They’re supposed to be for our cyberwarriors, too, which has been a good joke for the past couple months.
Aka George Smith e-mail: webmaster at dickdestiny
They’re supposed to be for our cyberwarriors, too, which has been a good joke for the past couple months.
Death toll from 9/11: 2,753.
Killed by drones, the US count, today: 4,700
Bombing the destitute in the desperate places of the world, assorted “bad guys” and whoever happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, ad libitum forever, is one great global strategy.
As mentioned yesterday, the state of the debate on drone use is zero. There is no debate, none is allowed. While you don’t have to go three yards in the grass roots web media to hear one, all the very important people and the US government cannot be influenced by it.
Yet despite the testy exchanges and the theatrical protests [by Code Pink ladies who were ejected], it’s worth noting that not a single senator said he or she opposed targeted killings. It was perhaps a recognition that drones are here to stay—a permanent part of America’s hi-tech 21st-century arsenal. Indeed, instead of a dramatic moral showdown, the hearing showcased evidence that Congress and the Obama administration could be moving toward pragmatic compromises …
Consider the lethal targeting of Anwar al Awlaki, the American citizen and al Qaeda member who was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. Awlaki was actually placed on the kill list before the Justice Department had finished its opinion, though Obama’s lawyers had already weighed in orally. As for due process, it was far more informal than anything Feinstein envisions. One example: before State Department legal adviser Harold Koh was willing to give his blessing to the deliberate killing of an American, even one who had joined an enemy force, he wanted to scrutinize the intelligence himself. So in March 2010, he holed up in a secure room in the State Department and pored over hundreds of pages of classified reports detailing Awlaki’s alleged involvement in terror plots. Koh had set his own standard to justify the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen: he felt that Awlaki would have to be shown to be “evil,” with iron-clad intelligence to prove it. After absorbing the chilling intel, which included multiple bombing plots and elaborate plans to attack Americans with ricin and cyanide, Koh concluded that Awlaki was not just evil; he was “satanic.”
In one paragraph, the meretricious rationalization cited yesterday, the line of allegation always used to steamroll thoughtful discussion:
Technology has advanced so far, the little tribes of really poor people, even single individuals, can develop weapons of mass destruction.
In this case, the old boogieman, Anwar al-Alaki — now dead, elevated to “satanic power,” out in the desert wastes of Yemen, virtually dead broke and without any infrastructure, allegedly capable of making a ricin WMD.
Castor seeds, which are where one gets ricin, cannot make a weapon of mass destruction. Indeed, no one has ever made a WMD from ricin, or even made a convincing stab at one.
Yet these are the types of horrendous distortions, now used as received wisdom, for the virtual justification of pre-emptive attacks in the desperate and destitute places of the world.
There is no way to see an end to it.
Homeland Security magazine, edited by Dan Verton, had an interesting piece on the issue of domestic drones the other day. It mentioned that lower level grass roots opposition had canceled a police drone program in Seattle.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Feb. 6, announced the cancellation of the Seattle Police Department’s controversial surveillance drone program after citizens and civil liberties groups voiced concerns about privacy.
McGinn joins a growing list of state and local officials who are buckling under extreme pressure from their constituents and privacy advocates who argue that police departments are moving too far, too fast, on drone deployments without concrete policies and procedures to safeguard the privacy of law-abiding citizens.
State legislatures around the country are also stepping up activities designed to limit or ban the use of domestic surveillance drones. To date, Florida, Maine, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Virginia have introduced anti-drone bills.
Domestic drones are financed by block grants from the Department of Homeland Security. They are part of a much larger phenomenon, one which has seen national taxpayer dollars pay for the military weaponization of small local police forces.
Locally, a good example was the acquisition of an armored car last year by the South Pasadena police force.
Called a Peacekeeper, I wrote about it here.
All the hardware, drones now included, becomes appealing to police forces because it appears free. That is, the cost is distributed over the entire population. Like food stamps, only the dollars spent on drones aren’t funneled back into the community as food buys at the local markets.
