On the various types of death by robot and America's wicked case of bipartisan militarism
Medea Benjamin (in an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales):
[…] Well, there’s a—they divide them between what’s called the “personality” strikes, when you actually have a hit list and you know the names of the people you’re trying to take out, and the other is the “signature” strikes, where it’s just by suspicious behavior, if you look like—if you’re with a group and you’re carrying guns and you look like you’re militants.
And this is done by pilots that are thousands of miles away, don’t know the culture, don’t know the people, don’t know the region. And so, they are given this tremendous responsibility. And they kill by day, and then they’re supposed to go home to their families at night. They’re sitting in a place like Creech Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and supposed to integrate themselves into their families and their communities after spending the day watching remote control and using a PlayStation to kill people. We find that these pilots have PTSD just like soldiers on the battlefield have, as well. And I think it’s putting them in a terrible situation.
I do want to say, Juan, that so many people who spoke out against George Bush’s extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo and indefinite detention have been very quiet when it comes to the Obama administration, who is not putting people in those same kind of conditions, instead is just taking them out and killing them. So we need to make people speak up and say that when Obama says this is on a tight leash, this is not true, this is a lie. And the American people have to become aware of it and not be partisan about that. We don’t care who’s doing the killing; we want the killing to stop.
In case you missed it last week, President Obama gave the CIA permission to employ “signature” strikes in Yemen. (These types of strikes have been used rather liberally in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the last several years.)
2011 was truly a terrible year in the context of Pak-US relations. Apart from the calamitous Abbottabad raid, it was repeatedly punctuated by incidents of US military/intelligence walking roughshod over Pakistan’s sovereignty; pushing the troubled relations to the edge of the precipice. In January 2011, Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor whom President Obama referred to as “our diplomat in Islamabad”, shot to death two people on one of the busiest intersections in Lahore, while a third bystander was run down by the car sent by the US Consulate to aid him. It was widely believed that he was one among a large contingent of US intelligence operators who had, in an unauthorised and surreptitious manner, saturated Pakistani landscape to run clandestine spy networks. There was strong public reaction when he was plucked out of the Lahore jail by invoking the provisions of paying blood money to the relatives of the slain persons, permitted by the Sharia law. The US raid killing Osama further added fuel to the fire of simmering animosity and a swell of anti-US public anger began to take shape. It is instructive to note that a June 2011 Pew Poll found that 75 percent of Pakistanis held an unfavourable view of the United States; 70 percent believed that it is an enemy rather than a friend; and 70 percent saw it as a possible military threat to Pakistan - indicating to a prescient grassroot premonition of the things waiting to unfold shortly.
Following the Abbottabad raid by six months, in November 2011, when collective nerves were still raw and throbbing, the US forces’ inexplicable cross border attack on a Pakistani military outpost on Salalah Ridge killing 24 soldiers and wounding 13 exacerbated the Pak-US tensions to breaking point. The result is widespread and entrenched feelings of anti-Americanism, whereby many Pakistanis believe that the relations between the two countries are exploitative to the extreme, calling for an urgent for correcting of the imbalance.
Consequently, the public pressure has forced Pakistan to shut the conduit for Nato supplies into Afghanistan and to end US utilisation of the Shamsi Airbase that was being used by the CIA for drone operations. The restrictions may ease out, but tensions in bilateral relations are likely to remain calling for remedial US action to ameliorate the situation.
“The fertile land around Jaar appeared deserted. The irrigation canals, neglected for almost a year, had dried up and the yellow earth was cracked and powdery. Where mangos and papayas had once grown were withered trees and swirling clouds of dust. Many of the people have left, fleeing the shelling by the government and aerial attacks. Tens of thousands of refugees are packed in schools in Aden, where they live among uncollected garbage, raw sewage and poverty.”—
While attending the White House Correspondents’ dinner Attorney General Eric Holder admitted to the Huffington Post that President Obama misled Rolling Stone about federal marijuana law. From the Huffington Post:
Attorney General Eric Holder was a guest of The Huffington Post at the correspondents’ dinner. Before it began, a HuffPost reporter noted to Holder that Obama’s reference to “congressional law” was misleading because the executive branch could simply remove marijuana from its “schedule one” designation, thereby recognizing its medical use.
“That’s right,” Holder said.
After Kimmel’s speech, a Holder deputy told HuffPost that there was no coordinated war on medical marijuana, but that some individual clinics were breaking both state and federal laws.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Obama provided a factually wrong answer that radically distorted the nature of federal law in an attempt to deflect criticism for the federal crackdown on medical marijuana. Obama claimed he “can’t nullify Congressional law” when it comes to medical marijuana, even though the Controlled Substance Act actually gives the Executive branch the authority to “reschedule” (reclassify) marijuana without Congressional action. By simply moving marijuana to a lower schedule the Obama administration could make medical marijuana legal under federal law. Obama would not need to nullify this Congressional law, because Congress already gave him the authority to change marijuana’s legal status.
