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At 5 pm, Thursday, April 18, 2013, six anti-drone activists from across New York State will stand trial in the DeWitt Town Court. Charged with Trespass for blocking the entrance of Hancock Air Base on October 5, 2012, the activists will go pro se, i.e. defend themselves, in this bench trial presided over by Judge Robert Jokl.
Along with four others (who are pleading guilty), the six sought on October 5 to deliver a citizens’ war crimes indictment [http://www.
From Hancock the Reaper, a weaponized hunter/killer robot, is piloted over Afghanistan, killing and terrorizing non-combatants. The defendants have argued in previous trials that such terrorism violates international law and that their actions are in accord with the Nuremburg principles requiring citizens to expose their nation’s war crimes.
The October 5 action was one of about six such events conducted by the grassroots anti-drone group, Upstate Drone Action, over the last couple years. Besides this trial, two more such trials are in the offing at the DeWitt Town Court.
At a March 20 pre-trial hearing Judge Jokl told the defendants that those found guilty on April 18 would begin jail sentences that evening. Having found Upstate Drone Action defendants guilty of Trespass previously, the Judge may well follow through on his threat.
Those standing trial:
~ Jim Clune of Binghamton
~ Brian Hynes of the Bronx
~ Ed Kinane of Syracuse
~ Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse
~ Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg
~ Martha Hennessey of New York City
stopwar.org.uk · 020 7561 9311 · 15 April 2013
1) Ground the Drones protest logistics
2) Fighting Drone wars behind our back
Ground the Drones
|March route We will gather at 12pm on the West corner of South Park (look out for the Ground the Drones banner). At 12:30pm we will set off along the A15 to the site of Helen John's caravan protest against drones (the green symbol on the map) which is opposite RAF Waddington. The length of the route is 2.8 miles and we will arrive at approximately 2pm in time for a political rally.
By train If you are travelling to Lincoln by train, shuttle buses will run from Lincoln train station to South Park, the start of the march. When you arrive, look out for stewards in hi-viz jackets to find out when the next bus will leave. Please let us know if you plan to use the bus. They will leave at approximately 11:45am and about 12:15pm. Alternatively the number 1 bus goes from outside the Railway station at 11:05, 11:35 and 12:05 to Lincoln South Park. When the march and rally has finished at 4pm, the shuttle bus will return people to the train station.
By coach or car Please ask your group's driver to drop you off at South Park, off Cross O'Cliff Hill, and park at the end of the route to the north of Sleaford Road (A15) where there are plenty of parking spaces. This will make it easy for your group to leave at 4pm.
Birmingham - 07771567496 firstname.lastname@example.org
Doncaster - 07587697028
Cambridge - 07562724750
Coventry - 07732030231
London - 02075619311 or buy online
Manchester - 07765122829 email@example.com
Norwich - 07717504 210
Sheffield - 01142680726
York - please contact Doncaster
Organizing transport in your area? Let us know
We need your help. If you would like to volunteer as a steward to help us get from Lincoln to RAF Waddington, please drop us an email or call 020 7561 9311.
We advise that you bring a packed lunch, although there will be refreshments available at the end of the route. More details to be announced soon.
The groups who have come together to organize the Ground the Drones protest will bring their organization's banners and some placards will be available. However, we encourage participants to make their own banners and placards to send a clear message to the government.
2) Fighting Drone wars behind our back
Chris Nineham, vice-Chair of Stop the War, writes that the great advantage of drones for western governments is they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.
RAF Waddington will soon be the control centre for British drone warfare. It may already be, we can't be sure.
The fact we don't know testifies to the secrecy that surrounds the operation of these remote control killing machines. Drones embody the sinister shift that has been taken in the West's wars post Iraq.
They blur the distinction between war and state execution, with no chance for public scrutiny.
Britain has been using drones in Afghanistan for some years. But by developing its drone capability, the British government is now stepping up its global ability to conduct arbitrary assassinations.
Official US language shows droes are normalizing such behaviour. There has been next to no public discussion about their use in Britain, but in the US drones are actualloy justified as precision weapons of international assassination. Their supporters say they are capable of surgically removing terrorist targets, so 'cleansing' weakened states of extremist leaders.
In a half hearted attempt to provide a legal framework, the Obama administration has claimed that drones are justified because they are used only against "specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces" involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting "imminent" violent attacks on Americans. The US is still at war against Al-Qaeda, the argument goes, so such lethal incursions into foreign territory are legal.
