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Talk Nation Radio: Lisa Ling on Killer Drones

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-lisa-ling-on-killer-drones


The Problem With the CIA and Drones

Thanks to a recent Wall Street Journal article, I've been hearing from Democratic partisans that President Trump has done something brand new, and that it amounts to tearing up the War Powers Resolution by giving the CIA the power to make war.

Now, I am seeking to build support for abolishing the CIA, and for impeaching Donald Trump, and for banning weaponized drones. So I'm not exactly a fan of murder by robot or a partisan Republican. And I'm all in favor of any new reasons (fact-based or otherwise) people might find to try to put an end to government killings. But I think there's some confusion we'd be better off without.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to make war, a power it has relinquished since 1941. President George W. Bush went through certain vestigial formalities of lying to Congress and obtaining vague authorizations. President Barack Obama, in launching a war on Libya, intentionally avoided any appearance of Congress having any role whatsoever. He also radically expanded drone wars in several countries (and "special" operations in numerous countries) -- in the case of Yemen predictably escalating it into a wider air and ground war, again without Congress. In Syria and Iraq he used foreign troops, then U.S. "advisors" combined with bombings to inch his way into new wars.

Obama oversaw the creation of the CIA's drone war operations. And while he advertised in the New York Times his role in picking whom to murder, he did not actually give the order each time. He delegated that power to subordinates. The Wall Street Journal's article suggests that Obama never gave the CIA the role of deciding whom to murder. This is contradicted by numerous reports over the years suggesting otherwise, including those claiming that, late in his presidency, Obama took that power away. But even those reports admit that very little is known and nothing officially stated about the CIA's role, and that the CIA has remained closely involved. We also know from a former drone pilot turned whistleblower that the CIA's drone pilots have always actually been Air Force pilots anyway:

"The CIA might be the customer but the air force has always flown it. A CIA label is just an excuse to not have to give up any information. That is all it has ever been."

The one partial transcript we have of a drone murder, out of all the hundreds of transcripts and videos that likely exist, depicts blood thirsty sadists eager to kill. The many thousands of reports we have on specific drone murders have not identified a single one in which any of the criteria that President Obama established for them was met. We know of no victims who could not have been arrested instead, or who were "an imminent and continuing threat to the United States of America," or whose killing involved zero risk of killing civilians.

Supposedly, the greater the role of the military, and the lesser the role of the CIA, the greater the capacity of Congress for oversight. That's a great argument for abolishing the CIA. But, in reality, we have yet to see the vaguest hint of Congressional oversight. Congress has not informed the public of the nature of the drone wars. We've seen no additional transcripts and no videos. Congress has not made use of the Constitution or even the War Powers Resolution to halt or even limit the drone murders in any way. Congress has not objected to the failure of Presidents Obama or Trump to meet Obama's self-imposed criteria. Nor has it created its own criteria.

Trump and his subordinates are using drone missiles at a faster pace even than Obama did. Trump has moved weaponized drones to the border of North Korea. And the story that Trump is giving the CIA freer rein to murder people with drones could possibly be true and is as likely as not a story Trump intentionally promoted. But this is at most a return to a policy that Obama created and then claimed to have ended. And it is at most a fine distinction of roles in operations that involved and still involve both the CIA and the military, as well as the NSA. The question of which of those entities is making a key decision should end the pretense that the president is making all of the decisions. And not a single bit of it is in any way in compliance with the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Charter, the War Powers Resolution, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Hague Convention of 1899, or the laws against murder that are on the books in each nation where the U.S. government is murdering people.

DRONE RESISTERS ACQUITTED!

Four drone resisters, James Ricks, Daniel Burns, Brian Hynes, and Ed Kinane, from the 2015 big books action were found innocent of all charges at 11pm at the Dewitt Town Court. After deliberating for only about a half hour, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty on all charges. Applause erupted in the courtroom upon the jurors’ announcement of the verdict. The four were charged with obstruction of government administration, disorderly conduct, and trespass and faced a year in jail. Following the rendering of the verdict, a juror approached Brian Hynes and said “I really support what you are doing. Keep doing it.”

During the trial, Brian Hynes told the jury, “This is not a case about contested facts, this is a case about contested meanings.” Hynes went on to explain to the jury that they could, in the words of the 4th Circuit of Appeals, acquit for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion. In powerful testimony, James Ricks told the jury about meeting the families of drone victims and seeing the wreckage of hellfire missiles. Jurors were brought to tears several times. Daniel Burns said, “Would any of us deem it acceptable for our precious loved ones to be sacrificed for another nation’s anticipatory self defense. Of course not!  Moreover, if drones were being aimed at my children by another country, I would hope with all my might that the citizens of that country might try and stop their country’s illegal and immoral actions.” Ed Kinane told the jury in clear and powerful language about his time living in Iraq during the war and about the terror sown by drones. Closing arguments were given by lawyers Daire Irwin and Jonathon Wallace as well as James Ricks and Brian Hynes.

The trail resulted from an action on March 19, 2015. On the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), Living Under Drones (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and You Never Die Twice (Reprieve).

            The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings. The group attempted yet again to deliver a citizens’ indictment for war crimes to the Hancock Air base chain of command.