It is very important that Attorney General Holder himself admits that Obama’s “can’t nullify Congressional law” statement is completely misleading, because the relevant section of the Controlled Substance Act specifically gives him, the Attorney General, the power to implement a process to reschedule cannabis administratively.
Even Obama’s Attorney General admits there is nothing forcing the administration to wage a war on medical marijuana and nothing stopping the administration from making medical marijuana legal under federal law. This is an active choice the administration is making.
“Blessed are the rich, the reign of this world is ours. The rich rule the world, and the rest suffer and die, often in misery. Do not let this be you my brothers! Easier to use your riches to genetically engineer very small camels that can fit through the needle’s eye… Blessed are the violent and the invincible, the proud and the powerful, the domineering and oppressive. We can have it all! And let our status of power be the proof that we are deserving of the fruits of the labor of the middle class and poor… Blessed are those who show no mercy. No mercy to the poor, to women and children, the elderly and the homeless, victims, outcasts, enemies, refugees, the hungry, the undocumented, the unborn, those on death row, those who are different, those we don’t like. And of course, those who happen to be in the way of what we want… Blessed are the warmakers. Yea I say unto you, if we were not making war, we could not be said to be making much. That is what China is for! Lo, the Lord looked at China and said “Let it be the worlds factory floor,” and it was good…”—GOP Je$us (via azspot)
To achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:
If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.
If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.
Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.
Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.
Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.
By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.
Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.
Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.
Read phases 2, 3, and 4 for the full slide to unexceptionalism.
The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.
The coalition routinely reports attacks in which a coalition soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But it does not report the instances in which an Afghan wounds U.S. or NATO troops or misses his target.
Officials acknowledge the attacks are a worrisome problem for the U.S. and its military partners as they work increasingly closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility.
The Associated Press has learned that just last week, two U.S. soldiers were wounded when Afghan policemen opened fire on them. The Afghans were quickly killed, and the incident was not reported by the international coalition.
I put up a post last week from Phyllis Bennis stating that “the killing of U.S. troops by their ostensible allies in the Afghan military now make up 20 percent of all the U.S. combat deaths this year”. The AP report indicates that number may be even higher and that Afghanistan is an even murkier quagmire than the American public is being led to believe.
So, here’s a question: whose hearts and minds is the USG trying to win?
“[The] power of the president as commander-in-chief has never been greater. If Obama is the president of next to nothing on the domestic policy front (but fundraising for his second term), he has the powers previously associated with the gods when it comes to war-making abroad. There, he is the purveyor of life and death. At home, he is a hamstrung weakling, at war he is — to use a term that has largely disappeared since the 1970s — an imperial president.”—Tom Engelhardt
The very success of the October Insurrection hides its true character. The revolution was so ripe – the social crisis so deep, the authority of the government so hollowed out, the masses so well-prepared for decisive action – that a few tens of thousands were sufficient to execute the popular will.
On the day of the insurrection, 25 October 1917, the whole energy of Russia’s mighty conflagration became concentrated in the hands of perhaps 25,000 armed men – workers, soldiers, and sailors. They were commanded by Leon Trotsky, a triumvirate of senior military organisers, and the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet.
There was little for anyone else to do. Most workers remained at home, most soldiers in their barracks. They had debated, voted, and given their leaders a mandate. Now it was simply a matter of executing the formal transfer of power from one class to another.
There was no looting or rioting. Theatres, cinemas, and shops remained open. Casualties were minimal, far fewer than in either the February or July Days.
The climax was anti-climax. The Winter Palace, the seat of government, was held by a motley collection of Tsarist officers, Cossacks, war veterans, and a volunteer ‘Women’s Battalion’. This was the sum total of social forces prepared to fight for Kerensky.
Threatened from the River Neva by the guns of the battleship Aurora, and unable to prevent armed workers and sailors infiltrating the palace’s vast labyrinth of entrances and passageways, the defence crumbled amid frantic scuffles. It would all look far more impressive in Eisenstein’s 1928 movie.
On the evening of 25 October, Trotsky reported to the Petrograd Soviet that ‘the Provisional Government has ceased to exist’. Lenin emerged from hiding to announce ‘a new era in the history of Russia’.
‘We have the strength of a mass organisation which will triumph over everything and bring the proletariat to world revolution,’ he continued. ‘In Russia, we must proceed at once to the construction of a proletarian socialist state. Long live the worldwide socialist revolution!’
The radicalism of the new government was without historic precedent. A decree on land transferred the property of the landlords to millions of peasants. A decree on industry gave the workers control of the factories. A decree on self-determination gave the oppressed nations of the Russian Empire the right to independence.
