That it took a billionaire mayor to explain these simple matters to our progressive leaders is, well, what can one say? This entire episode has been an instructive example in courage and cowardice, shame and shamelessness. [continue]
“The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency’s vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama’s assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative ‘informal’ agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.”—US media yet again conceals newsworthy government secrets | Glenn Greenwald (via randomactsofchaos)
Most of the people killed by the Lethal Presidency have not been American citizens.
Most of the people killed by the Lethal Presidency have not been Al Qaeda leaders.
Most of the people killed by the Lethal Presidency have not warranted a white paper.
Indeed, of the 3000-or-so people killed by the Lethal Presidency, three have been Americans, and perhaps 100 have been Al Qaeda leaders. The rest? The 2,997 non-Americans? The 2900 who don’t qualify as Al Qaeda leaders? We have no idea. We have no idea who they are or what they did. They are routinely identified as “militants,” but that’s all we know, because the decision to kill them has been made in secret. We may assume that some of them, or even most of them, have taken up arms with the Taliban or with Al Qaeda. But we have no idea how many of them conform to the particular profile proffered by the Lethal Presidency when it is speaking of who lives and who dies — when it is describing the kind of person who represents a threat to the United States and therefore deserves to die by drone.
The DOJ white paper, as such, represents that truly rare thing — the exception that really does prove the rule. It is a statement by which the Lethal Presidency considers the power it routinely claims over non-citizens and extends it to citizens, rather than any dramatic deviation from the norm. Surely, the Senators asking John Brennan questions in today’s hearing will focus on the exception, because the citizenry can’t help but be moved by the death of a citizen. But the rule is what remains more telling about the Lethal Presidency, if only because the Lethal Presidency refuses to tell us anything about it.
In his response to the DOJ white paper, the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer commented that it’s written in “the language of limits — but without any real restrictions.” That is the norm for the Lethal Presidency, which deploys terms like “precision” and “discrimination” only in the interest of expansion. Not so long ago, we were assured by an American Administration that those it dispatched to Guantanamo Bay represented “the worst of the worst” — and so we were surprised when most of those it captured it later released, after finding they committed no crimes. Well, we don’t capture anymore, and “kill or capture” has been rendered the latest political euphemism. We kill. According to a former member of the Administration I consulted before writing “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” we kill those we would have never have bothered to capture. We don’t let anybody go.
Do we also kill American citizens? Yes, we do — and there is no doubt that John Brennan will be asked about the deliberations that ended in the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. But it would be better to ask him if there were any deliberations that led to the death of al-Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman. It would be better to ask him him if there was a white paper, or a classified memo. It would be better to ask him if he even knows why Abdulrahman was killed, or the importance of the operation that necessitated his death. For although Abdulrahman was an American citizen, his killing was much more typical of the killings meted out by the Lethal Presidency than the killing of his father. Abdulrahman, after all, wasn’t on any kill list that we know of. He wasn’t an Al Qaeda leader. He wasn’t even a militant. He was a kid, eating with other kids. John Brennan should be asked about him, because Abdulrahman is representative not just of the three American citizens but also the too many killed by the Lethal Presidency. He had no idea why he was killed. And neither do we.
Students at a high school in Illinois experienced a uniquely terrifying school shooting drill on Wednesday. Instead of conducting a regular school lockdown, Cary-Grove High School administrators simulated gunfire by shooting off blanks in the hallways while students locked their classroom doors, pulled the curtains, and hid.
The simulation will take approximately 15-20 minutes, during which time teachers will secure their rooms, draw curtains, and keep their students from traveling throughout the building. Please note that we will be firing blanks in the hallway in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire. Our school resource officer and other members of the Cary Police Department will assist us in sweeping the building to ensure that all students are in a secure location during the drill. At the conclusion of the drill, we will take some time to process what occurred and then we will return to our normal classroom routine.
I encourage you to discuss the drill with your student both before it happens and after. These drills help our students and staff to be prepared should a crisis occur, but it may cause some students to have an emotional reaction.
“This system as it exists today consists of innumerable interrelated, constantly moving parts. Countless agencies, commissions and bureaucrats act in concert and on their own to expand their power, and that of government generally. The system has a life of its own; it is its own reason for being. It sustains itself, and it seeks more and more territory for its dominance. The exercise of power and the acquisition of still more power are not directed at the improvement of the lives of ‘ordinary’ Americans, whoever they may be; ordinary Americans are of no interest or concern to the ruling elites, except insofar as their labor and often their lives are necessary for the maintenance of the lives of immense comfort and privilege enjoyed by the powerful. Power is not the means to some other end, although that claim is a crucial element of the extraordinarily successful propaganda so willingly swallowed by the public. Power — its exercise and maintenance, and the acquisition of still more power — is the end.”—Arthur Silber
… As for the Murder Program: coincidentally — just as coincidental as Brennan heading up the C.I.A. (the Obama administration is truly blessed by the gods, is it not?) — someone just happened to provide a lengthy, confidential Justice Department memo setting out the administration’s justifications for its assassination program to NBC News. Michael Isikoff dutifully wrote up the EXCLUSIVE story, and the yammering class exploded in an orgiastic frenzy of self-pleasuring. The memo refers to another, classified document “that actually provided the legal justification for ordering the killing of American citizens” — but that is a distraction of little significance, as I discuss below. The crucial point is that the administration has provided the essentials of its argument in support of the Murder Program, and it has done so in advance of Brennan’s confirmation hearing.