It’s a racket.
Homeland Security interviewed longtime colleague Steven Aftergood, author and keeper of the Secrecy blog, had this to say to the magazine:
“It’s a dynamic situation that is subject to change,” said Aftergood. “Industry clearly had a head start, with strong support in Congress and a rosy view of the future full of potential applications for unmanned aerial systems. But privacy values are deeply rooted in society and will have to be addressed by all parties. The debate cannot be avoided indefinitely. It needs to be engaged directly.”
Aftergood is correct. There does need to be a debate and there is already a groundswell of noise on the matter.
However, it comes from all the sources the US government ignores. And nothing good will happen until major news sources start covering drones without just going to the usual experts, chosen from defense think tanks, whose job it is to be fuglemen – wingmen — for whatever the national security machine is pushing.
The argument presented by the side of evil, the forces recommending more and more drones, is one in which they are presented as great and inexorable technological advances, things which make war less bloody.
The technology is not spectacular. And the argument obfuscates by not framing it within an expanded context of American and global reality.
This expanded view recognizes that that the US government/military has moved to take on the role of prosecuting special operations against whomever it thinks necessary in all the desperate and poor corners of the world. War on terror is the rationalization.
This has nothing to do with technology. It is to keep the industries of war moving. It is also is linked to a meme which has become pernicious received wisdom: Technology has advanced so far, the little tribes of really poor people, even single individuals, can develop weapons of mass destruction.
I’ve spent close to a decade as something called a Senior Fellow for GlobalSecurity.Org arguing that’s not true, that it’s a construct that has been passed off because it’s a semantic weapon for the national security industry, one used to steamroll thoughtful discussion.
Drones don’t operate in an environment where the purported adversary has any equivalent technology, or usually, even much of an infrastructure. They are used against populations that cannot mount a conventional defense because they are destitute. Or, as in Pakistan where an air defense could perhaps, theoretically, be mounted, allowed by bribing the government into non-interference over the regions of the poorest with weapon sales and cash assistance.
There is a moral issue in that and the United States is not on the right side of it.
However, the formal “debate,” what little there is of it, is dominated by the hand puppets of the American government and national security apparatus.
This week, Matt Taibbi’s blog at Rolling Stone points out an instance, one in which a “scholar” you’ve never heard of at one of America’s old but now given-over-to-flacking think-tanks, rationalizing drones using a most tortured comparison:
Read an absolutely amazing article today. Entitled “Droning on about Drones,” it was published in the online version of Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper, and written by one Michael Kugelman, identified as the Senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
In this piece, the author’s thesis is that all this fuss about America’s drone policy is overdone and perhaps a little hysterical. Yes, he admits, there are some figures that suggest that as many as 900 civilians have been killed in drone strikes between 2004 and 2013. But, he notes, that only averages out to about 100 civilians a year. Apparently, we need to put that number in perspective:
“Now let’s consider some very different types of statistics.”In 2012, measles killed 210 children in Sindh. Karachiites staged numerous anti-drones protests last year, but I don’t recall them holding any rallies to highlight a scourge that was twice as deadly for their province’s kids than drone strikes were for Pakistani civilians.”Nor do I recall any mass action centered around unsafe water. More people in Karachi die each month from contaminated water than have been killed by India’s army since 1947 . . . 630 Pakistani children die from water-borne illness every day (that’s more than three times the total number of Pakistani children the BIJ believes have died from drone strikes since 2004).”
Adds Taibbi: “So there it is, folks. Welcome to the honor of American citizenship. Should we replace E Pluribus Unum with We Don’t Kill as Many Children as Measles? Of course people aren’t mad about bombs being dropped on them from space without reason; they’re mad because anti-Americanism is alluring!”
There’s nothing to add.
Well, there is actually. You can expand the argument to justify drone use just about everywhere in the impoverished world.
Malaria kills [five figures] each year [some country in Africa. Drones, by contrast, have only killed 140.