"It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative," President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. "It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States."
But the evidence is unchallengeable: this is nonsense. Recent reports suggest that just 1.5% of the estimated 3,100 that have been killed by US drones in Pakistan were identified by US officials as 'high-profile targets'. The US categorises victims as children, civilians, "high-profile," and "other." "The 'other" grey zone comprises males of fighting age.
The Obama administration assumes that these are legitimate targets even though there is no information as to their affiliation. But the Washington Post reported in February that most attacks now are "signature strikes," in which targets are selected based on suspicious patterns of activity and the identities of those who could be killed is not known. In 2012, the New York Times paraphrased a view they said was shared by several officials that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good."
Their crime in other words was to have been young, male and in the area.
But it's not just that fantasies are being peddled about drones' technical ability to single out their targets. Their strategic role is being obscured too. In reality drones are not used simply as surgical weapon to pre-empt a possible attack. Partly their adoption has been driven by the unpopularity and the manifest failure of the conventional wars that have been fought under the rubric of the war on terror over the last twelve years.
The great advantage of drones from the point of view of western governments is that, at least while the West has the technological edge over competitors, they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.
Another advantage of drones is that they are a relatively cheap way of killing people, important at a time of spending cuts. They are a way of continuing foreign wars while slimming budgets.
Drones are no more part of a rational policy of self-defence than the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. And nor do they mark a drawdown in US military ambitions. They are in fact being used as a surrogate for conventional military operations. White House senior counterterrorism adviser John Brennan defended drone strikes in April 2012 by comparing them to "deploying large armies abroad" and "large, intrusive military deployments."
The fact the US has used drones in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan and very likely in Mali as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, testifies to the fact that drones are integrated into the US's wider war strategy. They are being used to destabilise enemy governments and shore up allies.
The conditions that led to the war on terror are still in place. The US faces growing economic challenges while it retains enormous military predominance. The chaos and volatility created by the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rise of Chinese power in influence in the Pacific, in Africa and elsewhere make the global situation is, if anything, even more tense than at the beginning of the last decade.
The US military is explicit that the war goes on. In January, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Ted Koppel that even after 2014, "Our war in Afghanistan will be complete, but no one has ever suggested that that will end the war." Secretary Panetta is just as clear: "We are in a war. We're in a war on terrorism and we've been in that war since 9/11."
In a process that the experts call 'monopoly erosion', drone use is spreading fast, confirming that they are becoming the new face of modern warfare. A 2012 survey showed that 11 countries had functioning drone systems, including France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, India and China. Other countries are rushing to catch up. We already face a frightening situation in which great powers are confronting each other with these 'easy to use' 'low cost' killing systems.
A US study based on extensive research in Pakistan gives some inkling of the impact of this remote control imperialism:
Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.
One man interviewed by the researchers described the reaction to the sound of the drones as "a wave of terror" coming over the community. "Children, grown-up people, women, they are terrified. . . . They scream in terror." Another "God knows whether they'll strike us again or not. But they're always surveying us, they're always over us, and you never know when they're going to strike and attack".
The opposition to our government's foreign wars must continue – we mustn't let them keep fighting behind our backs.
16 April Public Meeting in Parliament: Drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Public meeting jointly called by Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs and the All Party Drones Group
Tuesday 16th April: 18.30 to 20.00
Wilson Room, Portcullis House
(next to Westminster tube station)
Chris Cole, Drone Campaign Network UK
Rafeef Ziadah, War on Want
Paul Flynn MP
Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs was launched to press for British withdrawal and consider constructive ways in which the conflict might be ended. The group is co-chaired by MPs Paul Flynn and Caroline Lucas. Supporters are drawn from across the political parties.
All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones was set up to examine the use of drones by governments for domestic and international, military and civilian purposes. It is chaired by Tom Watson MP. Baroness Stern, a cross bench peer and human rights and criminal justice campaigner, is group vice chair.
April 26-28! Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire:
A Convergence to Action!
Three Days to Join the Resistance! Three Days of networking, learning, sharing and preparing to build a national movement! Three Days to say NO! to Drones. NO! to Global Wars. NO! to Empire.
At The SouthWest Community Center 401 South Avenue, Syracuse, NY.