Drone Protesters Arrested on Tuesday

Anti-Drone Activists Blocked Gate to Beale AFB with Life-Sized Figures of Drone Victims
 
Four Arrested While "Putting A Human Face" on Recent Civilian Drone Victims in Afghanistan
 
Two Others Were Arrested Monday While Sprinkling Ashes on the Base to Represent Innocents Incinerated by Drone Missiles.
 
 
 
Report from Toby Blomé on Tuesday:

“MARY & JOSEPH” ARRESTED ENACTING NATIVITY SCENE AT HANCOCK DRONE BASE

www.upstatedroneaction.org

Friday, December 23, as many throughout the world prepare to celebrate the birth in Palestine of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, four members of the grassroots group Upstate Drone Action were arrested at the main entrance of Hancock Reaper Drone Base on East Molloy Road in the town of DeWitt in upstate New York.

The four set up a nativity manger tableaus in the driveway entrance to the Hancock base. Hancock hosts the 174th Attack  Wing of the NY Air National Guard – the MQ9 Reaper drone hub.  Hancock is also the national Reaper maintenance training center.

The MQ9 Reaper is a robotic, satellite-linked, remote assassin flying unmanned missions over Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern, African and West Asian nations. The CIA uses Reapers for its illegal lethal missions over northwest Pakistan.

According to “LIVING UNDER DRONES: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan ,” published by Stanford University and New York University Law Schools [downloadable], such missions are responsible in that region for the deaths of hundreds of noncombatants, including women and children, and for the terrorizing of thousands more.

Bev Rice, playing Mary, noted that “If Herod had had a Reaper drone, Jesus, Mary and Joseph would have been incinerated.” John Amidon, playing Joseph, further declared, “The indiscriminate and illegal killings of so many holy families in the MiddleEast must stop!”

Today’s civil resistance action is one chapter in Upstate Drone Action’s six-year scrupulously nonviolent campaign to expose the Hancock AFB war crime. Since 2010 there have been over 170 anti-Reaper arrests at Hancock. These have resulted in extreme bails, maximum fines, incarcerations, and so-called “Orders of Protection”…as well as some acquittals in the De Witt Town Court.

Those arrested Friday:

                  ~ John Amidon, Albany, NY
                  ~ Ed Kinane, Syracuse, NY
                  ~ Jules Orkin, Bergenfield, NJ
                  ~ Bev Rice, New York, NY.

Drone Protesters Go on Trial

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     Contact: Ellen Grady 607) 279-8303 cell
28 November 2016                                                    Ed Kinane  315) 478-451 home

FIVE DEFENDANTS TO BE TRIED BY JURY IN DEWITT TOWN COURT, 5400
BUTTERNUT DRIVE, 5 PM TUESDAY NOVEMBER 29 FOR THEIR 3/19/15
“BIG BOOKS” ANTI- WEAPONIZED DRONE ACTION AT HANCOCK AIRBASE…
PRESS CONFERENCE OUTSIDE COURT AT 4:30 PM

On March 19, 2015 on the 12th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, seven members of Upstate Drone Action Coalition/Ground the Drone and End

The Wars were arrested at Hancock Air Base for nonviolently protesting its lethal and illegal use of MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan.

The seven deployed giant (seven by four feet) replicas of four books across the main entrance to Hancock AFB, the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – a major hunter/killer Reaper drone hub. The books: the UN Charter; Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars”; NYU and Stanford Law School’s “Living Under Drones”; Reprieve’s human rights report “You Never Die Twice.”

Five of the seven, being tried tomorrow evening in Judge David S. Gideon’s court, are charged with trespass, disorderly conduct and obstructing Governmental Administration (a misdemeanor carrying a maximum one year sentence):

~ Daniel Burns, Ithaca, 607) 280-0369

~ Brian Hynes, the Bronx, 718)838-2636 cell

~ Ed Kinane, Syracuse, 315) 478-4571 home

~ Fr. Bill Pickard, Scranton, 570) 498-3789 cell

~ James Ricks, Ithaca, 607) 280-7794

Two other defendants, Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse and Bev Rice of New York City, will presumably be tried in 2017. The two women are also facing a contempt charge for allegedly violating an Order of Protection forbidding the women from exercising their First Amendment right to protest at Hancock.

Defendant Daniel Burns stated: “Drone warfare kills many innocents, including children. As a father of three beautiful children, I feel a moral obligation to try and stop drone warfare. Especially with Donald Trump preparing to assume the presidency, people of conscience must do everything in our power to stop such violations of human rights and international law.” ###

Michael Flynn Should Remember Truths He Blurted Out Last Year

Michael Flynn, expected to advise Donald Trump on counterproductive killing operations misleading labeled "national security," is generally depicted as a lawless torturer and assassin. But, whether for partisan reasons or otherwise, he's a lawless torturer and assassin who has blurted out some truths he shouldn't be allowed to forget.

For example:

"Lt. Gen. Flynn, who since leaving the DIA has become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, charges that the White House relies heavily on drone strikes for reasons of expediency, rather than effectiveness. 'We’ve tended to say, drop another bomb via a drone and put out a headline that "we killed Abu Bag of Doughnuts" and it makes us all feel good for 24 hours,' Flynn said. 'And you know what? It doesn't matter. It just made them a martyr, it just created a new reason to fight us even harder.'"