When the august Senators question Brennan about the Murder Program, they will have more than enough information to frame their inquiry in a meaningful manner — and they will have sufficient information to pass judgment on whether they consider the Murder Program legitimate, rational and legal. (In fact, all that was true long before this latest “white paper” was leaked, as I also discuss in what follows.) But the appearance of this latest document “justifying” the assassination program makes the point inescapable: whenever anyone objects to the Murder Program on the grounds that the executive branch implemented a campaign of limitless assassination entirely on its own, without input or approval from any other branch of government, Obama and his fellow criminals can truthfully say: “But Congress had all the information it needed to judge the soundness of our policy. They had the opportunity to question John Brennan about it — and Brennan is, after all, the chief architect of the program. And they confirmed his nomination as C.I.A. Director!”
Barring entirely unexpected developments, Brennan will certainly be confirmed. And that is precisely how Brennan’s confirmation will be viewed in the future: as Congressional approval of the Murder Program. That, I submit, is the prize the Obama administration was after. [read]
President Obama has finally — after 2 years and 14 requests — agreed to let the intelligence committees see the Office of Legal Counsel Memos that authorize the lethal targeting of US citizens.
Kudos to Ron Wyden for having the tenacity to see that this, at least, happened.
But as big a story as this is, perhaps an equally significant story is the way it is being misreported.
First, even though quotes of Obama and direct statements from Dianne Feinstein and Ron Wyden refer to memos, plural, people persist in reporting that there is one memo. [see above].
Second, in spite of the fact that Obama has only aceded to letting the two Intelligence Committees have access to the memos, most media outlets are reporting that “Congress” will get the memos. [see above] Congress consists of 535 people elected by citizens. The Intelligence Committees consist of 35 people selected by party leaders. Among those 35 are Michelle Bachmann and Lynn Westmoreland.
And while on the Senate side, non-Intelligence Committee Senators can usually arrange to see such classified materials, it at least used to be that on the House side Members had to ask politely. And even still, the most responsible reporters are saying terms of this kind of access is still to be determined.
Ah well. At least 35 men and women can know what might get you and I killed. But you and I aren’t allowed to know yet.
“THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.” But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.”—Why Police Officers Lie Under Oath (via azspot)
“The base was established two years ago… [but] the Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the [Obama] administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate…”—
Every now and again we get a look at the “objectivity” of the mainstream press.
[…] “It has to be in the agenda of this Congress to reconsider the scope of action of drones and use of deadly force by the United States around the world because the original authorization of use of force, I think, is being strained to its limits,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a recent interview.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Tuesday that “it deserves a serious look at how we make the decisions in government to take out, kill, eliminate, whatever word you want to use, not just American citizens but other citizens as well.”
Hoyer added: “We ought to carefully review our policies as a country.”
This is a good sign, but keep in mind that the suddenly shocking “white paper” has been floating around congress since June (and the fact that the Obama administration has been running an oversight-free executive branch death squad from the White House isn’t exactly new information, or shouldn’t be to anyone paying attention).
At least five people were killed after six missiles hit a house in Tehsil Spain Wam of North Waziristan on Wednesday. The strikes by an unmanned US drone were carried out after reports that militants were present in the house, official sources said. US drone strikes are infamous around the world, especially in Pakistan, for killing innocent people besides “militants” [defined as any “military-aged male” in the vicinity of the strike according to Obama’s signature strike policy]. However, the United States insists that they are precise and target only terrorists. Wednesday’s drone attack came hours after Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman declared these strikes violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and international laws.
Unlike the bombast that characterized the Bush administration’s assaults on U.S. and international law, the Obama regime tends to dribble out its rationales for gutting the Bill of Rights and every notion of global legality. This president prefers to create a fog – let’s call it the fog of his war against human rights – as he arrogates to himself the power to perpetually imprison or to summarily execute anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world. Obama assures us such authority is constitutionally rooted – it’s in there, believe me, he tells us – but he never produces legal chapter and verse to prove that presidential dictatorship is lawful. Instead, we get dribs and drabs of the administration’s position from lawyers defending Obama’s preventive detention law in the courts, or from informal statements by the attorney general, or even little tidbits gleaned from an Obama conversation with comedian Jon Stewart.
