said Nazeer Gul, a shopkeeper in Miram Shah. "Only they know when and where they will strike."
It has become a fearful and paranoid town, dealt at least 13 drone strikes since 2008, with an additional 25 in adjoining districts—more than any other urban settlement in the world. Even when the missiles do not strike, buzzing drones hover day and night, scanning the alleys and markets with roving high-resolution cameras... the strikes in the area mostly occur in densely populated neighborhoods. The drones have hit a bakery, a disused girls' school and a money changers' market, residents say... While the strike rate has dropped drastically in recent months, the constant presence of circling drones—and accompanying tension over when, or whom, they will strike—is a crushing psychological burden for many residents. Sales of sleeping tablets, antidepressants and medicine to treat anxiety have soared, said Hajji Gulab Jan Dawar, a pharmacist in the town bazaar.
Ann Jones discusses her new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story. Jones is an independent journalist and photographer and the author of 8 books, contributor to 15 others, and author of countless articles. Her work has been translated into 10 languages. She now lives in Norway.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Imagine you awake to the sound of a machine noisily buzzing over your house, and another machine nearby in the sky, and another. These machines and others like them have been around for months. They never leave. While you live in the United States, the machines belong to the government of Pakistan. The machines are unmanned drones armed with missiles. Every once in a while they blow up a house or a car or a couple of kids playing soccer or a grandmother walking to the store, sometimes a McDonald's or a shopping center.
Imagine that you've learned to live with this. The popularity of homeschooling has skyrocketed, as nobody wants to send their kids outside. Telecommuting is now the norm for those able to maintain employment. But there's no getting used to the change. Your kids wake up screaming and refuse to sleep. Your rage makes you physically ill. Antidepressants are on everybody's shopping lists, but shopping is a life-and-death proposition. Canada is facing an immigration crisis. So is Mexico.
Now, Pakistan claims to be targeting evil criminals with surgical precision. And some in the U.S. government go along with this. But others object. The U.S. Supreme Court declares the drone deaths to be murder or war -- murder being illegal under U.S. law, and war being illegal under the U.N. Charter via Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Congress insists that criminals must be indicted and prosecuted, that negotiations with hostile groups cannot succeed while drones tear the negotiators limb from limb, and that Pakistan has no right to put its robots in our skies no matter what its good intentions. Statements agreeing with this opposition to the drones are signed by everybody who's anybody. Popular demonstrations against the drones, and -- bravely -- in the face of the drones, dwarf anything seen before. In fact, the world joins in, and people protest Pakistan's murder spree all over the globe. Human rights groups in various countries denounce it as criminal. The Pakistani prime minister reportedly checks off men, women, and children to kill on a list at regular Tuesday meetings. He's burned in effigy across the United States.
But Pakistani human rights groups take a different tack. In their view, some of the drone murders in the United States are illegal and some are not. It depends on the knowledge and intentions of the Pakistani officials -- did they know those kids were just playing soccer or did they believe their soccer ball was an imminent threat to the nation of Pakistan? Was blowing up those kids necessary, discrete, and proportionate? Were they militants or civilians? Was blowing them up part of an armed conflict or an act of law enforcement, and what type of armed conflict or what law was being enforced? Pakistan, these groups argue, must not blow people up without identifying them, without verifying that they cannot be captured, and without taking care not to kill too many civilians in the process. Further, Pakistan must reveal the details of its legal reasoning and decision making, so that the process has transparency. Indeed, Pakistan must begin running its proposed drone killings by a judge who must sign off on them -- a Pakistani judge, but a judge nonetheless.
The Pakistani human rights groups are not made up of evil people. They very much mean well. They want to reduce the number of Americans killed by drones. And they are not permitted to declare all drone killing illegal, because these killings might be part of a war, and these groups have adopted as a matter of strict principle the position that wars must never be opposed, only tactics within wars. They believe this makes them "objective" and "credible," and it certainly does do that with certain people. These Pakistani human rights groups are not pulling the trigger, they're trying to stop it being pulled as often. Lumping them together with the Pakistani military would be Bushian (with us or against us) thinking. But it's harder to see that from under the drones here in the United States with the kids wailing and Uncle Joe's brains still staining the side of the Pizza Hut, than it would be perhaps in Pakistan or at the United Nations Headquarters in Islamabad.
From here in the United States, the cries are for justice. Many want the prime minister of Pakistan prosecuted for murder. Many are beginning to view the absence of such legal justice as grounds for violence. I'm growing worried over what my neighbors and even myself might unleash on the rest of the world. I'm beginning to fall in love with the feeling of hatred.
Watch the Wounds of Waziristan video.
Do a die-in like this one.
Watch this video of an event on drones and militarization at NYU.
Watch this video of drone survivors visiting Congress.
Sign the petition at BanWeaponizedDrones.org
Ask your Congress member and senators to introduce legislation banning weaponized drones. Ask state legislators to do same.
Ask the ICC to prosecute drone murders.
Join in anti-drone actions everywhere.
November 9 at CIA Headquarters, join in the First Anniversary of Monthly Protests of Drone Murders at the CIA.
Come to the Drone Summit in Washington DC, November 16-17
The day before the Summit, November 15th, join us for a march from the White House to the headquarters of drone maker General Atomics. After the Summit, on November 18th, we will lobby members of Congress to push for legislation regulating the use of killer drones and domestic spy drones.
Every Tuesday: Stop the Killing
March 14-16, 2014, Santa Barbara, Global Network's 22nd Annual Conference
June 6-9, 2014, Sarajevo Peace Event
July 26-27, 2014, Third National UNAC Conference, Purchase, NY
July 28, 2014, 100 Years Since Launch of War to End All Wars That Created More Wars
August 27, 2014, 86 Years Since Signing of the Kellogg Briand Pact
Small Actions, Big Movements: the Continuum of Nonviolence - International Conference of WRI co-hosted by Ceasefire Campaign 4 Jul 2014 - 8 Jul 2014, Cape Town, South Africa
I was on Margaret Flowers' and Kevin Zeese's Clearing the Fog Radio today ( http://clearingthefogradio.org ) together with Naureen Shah of Amnesty International. The show ought to appear soon on iTunes here, and mixcloud here, and is already on UStream here although it seems to be missing the audio. I had earlier published a critique of AI's report on drones.
On this show, Shah explained that Amnesty International cannot oppose all drone strikes in an illegal war, because Amnesty International has never opposed a war, because doing so would make it look biased, and A.I. wants to appear to be an unbiased enforcer of the law. But, of course, an illegal war is a violation of the law -- usually of the U.N. Charter which most lawyers whom A.I. hangs out with recognize, never mind the Kellogg-Briand Pact which they don't.
Refusing to recognize the UN Charter, in order to appear unbiased, is a twisted notion to begin with, but perhaps it had good intentions at one time. However, now the U.N. special rapporteur finds that drones are making war the norm rather than the exception. That's a serious shifting of the ground, and might be good reason to reconsider the ongoing feasibility of a human rights group avoiding the existence of laws against war.
Shah also argued against banning weaponized drones on the grounds that they could be used legally. That is, there could be a legal war (ignoring Kellogg-Briand) and during that legal war a drone could legally kill people in accordance with someone's interpretation of necessity, discrimination, proportionality, intention, and so forth. Shah contrasts this with chemical weapons, even though I could imagine a theoretical scenario in which a targeted murder in a closed space could use chemical weapons in plausible accord with all of the lawyerly notions of "legal war" other than the ban on chemical weapons.
Of course, practically speaking, weaponized drones are slaughtering and traumatizing innocent people and will do so as long as they're used. The notion of civilizing and legalizing atrocity-free war was ludicrous enough before the age of drone murder. It's beyond outrageous now.
& The Reader
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HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS: Our cover story is a whimsical photo essay of barber shops in Johannesburg, South Africa, by Alon Skuy. We’ve also got two long book excerpts: the first – from James A. Mitchell’s The Walrus and the Elephants – offers a glimpse of John Lennon’s life as Hippy Messiah after his arrival in New York City in 1970; the second comes from David Swanson’s finely-reasoned War No More. We’ve also got conflicting opinions on whether Israel is or is not an Apartheid State from Uri Avneri and Jonathan Cook; while Chris Hedges wants to get the real class war started, David Edwards looks at the treatment of Glenn Greenwald by the British media, John Pilger writes about the new ‘Great Game’, and David Cromwell is intrigued by reaction to British comedian Russell Brand’s call for revolution. Plus much more.