Or even more clearly:

"When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good. The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict."

About that legacy, Mr. President: Obama Has a Small Window to Go Out with Some Flair and Excitement

By Dave Lindorff

 

            There is a lot of talk going on among the pundits about how President Obama is leaving no enduring legacy -- that his progressive actions as president, few and small that they may have been, were written in the sand of executive orders, which can and likely will be erased within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Talk Nation Radio: Sonia Kennebeck on the Drone as National Bird

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-sonia-kennebeck-on-the-drone-as-national-bird

Sonia Kennebeck is director and producwer of National Bird, an amazing new documentary about drones. Kennebeck is an independent documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist with more than 15 years of directing and producing experience. She has directed eight television documentaries and more than 50 investigative reports. She lives in New York where she runs her own production company (Ten Forward Films) that makes films about international politics and human rights. Filmmaker Magazine recently selected her as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2016.” Sonia Kennebeck received a Master’s degree in International Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C. and was born in Malacca, Malaysia. National Bird is her first feature-length documentary film.

Learn more: http://nationalbirdfilm.com

Total run time: 29:00

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

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How Drone Pilots Talk

For the past eight years millions of people have expended billions of words speculating about exactly how the United States kills people with missiles from drones (and missiles from other sources, such as manned aircraft, targeting people identified with drones). There is good reason to believe that for each such attack there exists a video and audio record of what the drone pilots saw and what they and their colleagues said to each other as they decided to launch a missile and as they observed its results.

This is a level of documentation we rarely have with killings by domestic police officers, who are typically filmed by observers with phones, a method of documentation that excludes the leadup and the aftermath.

It's also a level of documentation that is almost entirely denied to the public, meaning that it doesn't actually do us much good. As far as I know we have not seen a single video or heard a single audio recording of a drone murder. The "Collateral Murder" video is a powerful record of a non-drone attack.

With drones, however, we do have one (incomplete) transcript of what was said during the hours leading up and the minutes following one particular attack. This was an attack in Afghanistan in February 2010 that killed zero fighters but numerous innocent civilians. According to survivors, 23 men, women, and children were killed. According to the U.S. military 15 or 16 were killed and 12 wounded. The U.S. military apologized and paid some $4000 to the family of each acknowledged victim.

The choice this year is easy: Why No Leftist, Progressive or Liberal Should Vote for Hillary Clinton

By Dave Lindorff

 

            With one week to go in this year’s presidential election -- an astonishing and depressing contest in which the two least-liked and least-trusted candidates in history are the two choices put up by our two main political parties -- it’s time to look at why left and liberal people should not vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton.

The U.S. National Bird Is Now a Drone

Officially, of course, the national bird of the United States is that half-a-peace-sign that Philadelphia sports fans like to hold up at opposing teams. But unofficially, the film National Bird has it right: the national bird is a killer drone.

Finally, finally, finally, somebody allowed me to see this movie. And finally somebody made this movie. There have been several drone movies worth seeing, most of them fictional drama, and one very much worth avoiding (Eye in the Sky). But National Bird is raw truth, not entirely unlike what you might fantasize media news reports would be in a magical world in which media outlets gave a damn about human life.

The first half of National Bird is the stories of three participants in the U.S. military's drone murder program, as told by them. And then, just as you're starting to think you'll have to write that old familiar review that praises how well the stories of the victims among the aggressors were told but asks in exasperation whether any of the victims of the actual missiles have any stories, National Bird expands to include just what is so often missing, and even to combine the two narratives in a powerful way.

Do Western Nations Care about Yemeni Lives or Saudi Blood Money?

 How much is the life of a Yemeni worth? Not much, according to the Saudi regime that has been bombing and starving the people of Yemen since March 2015, or to the Saudi’s western backers, particularly the US and UK, which have been supplying the Saudi regime with weapons, military training, logistical support and diplomatic cover for its dirty interventionist war.

We got 8 years of change, but not much hope: President Barack Obama’s Crappy Legacy

By Dave Lindorff

 

Barack Obama came into the White House on a wave of passionate new voters, many of them black or young and white, becoming the nation's first black president and promising a new era of "hope and change."

How to stop weapons of mass destruction aimed at Africa

By Carrie Giunta

In Africa, as in the Middle East, the US is creating a vicious circle of war and destabilization. Libya like Iraq became a failed state after US-led regime change in 2011. Trouble and a deepening refugee crisis followed regime change. This contributed to the destabilization of North African countries and effected sub-Saharan countries. Fallout from the 2011 intervention led inexorably to the worsening situation in Libya today.

Now the vicious circle of killing and instability will run at a furious pace as the US Department of Defense (DOD) shifts the speed of war in the Middle East and Africa. A strategically important navy base located opposite Libya on the Mediterranean houses the global military telecommunications system known as MUOS.

White Plains, NY, Spies on Residents With Drone

At right is a photo of a drone taken by Sue McAnanama at a July 14, 2016, march, in White Plains, N.Y.

Nick Mottern of knowdrones.com says, "I just spoke with White Plains Assistant Chief of Police Anne Fitzsimmons who declined to acknowledge whether or not the White Plains Police have a drone much less whether the police used a drone to undertake surveillance of people at the County-wide March for Justice held in White Plains last Thursday, July 14.