The mansions of the rich were taken over to house the poor. Equal access to education and health care became the right of every citizen. The old marriage and divorce laws were swept away, equality between the sexes became obligatory, and adultery, homosexuality, and abortion ceased to be crimes.
Nothing like this had ever happened before. Most previous revolutions, even in their most radical phases, had remained under bourgeois control. The major exception, the Paris Commune of 1871, had been restricted to one city and lasted only two months. Now, for the first time in human history, the working class had taken power in a modern nation-state.
Old imperial powers have a way of meddling - the events following the insurrection were not so rosy. Read on →
“Five banks — JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc. (C), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) together held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, compared with 43 percent in 2006, according to central bankers at the Federal Reserve.”—Bloomberg financial news (via humanformat)
* Pop-up Occupation(unpermitted) Bryant Park will be the site of a fun and friendly “Pop-up Occupation” with Mutual Aid, featuring free food, a free market, free services, skill-shares, workshops, teach-ins, speak-outs, meditation, public art, performances, discussions, and trainings.
* 99 Picket Lines and other direct actions Bryant Park will also be a staging area for 99 Picket Lines(#99PKTS; Facebook; email; map) to expose, disrupt, and shut down the corporations who rule our city, as well as other forms of civil disobedience, creative disruptions, bank blockades, outreach to commuters and tourists, and more!
2 p.m - March to Union Square
* Occupy Guitarmy March from Bryant Park(unpermitted) March and make music with the Occupy Guitarmy, led by Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine! OWS Music is enlisting 1,000 guitar-playing musicians to join this march (email).
4 p.m - Rally at Union Square
* Unity Rally(permitted) The May Day Solidarity Coalition has organized an historic convergence of the 99%! Join occupiers, labor unions, the immigrant justice coalition, students, and faith & community groups for a massive rally at Union Square. Musical performances by Das Racist, Dan Deacon, Tom Morello, Immortal Technique, Bobby Sanabria, and other special guests (Facebook).
5:30 p.m. - March to Wall Street
* Solidarity March from Union Square (permitted) March from Union Square to Wall Street with a coalition of labor, immigrant, OWS, student, and faith organizations (Facebook).
“Once upon a time, American presidents didn’t consider micro-managing a permanent war state as a central part of their job description, nor did they focus so unrelentingly on the U.S. military and the doings of the national security state. Today, the president’s word is death just about anywhere on the planet and he exercises that power with remarkable frequency. He appears in front of “the troops” increasingly often and his wife has made their wellbeing part of her job description. He has at his command expanded “covert” powers, including his own private armies: a more militarized CIA and growing hordes of special operations forces, 60,000 of them, who essentially make up a “covert” military inside the U.S. military.”
Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch, calling a spade a spade. Very important and relevant points made. For instance:
Almost unnoted in the U.S., for instance, American drones recently carried out a strike in the Philippines killing 15 and the Air Force has since announced a plan to boost its drones there by 30%. At the same time, in Yemen, as previously in the Pakistani borderlands, the president has just given the CIA and the U.S. Joint Operations Command the authority to launch drone strikes not just against identified “high-value” al-Qaeda “targets,” but against general “patterns of suspicious behavior.” So expect an escalating drone war there not against known individuals, but against groups of suspected evildoers (and as in all such cases, innocent civilians as well).
At home, on issues of domestic importance, Obama is a hamstrung, hogtied president, strikingly checked and balanced. Since the passage of his embattled healthcare bill, he has, in a sense, been in chains, able to accomplish next to nothing of his domestic program. Even when trying to exercise the unilateral powers that have increasingly been invested in presidents, what he can do on his own has proven exceedingly limited, a series of tiny gestures aimed at the largest of problems. And were Mitt Romney to be elected, given congressional realities, this would be unlikely to change in the next four years.
[T]he power of the president as commander-in-chief has never been greater. If Obama is the president of next to nothing on the domestic policy front (but fundraising for his second term), he has the powers previously associated with the gods when it comes to war-making abroad. There, he is the purveyor of life and death. At home, he is a hamstrung weakling, at war he is — to use a term that has largely disappeared since the 1970s — an imperial president.
I wonder if the American public realizes the havoc President Obama is wreaking in the Middle East and South Asia. Amazing how the majority of the US media filters reality to keep one nation completely unaware of what its regime is carrying out in other countries. That, or people just don’t care.
MONTREAL — The Liberal Party of Quebec Premier Jean Charest, faced with a student protest movement that has turned violent, said Sunday it was relocating its annual convention to a city outside Montreal.