BEING THERE: Our second offering, BEING THERE – 40-pages of street photography by ColdType editor Tony Sutton - shows that, despite what you may think, not all Canadians are boring.
NEW: Also available in on-screen version here
NEW: Also available in on-screen version here
President Dwight Eisenhower is often admired for having avoided huge wars, having declared that every dollar wasted on militarism was food taken out of the mouths of children, and having warned -- albeit on his way out the door -- of the toxic influence of the military industrial complex (albeit in a speech of much more mixed messages than we tend to recall).
But when you oppose war, not because it murders, and not because it assaults the rights of the foreign places attacked, but because it costs too much in U.S. lives and dollars, then your steps tend in the direction of quick and easy warfare -- usually deceptively cheap and easy warfare.
President Obama and his subordinates are well aware that much of the world is outraged by the use of drones to kill. The warnings of likely blowback and long-term damage to U.S. interests and human interests and the rule of law are not hard to find. But our current warriors don't see a choice between murdering people with drones and using negotiations and courts of law to settle differences. They see a choice between murdering people with drones and murdering people with ground troops on a massive scale. The preference between these two options is so obvious to them as to require little thought.
President Eisenhower had his own cheap and easy tool for better warfare. It was called the Delightfully Deluded Dulles Brothers, and -- in terms of how much thought this pair of brothers gave to the possible outcomes of their reckless assault on the world -- it's fair to call them a couple of drones in a literal as well as an analogous sense.
John Foster Dulles at the State Department and Allen Dulles at the CIA are the subject of a new book by Stephen Kinzer called The Brothers, which ought to replace whatever history book the Texas School Board has most recently imposed on our children. This is a story of two vicious, racist, fanatical jerks, but it's also the story of the central thrust of U.S. public policy for the past 75 years.
The NSA didn't invent sliminess in the 21st century. The Dulles' grandfather and uncle did. Cameras weren't first put on airplanes over the earth when drones were invented. Allen Dulles started that with piloted planes -- the main result being scandal, outrage, and international antagonism -- a tradition we seem intent on keeping up. Oh, and the cameras also revealed that the CIA had been wildly exaggerating the strength of the Soviet Union's military -- but who needed to know that?
The Obama White House didn't invent aggression toward journalism. Allen and Foster Dulles make the current crop of propagandists, censors, intimidators, and human rights abusers look like amateurs singing from an old hymnal they can't properly read.
Black sites weren't created by George W. Bush. Allen Dulles set up secret prisons in Germany, Japan, and the Panama Canal Zone, the MKULTRA program, and the Gladio and other networks of forces staying behind in Europe after World War II (never really) ended.
The Dynamic Dulles Duo racked up quite a resume. They overthrew a democratic government in Iran, installing a fierce dictatorship, and never imagining that the eventual backlash might be unpleasant. Delighted by this -- and intimately in on it, as Kinzer documents -- Eisenhower backed the overthrow of Guatemala's democracy as well -- both of these operations being driven primarily by the interests of Foster Dulles' clients on Wall Street (where his firm had been rather embarrassingly late in halting its support for the Nazis). Never mind the hostility generated throughout Latin America, United Fruit claimed its rights to run Guatemala, and who were the Guatemalans to say otherwise?
Unsatisfied with this everlasting damage, the Dulles Brothers dragged the United States into a war of their own making on Vietnam, sought to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia, teamed up with the Belgians to murder Lumumba in the Congo, and tried desperately to murder Fidel Castro or start an all-out war on Cuba. The Bay of Pigs fiasco was essentially the result of Allen Dulles' confidence that he could trap a new president (John Kennedy) into expanding a war.
If that weren't enough damage for two careers, the Disastrous Dulles Dimwits created the Council on Foreign Relations, shaped the creation of the United Nations to preserve U.S. imperialism, manufactured intense irrational fear of the Soviet Union and its mostly mythical plots for global domination, convinced Truman that intelligence and operations should be combined in the single agency of the CIA, sent countless secret agents to their deaths for no earthly reason, unwittingly allowed double agents to reveal much of their activities to their enemies, subverted democracy in the Philippines and Lebanon and Laos and numerous other nations, made hysteria a matter of national pride, ended serious Congressional oversight of foreign policy, pointlessly antagonized China and the USSR, boosted radically evil regimes likely to produce future blowback around the world and notably in Saudi Arabia but also in Pakistan -- with predictable damage to relations with India, failed miserably at overthrowing Nasser in Egypt but succeeded in turning the Arab world against the United States, in fact antagonized much of the world as it attempted an unacceptable neutrality in the Cold War, rejected Soviet peace overtures, aligned the U.S. government with Israel, built the CIA headquarters at Langley and training grounds at Camp Peary, and -- ironically enough -- radically expanded and entrenched the military industrial complex to which "covert actions" were supposed to be the easy new alternative (rather as the drone industry is doing today).
The Dulles Dolts were a lot like King Midas if the king's love had been for dogshit rather than gold. As icing on the cake of their careers, Allen Dulles -- dismissed in disgrace by Kennedy who regretted ever having kept him on -- manipulated the Warren Commission's investigation of Kennedy's death in a highly suspicious manner. Kinzer says no more than that, but James Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable points to other grounds for concern, including Dulles's apparent coverup of Oswald's being an employee of the CIA.
Lessons learned? One would hope so. I would recommend these steps:
Abolish the CIA, and make the State Department a civilian operation.
Ban weaponized drones, and avoid a legacy as bad as the covert operations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Stop the disgustingly royalish habit of supporting political family dynasties.
And rename Washington's international, as well as its national, airport.
The U.N. and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International recently released a flurry of deeply flawed reports on drone murders. According to the U.N.'s special rapporteur, whose day job is as law partner of Tony Blair's wife, and according to two major human rights groups deeply embedded in U.S. exceptionalism, murdering people with drones is sometimes legal and sometimes not legal, but almost always it's too hard to tell which is which, unless the White House rewrites the law in enough detail and makes its new legal regime public.
When I read these reports I was ignorant of the existence of a human rights organization called Alkarama, and of the fact that it had just released a report titled License to Kill: Why the American Drone War on Yemen Violates International Law. While Human Rights Watch looked at six drone murders in Yemen and found two of them illegal and four of them indeterminate, Alkarama looked in more detail and with better context at the whole campaign of drone war on Yemen, detailing 10 cases. As you may have guessed from the report's title, this group finds the entire practice of murdering people with flying robots to be illegal.
Alkarama makes this finding, not out of ignorance of the endless intricacies deployed by the likes of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Rather, Alkarama adopts the same dialect and considers the same scenarios: Is it legal if it's a war, if it's not a war? Is it discriminate, necessary, proportionate? Et cetera. But the conclusion is that the practice is illegal no matter which way you slice it.
This agrees with Pakistan's courts, Yemen's National Dialogue, Yemen's Human Rights Ministry, statements by large numbers of well-known figures in Yemen, and the popular movement in Yemen protesting the slaughter. While the other "human rights" groups ask President Obama to please lay out what the law is, whether his killing spree is part of a war or not, who counts as a civilian and who doesn't, etc., Alkarama actually compares U.S. actions with existing law and points out that the United States is violating the law and trying to radically alter the law. This conclusion results in a clear and useful set of recommendations at the end of the report, beginning with this recommendation to the U.S. government:
"End extrajudicial executions and the practice of targeted killings by drones and other military means."
This recommendation is strengthened by a better informed and more honest report that much more usefully conveys the recent history of Yemen (including by noting honestly the destructive impact of the IMF and the USA), describes the indiscriminate terror inflicted by the buzzing drones, and contrasts drone murders to alternatives -- such as negotiations. This analysis enriches our understanding of why drone wars are counterproductive even from the point of view of a heartless sociopath rooting for Team USA, much less someone concerned about human rights.
It is, then, possible to write a human rights report from a perspective concerned with the rights of humans, and not some combination of concern with human rights and devotion to U.S. imperialism. This is good news for anyone interested in giving it a try. The field is fairly wide open.
Some nations' statements at the U.N. debate on drones this month, including Brazil's, also challenged the legalization of a new form of war. And all of these groups and individuals have something to say about it as well.