"Asked if the police had used a drone at the march, she said that she would not give any information having to do with 'tactics'.   No information will be provided, she said, because 'we need to maintain the integrity of our ability to protect the public.'

"She said further that since there are 'many, many cameras out there' the question of the use of a drone is 'a moot point'."

It's worth noting the meaningless and militaristic language this supposedly domestic civilian public servant uses to deny information to the public. Just label something a "tactic" and you can keep it secret, she thinks, so that the enemy doesn't learn your tactics. But who is the enemy? And the "integrity" of serving the public requires not letting the public know what you are doing (and spying on that public)?

Mottern points out that, in fact, there are differences between drone cameras and other cameras that might film people attempting to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble and speak. "Drones are able to focus in on individuals and groups and to follow them for extended periods; drones can be fitted with pepper spray, tear gas and other anti-personnel weapons," Mottern says. Yes, and they can be used to intimidate, to target political enemies, to restrict people's rights. And if they really were no different from other means of surveillance, what sort of excuse would that be? Nobody excuses police killings on the grounds that there are lots of other killings anyway.

Syracuse, N.Y., was the fifth city in the country to join the list of those banning drones. Meanwhile White Plains just goes ahead with this new abuse without making any sort of public decision. "It seems quite extraordinary," says Mottern, "that the White Plains Police feel that they can begin to use a highly intrusive tool of public surveillance and intimidation without informing the public and, moreover, without public debate and a vote by the White Plains City Council."

Misusing a quote about peace: Obama Calls for Peace and Comity at Home, But Favors Wars and Killer Drones Abroad

By Dave Lindorff

 

            President Barack Obama made an eloquent plea for sanity and peace following the latest deadly assault on police officers -- this time a gunman with an assault rifle shooting and killing three cops in Baton Rouge and wounding another three, one critically injured.

U.S. Drone Program Proves Counterproductive on Own Terms

If there's any debate right now in the major U.S. media regarding blowing people up with missiles from drones, it's about "transparency" (official reporting on who's killed) or death counts of those people somehow identified as civilians. But unless drones are just a means of vicariously venting rage, or of profiting drone manufacturers, they are -- like the wider wars they are part of -- supposed to serve some purpose.

Although terrorism keeps increasing during the Overseas Contingency Operations Formerly Known as the Global War on Terrorism, in theory the war making is supposed to (1) not be terrorism itself, and (2) reduce terrorism or end it. While I think a strong case can be made that neither of those conditions has been or ever could be met, and that even as mass therapy or economic catalyst the whole thing is doomed to failure, the drones are the piece of it that has begun to be recognized as counterproductive.

In a master's thesis from a student at Georgetown University, summarized in a recent article, Emily Manna took data on terrorism in Pakistan between 2006 and 2012 from the Global Terrorism Database and data on drone strikes where it was corroborated by both the New America Foundation and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Manna found that after the United States begins attacking a province with drones, terrorism increases there.

Three years ago, a young man from Yemen whose village had been attacked by a U.S. drone the week before, testified before Congress. Farea Al-muslimi said that, as with many known drone strikes, the supposed target was a well-known man who could very easily have been arrested. Al-muslimi said that when his neighbors think of America, they think of "the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at any time. What violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America."

President Barack Obama used to hold up Yemen as the example of a successful drone war. That was before the drone strikes contributed to creating a wider war, and before the wider war waged by Saudi Arabia and the United States further strengthened al Qaeda in Yemen.

The Chicot report recently highlighted the fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned before the attack on Iraq that it would increase terrorism and could result, as it did, in something like ISIS. The U.S. government had the same understanding as well, and also had the same expectation of likely chaos for Syria if its government were overthrown, before beginning to work for that overthrow. Later Obama asked the CIA for a report on whether arming proxies had ever worked. The closest the CIA could come to a successful case was 1980s Afghanistan. Need I spell out what that created? (Yes, Obama proceeded to arm proxies in Syria anyway.)

A CIA report warns that drone strikes can increase terrorism:

"The potential negative effects . . . include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter."

Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Paterson's cables published by WikiLeaks stated that drone strikes "risk destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis in Pakistan without finally achieving the goal."

According to Mark Mazzetti, "The CIA station chief in Islamabad thought the drone strikes in 2005 and 2006 — which, while infrequent at that time, were often based on bad intelligence and had resulted in many civilian casualties — had done little except fuel hatred for the United States inside Pakistan and put Pakistani officials in the uncomfortable position of having to lie about the strikes."

Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that while "drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, they also increased hatred of America."

Another Obama advisor, Michael Boyle, said drone strikes have "adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists … The vast increase in the number of deaths of low-ranking operatives has deepened political resistance to the U.S. program in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries."

Yet another, Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, according to the New York Times, that "America's aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism. 'We're seeing that blowback. If you're trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they're not targeted.'"

Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations has found that "There appears to be a strong correlation in Yemen between increased targeted killings since December 2009 and heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to AQAP ... One former senior military official closely involved in U.S. targeted killings argued that 'drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America ... A world characterized by the proliferation of armed drones ... would undermine core U.S. interests, such as preventing armed conflict, promoting human rights, and strengthening international legal regimes.' Because of drones' inherent advantages over other weapons platforms, states and nonstate actors would be much more likely to use lethal force against the United States and its allies."