The party, which has been in power for nine years in the French-speaking Canadian province that is home to eight million people, had been scheduled to hold its party meeting at the Centre Mont-Royal in Montreal May 4-6.
Instead, it will hold the convention in Victoriaville, 170 kilometers (105 miles) to the east of Montreal, the party said in a statement.
Since mid-February, the provincial government has faced a stiff challenge from students angry over plans to raise school fees as part of an effort to rein in the budget deficit.
Tuition in Quebec had been frozen since the province’s “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s in a bid to boost access to post-secondary education, but it began to creep up in the 1990s.
After talks with the government broke down, students took to the streets, resulting in violent clashes with police and smashed storefronts in Montreal.
Charest on Friday offered a compromise — to stretch out the tuition hike over seven years — but the students would not budge, and again took to the streets on Saturday night.
On Sunday, CLASSE, the organization that represents half of the 180,000 students still on strike, rejected the government’s new offer.
Some analysts say Charest could call early elections following the party’s annual convention.
What’s going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that’s what. In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act—an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who’re not yet born! No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement. This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year—money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That’s the real source of the “financial crisis” squeez-ing America’s post offices.
But it’s not the only hocus pocus that has falsely fabricated the public perception that our mail agency is “broke.” Due to a 40-year-old accounting error, the federal Office of Personnel Management has overcharged the post office by as much as $80 billion for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. This means that, far from being a drain on the public treasury, USPS has had billions of its sales dollars erroneously diverted into the treasury. Restore the agency’s access to its own postage money, and the impending “collapse” goes away.
Former CIA torturer and interrogation video melter, Jose Rodriguez, was on 60 Minutes last night, defending the agency’s decent into lawless barbarism under the guise of “national security”. David Atkins explains the idiocy of Rodriguez’ justifications for torture:
[The ticking time bomb defense is] one of the most infuriatingly stupid premises ever devised to permit codified totalitarian action. Why? First of all, because the ticking time bomb scenario is incredibly improbable, one only ever seen in cheesy Hollywood movies and right-wing fantasy television shows. But second, because if such a scenario really ever did implausibly happen, that’s what prosecutorial discretion is for. It’s often said that hard cases make for bad law, and if ever there was a circumstance in which that saying applied, it’s this one. In the incredibly unlikely event that a nuclear attack were about to go off in minutes and a suspect in custody had the information to disarm the bomb, I imagine that any number of things would probably be done to attempt compliance and few people would bat an eye—if the truth about what happened ever even came out. Nobody would prosecute the people involved, and few but the most ardent civil libertarians would care.
What one doesn’t do under any circumstance is codify torture into law in order to justify an impossibly implausible scenario. And one doesn’t engage in torture, “legal” or illegal, on suspects who may or may not have information on a potential attack that may or may not be in process.
This has been probably the most chilling aspect of the new civil liberties regime over the last 12 years: it’s not just what has been done in our name—that’s bad enough—but that what was done has been justified so openly. It’s not as if the American government hasn’t since its inception done some truly awful things in its past by people who justified to themselves, like Mr. Rodriguez, that they were doing it all for flag and country. But at least in the past such people had enough shame to know they should at least keep it under wraps and classified. J. Edgar Hoover, terrible as he was, at least knew better than to proudly make public his operations.
But when torture becomes a matter of national public policy and men like Mr. Rodriguez proclaim it proudly on national television rather than from behind cell bars, we have a different order of problem entirely. And the onus for that problem lies not just with our elected officials, but with all of us as a society. After all, once it’s on 60 Minutes it’s not as if we can turn our heads and pretend we didn’t know.
A Bahraini appeals court has ordered a retrial in a civil court in the cases of 21 opposition activists, including hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, alleged to have been involved in the Gulf kingdom’s uprising last year.
The Court of Cassation on Monday accepted the appeal of the human rights activists who were convicted by a military court last year; they include Khawaja and Ibrahim Sharif.
“The court is [ordering] that the trial take place again and that testimony from prosecution and defence witnesses be heard once more as if it is a new trial,” BNA, the country’s official news agency, said.
“Cassation Court rulings do not allow for releasing defendants as long as they were imprisoned when presented to the first trial.”
Their case will go back to the Appellate Court for a retrial. A date has yet to be set, but a lawyer told Al Jazeera that it was expected within the next couple of weeks.
Defence lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi, who attended Monday’s session, said the judge stated that the activists would not be released. International rights groups have said they should be freed without condition.
Khadija al Mousawi, the wife of Khawaja, told Al Jazeera after the court ruling that this should not be considered a victory. “This is not a victory, so i am very surprised people are claiming it as so,” she said, referring to the fact that the activists were still in jail.
“Set them free first, then set a retrial, if it has to happen.”
Responding to the announcement, Khawaja’s daughter Maryam took to her twitter profile to say the retrial would have little impact on her father’s hunger strike.