6:00-9:30 PM, Dinner, Welcome and Introductions, Music and Celebration with Charley King
8:00 AM, Registration Opens, Continental Breakfast
9:00 AM, Plenary Panel with
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence,
Bruce Gagnon of Global Network and
David Swanson of War is a Crime [dot] org.
10:00 AM-12:45 PM, Workshops Session 1 & 2
1:00-2:00 PM, Lunch Break
2:00-4:45 PM, Workshops Session 3 &4
Dinner on your own
7 PM, Keynote Speaker: TBD
Followed by: Music and Celebration with Colleen Kattau and her band, 'Some Guys'
8:00 - 11 AM
8:30 AM, Peace Action NY Annual Meeting
9:00 AM, Final preparation for Demonstration
Presenters include:Colonel Ann Wright, David Swanson of WarIsaCrime.org, Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers of Occupy Washington, Joe Lombardo of United National Antiwar Coalition, Debra Sweet of World Can't Wait, Nick Mottern of Know Drones, Rafia Zakaria, Dr. Horace Campbell, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence, Bruce Gagnon of Space 4 Peace, Steven Downs of Project SALAM
Topics include:The War on Terror Under Obama, Full Spectrum Dominance, Ending the Fabrication of the War on Terror: Lessons from Africa, Mass Action as a Strategy for the AntiWar Movement, The Human Face of War, International Law and Restoring the Law to the People, Activism from Spirit, Veterans Reflecting on the Justification "But Drones Save Lives . . .", Resistance Through Art, Civil Resistance in Action, Networking, Community Organizing Against Drones, Organizing on Campus
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has produced two model ordinances to assist local communities against domestic surveillance and weaponized drones. One creates a drone-free zone, while the second model establishes rigorous requirements limiting their use by law enforcement agencies and other public officials. The model regulating drone use (rather than prohibiting it entirely) allows drones to be used pursuant to a judicially issued warrant as well as for non-law enforcement purposes such as fire detection, hazardous material spill response, search & rescue, and natural disaster response.
The model legislation is available online:
Read more about the model legislation on The People’s Blog for the Constitution.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is the largest trade association representing the unmanned systems — which includes air, ground and maritime systems — and robotics community. We are holding AUVSI Hill Day in conjunction with National Robotics Week on 9 April and we invite you to attend the celebration of the 4th annual National Robotics Week in the Cannon Caucus Room on Tuesday, 9 April from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. (hors d'oeuvres and refreshments).
AUVSI members will display and demonstrate interactive robotic technologies for attendees. AUVSI coordinates this annual event with the House Robotic Caucus co-chairs Reps. Phil Gingrey and Mike Doyle.
This year’s event is sponsored by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, UAV Solutions and Carnegie Mellon University.
The reception in the Cannon Caucus Room is a widely attended event and is open to all Members and staff.
Here's the story from Minnesota this week:
No drones have appeared over the Hennepin County city, St. Bonifacius Mayor Rick Weible said, but that day may come.
“There seems to be a rush to use this new tool within the U.S., but our state and county laws are fairly silent on the issue right now,” he said.
A few weeks back, he and four City Council members got to talking about drones, and all shared concerns about privacy of those who might unwittingly be caught on camera. Their fears, he said, were not unlike those expressed during recent debates in Minnesota and elsewhere about using unmanned cameras to photograph vehicles running red lights and ticketing their owners.
So they voted to ban drones from city airspace up to 400 feet; higher altitudes are managed by federal authorities. They made exceptions for emergencies and search warrants, and for individuals flying drones over their own property. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor.
The city also called for a two-year statewide moratorium on drones until the public can weigh in on how the technology will be used, and whether its images and other data can be used as evidence in court.
And from Charlottesville in February.
The state of Virginia has now passed a two-year moratorium.
By Elsa Rassbach
Leading national and local peace and justice organizations in Germany have launched a major campaign to oppose the German government's recently revealed plan to acquire combat drones (weaponized drones).
The organizations met together in Hannover earlier this month to begin the joint campaign. As a first step, they drafted an appeal—"No Combat Drones"—which was made public this past Sunday. Close to one hundred German organizations and hundreds of individuals have already endorsed the Appeal, signaling a very strong interest in this issue.
The Appeal will be circulated throughout Germany during the annual Easter weekend peace marches. The German activists plan to continue the campaign until the German government and military agree to abandon the plan to make use of combat drones.