Roll your own, arguing drone fatalities as something less horrid than many of the world’s most famous diseases. And therefore OK.
DAY OF THE DRONES!
“Showing the Best of American Culture Through Grindhouse!”
Cue the music.
Yesterday I was reading Howard K. Smith’s “Last Train from Berlin,” published in 1941 before this country entered the war. It’s an exceptional piece of reporting on the Nazi capitol just as it was beginning to sink in to the people of Germany that Hitler was not going to win the war and the day of reckoning, when it arrived, would be terrible. It eloquently captures the bleakness of Nazi Germany and a growing fear among its citizens.
Entertainment died in Nazi Germany because the best of it involves telling the truth. But truth was forbidden. And most of the country’s artistic talent had either been driven out, imprisoned or killed.
This caused a crash in movie attendance. Smith writes about German movies made to glorify the war effort. And one he picks to describe has some resonance when compared with the US taste for war movies during the last decade — which is nonexistent. The recent thing involving the good guys (or woman) torturing a bad guy and the hunt for bin Laden.
The [German propaganda films] can be exhaustively described by a five-letter word. Lousy. Take the one called “Stukas.” It was a monotonous film about a bunch of obstreperous adolescents who dive-bombed things and people. They bombed everything and everybody. That was all the whole film was — just one bombing after another. Finally the hero gets bored with bombing and lost interest in life. So they took him off to the Bayreuth music festival, where he listened to a few lines of Wagnerian music, his soul began to breathe again, he got visions of the Fuhrer and guns blazing away, so he impolitely left right in the middle of the first act and dashed back and started bombing things again, with the old gusto.
That’s wonderful writing. And the entire piece is like that.
Americans no more want to see movies from Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever, than the people of Berlin wanted to see “Stukas” in the autumn of 1941. What, a real movie called “Day of the Drones,” showing the remote pilots between flying missions in a windowless building and returning to their tract homes in the suburbs, would have an audience?
And it made me think about why I also detest the journalism that has evolved to cover the war on terror and the technology of America’s national security industry. Because it’s all like “Stukas” must have been. Deadening and stupid.
Even when its young reporters work in some pallid snark, between the lot they never come up with anything even remotely as supercilious or appropriate as what’s in Last Train from Berlin.
The reasons for that have always been fairly obvious. They can’t have the natsec biz and the Pentagon thinking they’re combative.
“The only things that are not trash are their guns, which are handsome and terrifying,” writes Smith of the arms in Berlin. “The biggest and handsomest [are] anti-aircraft cannon mounted on a tower which, itself looks like a fantastic monstrosity from a lost world, or another planet. It is huge and positively frightening just to look at (Nazis like to hear it described this way; they are specialists in fright propaganda. But the world has now advanced beyond the stage of being frightened in any decisive way by anything the Nazis do or create.)”
Raytheon, one of the world’s largest military contractors, opened the doors today to its newest missile factory, a state-of-the-art facility that will produce weapons for the United States and its [toadies].
According to Raytheon, the Huntsville, Ala. plant, located at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, will produce Standard Missile-3 and Standard Missile-6 interceptors. The first SM-6s should be delivered in early 2013, while the SM-3s should be ready a quarter later.
The facility is said to be among the most advanced missile production plants in the world, utilizing laser-guided transport vehicles for moving missile components around.
“At new Raytheon plant, America’s missiles come to life,” reads the Raytheon advertisement attached to the piece.
How many Standard missiles were fired at the enemy in anger in the last decade?
Because al Qaeda and the Taliban have no air force or navy.
Here is a piece at the New York Times, published last week, in which the reporter investigates domestic non-military manufacturing, where one reads about lousy American workers not fit for the jobs because of “skills mismatches”:
The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages.