Free Screening of Brand-New Film: Unmanned: America's Drone Wars
Margaret Flowers says the serious problems with Obamacare run deep. Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician who served as Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program and is on the board of Healthcare-Now. She is an organizer with PopularResistance.org, co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us and co-host of Clearing the FOG Radio. She serves as Secretary of Health for the Green Shadow Cabinet.
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This November 11th at 11 a.m. will mark 95 years since World War I ended. Next July 28th will mark 100 years since it started. The world war, the great war, the war for no good reason, the war of poison gas, the war to end all wars, the war of mass stupidity, the war that went on for days after the Germans agreed to end it, the war that continued until 11 a.m. as that time had been set to end it, the war whose last man killed in action was a suicidal American who ran at the Germans at 10:59, the war that in fact was intentionally not ended but extended into mass-punishment of the German people until World War II could be commenced, this century-old piece of historical stupidity that shames our species is about to be commemorated on a serious scale -- so dust off your gas masks and get ready.
A hundred years. A hundred ever-loving years, and we've neither learned that wars don't end wars nor ever really ended World War II, ever brought the troops home from Japan and Germany, ever scaled back the taxation and military spending and foreign basing and war profiteering.
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten War by Richard Rubin is 500 pages of excellent history of World War I but without the appropriate rejection of the decision to go to war or the embarrassment one should feel for those who thought they could find glory or goodness by joining in that mass murdering madness. We tend to look down on all sorts of aspects of early 20th century morality. Colonialism, sexism, racism, corporal punishment in schools, creationism -- you name it, we've moved on. Yet writers still recount wars as if the decision to take part in them were neutral or admirable.
In a way this makes sense, given what we're all taught about history. The Khan Academy is a wonderful website for kids (or anyone) to use in learning math. But if you click over to the section on history it's literally nothing but wars. Perhaps they plan to add in a few unimportant things that happened during the pauses in between wars, but they haven't done so yet. It's nothing but war after war after war. That's history. President Kennedy supposedly said Lincoln would have been nothing without the Civil War -- it takes war to make greatness. It takes war to be in the history books.
Richard Rubin found and interviewed the last remaining U.S. veterans of World War I before they died. As he spoke with them their average age was 107. Everything he learned and recorded is of great interest, but much of it is simply about what it's like to become 107. Such a study could have been done of non-veterans. A comparison could have been made of veterans and non-veterans. Or a study like this one could have looked at World War I resisters. That there's not a similar book about them, and now can never be, says little about them and a great deal about all of us. A comparison of the lifespans of veterans and refuseniks would have been an interesting test of the author's theory that going along to get along increases your life.
It is perhaps not too late to track down and interview the last remaining survivors of the strongest peace movement the United States has known -- that of the 1920s and 1930s -- but somebody would have to do it and do it soon.
Perhaps Richard Rubin will take up that idea, but I tend to doubt it. His fascination is with war, not wisdom. And not just his fascination, but most people's. The sad fact is that, in Rubin's telling, these World War I veterans didn't tend to develop an appropriate sense of regret over a period of 85 years. There are, no doubt, cases of slave owners who by 1950 were able to express some regret over slavery. But slavery was on its way out. War is ever on its way in.
Despite my lengthy caveat, The Last of the Doughboys really is an excellent book, for what it is. The discussions of World War I songs and World War I books, and so forth, are quite wonderful. And Doughboys is not blatantly dishonest war hype. It includes the facts about the Lusitania (that Germany had warned Americans not to get on a ship with arms and troops as it would be sunk). It doesn't look closely at the war propaganda, but it is straightforward enough on the clampdown on speech and civil liberties, and the vicious demonization of Germans and the Kaiser. It doesn't mention the Wall Street coup or the name Smedley Butler, but its coverage of the Bonus Army is otherwise good. It doesn't focus on opposition or alternatives, but it does convey the pointlessness of the horror, and it does recount the badly misguided way in which the war was ended.
Yet, ultimately, Rubin is striving to give more credit and honor to warriors unfairly overshadowed by the glorification of World War II. The heroes of the original world war saved the world in the snow and shoeless and uphill both ways. Rubin wants World War I to get its due -- unlike some wars. The war on the Philippines, for example, he calls "not much of" a war, despite the fact that it cost the population involved a greater percentage of its lives than any other U.S. war has inflicted on any other population, including the population of the U.S. -- including in the U.S. Civil War. Go to the Philippines and say it wasn't much of a war, I dare you. It was the model for the costly, pointless, racist, one-sided slaughters of the 21st century. World War I was a model only for its expansion into World War II. Otherwise it's obsolete.
My friend Sandy Davies, who knows this stuff, recently looked up what the costs have been of the ongoing warmaking by the United States since the pair of World Wars. I think it's relevant because every single time I speak about ending war and take questions on the topic I'm asked "What about Hitler?" In the days since Hitler's been gone, as the world has moved on from Hitler-like expansionism, as a great portion of the world has moved away from war, the United States, according to Davies, has spent $37-40 trillion (in 2013 dollars) on war and preparations for war.
There's $32 trillion since 1948 in Department of So-Called-Defense spending documented in http://comptroller.defense.gov/defbudget/fy2014/FY14_Green_Book.pdf plus $780 billion to the War Department in 1946-7 before it was rebranded. Extra funding to the Energy Department, the V.A. and other departments is harder to find, but can be estimated at:
Nuclear weapons (DOE): $1.7 - 3 trillion
V.A.: $1.3 to 2.5 trillion
Other departments: $1 to 2 trillion
Then there's the real cost: 10 to 20 million dead in wars the U.S. has been directly involved in, or 15 to 30 million if you count the DRC, Cambodia, the French War in Indochina, and the Iran-Iraq War. "These numbers are very conservative," says Davies, "based on publicly available estimates, generally ignoring Les Roberts' findings in Rwanda and the DRC that passive reporting methods generally only count 5-20% of deaths in war zones." These figures include:
Korea: 2.5 to 3.5 million
Vietnam: 2 to 4 million
Iraq: 400,000 to 1.5 million
Afghanistan (total): 1 to 2 million
China: 1.75 million
Indonesia: 500,000 to 2 million
Angola: 500,000 to 1 million
Somalia: 300,000 to 500,000
Guatemala: 200,000 to 300,000
East Timor: 100,000 to 220,000
El Salvador: 100,000 to 120,000
Syria: 90,000 to 130,000
Operation Condor: 60,000 to 100,000
Colombia: 50,000 - 200,000
Laos: 40,000 to 100,000
Nicaragua: 30,000 to 55,000
Libya: 25,000 to 50,000
plus smaller numbers in many other countries.
Either we're on a record streak of greatest generations after greatest generations, or we've caught a war addiction so badly that we've come to imagine it's normal, and that -- in fact -- it's all that ever has happened in the world.
"What, quite unmanned in folly?"--Lady MacBeth
The new film Unmanned: America's Drone Wars should be required viewing in all schools and homes in the United States, including the home of the U.S. president who could not be bothered to meet with the child victims of his drones who spoke in Congress this week.
One could even speculate what the appropriate fantasized outcome might be if, Clockwork Orange-style, Obama were compelled to view Unmanned. But fantasies are what got us into this. Former drone pilot Brandon Bryant opens this beautifully made, fast-moving film by describing his childhood comic-book-induced fantasies about "good guys" and bad guys" and how to become a hero. Bryant was up against student debt when a recruiter told him that he could work in a James Bond control center.
Bryant, who faced up to reality too late, comes and goes through the course of a film that shows the suffering of drone victims and drone operators, honestly and accurately, without trying to equate the two.
The testimony of drone victims in D.C. this week was far from the first such testimony anywhere. On October 28, 2011, drone victims testified in Islamabad, Pakistan, where their conference was followed by a huge rally protesting U.S. drone strikes. In this film, we watch 16-year-old Tariq Aziz attend the conference to describe the killing of his cousin. Three days later, Tariq and another cousin are murdered in their car by a U.S. drone.
We see numerous people, including law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, point out that Aziz could quite easily have been questioned or arrested if he had been suspected of some crime. Obama has killed thousands and captured a handful, and in many cases we know that capture would have been perfectly possible but was not attempted. The U.N.'s special rapporteur last week admitted this is illegal, as are various other types of drone murders, including one that the film focuses in on: signature strikes.