"April Days" to Protest Drone Killing and Surveillance, Long Planned, Gets Boost From Opposition to Drone Use Inside the U.S.
What: Rallies, Protests, Visual Photo-ops
Where: Across U.S.
When: April, 2013
A nationwide, month-long campaign of counter-drone teach-ins, rallies and protest, called "April Days of Action" by its organizers, will challenge the escalated use of drones for targeted assassination by the Obama Administration as well as domestic surveillance by police agencies around the United States. The actions will call for a total halt to drone killing and surveillance.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
The HISTORY channel is catching righteous hell for crafting the character of Satan in its miniseries “The Bible” to bear an uncanny likeness to U.S. President Barak Obama.
Is it just coincidence that the dark-skinned Satan in this HISTORY channel miniseries looks hauntingly similar to the first black man to occupy the Oval Office seat in America’s White House?
To sign onto the following letter, write to mobuszewski at Verizon.net
National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
Email mobuszewski at Verizon.net
John Brennan, Director
The Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20500
xxxx xx, 2013
Dear Mr. Brennan:
We followed with great interest the progress of your nomination by President Obama to be head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Now that the United States Senate has confirmed you as CIA director and you were sworn into office, we must write to you about our deep concerns regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, by the CIA in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places.
CIA-operated drones have been used to kill people who have not been convicted of any crime, including US citizens. As you know, in 2011 in Yemen CIA drone attacks were used to kill, first, Anwar Al-Awlaki and weeks later his son. They were U.S. citizens, who were never charged, brought to trial, or convicted of any crime.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights brought a lawsuit in US federal court against the Obama Administration regarding the assassination of Al-Awlaki. The suit was lost on procedural grounds, however, the judge in the case stated "Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization?"
We find this case to be alarming as it goes directly to important constitutional issues, due process, and international law. We concur with Michael Ratner, recent president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who stated “The dire implications of this killing should not be lost on any of us. There appears to be no limit to the president's power to kill anywhere in the world, even if it involves killing a citizen of his own country. Today, it's in Yemen; tomorrow, it could be in the UK or even in the United States.”
In addition, the CIA drone program has been used to kill political opponents of foreign governments the US supports. This happened in 2010 in Yemen, when a state governor who opposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh was labeled as a leader of Al Qaeda and killed by CIA drones. We do not see actions like this as promoting peace or stability in this troubled region. In fact, violent actions like this on the part of the US military and the CIA in sovereign countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen will only promote more terrorism directed at the US.
We are also disturbed by the lack of transparency and oversight by our congress. In spite of positive statements about you and the drone program by members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, there appears to be lack of oversight and understanding of the CIA drone program. For example, committee chair Senator Diane Fienstein recently said, on the first day of your nomination hearing, that she didn’t know that all combat age males were considered targets by the US drone program. This particular fact of targeting of combat age males had been reported over a year ago by The New York Times and other news organizations. If facts like this are public knowledge and members of congress are still unaware, then how much more ignorant can they be of the CIA drone program if they aren’t informed by your agency?
In spite of assurances from President Obama that the victims of drone strikes are surgical targets, it has been reported that hundreds of victims who are innocent of crimes against the US have been killed including civilian men, women, and children. These people have names and families who love them. Furthermore, people attending funerals in Pakistan have been killed by drone strikes. Reporters with the United Kingdom based Bureau of Investigative Journalism have reported that “…between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.”
We hope that you will take our concerns seriously as it is our position that the use of these drones to kill alleged criminals or terrorists without trial and conviction of any crime is illegal and immoral and increases the ill will directed toward the United States.
We have written to President Obama and the Secretary of Defense several times in the past with our concerns. We must state again in this letter to you what we said to President Obama: “As members of peace and justice organizations opposed to your continuation of the Bush administration’s failed wars, we are writing to condemn your use of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) to kill citizens in at least seven countries. Besides opposing your war policies, we have great concern for people caught up in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen. The use of drones is wrong on many levels: the illegality and immorality of assassinations, the violation of international law and the Constitutional protection of due process, the targeting of civilian populations, and the disregard of sovereignty. We are especially troubled by your refusal to release the flawed document which purportedly gives you legal cover to determine who is on the kill list…We believe U.S. wars and drone attacks have been demonstrable failures. Now is the time to take the risks of peace. Imagine leading a country which has denounced the madness of war, and instead wants to assist and make friendship with the people of the Middle East and Central Asia.”