In a recent study, the Boston Consulting Group noted that, outside a few small cities that rely on the oil industry, there weren’t many places where manufacturing wages were going up and employers still couldn’t find enough workers. “Trying to hire high-skilled workers at rock-bottom rates,” the Boston Group study asserted, “is not a skills gap.” The study’s conclusion, however, was scarier. Many skilled workers have simply chosen to apply their skills elsewhere rather than work for less, and few young people choose to invest in training for jobs that pay fast-food wages. As a result, the United States may soon have a hard time competing in the global economy …
Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can’t find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they’re offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage … So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don’t feel that it’s worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.
In reading James K. Galbraith’s The Predator State, one would call this the dominance of American manufacturing by corporate reactionary predators.
This has installed a race to the bottom in labor in a country where unions have been destroyed in the private sector and no standards for fair compensation are allowed to exist.
Noticeably, one could see it during the summer when new and tough anti-illegal immigration enforcement in red states resulted in immigrant workers leaving US southern agriculture, where profitability and cheap prices have been maintained by making wages rock bottom.
Inevitably, farmers lined up to complain to the mainstream media that American workers would not take these jobs. At one point, you could find pieces in which criminals on parole or probation were offered as a potential workforce. Even they would not work in the fields.
Ralph and Cheryl Broetje rely on roughly 1,000 seasonal workers every year to grow and pack over 6 million boxes of apples on their farm along the Snake River in eastern Washington. It’s a custom they’ve maintained for over two decades. Recently, though, their efforts to recruit skilled labor, mostly undocumented immigrants, have come woefully short, despite intensive recruitment efforts in an area with high rates of unemployment.
The Broetjes, and an increasing number of farmers across the country, say that a complex web of local and state anti-immigration laws account for acute labor shortages …
“The United States farmer is still the most efficient in the world, and if we want to be in charge of our food security and our economy and add favorably to our balance of payments, we need to support a [slave] labor force for agriculture,” said some douchebag to Time magazine.
Back in 2007, Galbraith explained it as predatory business practice in which agriculture, having no need to respond to standards in labor, pressed wages to the bottom. No one, except the desperate from Mexico, regularly wishes to work stoop labor in fields, being sprayed by pesiticides, for much less than a living wage.
“Imposing standard and enforcing them, is thus the general response to the Predator State,” which is just a collision of reactionary forces within business who seek to maintain competitiveness and profitability without technological improvement, without environmental control, without attending to product or workplace safety,” writes Galbraith.
“They are the forces behind deregulation, behind tort reform, and behind the assault on unions… ”
Galbraith asks, rhetorically, “Are their example?” Yes, the countries of northern Europe which have established wage protections and more successful economies despite regulation. Germany, for example, has more generous labor and wage agreements in automobile manufacturing, standards which are enforced. However, news stories in the US media indicate that when German automotive giants set up shop in the United States, they revert to predatory US business practice and rely on plants in anti-labor “right-to-work” southern states.
Arms manufacturing in the US is a different matter. It is protected and paid for by the US taxpayer.
“In short, the populist directive is to raise American wages, create American jobs and increase the fairness and security of our economic system, especially for citizens and legal residents, but also for all who seek work within our borders,” writes Galbraith near the end of The Predator State.
“You want higher wages? Raise them. You want more and better jobs? Create them.”
Raytheon missile manufacturing, of very little intrinsic social value other than decent jobs with pay, is an example.
Corporate America relies primarily on the equation in which compensation is always compressed and subtracted. My grandfather, who raised his family in a row home in the Frankford area of Philadelphia was a machinist who worked in manufacturing. Unlike the manufacturing workers being sought in the New York Times piece, he was able to earn a decent pay.
When I saw him, that was in the Sixties and Seventies.
So over the weekend I read All In, Paula Broadwell’s slobberific biography of General David Petraeus. It was nothing special, just a typically crappy piece of fawning, noncritical journalism …
You can pretty much guess the rest of the plot from there. Every environment Petraeus enters is instantly bettered by his majestic personage … We see Petraeus giving stirring speeches, working past midnight until aides tear him away from his desk, and stoically receiving compliments from grateful colleagues …
Then it hit me – it was an interesting book, after all! Because if you read All In carefully, the book’s tone will remind you of pretty much any other authorized bio of any major figure in business or politics …
Which means: it’s impossible to tell the difference between the tone of a reporter who we now know was literally sucking the dick of her subject and the tone of just about any other modern American reporter who is given access to a powerful person for a biography or feature-length profile.