“Abdulhadi Alkhawaja did not go on #HungerStrike saying death or retrial, he said death or freedom. A retrial doesn’t mean much”, Maryam al-Khawja said on the microblogging service.
“All that concerns itself with beauty and truth, with those forces that have the power to transform us, are being steadily extinguished by our corporate state. Art. Education. Literature. Music. Theater. Dance. Poetry. Philosophy. Religion. Journalism. None of these disciplines are worthy in the corporate state of support or compensation. These are pursuits that, even in our universities, are condemned as impractical. But it is only through the impractical, through that which can empower our imagination, that we will be rescued as a species.”—Chris Hedges
On the endemic political cynicism of dying empire:
When civilizations start to die they go insane. Let the ice sheets in the Arctic melt. Let the temperatures rise. Let the air, soil and water be poisoned. Let the forests die. Let the seas be emptied of life. Let one useless war after another be waged. Let the masses be thrust into extreme poverty and left without jobs while the elites, drunk on hedonism, accumulate vast fortunes through exploitation, speculation, fraud and theft. Reality, at the end, gets unplugged. We live in an age when news consists of Snooki’s pregnancy, Hulk Hogan’s sex tape and Kim Kardashian’s denial that she is the naked woman cooking eggs in a photo circulating on the Internet. Politicians, including presidents, appear on late night comedy shows to do gags and they campaign on issues such as creating a moon colony. “[A]t times when the page is turning,” Louis-Ferdinand Celine wrote in “Castle to Castle,” “when History brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!”
The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire to accumulate greater and greater wealth, as Karl Marx observed, is modern society’s version of primitive fetishism. This quest, as there is less and less to exploit, leads to mounting repression, increased human suffering, a collapse of infrastructure and, finally, collective death. It is the self-deluded, those on Wall Street or among the political elite, those who entertain and inform us, those who lack the capacity to question the lusts that will ensure our self-annihilation, who are held up as exemplars of intelligence, success and progress. The World Health Organization calculates that one in four people in the United States suffers from chronic anxiety, a mood disorder or depression—which seems to me to be a normal reaction to our march toward collective suicide. Welcome to the asylum.
“Yale’s canny historian Paul Kennedy (of ‘imperial overstretch’ fame) is convinced that we either are about to cross or have already crossed a ‘historical watershed’ taking us far beyond the post-Cold War unipolar world of ‘the sole superpower.’ There are, argues Kennedy, four main reasons for that: the slow erosion of the U.S. dollar (formerly 85% of global reserves, now less than 60%), the ‘paralysis of the European project,’ Asia rising (the end of 500 years of Western hegemony), and the decrepitude of the United Nations.”—Pepe Escobar
The latest middle finger from the U.S. to Pakistan:
At least four suspected militants were killed and two others injured when US unmanned predator fired two missiles on a deserted government school in Miranshah Bazaar, North Waziristan Agency, on Sunday. It was the first drone strike in almost a month and came after the failure of fresh round of talks between US and Pakistan. American special envoy Marc Grossman left Islamabad Friday night with no agreement after two days of discussions with the top Pakistani leadership that were aimed at ending the diplomatic deadlock between the two countries. The remotely piloted aircraft targeted a deserted girls’ high school building used by some suspected militants in Miranshah. Sources said the identities of the killed persons were not revealed due to curfew in Miranshah Bazaar. The controversial drone programme, a key element in US counter-terrorism efforts, is highly unpopular in the country where it is considered a violation of sovereignty and causes many civilian casualties.
The parliamentary committee recently demanded an end to drone strikes on Pakistani territory as part of its recommendations for how its relationship with Washington should change. The United States has given no indication it intends to halt the campaign.
It bears mentioning here that the last drone strike, on March 30, killed four suspected militants and wounded three in the same town of Miranshah area. These strikes are a major stumbling block in restoring ties with the United States. Reuters add: “We intercepted internal conversation of the militants asking for arranging four coffins for the slain men in the drone attack. We don’t know about their identity and nationality but those living in the girls’ school were mostly Arabs,” a security official said.A local resident, Haji Niamat Khan, said more than two dozen militants were living in the school when it was attacked.
"Peter Bergen, the Director of National Security Studies at the Democratic-Party-supportive New America Foundation, has a long Op-Ed in The New York Times today glorifying President Obama as a valiant and steadfast ‘warrior President’…”
Yesterday on his MSNBC morning show, Chris Hayes conducted an excellent, two-part discussion of Obama’s escalated civilian-killing drone attacks, with a heavy emphasis on the innocent people, including numerous children, who have been killed. He showed a harrowing video clip of a Yemeni man’s anguish as he described the pregnant women and children killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike; featured the U.S. drone killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki in Yemen; and interviewed human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who described the 16-year-old Pakistani boy he met at a meeting to discuss civilian drone deaths and who, a mere 3 days later, had his own life ended by an American drone.