We believe the US killer drone program by the CIA and the use of drones to kill by the U.S. military must be brought to an end immediately.
Because we take seriously our Nuremberg obligations, we ask that you respond and meet with us to discuss the termination of the use of drones by the CIA and the U.S. military. We would be prepared to meet with relevant policy-makers from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the Obama Administration to discuss our proposal to immediately end killer drone strikes and to start a process of healing with the victims of U.S. wars. Please give serious consideration to our proposal of reconciliation and diplomacy rather than pernicious killer drone strikes.
We look forward to your response. Rejecting our proposal will mean more death and destruction abroad. We will then continue to protest, risk arrest, and denounce the CIA and U.S. military use of killer drones and a foreign policy of endless wars.
Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
(Signatures to follow in alphabetical order by last name, along with affiliation)
Local Peace Group Welcomes Pakistan Peace Delegates for Air Force anti-Drone Demonstrations This Week
CONTACTS: Jim Haber, 415-828-2506 Nevada Desert Experience Coordinator Toby Blome, 510-541-6874 Ann Wright, Ret., 818-741-1141 March 18, 2013As Nevada Desert Experience makes final preparations for its annual desert sojourn known as the "Sacred Peace Walk," a group of demonstrators are converging on the gates of Creech Air Force Base to hold constant vigil against the rising tide of robotic hunter-killer air systems like the Predator and Reaper "drones" controlled by crews at the Indian Springs installation.
by Debra Sweet, Drector, World Can't Wait Two recent stories powerfully capture the illegitimacy of the US "global war on terror." 1. The former Obama press secretary says he was told to deny US drone program existed. For four years, the President has been expanding U.S. use of drones, while developing the execution and legal justification for the targeted killing policy. A military drone program has finally been admitted, and there is fierce struggle over the CIA drone program, delaying the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA Secretary.
By Ron Ridenour
Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!
We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.
Congress has directed the Secretary of Defense to report on the handling of surveillance data collected by military unmanned aerial systems operating in domestic airspace. A provision in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill approved by the House yesterday explained:
"The conferees are aware of concerns that have been raised regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and their sensors in domestic airspace. The conferees understand that the Air Force has policies and procedures in place governing the disposition of UAV collections that may inadvertently capture matters of concern to law enforcement agencies. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure constitutional protections and proper separation between the military and law enforcement. However, it is unclear if other Services and Defense agencies have similar policies and procedures in place, or if these policies and procedures need to be revised or standardized. Therefore, the conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on the policies and procedures in place across the Services and Defense agencies governing the use of such collections and to identify any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that such policies and procedures are adequate and consistent across the Department of Defense. This report shall be submitted not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act."
The referenced Air Force policy on incidental collection of U.S. person data by its drones was reported in USAF Drones May Conduct 'Incidental' Domestic Surveillance, Secrecy News, May 8, 2012.
SATURDAY, MARCH 9, 2013
900 block of Dolley Madison Blvd., Langley, Virginia
The US CIA drone program is the worst and bloodiest kept secret. Officially it’s functioning is covert and hidden from scrutiny. Around the world those concerned with international law are opposing the deadly extrajudicial program as thousands have now been killed by CIA and US Military drone strikes and left many others maimed and suffering the loss of loved ones. According the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from 2004 to the present up to 3573 were killed by the CIA drones in Pakistan alone. Other countries where the CIA and US Military attack with drones include Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Stand with us opposing CIA & US Military drones used in extrajudicial killings.
US killer drone strikes are illegal, immoral, and must stop now!
Supported by Pax Christi Metro DC, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, Episcopal Peace Fellowship (DC), Dorothy Day Catholic Worker of DC, Code Pink, Nova Catholic Community, Langley Hill Friends (Quaker), Washington Peace Center, Peace Action Montgomery County, MD, Little Friends for Peace, Maryland United for Peace & Justice, Veterans For Peace
For more information contact Jack McHale: 703-772-0635
By Dan DeWalt
‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’
-- Richard M. Nixon
This coming Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on "Drones and the War On Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?"
This is odd for a number of reasons.