(Why all drone murders are not illegal and immoral, and why we cannot all clearly say as much, is beyond me.)
We see a publicly announced, publicly held, community meeting hit with numerous missiles from drones. Pieces of flesh and debris lie everywhere. Innocents are slaughtered. Tribal elders are killed. People are made afraid to meet each other. Institutions are destroyed. Children are traumatized. Hatred of the United States is inflamed. And -- as always -- the New York Times prints that an anonymous U.S. official claims the victims were terrorists (never mind the lack of any evidence of that).
Pakistan's courts have ruled the drone strikes -- all of them -- illegal, and the CIA guilty of committing murder. Suits have been filed against the U.K. and the U.S. Protests have erupted all over the globe. And experts seem to agree that the drone murders are making Americans less safe, not protecting them. But drone profiteers are raking in the money.
Unmanned names names and shows faces. This film is what the nightly news would look like in a sane nation not addicted to war. You can watch the film and get a copy of it to screen locally. I highly recommend it. And then I recommend doing something about it. Here's a place to start.
By David Swanson and David Hartsough with input from George Lakey, Jan Passion, Mike Ferner, Colleen Kelly, Ruth Benn, Leah Bolger, Nathan Schneider, Hakim, Paul Chappell, Colin Archer, Kathy Kelly, et alia. (none of whom are to blame for shortcomings of this draft). Many groups and individuals are discussing a new project; if you have ideas, let us know.
If unnecessary suffering on an enormous scale is to be avoided, we must abolish war. Some 180 million people died in wars in the 20th century and, while we have not yet repeated a war on the scale of World War II, wars are not going away. Their enormous destruction continues, measured in terms of deaths, injuries, trauma, millions of people having to flee their homes, financial cost, environmental destruction, economic drain, and erosion of civil and political rights.
If humanity is going to survive, we must abolish war. Every war brings with it both massive destruction and the risk of uncontrolled escalation. We are facing a world of greater weapons proliferation, resource shortages, environmental pressures, and the largest human population the earth has seen. In such a turbulent world, we must abolish the organized violence by governments known as war, because its continuation risks our extinction.
If we abolish war, humanity can not only survive and better address the climate crisis and other dangers, but will find it far easier to prosper. The reallocation of resources away from war promises a world whose advantages are beyond easy imagination. Some $2 trillion a year, roughly half from the United States and half from the rest of the world, is devoted to war and war preparation. Those funds could transform global efforts to create sustainable energy, agricultural, economic, health, and education systems. Redirection of war funding could save many times the lives that are taken by spending it on war.
There is a need and an opportunity for a campaign/movement focused specifically on educating and organizing and developing momentum for the abolition of war. A great deal of organizing against particular wars, atrocities, weapons, tactics, and expenditures, could benefit from the existence of an abolition campaign, becoming seen as reasonable partial steps, and in the context of opposition to all war rather than as violations of proper norms of war. Some campaigns might, in fact, differ from what they would otherwise be; we might, for example, oppose the most effective weapons that kill most efficiently rather than the most defective weapons that expose the most corruption.
While abolition is a larger demand than partial disarmament, if the case for it is made convincingly it has the potential to create support for serious and even total disarmament among people who would otherwise favor the maintenance of a large military for defense -- something that we've learned generates pressure for offensive warmaking. The first step in such a campaign must be persuading people of the possibility of, and the urgent need for, abolishing war. Awareness of the effectiveness of nonviolent action, nonviolent movements, and peaceful resolution of conflicts is growing rapidly, creating the increased possibility of persuading people that there is an alternative to war. Anti-war sentiment, at least in some key parts of the world, is at a high point now, relative to other moments in recent decades. This sentiment should be channeled into an abolition movement that takes steps toward reduced warfare while creating an understanding of those steps, not as reforms to a flawed institution that will continue in an improved state, but as progress towards that institution's elimination.
The reduction and eventual elimination of war and of the military industrial complex could be of great benefit to sectors of the world economy and of public services to which that investment could be transferred. There exists the possibility of creating a broad coalition encompassing civilian industries and advocates for green energy, education, housing, healthcare, and other fields, including civil liberties, environmental protections, children's rights, and all over the world cities, counties, and states that have had to make major cuts in social programs for their people, and more. By making war's elimination imaginable, an abolition movement could develop the allies needed to make it a reality.
Resistance, including by those profiting financially from wars, will be intense. Such interests are, of course, not invincible. Raytheon's stock was soaring in the fall of 2013 as the White House planned to send missiles into Syria -- missiles that were not sent. But war abolition will require defeating the propaganda of war promoters and countering the economic interests of war promoters with alternative economic possibilities. A wide variety of support for "humanitarian" and other particular varieties, or imagined varieties, of war will have to be countered with persuasive arguments and alternatives. Creating a resource center that puts the best arguments against various types of war support at people's fingertips will itself be a significant contribution.
By organizing internationally, we can use progress made in one nation to encourage other nations to match or surpass it without fear. By educating people whose governments make war at a distance about the human costs of war (largely one-sided, civilian, and on a scale not widely understood) we can build a broad-based moral demand for an end to war. By presenting the case that militarism and wars make us all less safe and decrease our quality of life, we can strip war of much of its power. By creating awareness of the economic trade-offs, we can revive support for a peace dividend. By explaining the illegality, immorality, and terrible costs of war and the availability of legal, nonviolent and more effective means of defense and conflict resolution, we can build acceptance for what has only relatively recently been made into a radical proposal and ought to be viewed as a common sense initiative: the abolition of war.
While a global movement is needed, this movement cannot ignore or reverse the reality of where the greatest support for war originates. The United States builds, sells, buys, stockpiles, and uses the most weapons, engages in the most conflicts, stations the most troops in the most countries, and carries out the most deadly and destructive wars. By these and other measures, the U.S. government is the world's leading war-maker, and -- in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Ending U.S. militarism wouldn't eliminate war globally, but it would eliminate the pressure that is driving many other nations to increase their military spending. It would deprive NATO of its leading advocate for and greatest participant in wars. It would cut off the largest supply of weapons to the Middle East and other regions. It would remove the major barrier to a reunification of Korea, and the major barrier to legal consequences for Israeli war-making. It would create U.S. willingness to support arms treaties, join the International Criminal Court, and allow the United Nations to move in the direction of its stated purpose of eliminating war. It would create a world free of nations threatening the first-use of nuclear weaponry, and a world in which nuclear disarmament might proceed more rapidly. Gone would be the last major nation using cluster bombs or refusing to ban land mines. If the United States kicked the war habit, war itself would suffer a major and possibly fatal set-back. For this reason, the war abolition movement around the world will need to be directed at U.S. military bases as well as local governments, and major U.S. wars as much as local militarism.
The structure and funding of this campaign to abolish war is yet to be determined. It could be independent or aligned with or under the auspices of an existing organization or group of organizations. We envision it establishing a decentralized network of various organizations following a common, coordinated strategy. In large part this would consist of adjusting and supporting work that groups are already engaged in to form part of a united front that advances war abolition while advancing smaller steps in war reduction or amelioration, economic conversion or counter-recruitment, nonviolent conflict resolution or the prevention or halting of particular wars.
The establishment of this campaign would begin by exploring possibilities with key people and organizations, a process that might include conference calls and possibly in-person gathering(s). The goal would be to begin the work of building this movement immediately, and to plan an international conference to publicly launch the campaign on or around August 27th, the anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact's signing. There are major peace gatherings planned for Sarajevo in June and South Africa in July that this campaign might soon want to propose to take part in. There is also the date of July 28, 2014, marking 100 years since the launch of the war that was to end all wars and instead brought more of them, a date that this campaign might want to make use of in some way.
The campaign would need a name, a website, an international advisory board, staff, and -- in one manner or another -- organizational and individual members. Such members might agree to a pledge to work for the abolition of war and never to support the waging of war. In developing the name and slogans for the campaign, careful thought and marketing research will be required.
Online and off, the campaign would develop a resource center on war abolition -- meaning, not every aspect of war, but specifically the case (moral, legal, economic, environmental, etc.) for total abolition, including how partial steps in war reduction or amelioration can lead toward abolition and not away from it, including how past wars can be best understood, and including effective peaceful alternatives to war and a peaceful vision of a post-war world. This resource center would eventually also include tools for petition gathering, local and organizational resolutions, legislation, materials for educational events including books and films, a speakers bureau, coordinated days of action, flyers, brochures, posters, creative action ideas, etc.