Robert Grenier, who was Director of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, has asked: "How many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to U.S. military actions against them?"

Here's an answer. Former U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, has warned that "the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones."

You wouldn't know this from most New York Times reports, but a New York Times editorial blurts it out as obvious: "Of course, we already know that torture and drone strikes pose a profound threat to America's national security and the safety of its citizens abroad."

But if it's so "of course" that drones endanger us rather than protect us, and they cost a fortune, and they damage the environment, and they kill thousands of people, and they erode basic civil liberties, and they make small wars that develop into large wars so much easier to start, and their proliferation to numerous other nations is going to be a disaster, then why do it?

Of course, more research will be done, most of it likely funded by the drone profiteers. But did we actually need any? Just imagine for a moment that the bomb the police used to blow a man up in Dallas, Texas, this month was a matter of routine, that these bombs were going off in all U.S. cities, that they were targeting people who looked suspicious or who had the cell phone of someone who had looked suspicious, that they were targeting those who rushed to the assistance of victims of an earlier strike, that the drones to deliver the bombs were buzzing constantly overhead as an ever-present threat so that parents were refusing to allow their kids out the door to go to school. Imagine that, and ask yourself if anyone would get angry.

We need to ban weaponized drones: http://banweaponizeddrones.org

Will the Zanana Ever Stop?

In the dialect of Gaza, where drones buzzed and blew things up for 51 days two years ago, there's an onomatopoetic word for drones: zanana. When Atef Abu Saif's kids would ask him, during that war, to take them out of doors somewhere, and he would refuse, they would then ask: "But you'll take us when the zanana stops?"

Saif has published his diary from that time, with 51 entries, called The Drone Eats With Me. I recommend reading one chapter a day. You're not too late to read most of them on the two-year anniversary of their happening. Reading the book straight through may not properly convey the length of the experience. On the other hand, you may want to finish before the next war on Gaza begins, and I really can't say when that will be.

The 2014 war was the third that Saif's family had been part of in five years. It's not that he or his wife or his little children joined the military. They didn't head off to that mythical land that U.S. journalism calls the "battlefield." No, the wars come right to them. From their point of view beneath the planes and drones, the killing is entirely random. Tonight it's the building next door destroyed, tomorrow some houses just out of sight. Roads are blown up, and orchards, even a cemetery so as not to deny the dead a share in the hell of the living. Long dead bones fly out of the soil in the explosions with as much logical purpose as your cousin's kids are decapitated or your grandmother's home flattened.

When you venture outside during a war in Gaza, the impression is apparently of being toyed with by giants, ferocious and enormous creatures able to pick apart large buildings as if they were made with Legos. And the giants have eyes in the form of ever-watching and ever-buzzing drones:

"A young man who sold kids' food -- sweets, chocolates, crisps -- became, in the eye of the drone operator, a valid target, a danger to Israel."

". . . The operator looks at Gaza the way an unruly boy looks at the screen of a video game. He presses a button that might destroy an entire street. He might decide to terminate the life of someone walking along the pavement, or he might uproot a tree in an orchard that hasn't yet borne fruit."

Saif and his family hide indoors, with mattresses in the hallway, away from windows, day after day. He ventures out against his own better judgment. "I feel more and more stupid each night," he writes,

"walking between the camp and Saftawi with drones whirring above me. Last night, I even saw one: it was glinting in the night sky like a star. If you don't know what to look for, you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from a star. I scanned the sky for about ten minutes as I walked, looking for anything that moved. There are stars and planes up there of course. But a drone is different, the only light it gives off is reflected so it's harder to see than a star or a plane. It's like a satellite, only it's much closer to the ground and therefore moves faster. I spotted one as I turned onto al-Bahar Street, then kept my eyes firmly fixed on it. The missiles are easy to see once they're launched -- they blaze through the sky blindingly -- but keeping my eye on the drone meant I had a second or two more notice than anyone else, should it decide to fire."

Living under the drones, Gazans learn not to make heat, which could be interpreted as a weapon. But they grow accustomed to the ever-present threat, and the explicit threats delivered to their cell phones. When the Israeli army texts everyone in a refugee camp to get out, nobody moves. Where are they to flee to, with their houses destroyed, and having already fled?

If you allow yourself to listen to the drones at night, you'll never sleep, Saif wrote. "So I did my best to ignore them, which was hard. In the dark, you can almost believe they're in your bedroom with you, behind the curtains, above the wardrobe. You imagine that, if you wave your hand above your face, you might catch it in your hand or even swat it as you would a mosquito."

I'm reminded of a line of poetry from, I think, Pakistan, but it could be from any of the drone-warred nations: "My love for you is as constant as a drone." But it isn't love that the drone nations are bestowing on their distant victims, is it?

Next Step, Local Police Use Aerial Assassin Drones

By Ann Wright

 Inline image 1In response to the killing of five police officers and wounding of seven more, David O. Brown,  Chief of Police of Dallas, Texas became the first city or state official to order a remote controlled execution of a suspected killer with whom hours of negotiation had not resulted in surrender.

