Sunday, June 07, 2009
Predator drones armed with laser-guided Hellfire missiles have regularly bombed Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, and their use is skyrocketing. In 2008, 71 Predators flew 138,404 combat hours — a 94 percent increase over the year before, according to a recent presentation by U.S. Air Force Col. Eric Mathewson. And over the last year, drones flown largely by the CIA have launched missile attacks inside Pakistan more than 40 times. Rather than reconsider this deadly policy, President Obama has become an enthusiastic backer. Since his inauguration, he has authorized 11 such attacks that have collectively killed over 145 people, many of them civilians, and sparked large protests within Pakistan.I would add that Obama--the "peace candidate"--authorized UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) attacks on Pakistan in his very first week in office.
See also: "The Great Robot Race"
"The history of secret geographies shows that when they do come into contact with the legal system, the legal system tends to change in order to accommodate them." Thus writes Trevor Paglen, author of Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World (p. 140). One of the legal cases discussed by Paglen is 1953 United States v. Reynolds decision, which cemented the "state secrets privilege" in American law. But the privilege did not protect national security but rather a lie that implicated the US Air Force in the death of Bob Reynolds in a swampy field near Waycross, Georgia. This is just one of the places Paglen ties to "blank spots" in the law or on a map, including Area 51.
Paglen also discusses the blank spots in the federal budget, writing (pp. 183-4):
The Founding Fathers understood the golden rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." They understood that, in the halls of government as it is in so many other affairs, money is both information and power. As such, [Article I, Section 9, Clause 7] is a rebuke to the old monarchism the Founding Fathers wanted to free themselves from. "The people," argued George Mason, "had a right to know the expenditures of their money." Open books, argued James Madison, imparted both knowledge and responsibility upon a democratic citizenry: "A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both," he wrote. "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."Yet, as Paglen notes, even the amount, let alone what it pays for, of the "black budget" is secret . Nevertheless Paglen offers an estimate from R. J. Hillhouse of $60 billion--"roughly comparable to what the Chinese military—the second-largest military in the world—spends each year." Two-thirds of that figure goes to even less accountable private contractors (p. 205).
In the book's epilogue (p. 275), Paglen says:
The black world has sculpted the United States in numerous ways. Creating secret geographies has meant erasing parts of the Constitution, creating blank spots in the law, institutionalizing dishonesty in the halls of government, handing sovereign powers--what used to be the unlimited power of monarchs over their subjects and territories--to the executive branch, making the nation's economy dependent upon military spending, and turning our own history into a state secret.All in all Blank Spots on the Map was a quick and fascinating read. It is highly recommended.
Monday, June 01, 2009
The spring 2009 edition of the War Resisters League's (WRL) WIN: Through Revolutionary Nonviolence magazine suggests that the editors are committed to losing the struggle for peace. This issue and the Winter 2009 issue have almost nothing to say about Israel's Hanukkah Massacre last winter or the ongoing US support of Israel's decades long war of attrition against the Palestinian people. So, why have they left out one of the linchpin conflicts of our lifetime? Perhaps a clue emerges in the presence of two pieces linked to the Democratic Party-front and Zionist-dominated United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ).
On page 21 of the current issue, UFPJ conditions the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on transforming "America's failed approach" with "bold, peace solutions." UFPJ style of "peace and justice" is decidedly of the "White Man's Burden" school. They want the US to "pressure President Hamid Karzai" and to "Push for an independent international commission to investigate and press grievances" and they have plenty of other suggestions to use American power to 'improve' Afghan society for the benighted Afghans. By contrast, consider the remarks of one Marine on Vietnam:
I believe that if we had and would keep our bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people they will arrive at a solution of their own. . . . And if unfortunately their revolution must be of a violent type because the 'haves' refuse to share with the 'have nots' by any peaceful method, at least what they get will be their own and not the American style, which they don’t want and above all don’t want crammed down their throats by Americans.Source: David M. Shoup, General, USMC (ret.), Medal of Honor winner, as quoted in "Former Marine Commandant Questions Vietnam." Congressional Record. Feb. 20, 1967; 113:3976.
In the Winter issue UFPJ organizing coordinator Judith LeBlanc says: "Now the peace movement must retool ..." I agree and we can start by dumping pro-Empire, anti-democratic, Obama-supporting Zionists like LeBlanc. Don't hold your breath for that, though.
In closing, it's worth noting that the WRL can't even get the history of Afghanistan right. In a WRL statement on "Beyond Afghanistan" printed on page 3 of the current issue they claim: "The Taliban rose to power with the support of the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence services, intervening against the USSR's invasion." The Taliban did not emerge as a force until 1994--more than five years after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban did not take power in Kabul until 1996. More importantly, the WRL statement fails to note that the Carter administration sponsored weapons transfers to Islamic militants before the Soviet invasion precisely in order to provoke an invasion.