Later that day, Hayes tweeted this: “A bit taken aback by the ugliness that drone conversation seems to bring out in some people.” What he meant was the avalanche of angry Twitter attacks from steadfast Obama loyalists who gleefully defended the drone program, mocked concerns over civilian deaths, and insisted that he should not be covering such matters because they may harm Obama in an election year (of course, it’s not only the President’s followers, but, as Hayes noted, the President himself who is quite adept at finding humor in his drone attacks).
Contrary to Bergen’s generous belief that progressives are deluding themselves about Obama’s militarism, many are fully aware of it and, because it’s a Democrat doing it, have become aggressively supportive of it. That, without a doubt, will be one of Obama’s most enduring legacies: transforming these policies of excessive militarism, rampant secrecy and civil liberties assaults from right-wing radicalism into robust bipartisan consensus (try though they might, not even progressives will be able to turn around and credibly pretend to object to such things the next time there is a GOP President).
The future that Marx forecasted is unemployment. And this historical tendency has brought the whole story of development into question. [Our] recent economic “recovery” is the weakest since they started to keep track of the numbers. The fact that we’ve failed to recover the majority of the jobs lost during the recession is part of a wider historical change: the decline of the dynamism on which capitalism built its reputation. In the past few years, the famous “creative destruction” that should have been incessantly generating new technologies, new markets, and new modes of life, has been missing in action. The delusions of the dot-com bubble made it look like capitalism could be dynamic again, but as Henwood puts it, “Our most recent bubble built a lot of subdivisions in exurban Las Vegas, with no payoff either in the productive or phantasmic realms.”
The fact that technology has rendered so much labor superfluous hasn’t pointed towards a society liberated from work, but instead high unemployment next to long hours, with everyone in debt. And the traditional apparatuses of the worker’s movement, which were supposed to form a nascent counter-power, ended up doing the bosses’ job before practically disappearing.
Today the attempt to revive these mediations of class struggle fails to respond to real shifts in the composition of the working class. As Chris Maisano has brilliantly demonstrated, the trouble with American unions isn’t just a dwindling membership. It’s the concentration of unionization in the public sector, and the conversion of “what should have been universalized social goods” – like “health insurance, pensions, vacations” – into private privileges for a unionized elite. It’s easy enough for capital to use this as a powerful instrument of division, blocking a collective proletarian struggle by setting private sector workers against the “labor aristocracy” of teachers and social workers, while everyone’s real wages decline. The unemployed end up excluded from any concept of the political. [read more]
Greece opened its first purpose-built detention centre for illegal migrants on Sunday in Athens, a week before a national election where illegal immigration has emerged as a key issue.
About 130,000 immigrants cross the country’s porous sea and land borders every year, the vast majority via Turkey, and the authorities are forced to release those who are arrested because of a lack of permanent housing.
With Greece in its fifth year of recession and worries over rising crime levels, illegal immigration has become a major issue in the run up of the May 6 election.
The once-obscure far-right Golden Dawn, which wants to deport all immigrants, is among the parties that has benefitted most from the mood among voters, and is expected to win its first seats in parliament.
Greece’s ruling Socialist PASOK and conservative rival New Democracy parties have also pledged to crack down on immigration to try to win over voters.
On Sunday, the first 56 immigrants were brought to the Amygdaleza detention camp in western Athens, a police official said. Dozens more are expected at the camp in the next few days, which can house up to 1,000 people, the official said.
Amygdaleza is the first of about 50 camps that Greek officials say will be built by mid-2013. It consists of dozens of containers that were originally set up to house people hit by natural disasters such as earthquakes.
“We are sending a message in every direction that the country is not unfenced anymore,” Civil Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis said at a rally in Athens.
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”—Kurt Vonnegut (via seventyfourspecies)
It is rather amusing to watch Western governments subscribe to the agenda and rhetoric of GCC countries, which are subcontractors – mere implementers – of US/Israeli policies in the Middle East. The word Shia has to appear in every sentence in every commentary on Bahrain. Western media may not be as blatantly sectarian as mouthpices of Saudi princes, like the notorious Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, but they reflect the same bias.
The Bahraini royal family is quite fortunate. The presence of the Fifth Fleet sends a message in the region and the world that the little island is “vital” to US national security interests. Its proximity to Saudi Arabia adds to its umbrella of repressive regional and international protection.