The decision of the local city police chief to remotely assassinate the cornered suspect rather than make an attempt to incapacitate him is a stark continuation of what appears to be a U.S. military and police tactic of kill rather than capture.  Brown has 30 years of law enforcement experience with training at many police schools including the National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Tel Aviv, Israel. 

Due to the past fifteen years of U.S. ground and drones wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Somalia, many veterans of the U.S. military and CIA paramilitary are on local, state and federal police forces.  These officers have served under wartime rules of engagement which should be much different from civilian law enforcement.

However, with the militarization of U.S. police forces, it appears that the Dallas police chief used the military tactic of assassination by a remote controlled weapon system to protect the lives of the police and sacrifice the rights of an accused to trial.

No doubt the Police chief will argue that he could have ordered that snipers shoot to kill the suspect—the method of death didn’t matter when the decision to kill rather has been made. 

The Chief of Police and the President of the United States use the same rationale to execute without trial someone suspected of a crime.

Community activists should ask their city council members what rules of engagement their police officers use.  I suspect that in many cities the rules say shoot to kill rather than shoot to incapacitate/capture/detain, certainly the statistics on police shootings seem to indicate that the national tactic for police departments is to shoot to kill.

Will U.S. government officers at all levels-- national, state and local-- argue that shooting to kill is safer for the police and cheaper than holding a trial, jailing the accused and imprison a  person convicted of a crime. 

It appears that shooting to kill is easier in all aspects whether it's unmanned aerial drones killing people outside the United States or unmanned ground robots with bombs.

The next step in this the slippery slope is the use of small aerial weaponized drones by local police departments to kill suspects, just as this ground drone robot bombed a suspect to death.

About the Author:  Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was in the US diplomatic corps for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She has been arrested several times protesting US military assassin drones.  She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

Two Years Ago Israel Attacked Gaza for 51 Days as Drone Warfare Becomes the Norm

By Ann Wright

Inline image 1

Two years ago today, on July 7, 2014, the Israeli government launched a horrific 51-day air, land and sea attack on the people of Gaza.  Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired missiles, rockets, artillery and tank shells relentlessly on 1.8 million Palestinians squashed by Israeli land and sea blockades into a narrow strip 25 miles long and 5 miles wide, one of the most densely populated places in the world.  Nearly 500 Palestinians  were killed by Israeli assassin drones.

Drone warfare has become the norm for both the United States and Israel. Drones fly above Gaza 24 hours a day watching the movements of every Palestinian and ready to fire rockets at those chosen to die by the IDF.

Guess Who Wants Authority to Murder by Drone

If you haven't been hiding under a partisan rock for the past several years, you're aware that President Barack Obama has given himself the sort-of legalish right to murder anyone anywhere with missiles from drones.

He's not the only one who wants that power.

Yes, President Obama has claimed to have put restrictions on whom he'll murder, but in no known case has he followed any of his self-imposed non-legal restrictions. Nowhere has someone been arrested instead of killed, while in many known cases people have been killed who could have easily been arrested. In no known case has someone been killed who was an "imminent and continuing threat to the United States," or for that matter just plain imminent or just plain continuing. It's not even clear how someone could be both an imminent and a continuing threat until you study up on how the Obama administration has redefined imminent to mean theoretically imaginable someday. And, of course, in numerous cases civilians have been killed in large numbers and people have been targeted without identifying who they are. Lying dead from U.S. drone strikes are men, women, children, non-Americans, and Americans, not a single one of them charged with a crime or their extradition sought.

Who else would like to be able to do this?

One answer is most nations on earth. We now read news stories from Syria of people dying from a drone strike, with the reporter unable to determine if the missile came from a U.S., U.K., Russian, or Iranian drone. Just wait. The skies will be filled if the trend is not reversed.

Another answer is Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, but not Jill Stein. Yes, those first three candidates have said they want this power.

Another answer, however, should be just as disturbing as those already mentioned. Military commanders around the world want the authority to murder people with drones without bothering to get approval from civilian officials back home. Here's a fun quiz:

How many zones has the United States divided the globe into for purposes of complete military domination, and what are their names?

Answer: Six. They are Northcom, Southcom, Eucom, Pacom, Centcom, and Africom. (Jack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack were already taken.) In normal English they are: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Western Asia, and Africa.

Now here comes the hard question. Which of those zones has a new would-be commander who was just encouraged by a prominent Senator in an open Congressional hearing to acquire the authority to murder people in his zone without getting approval from the U.S. president?

Clue #1. It's a zone with the empire's headquarters not even located in the zone, so that this new commander speaks of killing people there as playing "an away game."

Clue #2. It's a poor zone that does not manufacture weapons but it saturated with weapons made in the United States plus France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, and China.

Clue #3. Many of the people in this zone have skin resembling people who are disproportionately targets of U.S. police department killings.

Did you get it right? That's correct: Africom is being encouraged by Senator Lindsay Graham, who a short time back wanted to be president, to blow people up with missiles from flying robots without presidential approval.

Now here's where the morality of war can wreak havoc with humanitarian imperialism. If a drone killing is not part of a war, then it looks like murder. And handing out licenses to murder to additional people looks like a worsening of the state of affairs in which just one person claims to hold such a license. But if drone killing is part of a war, and Captain Africom claims to be at war with Somalia, or with a group in Somalia, for example, well then, he wouldn't need special permission to blow up a bunch of people with manned aircraft; so why should he need it when using robotic unmanned bombers?