1. Congressional committees usually don't do anything at all on such matters.
2. The vast majority of the men, women, and children being killed have not been targeted.
3. The vast majority of the men, women, and children being killed or targeted have not been Americans.
4. The president's nominee to direct the CIA refuses to deny that the president claims the power to kill Americans when they are not overseas, not to mention non-Americans within the United States and anyone at all overseas.
5. The three Americans we know the president has targeted and killed by drone strike in no way match up with the justifications for theoretical strikes found in the "white paper."
6. The president is targeting and killing people with a variety of technologies, not just drones.
7. The only remotely legal or moral answer to the question asked by the hearing is "never."
All such concerns will, of course, be brushed aside. Congress ought to question the administration on its program of drone killing, regardless of what title the hearing is given, right? But this is where things get really odd. The witness list doesn't include the president or a single person who works for him, no one from the CIA, no one from the White House, no one from the Pentagon, nobody from the Office of Legal Counsel. As far as we know, and it seems extremely likely to be the case, the committee has not subpoenaed any documents. If it invited any government witnesses, it has not subpoenaed them or made any plans to figuratively or literally hold them in contempt. Instead, all the witnesses are outside "experts" who won't know any more about what's going on than the rest of us.
A defender of this approach explained it to me thus: Senators and Representatives are often remarkably ignorant. Senator Dianne Feinstein doesn't even know that all military aged males killed by drone strikes are being declared militants. Congress Members don't even read newspapers. If some smart experts testify at a public hearing, then elected officials can't deny as many facts. Plus, inviting government witnesses would just produce stonewalling or lying.
In my view, stonewalling and lying are reasons for subpoenas and contempt, not a complete abdication of the power of oversight. It's not that I think glorified public newspaper reading is worse than nothing. I just think more is called for.
On the other hand, the notion that Congress needs more information before it should act is ludicrous. What sort of memo could legalize murder? What sort of due process could be applied to murder to make it not be murder? As long as Congress is bringing in experts to talk about what's already public knowledge, I'd like to propose a different type of witness. If witnesses from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen are not deemed relevant, newspaper interpreters are not going to make them so. I'd like to propose, then, as one of many actually useful witnesses a gentleman by the name of Leo Tolstoy, who had this to say well over a century ago:
"People are astonished that every year there are sixty thousand cases of suicide in Europe, and those only the recognized and recorded cases—and excluding Russia and Turkey; but one ought rather to be surprised that there are so few. Every man of the present day, if we go deep enough into the contradiction between his conscience and his life, is in a state of despair.
"Not to speak of all the other contradictions between modern life and the conscience, the permanently armed condition of Europe together with its profession of Christianity is alone enough to drive any man to despair, to doubt of the sanity of mankind, and to terminate an existence in this senseless and brutal world. This contradiction, which is a quintessence of all the other contradictions, is so terrible that to live and to take part in it is only possible if one does not think of it—if one is able to forget it.
"What! all of us, Christians, not only profess to love one another, but do actually live one common life; we whose social existence beats with one common pulse—we aid one another, learn from one another, draw ever closer to one another to our mutual happiness, and find in this closeness the whole meaning of life!—and to-morrow some crazy ruler will say some stupidity, and another will answer in the same spirit, and then I must go expose myself to being murdered, and murder men—who have done me no harm—and more than that, whom I love. And this is not a remote contingency, but the very thing we are all preparing for, which is not only probable, but an inevitable certainty.
"To recognize this clearly is enough to drive a man out of his senses or to make him shoot himself. And this is just what does happen, and especially often among military men. A man need only come to himself for an instant to be impelled inevitably to such an end.
"And this is the only explanation of the dreadful intensity with which men of modern times strive to stupefy themselves, with spirits, tobacco, opium, cards, reading newspapers, traveling, and all kinds of spectacles and amusements. These pursuits are followed up as an important, serious business. And indeed they are a serious business. If there were no external means of dulling their sensibilities, half of mankind would shoot themselves without delay, for to live in opposition to one's reason is the most intolerable condition. And that is the condition of all men of the present day. All men of the modern world exist in a state of continual and flagrant antagonism between their conscience and their way of life. This antagonism is apparent in economic as well as political life. But most striking of all is the contradiction between the Christian law of the brotherhood of men existing in the conscience and the necessity under which all men are placed by compulsory military service of being prepared for hatred and murder—of being at the same time a Christian and a gladiator."