Since Petraeus’ departure both Democrats and Republicans have been mourning the loss of a public servant of extraordinary ability … But thanks to our ever-faster cycle of humiliation and rehabilitation, he has already been punished and paroled. It’s time to let Petraeus get back to work.
A public servant of extraordinary ability.
Others might say you could pick just about anyone to continue the bombing campaign executed by CIA drones in Pakistan, Yemen and anywhere else.
The problems facing the country are still very great. What to do about global warming. How should the country be prepared? How can the United States regain world leadership in health care, equality and the general well-being of its citizenry? How can it restore real educational opportunity in an advancing world? How can it restore an economy that works for everyone and dislodge the grip of predatory big business upon national policy-making?
Whether or not David Petraeus is around is not relevant to any of the above.
Petraeus was a big machine among the other big machines prosecuting a decade long war on terror, an adventure built upon many frauds, all created to further war industries, political agendas and replace the one big enemy lost at the end of the Cold War with a new and never-ending one.
Superciliousness is a reasonable reaction. The scandal is a somewhat fortunate convenience in bringing on his retirement.
The Salon piece informs Petraeus already has gained the services of a DC lawyer famous for getting seven digit book contracts for national figures. As is the pattern, the disgraced CEO, or leader of some kind, is given a compensatory reward in gold to see him off.
On balance, the war on terror has been very good to David Petraeus. His wife should get half of it in the divorce.
American human right researchers on both coasts — at Stanford out here, and NYU, have published a collaborative study on the drone campaigns in Pakistan. And it isn’t pretty. For practical purpose, drones are conducting a campaign of terror despite official blandishments to the contrary.
The drone campaign is also free of democratic control.
Far more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas than U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged, a new study by human rights researchers at Stanford University and New York University contends.
The report, “Living Under Drones,” also concludes that the classified CIA program has not made America any safer and instead has turned the Pakistani public against U.S. policy in the volatile region.
Notably, this story was not written by the newspaper’s drone flack, W. J. Hennigan, who over the space of the last couple years has been something of a p.r. office for the armed drone industry.
[US drone strike policies] cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. 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. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.
The Living Under Drones researchers recommend the US government institute a new set of procedure, all of which will presumably be found quite unpalatable by the Obama administration.
They include: “[ensuring] independent investigations into drone strike deaths.” conducting “robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions [while establishing] compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes,” and fulfilling “its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups …”
Journalists, it advises, “should cease the common practice of referring simply to ‘militant’ deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of ‘militant’ deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as ‘militants’ …”
Naturally, there has been a loud cry against the incessant escalating use of drones abroad. In a slew of cartoons, editorials and even some news pieces, the drone campaign has been heavily criticized.
All without effect, demonstrating how the drone program has gone completely beyond democratic control. Indeed, the use of drones to kill people in the poorest and most desperate places of the world has not even been a momentary topic for discussion in the current presidential race.
Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda has been rendered virtually non-operational, except for moments of opportunity in places wracked by civil war and total societal breakdown.
Yet, eleven years after 9/11, the eye barely blinks when news stories come across the wire on the thrumming of General Atomics’ Reaper drones in the air above the blighted areas of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. And the subsequent technological vengeance brought down on those in the targeted areas.
On 9/11, it would also be good to remember what the catastrophe brought on.
Lethal trivia: One week after, we were treated to anthraxer Bruce Ivins from the heart of the US biodefense industry. That’s him in the video and the white label pressing of his home-made country 45.
Just think about that for a minute. Bruce Ivins, a man at the very center of one of the more famous defense science installations, used 9/11 as cover to kill, sicken and spread fear in more Americans.
Fort Detrick, the place where Ivins made the anthrax, has never apologized.
“Plus we got lotsa really crazy people …”