News of an imminent unity between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could not come at a better time for the House of Khalifah. The two ruling families would enjoy having a larger kingdom with double the repression. The House of Khalifah knows that they have lost support with the bulk of the Bahraini population. Only force can keep them in power – some form of power, because the Saudi military intervention basically put the House of Saud in charge of Bahrain. [read]
After evictions and arrests from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to London that began last year, the movement against income inequality and corporate abuse will regain strength, said Brian McNary, director of global risk at Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations.
He works with international financial firms to “identify, map and track” protesters across social media and at their assemblies, he said. The companies gather data “carefully and methodically” to prevent business disruptions.
Banks are preparing for Occupy demonstrations at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Chicago summit on May 20 and 21 by sharing information from video surveillance, robots and officers in buildings, giving “a real-time, 360-degree” view, said McNary, who works on the project.
Banks cooperating on surveillance are like elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park, he said. While other animals try in vain to sprint away alone, elk survive attacks by forming a ring together, he said.
[…] If the United States wants Russia to sever its relationship with Assad, it should begin by severing its relationship with the Bahraini dictatorship. The first and most important sign of such a divorce would be the withdrawal of the U.S. Fifth Fleet from Bahrain.
“The huge U.S. naval presence in Bahrain has not improved western security in the Gulf; has not altered Iran’s behavior; and, more important, has not silenced the anti-regime opposition in the Gulf and in other Arab countries,” writes Emile Nakleh in the Financial Times. “Moving the U.S. military presence from Bahrain to ‘over the horizon’ would be a clear signal that Arab dictatorship will no longer be tolerated, whether in Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere.”
The Washington Post has recommended using the military stick, not the diplomatic carrot, with Syria. But to truly resolve the twin problems of Syria and Bahrain, removing the military stick might have a much more salutary effect. As for the diplomatic side of the equation — to turn John Paul Jones on his head — we have not yet even begun to negotiate. [++]
“The life-serving market system we want and the life-destructive capitalist system we have feature very different structures and operate by very different rules. A healthy market system in designed to facilitate the beneficial self-organizing exchange of goods and services in response to people’s self-defined needs. The capitalist system, by contrast, is designed to concentrate economic power to support the expropriation of wealth for the exclusive private benefit of the system’s most powerful players. The rules formulated and enforced by government ultimately favor one or the other of these competing systems. The tension between them defines the political struggle of our time. Government makes the rules that determine the economy’s structure and priorities. Its choices commonly favor Wall Street capitalism over Main Street markets, because Wall Street controls the money and the media that drive Washington politics. The public rarely hears about options supportive of a healthy Main Street market system, and such options do not find their way into the platforms of the major political parties.”—David Korten (via azspot)
In remarks reported by the U.S. government’s official news network, Voice of America, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — like every other Obama administration official this election season — recounts with pride that glorious spring day when, flowers blooming and birds chirping, a team of Navy SEALs found what they admit was an unarmed Osama bin Laden and shot him dead.
While the rah-rah, Obama-got-Osama! stuff is passé and unremarkable at this point, what’s noteworthy is Clinton’s boast in her speech that the bin Laden raid was not out of the ordinary at all. It wasn’t a one-off, spectacularly exceptional raid undertaken because the target was the world’s most wanted terrorist, she says. Gosh no. America does this sort of stuff all the time!
“This may sound really exotic and scary to you all, but we’ve probably done something similar to this - helicopter in, take the target, look for who you’re after, and get out of there - we have probably done it now 1,000 times.”
Indeed, the U.S. military has terrorized the people of Afghanistan for years now with night raids that, according to the occupying force’s own statistics, have killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians. Being poor brown people, though, the dead don’t have names, their passing not trumpeted by every Democratic strategist within shouting distance of a microphone. [++]
“Western media and governments don’t even bother with the story of Bahrain. David Cameron came up this week with the standard Western response to a threat to a client of the US. He said Bahrain is not Syria. He should have added that Saudi Arabia is Sweden.”—As’ad AbuKhalil
For all intents and purposes, Bahrain is forgotten. The people of Bahrain and their struggle will never get the attention and admiration of people and governments in the West.
This week, it was rather ironic to watch and listen to BBC coverage of Bahrain in comparison to their coverage of Syria. Activists who were interviewed were treated like criminals, while Syrian activists are allowed to make all sorts of claims, even claims that are not substantiated. The BBC sneered at the use of fire bombs by some protesters in Bahrain, while Syrian activist are permitted to call for the use of arms on the air. Hillary Clinton called on the Syrian people to keep their arms and “logistical” help that has been provided to the Free Syrian Army (which is a collection of bands and gangs operating under names derived from Islamic history and from rulers of gas and oil kingdoms). Yet, the spokesperson of the US Department of State called on the protesters of Bahrain to show “restraint.” If she called on the protesters in Syria to show restraint she would have been fired. [++]
Annan spoke to the crucial role that accurate information must play in helping to ease the crisis in Syria. “We continue to be hampered by the lack of verified information in assessing the situation,” he said. “We need eyes and ears on the ground,” he emphasized. “This will provide the incontrovertible basis the international community needs to act in an effective and unified manner, increasing the momentum for a cessation of violence to be implemented by all sides,” he explains. (Kofi Annan Briefing, Para 20)
Such a statement fails to acknowledge that there are those in what he calls the “international community” who are hostile to his peace mission. Instead they are working for regime change in Syria, a goal contrary to the UN charter. Accurate information is, in fact, as he emphasized, critical to the success of his mission in Syria.