The abolition movement would develop volunteer and training programs to train organizers to build and strengthen the campaign.
The movement would work on strategies for outreach to a wide variety of constituencies globally.*
The campaign would develop and coordinate with its allies and members a communications strategy including our own media production, efforts to gain coverage by media outlets, and possibly advertising, school text-book reform, and other means of communication and education. We would work to see our media productions used as educational tools. We would advance a vision of a transition to a renewable energy world in which there would be no "need" for wars over oil and in which we could end the danger of global warming and create a good life for every person on the planet.
The movement would work to coordinate with its members partial steps (and movement-building victories) toward abolition, including possibly such approaches as: economic conversion, disarmament, base closures, bans on particular weapons or tactics, promotion of diplomacy including possibly new structures such as Departments of Peace and reform and strengthening of the United Nations, expanding the development of peace teams and human shields into a global nonviolent peaceforce, promotion of nonmilitary foreign aid and crisis prevention, placing restrictions on military recruitment and providing potential soldiers with alternatives, legislation to redirect war taxes into peace work and meeting human needs, and/or promotion of international law. The campaign might work with key allies to develop concrete proposals for how to spend funding redirected from wars and militarism. All of these steps would be presented to the world, not as improvements in war or steps toward "smart wars" or "humanitarian wars" but as key steps in the direction of the end of all wars.
Steps in the direction of abolition that the movement might support include the development of a peace conversion taskforce to help communities make the transition from war making to working to meet human and environmental needs, and expanding the global nonviolent peaceforce of civilian, trained, international, nonviolent peacekeepers and peacemakers who could be available to protect civilians endangered by conflicts in all parts of the world and to help build peace where there is or has been violent conflict. These efforts would help the world to see that there are alternatives to war-making.
The movement would work with its allies or members to create a strategy for the legal abolition of war, possibly including the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Nuremberg Principles.
The movement would work with relevant members to develop direct action strategies, including vigils, blockades, demonstrations, etc., with global coordination.
Each step along the way cannot be foreseen in any detail, but progress will be somewhat measurable in victories against particular war proposals, in the creation of particular educational or counter-recruitment programs, in disarmament, etc., and in the extent to which these measures are presented and understood as steps toward abolition, as well is in any measurable shifts in public opinion, and in the growth of the campaign, the signers of its pledge or petition, the readers and viewers of its materials, etc. There are always victories and set-backs in the struggle against militarism. Viewing them as part of a process toward abolition may better allow us to see the forest for the trees and determine whether in fact the victories are outpacing the defeats.
*Such constituencies might include people in many parts of the world, key organizers, well-known leaders, peace groups, peace and justice groups, environmental groups, human rights groups, activist coalitions, lawyers, philosophers/moralists/ethicists, doctors, psychologists, religious groups, economists, labor unions, diplomats, towns and cities and states or provinces or regions, nations, international organizations, the United Nations, civil liberties groups, media reform groups, business groups and leaders, billionaires, teachers groups, student groups, education reform groups, government reform groups, journalists, historians, women's groups, senior citizens, immigrant and refugee rights groups, libertarians, socialists, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, veterans, student- and cultural-exchange groups, sister-cities groups, sports enthusiasts, and advocates for investment in children and healthcare and in human needs of every sort, as well as those working to oppose contributors to militarism in their societies, such as xenophobia, racism, machismo, extreme materialism, all forms of violence, lack of community, and war profiteering.
Ann Jones' new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing. In human terms, it's overwhelming.
Know a young person considering joining the military? Give them this book.
Know a person not working to end war? Give them this book.
Jones presents the choice before us in the clearest terms in the introduction:
"Contrary to common opinion in the United States, war is not inevitable. Nor has it always been with us. War is a human invention -- an organized, deliberate action of an anti-social kind -- and in the long span of human life on Earth, a fairly recent one. For more than 99 percent of the time that humans have lived on this planet, most of them have never made war. Many languages don't even have a word for it. Turn off CNN and read anthropology. You'll see.
"What's more, war is obsolete. Most nations don't make war anymore, except when coerced by the United States to join some spurious 'coalition.' The earth is so small, and our time here so short. No other nation on the planet makes war as often, as long, as forcefully, as expensively, as destructively, as wastefully, as senselessly, or as unsuccessfully as the United States. No other nation makes war its business."
Jones begins her book with that distinguishing feature of war: death. The U.S. military assigns specialists in "Mortuary Affairs" to dispose of the dead. They dispose of their own sanity in the process. And first they dispose of their appetite. "Broiled meat in the chow hall smells much the same as any charred Marine, and you may carry the smell of the dead on a stained cuff as you raise a fork to your mouth, only to quickly put it down." Much of the dead is -- like the slop at the chow hall -- unrecognizable meat. Once dumped in landfills, until a Washington Post story made that a scandal, now it's dumped at sea. Much of the dead is the result of suicides. Mortuary Affairs scrubs the brains out of the port-o-potty and removes the rifle, so other troops don't have to see.
Then come, in vastly greater numbers, the wounded -- Jones' chapter two. A surgeon tells her that in Iraq the U.S. troops "had severe injuries, but the injuries were still on the body." In Afghanistan, troops step on mines and IEDs while walking, not driving. Some are literally blown to bits. Others can be picked up in recognizable pieces. Others survive. But many survive without one or two legs, one or two testicles, a penis, an arm, both arms -- or with a brain injury, or a ruined face, or all of the above. A doctor describes the emotion for a surgical team the first time they have to remove a penis and "watch it go into the surgical waste container."
"By early 2012," Jones writes, "3,000 [U.S.] soldiers had been killed by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 31,394 wounded. Among the wounded were more than 1,800 soldiers with severe damage to their genitals." Doctors treat an injured soldier's limbs first, later their genitals, later still their brains.
Back in the states, two young parents and "two pretty adolescent girls," step up "to sit on the padded platforms in the center of the room. They move with the tentative sobriety of shock. Aides wheel in a gurney that bears a bundle in a flannel sheet. They gather the edges of the sheet and swing the package over the platform into the very heart of the family. Carefully they lower it and then begin to peel away the wrapping. There, revealed, restored to the family, is the son, their boy, not dead, but missing both arms, both legs, and some part -- it's impossible to tell how much -- of his lower torso. The director calls out a cheery greeting, 'Hi Bobby! How are you doing today?' Bobby tries to answer but makes no sound. He flops on the platform, an emaciated head, eyes full of fear, his chest all bones under a damp grey ARMY tee shirt. . . . "
Be all that you can be.
In training you're ordered into a poison gas chamber and exposed to a bit of it. If Assad trained his troops that way, we'd murder a half million Syrians to get even. But U.S. military training is training in blind subservience, usually properly resented when it's too late. Up goes your chances of being dead, injured, guilt-ridden, traumatized, homicidal, and suicidal. Jones recounts the story of a soldier who murdered two Iraqi prisoners, came home convinced he was a murderer, laid out the two dead Iraqis' dog tags, wrapped a hose twice around his neck, and hung himself. Twenty-two a day: that's the count of U.S. veteran suicides according to the V.A. The rate is 4.7 times higher than normal, according to the Austin-American Statesmen's investigation of Texas veterans. That doesn't count recklessly crashed cars and motorcycles. And it doesn't count the epidemic of overdoses of the drugs meant to solve the problem.
How to help such suffering? Therapists used to ask people to talk and now ask them to take drugs. In either case, they don't ask them to honestly deal with their guilt. Between 2001 and 2007 homicides committed by active duty and veteran U.S. troops went up 90 percent. The military looks for problems in soldiers' family lives to explain such troubles, as if they all suddenly began marrying the wrong spouses just when their country deployed them into the stupidest war yet waged. Jones tells the story of one Marine who killed his wife but kept her body on the couch to watch TV with him for weeks. "I killed the only girl who ever loved me," he later lamented. Chances are good he had killed other people who were loved as well -- he'd just done so in a context in which some people praised him for it.