It seems to me that the occasion of publicly discussing the U.S. government's targeting and killing U.S. citizens presents an opportunity for opening up even the narrowest of bigots to the contradiction between killing and protecting (whether or not one puts the latter in the religious terms of Tolstoy's day -- as I do not but most Congress Members sometimes pretend to). Tolstoy may not be the ideal witness, as he's dead. But he does have the advantage of having already posed to himself better questions than anyone would ask him if he were alive. (You know they'd be asking about the latest film adaptation of Anna Karenina.)
"'How can you kill people, when it is written in God's commandment: "Thou shalt not kill"?' I have often inquired of different soldiers. And I always drove them to embarrassment and confusion by reminding them of what they did not want to think about. They knew they were bound by the law of God, 'Thou shalt not kill,' and knew too that they were bound by their duty as soldiers, but had never reflected on the contradiction between these duties. The drift of the timid answers I received to this question was always approximately this: that killing in war and executing criminals by command of the government are not included in the general prohibition of murder. But when I said this distinction was not made in the law of God, and reminded them of the Christian duty of fraternity, forgiveness of injuries, and love, which could not be reconciled with murder, the peasants usually agreed, but in their turn began to ask me questions. 'How does it happen,' they inquired, 'that the government [which according to their ideas cannot do wrong] sends the army to war and orders criminals to be executed.' When I answered that the government does wrong in giving such orders, the peasants fell into still greater confusion, and either broke off the conversation or else got angry with me.
"'They must have found a law for it. The archbishops know as much about it as we do, I should hope,' a Russian soldier once observed to me. And in saying this the soldier obviously set his mind at rest, in the full conviction that his spiritual guides had found a law which authorized his ancestors, and the tzars and their descendants, and millions of men, to serve as he was doing himself, and that the question I had put him was a kind of hoax or conundrum on my part.
"Everyone in our Christian society knows, either by tradition or by revelation or by the voice of conscience, that murder is one of the most fearful crimes a man can commit, as the Gospel tells us, and that the sin of murder cannot be limited to certain persons, that is, murder cannot be a sin for some and not a sin for others. Everyone knows that if murder is a sin, it is always a sin, whoever are the victims murdered, just like the sin of adultery, theft, or any other. At the same time from their childhood up men see that murder is not only permitted, but even sanctioned by the blessing of those whom they are accustomed to regard as their divinely appointed spiritual guides, and see their secular leaders with calm assurance organizing murder, proud to wear murderous arms, and demanding of others in the name of the laws of the country, and even of God, that they should take part in murder. Men see that there is some inconsistency here, but not being able to analyze it, involuntarily assume that this apparent inconsistency is only the result of their ignorance. The very grossness and obviousness of the inconsistency confirms them in this conviction."
Congress would hear something worth hearing from this witness, I believe. But so might twenty-first century U.S. peasants as well.
By Daniel Garrett
I wonder if in the end
there will be something of us
left in them:
that the great circling metal wings
might find themselves wanting
to circle with another span
of metal wings
so attracted to the glint
and gorgon eyes
that in the blue-arched rhapsody
of their fling
they might at last begin to sing
songs of desperate desire
and of earth
I do know that the
poor fucks we scorched
were scorched by us
we sent from our
that the air sucked out of daughters’ lungs
by high explosive hits
was sucked out by us
that the dismembered children
what is left of them that can be
and those later
from all the depleted
by Debra Sweet With the kind of "kabuki theater" questioning the Senate gave John Brennan last week during a public hearing, it's certain they will confirm him as Director of the C.I.A. This should not be any surprise. Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn't met a national security "concern" yet that didn't trump the rights of the people; we know she was one of the select few briefed by the Bush regime when they began torture, or excuse me, "enhanced interrogations."
Greetings from the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota! As of this writing, I am two months into a six month sentence imposed due to my protest of war crimes committed by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri against the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Betsy accompanied me here to Yankton on November 29, and that evening the Emmaus House Catholic Worker community, Beth Preheim, Michael Sprong and Dagmar Hoxie, hosted an evening of music, good food and good company to see me off. Activists from around the Midwest attended, including some sisters from the Benedictine monastery here.
In the morning after a great breakfast and Gospel prayer, Betsy and Dagmar and Michael, along with Renee Espeland and Elton Davis, Catholic Workers from Des Moines, and Jerry Ebner, a Catholic Worker from Omaha, walked a “last mile” with me to the gate of the prison where I expect to remain until the end of May.