The trouble is that saying the word "war" doesn't have the moral or legal powers often imagined. No current U.S. war is legal under either the U.N. Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And the intuition that murdering people with a drone is wrong can't be a useful one if murdering people with a piloted plane is right, and vice versa. We actually have to choose. We actually have to set aside the scale of the killing, the type of technology, the role of robots, and all other extraneous factors, and choose whether it's acceptable, moral, legal, smart, or strategic to murder people or not.

If that seems too much of a mental strain, here's an easier guide. Just imagine what your response would be if the ruler of Europe Command asked for the authority to murder at will people of his choosing along with anybody too close to them at the time.

How Dateline NBC Lies About Drones

By David Swanson

NBC's Dateline program aired pro-drone propaganda this week and has posted the video online. Their so-called report purports to be "balanced" and "even-handed." In fact it misleadingly promotes an extremely destructive government program that millions of people would protest if they knew the actual facts of the matter.

Dateline introduces us to drones with the claim that drones have saved lives by "hitting terrorist targets." Unlike any negative statement about drones made in the course of this Dateline video, such positive statements are never immediately countered by somebody authoritative saying the opposite in a different vocabulary (such as "murdering human beings never convicted or even indicted for any crime" rather than "hitting terrorist targets"). Much less is any positive statement countered with actual facts. At the very end of the program we'll hear that during this "war on terrorism" terrorism has increased, but the causal connection recognized by numerous experts is brushed over. In fact numerous top officials involved in the U.S. drone program blurt out, the moment they retire, that it is generating more enemies than it is killing. Numerous such statements are publicly available, and such voices could have been included in this program.

Next Dateline shows us a drone pilot in Nevada in his car and "on his way to fight ISIS." In fact, U.S. drone pilots (who dress up as pilots and sit at a desk) blow people up in numerous countries, have (like their commanders) no idea who most of the people are whom they blow up, and have seen ISIS recruitment soar since the U.S. began bombing that organization which its earlier bombings and occupations and prison camps and torture and weapons sales were absolutely central to creating.

Dateline shows us footage of drones, but none of what they do -- only fuzzy videos selected by the Air Force in which we see no humans, no bodies, no body parts, and are just told that the people murdered were ISIS, which is supposed to make it moral and legal. Endless footage exists and is available, including of course from the Air Force, of the people blown to pieces by drones. Plenty of reporting explains that this type of warfare kills more innocent people than even other horrific types of warfare. But Dateline will instead eventually get around to focusing on phony critiques like "Is this too much like playing a video game?"

Hey Kids! Try Collateral Damage at Home

One day a couple of weeks ago I was reading Saint Augustine while driving to the local convenience store, and I accidentally drove right through the front glass wall of the store, smashing up some shelves of junk food. After I'd made my purchases, a police officer stopped me and asked if I'd intended to drive into the store. "Oh, not at all," I replied. "I intended to get here as quickly as possible while also educating myself as quickly as possible. I knew I might crash, of course, but that wasn't part of my intention."

"Well," the cop replied. "Where should we send the check for your car repair?"

"I'll let you know," I replied, a bit annoyed by the hassle.

My brother in law repaired my car for not much more than $100,000, and all it still needed was to be repainted. So, I took a giant paint sprayer with me. I parked the car in front of my neighbor's house, the one with the loud dog. When I'd finished painting the car, there was a rough shape of its profile on the front of my neighbor's house, surrounded by fresh purple paint. I pinned a note to the door letting him know that my intention had been only to paint the car and not his house.

The new collateral damage laws we've been living under for the past year have really been working out great, as far as I'm concerned. We don't let it get out of hand, though. Only property damage is excusable using bullshit medieval arguments about what we "really intended" and what we "merely knew was going to happen." Damage or death to people or animals is not included in the law.

I've heard tell, though, that there is another world somewhere in which, believe it or not, the exact opposite is true. In that world, if I were to damage someone's property and pull out a load of horse manure about "just intentions" or "proportional collateral damage," I'd be punished for the destruction I'd caused and possibly locked up for my delusional state of mind.

But, in stark contrast, if I were to blow up some poor guy who dressed suspiciously with a missile from a drone, even though 8 other guys who dressed acceptably were standing next to him, well that'd be totally cool. Or if I were to bomb an entire city flat because its people were suffering under the rule of a brutal dictator I'd stopped supporting and arming last month, that'd just be good patriotic citizenship.

Now, I'm not going to swear to you that this crazy world exists, but I have reports on it from numerous credible sources. I even have recent reports from several people that an ancient institution in this world -- they call it the Catholic Church -- is dropping its support for using "collateral damage" to excuse murder, while the rest of the society is just going ahead with mindlessly accepting it anyway, even without the support of its original devious devisers.

Regardless, however, of whether such a place is real, the manner in which its customs shock us should wake us up to the possibility that our own might shock someone else, and that we should never accept traditional customs without thinking them through for ourselves.