One wounded warrior tells Jones he loves war and longs to get back into it. "Blowin' shit up. It's fucking fun. I fuckin' love it." She replies, "I believe you really mean that," and he says, "No shit. I'm trying to educate you." But an older Army officer has a different view: "I've been in the army 26 years," he says, "and I can tell you it's a con." War, he believes in rather Smedley Butlerish fashion, is a way to make a small number of people "monufuckinmentally rich." He says his two sons will not serve in the military. "Before that happens I'll shoot them myself." Why? "War is absurd," he says. "Boys don't know any better. But for a grown man to be trapped in stupid wars -- it's embarrassing, it's humiliating, it's absurd."
Remarks at New York University forum with http://NYACT.net
The primary problem with weaponized drones is that the weapons murder people. And they murder people in a way that looks more like murder to a lot of observers than other forms of military murder do -- such as murder by indiscriminate bombing or artillery or infantry or dropping white phosphorous on people. When President Obama looks through a list of men, women, and children at a Tuesday terror meeting, and picks which ones to murder, and has them murdered, you can call it a war or not call it a war, but it begins to look to a lot of people like murder.
Many of the victims are civilians, many are men suspected of or just of the age for combat -- and in fact the policy has been to define military aged males as combatants -- and other victims are alleged to be serious criminals; not indicted, not charged, not tried or convicted, just alleged. And they're blown up along with anyone too nearby. It begins to look like the killing spree of a disgruntled employee at a shopping mall. But there's a key difference. It's happening in a foreign place to people who don't all look or talk like we do. I've been asked, more than once: Aren't drones preferable to piloted planes or ground troops, since with drones nobody dies? This is what drones do to foreign policy: they create deceptively easy and deceptively cost-free solutions. The drone war on Yemen didn't replace some other kind of war that was worse. It added another war to the list.
Here is the real danger: We're making murder in its most recognizable form acceptable. And we're defining it out of existence when the victims belong to that 96% of humanity that's never been considered quite all the way human in this country. Which leaves only the slightest step to include certain traitorous Americans as well. President Obama jokes about sending drones after his daughter's boyfriends, and the press corpse laughs. Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden jokes about adding Edward Snowden to the kill list, and everybody laughs. If we can be at war with individual criminals, why not add whistleblowers to the list? They reveal the powerful secrets that give our high priests their prestige. They reveal crimes and abuses that outrage us but outrage foreign nations too. They open a door through which we can begin to question what the distinction really is between joking about murder by million dollar missile and joking about murder with an ax, such that we admire one and are horrified by the other. The fact is that the most realistic mass-murder costumes you'll see in a Halloween Parade will be on men and women who've wandered up from Wall Street in their stylish suits.
The drone industry seems quite pleased with our acceptance of their technology for murder, but frustrated that some of us are resistant in our backward superstitious ways to favoring the use of killer drones that are fully automated. That is, we've accepted drones as a good moral killing device when a human at a desk pulls the trigger, but we find something vaguely disturbing about the drone pulling the trigger itself. Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says, "Right now, in human nature, its unacceptable for a machine to kill a human being," but he's confident that will change as we begin to wise up and see the advantages. In fact, there are those who would like to ban automated drones and automated killing robots of all types, and I agree with them in so far as they go. Any weapon we can ban, let's ban it. But let's not, in the process, make non-automated drone murder acceptable. If you listen to the accounts of some former drone pilots -- so-called pilots who dress up in flight suits to sit at a desk and who drive past a sign on their way home from work every day letting them know that driving on U.S. roads is the most dangerous thing they do, so they should buckle up -- if you listen to these people, there's just not significantly more moral consideration going into the human pulling of the trigger than there would be with the drone pulling the trigger.
The majority of volunteers in experiments are willing to inflict what they believe is severe pain or death on other human beings when a scientist tells them to do so for the good of science. These are usually known as Milgram experiments, and the pain or death is faked by actors. Drone pilots take part in Milgram experiments where the deaths are real, the injuries are real, the suffering is real. Drones don't just kill, of course. They traumatize children and adults. The buzzing overhead, threatening imminent death for weeks on end is a severe form of cruelty, and an extreme case of power over others at an extreme distance -- and as indiscriminate as poison gas. Mothers in Yemen teach neighbors' kids at home for fear of letting them go to school. In Gaza people refer to Israel's drones with a word that means buzz but can also mean a relentlessly nagging wife. The Living Under Drones report produced by NYU and Stanford, I think made a lot of people aware of what drones do in Pakistan. (By the way, Pakistan's prime minister told Obama today to stop the drone killings, and Obama slipped the Washington Post evidence that Pakistan's been in on it. Don't expect them to give Bob Woodward the Chelsea Manning treatment. And don't imagine the murders-by-drone are OK because some lying scheming Pakistani officials are sometimes in on it.) Whole societies are devastated by the ongoing threat and the sporadic murders. Israel has killed hundreds in Gaza with drones. But the drone "pilot" sits at his desk and follows the instructions of his authority figure.
On June 6th NBC News interviewed a former drone pilot named Brandon Bryant who was deeply depressed over his role in killing over 1,600 people. He described watching his victims bleed to death and wondering what if anything they were guilty of. It became clear why drone pilots suffer PTSD at higher rates than real pilots. They see everything, including the children they kill.
"After participating in hundreds of missions over the years, Bryant said he 'lost respect for life' and began to feel like a sociopath. ... When he told a woman he was seeing that he'd been a drone operator, and contributed to the deaths of a large number of people, she cut him off. 'She looked at me like I was a monster,' he said. 'And she never wanted to touch me again.'"
Somehow, members of the United States Congress, where drones have their own caucus to represent them, seem less turned off and more aroused. But what about the rest of us? Where do we come down? A majority in the U.S. -- a shrinking majority, but still as far as I know a majority -- favors using drones to kill non-Americans outside of the United States. Pew surveyed 39 countries this past summer and found three that supported this U.S. policy: Kenya, the United States itself, and Israel. And within the United States there's not a big partisan divide on the matter. There's more concern over killing U.S. citizens or killing anyone within the United States, but less if they're immigrants on the border, less in hostage situations, etc. The first place the wars come home is in our own minds.
The U.S. Congress recently gave the Capitol Police the longest standing-ovation since Osama bin Laden's Muslim sea burial for what quickly turned out to be the shooting of an unarmed mother trying to get away. Congress members are in the habit of cheering for senseless murder abroad in the form of wars. Drone victims are labeled militants after the fact, by virtue of being dead. Transfer those habits to the streets of Capitol Hill, and it's easy enough to imagine that a dead woman deserved to die -- after all: she's dead. Our police are beginning to look like the military. The public is the enemy. Murderers are cheered if they wear a uniform. Bloomberg claims absurdly to have the seventh largest army in the world. And small-town police departments with nothing worse than drunk driving to confront them are stocking up on weaponry, including weaponized drones (with tear gas, rubber bullets, and all kinds of anti-personnel devices). 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 the armored vehicle). Also in Texas, when the Department 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. Is this a part of U.S. wars people are really going to sit back and watch come home?
Many of the drones going into U.S. skies are for surveillance. A drone can sit too high up in the sky to see it from the ground but record everything on the ground for hours and hours of video. A drone as small as a bird or a bug can listen to you and your cell phone inside your house. Drones can threaten and intimidate potential protesters, as well as racially and religiously profiled groups, with surveillance and with weaponry. The NSA has been a big part of the kill list program, the same NSA that tracks all of us in the land of the free. A Congressional Research Service report arrived at the obvious conclusion that drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. I would add the First Amendment. I would add representative government. So the fact that the technology is exciting or that drones can perform lots of useful and harmless functions is all well and good. But figure out how they're compatible with Constitutional rights first, and then allow them in those ways if that's possible. And if it isn't, then instead of using drones to watch forest fires let's focus on halting climate change. I've survived this long without having my coffee delivered by drone, and I can survive a bit longer.
It's not the technology's fault, we're told, by those more offended by insults to technology than by assaults on humans. "Drones carrying hellfire missiles over houses on the other side of the world don't kill people, people kill people." But, as it happens, drones don't hunt deer, drones don't protect grandma, the second amendment right to have an eighteenth century musket when taking part in a state militia doesn't create a right to killer flying robots. This is a new technology and it needs to be dealt with as such. This is the technology of legalized murder.