One mechanism of this media warfare is constant reference to unverified reports from the opposition from such questionable sources as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which is in the UK. Several exposures of this organization have been written showing that not only do two rival groups claim they are the legitimate representatives of this entity, but neither of the groups has a basis to verify the reports that are issued in its name.
The New York Times reports: The first concentrated high-level talks aimed at breaking a five-month diplomatic deadlock between the United States and Pakistan ended in failure on Friday over Pakistani demands for an unconditional apology from the Obama administration for an airstrike. The White House, angered by the recent spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, refuses to apologize.
The Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, left the Pakistani capital Friday night with no agreement after two days of discussions aimed at patching up the damage caused by the American airstrikes last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghanistan border.
Both sides insist that they are now ready to make up and restore an uneasy alliance that at its best offers support for American efforts in Afghanistan as well as the battle against some extremist groups operating from Pakistan. The administration had been seriously debating whether to say “I’m sorry” to the Pakistanis’ satisfaction — until April 15, when multiple, simultaneous attacks struck Kabul and other Afghan cities.
“What changed was the 15th of April,” said a senior administration official.
American military and intelligence officials concluded the attacks came at the direction of a group working from a base in North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal belt: the Haqqani network, an association of border criminals and smugglers that has mounted lethal attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan. That confirmed longstanding American mistrust about Pakistani intentions — a poison that infects nearly every other aspect of the strained relationship. That swung the raging debate on whether Mr. Obama or another senior American should go beyond the expression of regret that the administration had already given, and apologize.
The negotiations are complicated by a complex web of interlocking demands from both sides. Without the apology, Pakistani officials say they cannot reopen NATO supply routes into Afghanistan that have been closed since November.
The Americans, in turn, are withholding between $1.18 billion and $3 billion of promised military aid — the exact figure depending on which side is speaking.
The continuing deadlock does not bode well for Pakistan’s attendance at a NATO meeting in Chicago in three weeks, assuming it is even invited. The administration has been eager to cast the event as a regional security summit meeting, and Pakistan’s absence would be embarrassing.
“[The Obama Administration] simultaneously use secrecy as a sword and a shield: they ensure that they can make whatever claims they want about their behavior in order to glorify the President, while preventing all attempts to obtain the full and real story and, more important, to obtain adjudications about whether their conduct comports with the law.”—Selective bin Laden leaking
If the Justice Department wants to get serious about investigating financial fraud by Wall Street big boys, it ought to drop by the White House and interview Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric. Immelt is chair of President Obama’s jobs and competitive council, where he strategizes about how to revive American manufacturing. In some other places, only thirty miles from the White House, Immelt is known as the subprime foreclosure king.
General Electric preyed upon low-income minorities—people of color and immigrants—with notorious subprime mortgages designed to fail. And fail they did. GE Capital’s mortgage subsidiary originated some $700 million in housing loans to families in Prince William and Manasses—high-cost, predatory loans of which $218 million wound up in foreclosure. GE, well known for its inventiveness, pioneered online loan origination in which borrowers did not have to prove they had any income. Naturally, they were charged sky-high interest rates and sold weird mortgages with variable rates that went up but never went down.
Nearly 50 percent of Prince William homeowners are still “underwater” on their mortgages, still struggling to hold on their houses. The county has particular meaning for this year’s presidential election because Prince William is the first county in Virginia to have a “minority majority”—voters who are non-white. They are especially meaningful for Obama because he needs to win big again in Prince William to have any hope of carrying Virginia as he did 2008.
Mortgage-making was a messy but lucrative business for GE. It became the tenth-largest subprime lender in the nation. Its failure rate was the highest among the big-name banks working the northern Virginia territory. But GE made sure it got out before the borrowers failed. WMC Mortgage, the GE subsidiary that originated the dubious loans, immediately sold them to other companies or packaged them as mortgage-backed securities and sold them to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federally guaranteed housing finance companies now in conservatorship. Some minor portion of the $150 billion in losses Fannie and Freddie have dumped on the taxpayers can be credited to Jeffrey Immelt’s brilliant banking. When the mortgage scam became a national scandal, GE sold the company that had done its dirty work.