Anti-Drone-War Ad Banned by Charter Communications as it Seeks Approval for Big Merger from Obama Admin

NEW YORK – Major cable provider Charter Communications – apparently fearful of angering the Obama administration while a giant merger deal was pending– has barred its cable outlet near the Whiteman AFB drone control center in Missouri from carrying a paid advertisement urging drone operators to refuse to fly missions.

Charter made this decision to censor the spot (which is critical of the Obama Administration drone program) on April 22, 2016, according to email from a media ad buyer, while it was awaiting approval by the administration's Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission for its $88 billion merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Just days after banning the anti-drone spot, on April 25, the Justice Department approved the deal, with conditions. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the same day he would vote for the merger, but the entire commission has yet to vote. The deal is also awaiting approval by California regulators.

The ad (www.knowdrones.com/2016/01/help-show-the-real-truth-to-us-tv-audiences.html) was produced by Knowdrones.com and paid for by Peaceworks-Kansas City and Knowdrones.com in advance of Peaceworks’ April 30 protest against the U.S. drone war campaign that will be held at the Whiteman AFB near Knob Noster MO, a community in which Charter is the cable provider.

In an effort to determine whether Charter was banning the ad because of its sometimes graphic images of children killed by U.S drones, Knowdrones asked if Charter would run the :15 second spot with no images, just a black screen with white text carrying the anti-drone message. The ad buyer reported that Charter “will not accept the spot even when it’s only dark screen with text due to subject content.”

“At a time when the U.S. press is avoiding coverage of the U.S. drone war, which has killed at least 6,500 people without due process,” said Knowdrones coordinator Nick Mottern, “it is tragic for the victims of U.S. drone attacks and the U.S. public that Charter extends this censorship even into paid advertising. Apparently, even if we pay for advertising, corporations seeking favors from the government will censor spots deemed to make the current administration look bad."

Versions of the subject ad have been run by cable providers near other U.S. drone control and training intelligence centers at Creech AFB, Beale AFB and Hancock Air National Guard base, among others.

The Charter merger will bring its subscriber base to 18 million, behind Comcast’s 22 million and ahead of AT&Ts 16 million, according to Wired.com.

http://www.wired.com/2016/04/feds-set-approve-charter-time-warner-mega-merger/

Veterans and Activists Arrested Protesting Drone Terror at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada

Veterans For Peace national President Barry Ladendorf, Board member Tarak Kauff, and Advisory Board member Ann Wright were among eight peace activists who were arrested early Thursday morning, after physically blocking the main gate to Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Also arrested were VFP members Barry Binks (long time, often arrested drone protester),
Ken Mayers, Chris Kundson and Leslie Harris, along with Joan Pleume of the New York Granny Peace Brigade.

Drone pilots based at Creech AFB, directed by the CIA and the Pentagon, regularly carry out drone strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing many civilians and terrorizing the population.
 
A larger civil disobedience action is planned for Friday.
 
See Press Release, attached and below.

March 31, 2016 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact: Robert Majors 702-646-4814 rmajors@mail.com

Military Veterans Arrested at Creech Air Force Base Trying to Stop Drone Warfare 
 
Indian Springs, NV - During peak rush hour traffic on Thursday March 31st at Creech AFB, military veterans and friends were arrested while waving Veterans for Peace (VFP) flags and nonviolently blocking traffic at the East Gate on Hwy. 95, the primary commuter gate into the base. As the traffic was impeded, Las Vegas Police diverted cars up the highway to less used, alternative gates. 
 
At the same time, 20 people held vigil between the frontage road and US Highway 95 as four other peace and justice activists greeted the diverted traffic with a second peaceful anti-drone blockade expressed as a sitting silent meditation in front of the second gate. 
 
The arrests at 7:50 AM today were part of a week-long orchestrated effort by over 100 activists from over 20 states in the country, mobilized to oppose the U.S. drone program that uses remotely controlled planes controlled at Creech to indiscriminately drop missiles on some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Thursday's traffic was delayed for fifteen minutes, as Creech employees and contractors were diverted to the 2nd gate, and then to the 3rd gate once demonstrators blocked the 2nd gate. The prayer-activists at the 2nd gate were not arrested. 
 
This was the first of several civil resistance actions planned during the week-long National Mass Mobilization against Drone Warfare known as SHUT DOWN CREECH. All of the demonstrators who were arrested were taken to the Las Vegas Metropolitan County Jail. 
 
Meanwhile the remaining activists at "Camp Justice" across from the base continue the regular schedule of nonviolence training and strategy sessions for creative and nonviolent ways to stop the illegal assassination program at Creech Air Force Base for as long as possible. 

The 8 activists arrested were:
 
Barry Binks, VFP, California 
Leslie Harris, VFP, Texas 
Tarak Kauff, VFP, New York 
Chris Knudsen, VFP, CA, California 
Barry Ladendorf, VFP, California 
Ken Mayers, VFP, New Mexico 
Joan Pleune, NY Granny Peace Brigade, New York Col. 

Ann Wright, VFP and retired 29 year army veteran, and former U.S. diplomat, Hawaii

Speaking Events

2017

 

August 2-6: Peace and Democracy Conference at Democracy Convention in Minneapolis, Minn.

 

September 22-24: No War 2017 at American University in Washington, D.C.

 

October 28: Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference



Find more events here.

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