It's always struck me as odd that in civilized, Geneva conventionized, Samantha Powerized war the only crime that gets legalized is murder. Not torture, or assault, or rape, or theft, or marijuana, or cheating on your taxes, or parking in a handicapped spot -- just murder. But will somebody please explain to me why homicide bombing is not as bad as suicide bombing? It isn't strictly true that the suffering is all on one side, anyway. Just as we learn geography through wars, we learn our drone base locations through blowback, in Afghanistan and just recently in Yemen. Drones make everyone less safe. As Malala just pointed out to the Obama family, the drone killing fuels terrorism. Drones also kill with friendly fire. Drones, with or without weapons, crash. A lot. And drones make the initiation of violence easier, more secretive, and more concentrated. When sending missiles into Syria was made a big public question, we overwhelmed Congress, which said no. But missiles are sent into other countries all the time, from drones, and we're never asked.
The U.N., which has been looking at U.S., Israeli, and U.K. drone use, has just submitted a couple of reports on drones to the General Assembly ahead of a debate scheduled for this Friday. The reports make some useful points: U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can't legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life. However, the U.N. reports are so subservient to western lawyer groupthink as to allow that some drone kills are legal and to make the determination of which ones so complex that nobody will ever be able to say -- the determination will be political rather than empirical.
The U.N. wants transparency, and I do think that's a stronger demand than asking for the supposed legal memos that Obama has hidden in a drawer and which supposedly make his drone kills legal. We don't need to see that lawyerly contortionism. Remember Obama's speech in May at which he claimed that only four of his victims had been American and for one of those four he had invented criteria for himself to meet, even though all available evidence says he didn't meet them even in that case, and he promised to apply the same criteria to foreigners going forward sometimes in certain countries depending. Remember the liberal applause for that? Somehow our demands of President Bush were never that he make a speech. And did you see how pleased people were just recently that Obama had kidnapped a man in Libya and interrogated him in secret on a ship in the ocean, because that was a step up from murdering him and his neighbors? We don't need the memos. We need the videos, the times, places, names, justifications, casualties, and the video footage of each murder. That is, if the UN is going to give its stamp of approval to a new kind of war but ask for a little token of gratitude, this is what it should be. It might slow down the march of the drones -- which is in fact being led by the United States and Israel.
Israel developed drones in the 1970s. Medea Benjamin's book begins with the story of how an Israeli engineer who had worked for an Israeli military contractor, developed the prototype of the Predator drone in his garage in southern California in the 1980s with funding from DARPA and the CIA. And the first thing he came up with was called the Albatross -- not a bad name really. Israel is the world's top exporter of drones. Technion is a leading developer of drone technology, including drones that can fly 1,850 miles without refueling and carry two 1,100 lb. bombs, as well as miniature surveillance drones, bulldozers, and other weapons of fairly massive destruction used in illegally occupied lands, where Israel has used chemical and all other sorts of weapons while continuing to receive billions of dollars worth every year of what the U.S. Orwellianly calls "military aid."
Creating Drone Island in the East River no doubt appeals to those in the Israeli government who spy on the U.S. and those in the U.S. government who spy on Israel, but especially to those who want to legitimize and Americanize the U.S. image of Israel's militarism, to make it as unquestionable in the U.S. as U.S. militarism sometimes is. The U.S. media questions the cost of feeding the hungry, while treating militarism as a jobs program -- even though programs to feed the hungry would more efficiently produce jobs. The federal government's trillion dollars a year for wars and war preparations doesn't count contributions from state and local governments and universities. The plans of Cornell and Technion to advance the technology of death on Roosevelt Island were apparently approved because of the money involved. And in the process a hospital will be destroyed. That's a typical trade-off. For a fraction of what we spend on weaponry, we could provide food, water, and medicine to the world. Many, many more people are killed through what we don't do with our money than through how we do spend it on wars.
Of course, we could also choose to invest in education instead of militarization. It's no coincidence that the nation that spends $1 trillion every year on war has created $1 trillion in student loan debt, and no coincidence that universities corrupted by military contracts are holding forums promoting war in Syria.
An early supporter of Technion who would be outraged at its current practices is Albert Einstein, who said "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." He was right. We have to choose one or the other. A lot of people are doing so.
In September, the University of Edinburgh responded to student protests and withdrew its investment from Ultra Electronics, a company that produces navigation controls for U.S. killer drones.
Here in New York, the Granny Peace Brigade and Know Drones and the World Can't Wait and lots of other groups have been pressuring the U.N. and the City Council and Congress and educating the public. The Center for Constitutional Rights is doing legal work against drone murder, and it just may be that lawsuits turn out to be a major tool in stopping the drones. An organization I work for called RootsAction has set up a petition at BanWeaponizedDrones.org that now has 99,000 signatures in favor of banning weaponized drones. We're going to deliver it to the U.N. and governments when it gets to 100,000, so please go sign it at BanWeaponizedDrones.org
Where I live in Charlottesville, Va., we passed the first city resolution against drones -- weaponized or surveillance, since when three other cities have done the same. And eight states. But the state laws have dealt only with surveillance. They have not sought to limit the weaponization of domestic drones, including with non-lethal weaponry. Some of them have made exceptions to their surveillance restrictions for the U.S. military. Four cities is not a lot, and I think one reason why is the complexities of the surveillance issue. I think cities would more readily pass resolutions commiting not to use weaponized drones, and I'd love to see New York City asked to do that. Even a failure on that would wake a lot of people up to a new danger.
Drone bases around the country are facing endless protests, as I'm sure a Drone Island in the East River will if created. If New Yorkers can chase David Petraeus away, I'm sure they can chase Technion away!
Nowhere has seen more or better nonviolent resistance to drones that Hancock air base in upstate, New York. But people have been risking and serving serious jail sentences to call attention and build resistance to these operations all over the country, including in Niagara Falls this past weekend, where activists are advancing a plan to turn the military airport into an array of solar panels that could power half the state.
This November, like this past April, will be a time of drone protests everywhere, and of Code Pink's drone summit in D.C.
Next Tuesday Congressman Grayson will hear testimony from two kids injured in Pakistan by a U.S. drone, although the U.S. won't let their lawyer come. And yesterday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports on drones full of great information, but still maintaining that some drone murders are legal and some aren't. They and the UN special rapporteur will be at NYU Law School on Tuesday and you have to RSVP at the Open Society Foundation. And on Wednesday Brave New Films will release its film on drone killing.
As we take on the drones, I think we should bear a few key points in mind. Foreign lives are not worth less than local ones. Killing with one kind of weapon is not worse than killing with another kind. Killing is evil and illegal whether or not you call it a war. The killing is multiplied by the spending of funds on it that could have been spent saving lives. A war is not an activity marred by atrocities and war crimes. War is the crime. We shouldn't oppose waste at the Pentagon more fervently than we oppose efficiency at the Pentagon. If we can stop believing in just torture or humane rape or good slavery, we can stop believing in acceptable war. If the government of Israel makes war we should employ every nonviolent tool to resist it -- and the very same goes for the government of the United States of America.
ADDENDUM: I mentioned and there was discussion of at this event Amnesty Intl.'s recommendations to the world:
"To the international community including the UN, other states and intergovernmental organizations:
It seems that a U.S./Israeli university on Roosevelt Island would be constantly transfering drone technology either to the U.S. or to Israel, either of which would be a violation of the law.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is in stores now. His 2009 book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.
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There's a dark side to the flurry of reports and testimony on drones, helpful as they are in many ways. When we read that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose drone strikes that violate international law, some of us may be inclined to interpret that as a declaration that, in fact, drone strikes violate international law. On the contrary, what these human rights groups mean is that some drone strikes violate the law and some do not, and they want to oppose the ones that do.
Which are which? Even their best researchers can't tell you. Human Rights Watch looked into six drone murders in Yemen and concluded that two were illegal and four might be illegal. The group wants President Obama to explain what the law is (since nobody else can), wants him to comply with it (whatever it is), wants civilians compensated (if anyone can agree who the civilians are and if people can really be compensated for the murder of their loved ones), and wants the U.S. government to investigate itself. Somehow the notion of prosecuting crimes doesn't come up.
Amnesty International looks into nine drone strikes in Pakistan, and can't tell whether any of the nine were legal or illegal. Amnesty wants the U.S. government to investigate itself, make facts public, compensate victims, explain what the law is, explain who a civilian is, and -- remarkably -- recommends this: "Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty." However, this will be a very tough nut to crack, as those responsible for the crimes are being asked to define what is and is not legal. Amnesty proposes "judicial review of drone strikes," but a rubber-stamp FISA court for drone murders wouldn't reduce them, and an independent judiciary assigned to approve of certain drone strikes and not others would certainly approve of some, while inevitably leaving the world less than clear as to why.
The UN special rapporteurs' reports are perhaps the strongest of the reports churned out this week, although all of the reports provide great information. The UN will debate drones on Friday. Congressman Grayson will bring injured child drone victims to Washington on Tuesday (although the U.S. State Department won't let their lawyer come). Attention is being brought to the issue, and that's mostly to the good. The U.N. reports make some useful points: U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes (targeting rescuers of a first strike's victims) are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can't legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; and -- most powerfully -- threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life. However, the U.N. reports are so subservient to western lawyer groupthink as to allow that some drone kills are legal and to make the determination of which ones so complex that nobody will ever be able to say -- the determination will be political rather than empirical.
The U.N. wants transparency, and I do think that's a stronger demand than asking for the supposed legal memos that Obama has hidden in a drawer and which supposedly make his drone kills legal. We don't need to see that lawyerly contortionism. Remember Obama's speech in May at which he claimed that only four of his victims had been American and for one of those four he had invented criteria for himself to meet, even though all available evidence says he didn't meet those criteria even in that case, and he promised to apply the same criteria to foreigners going forward, sometimes, in certain countries, depending. Remember the liberal applause for that? Somehow our demands of President Bush were never that he make a speech.
(And did you see how pleased people were just recently that Obama had kidnapped a man in Libya and interrogated him in secret on a ship in the ocean, eventually bringing him to the U.S. for a trial, because that was a step up from murdering him and his neighbors? Bush policies are now seen as advances.)
We don't need the memos. We need the videos, the times, places, names, justifications, casualties, and the video footage of each murder. That is to say, if the UN is going to give its stamp of approval to a new kind of war but ask for a little token of gratitude, this is what it should be. But let's stop for a minute and consider. The general lawyerly consensus is that killing people with drones is fine if it's not a case where they could have been captured, it's not "disproportionate," it's not too "collateral," it's not too "indiscriminate," etc., -- the calculation being so vague that nobody can measure it. We're not wrong to trumpet the good parts of these reports, but let's be clear that the United Nations, an institution created to eliminate war, is giving its approval to a new kind of war, as long as it's done properly, and it's giving its approval in the same reports in which it says that drones threaten to make war the norm and peace the exception.
I hate to be a wet blanket, but that's stunning. Drones make war the norm, rather than the exception, and drone murders are going to be deemed legal depending on a variety of immeasurable criteria. And the penalty for the ones that are illegal is going to be nothing, at least until African nations start doing it, at which point the International Criminal Court will shift into gear.
What is it that makes weaponized drones more humane than land mines, poison gas, cluster bombs, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and other weapons worth banning? Are drone missiles more discriminate than cluster bombs (I mean in documented practice, not in theory)? Are they discriminate enough, even if more discriminate than something else? Does the ease of using them against anyone anywhere make it possible for them to be "proportionate" and "necessary"? If some drone killing is legal and other not, and if the best researchers can't always tell which is which, won't drone killing continue? The UN Special Rapporteur says drones threaten to make war the norm. Why risk that? Why not ban weaponized drones?
For those who refuse to accept that the Kellogg Briand Pact bans war, for those who refuse to accept that international law bans murder, don't we have a choice here between banning weaponized drones or watching weaponized drones proliferate and kill? Over 99,000 people have signed a petition to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org Maybe we can push that over 100,000 ... or 200,000.
It's always struck me as odd that in civilized, Geneva conventionized, Samantha Powerized war the only crime that gets legalized is murder. Not torture, or assault, or rape, or theft, or marijuana, or cheating on your taxes, or parking in a handicapped spot -- just murder. But will somebody please explain to me why homicide bombing is not as bad as suicide bombing?
It isn't strictly true that the suffering is all on one side, anyway. Just as we learn geography through wars, we learn our drone base locations through blowback, in Afghanistan and just recently in Yemen. Drones make everyone less safe. As Malala just pointed out to the Obama family, the drone killing fuels terrorism. Drones also kill with friendly fire. Drones, with or without weapons, crash. A lot. And drones make the initiation of violence easier, more secretive, and more concentrated. When sending missiles into Syria was made a big public question, we overwhelmed Congress, which said no. But missiles are sent into other countries all the time, from drones, and we're never asked.
We're going to have to speak up for ourselves.
I'll be part of a panel discussing this at NYU on Wednesday. See http://NYACT.net
There has never been any evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Iran has always denied having such a thing.
The U.S. Department of Defense has admitted that currently Iran has no such program. All of the U.S. so-called intelligence agencies believe Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The New York Times (January 2012) and the Washington Post (December 2011) were compelled to issue corrections after referring to Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program.
Yet here comes Donald Nuechterlein in the Oct. 13 Daily Progress referring repeatedly to this mythical nuclear weapons program and claiming, for instance, that “Iran can be induced to suspend nuclear weapons development.”
Gee, what a diplomatic accomplishment that would be! You cannot suspend nuclear weapons development unless you are engaged in nuclear weapons development.
The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.
President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls' education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.
Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.
Malala recounted: "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."
President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.
It's up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.
The United Nations has released a report on "armed drones and the right to life" (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:
"Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes."
Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:
"Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints — political and otherwise — may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones."
The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition. War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war. But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:
"An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones."
The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack. The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent. The Obama Administration has famously redefined "imminent" to mean eventual or theoretical -- that is, they've stripped the word of all meaning. (See the "white paper" PDF.) The U.N. doesn't buy it:
"The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law."
U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it's part of a war. The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war. Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:
"Insofar as the term 'signature strikes' refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected."
The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders -- namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:
"Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force."
Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is "self-defense" the action must be reported to the U.N. -- thereby making it sooooo much better.
A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes. That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions. But this second report just asks for "a detailed public explanation."
The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn't heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness. Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.'s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org
A rally will be held on Sunday, October 20th, from 4-5PM at the main entrance to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Lockport Road by No Drones Niagara (nodronesniagara.org). The rally will support “Jobs for Life and Not for Death,” standing up against the military use of drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) that looms over the Base’s future. At 3pm, many participants will meet at the UB South Park and Ride, Main St, to carpool to the Base.
The rally will also feature courageous nonviolent civil resisters – both local (Bonny Mahoney, Valerie Niederhoffer, and Vicki Ross) and from Syracuse (Ed Kinane and Ann Tiffany) and Rochester (Judy Bello). They have worked to stop the illegal extrajudicial assassination by drone that is being perpetrated at Hancock Air Reserve National Guard Base outside of Syracuse, one of the three biggest drone centers in the US. The government’s effort to shut down the civil resistance at Hancock has become so extreme that Orders of Protection have been egregiously mis-used against nonviolent peace activists by the Hancock Base Commander, and approved by Town of DeWitt judges. This pre-empts the activists’ civil right to free speech and debases an important legal tool for victims of domestic violence and stalking. It sets a dangerous precedent.
Sunday's rally will emphasize concern for the many ways people are hurt by weaponized drones: victims killed or maimed, and their grief-stricken families and friends; populations terrorized by the threatening presence of the drones; and drone operators who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a higher rate than those serving in combat. Life-sustaining jobs are what’s needed. Charley Bowman, Former Interim Director of the WNY Peace Center, will discuss other options for the base, especially converting the base into a solar energy farm (see wnypeace.org).
No Drones Niagara was formed in the greater Buffalo-Niagara area in 2012 after concerned citizens learned that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was being considered for hosting drone missions as a means of retaining jobs at the base and preventing its closure. It is the opinion of the members of No Drones Niagara that jobs which facilitate the killing of civilians and international lawbreaking (as testified by former Attorney General international law expert Ramsey Clark) are not jobs worth having. No Drones Niagara, an affiliate of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars (upstatedroneaction.org), is a collaboration of local groups including the Western New York Peace Center, the International Action Center(iacenter.org), the Interfaith Peace Network, Burning Books, and others. No Drones Niagara can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Facebook at facebook.com/NoDronesNiagara.