The latest hors d’oeuvre to be dished out comes in the form of a leak. I say “dished out” because leaked documents are commonly placed in public view by the administration in power, to test the political waters. This leaked Justice Department “white paper” appears to have been drawn up after the execution-by-drone of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki, in Yemen. It justifies the killing of anyone occupying a position of status in al-Qaida, or with the ever-changing universe of groups said to be “associated” with al-Qaida. The document stretches the definition of “imminent threat” to cover anyone engaged in activities directed against the U.S., whether or not an actual operation is planned or in progress. Most interestingly, the white paper empowers Obama to delegate the kill-at-will authority to “an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government.” Which has a certain logic, since dictators certainly have the power to delegate the carrying out of their unjust acts to whomever they choose.
Eleven U.S. senators are asking for further clarification of the administration’s legal position. But that is just more fog, since the Congress overwhelmingly passed Obama’s preventive detention law – twice!! – a law based on the same assumption that due process of law does not apply when the president says it’s wartime. Therefore, the commander-in-chief can lock up any American, without charge or trial, forever, or until he declares peace. The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, has made the administration’s position clear enough. Due process, he says, does not necessarily mean access to the judicial process – meaning, a trial. The process is whatever the president or the nearest “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government” says it is. Obama had redefined war, itself. The president told the Congress, after bombing Libya for eight months, that by his definition – which is the only one that counts – no state of war exists unless Americans become casualties, even if the U.S. kills tens of thousands, or millions. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying that the arc of history bends towards justice. In the long term, that may be true. But Martin’s arc is not bending towards justice under this administration. It bends towards fascism, with a Black presidential face. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford.
“The U.S. Postal Service announced on Wednesday that it will discontinue first class Saturday mail delivery, marking another milestone in the decline of the once-ubiquitous government service. But it isn’t a switch to online mail that’s causing the postal demise — it’s Congress.
"Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, Congress has for years forced the USPS to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of pensions for its employees, a requirement not made of any other public or private institution. That means that the Postal Service is footing the bill for employees it hasn’t even hired yet.
"The USPS doesn’t actually receive money from the government, but still needs Congressional approval to make any changes to its structure. An analysis in July showed that the USPS, without its pension requirement, would have a $1.5 billion surplus.
"But Congress has repeatedly failed to address the issue. Last year, the Postal Service defaulted on a pension fund payment for the first — and then second — time in its history, and political infighting stopped Congress from bringing any remedy to the floor.
"Postal access is, ultimately, a rights issue for rural Americans; since they live in areas where internet coverage is inconsistent, post office closures and slowed-down delivery can mean big limitations on communication. A lack of access to postal services can lead to a growth in economic inequality. The new rules for Saturday delivery, set to take effect on August 1, 2013, will continue delivery of packages, but discontinue basic first-class mail.”
[W]hat, people ask me, if something that dreadful did happen? Should the world just stand by and watch?
What is meant by “the world”? The Western ideological construct assumes that the world should care about human rights, but that only the West really does. That assumption is creating a deepening gap between the West and the rest of the world, which does not see things that way. To most of the real world, the West is seen as a cause of humanitarian disasters, not the cure.
Libya marked a turning point, when the NATO powers used the R2P doctrine not to protect people from being bombed by their own air force (the idea behind the “no fly zone” UN resolution), but to bomb the country themselves in order to enable rebels to kill the leader and destroy the regime. That convinced the Russians and Chinese, if they had had any doubts, that “R2P” is a fake, used to advance a project of world domination.
And they are not alone and isolated. The West is isolating itself in its own powerful propaganda bubble. Much, perhaps most of the world sees Western intervention as motivated by economic self-interest, or by the interests of Israel. The sense of being threatened by U.S. power incites other countries to build up their own military defenses and to repress opposition militants who might serve as excuses for outside intervention.
By crying “genocide” when there is no genocide, the U.S. is crying wolf and losing credibility. It is destroying the trust and unity that would be needed to mobilize international humanitarian action in case of genuine need. [++]
1. In the Western tradition of law, there can be no punishment without the commission of a specific crime defined by statute. The memo does not require that a specific crime have been committed, or that a planned criminal act be a clear and present danger, for [anyone] to be targeted for execution by drone.
“A bill, act or writ of attainder was a piece of legislation that declared a person or persons guilty of a crime. A bill of attainder allowed for the guilty party to be punished without a trial. A bill of attainder was part of English common law. Whereas Habeus Corpus guaranteed a fair trial by jury, a bill of attainder bypassed this. The word “attainder” meant tainted. A bill of attainder was mostly used for treason … and such a move suspended a person’s civil rights and guaranteed that the person would be found guilty of the crimes stated in the bill as long as the Royal Assent was gained. For serious crimes such as treason, the result was invariably execution.”
“The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3 provides that: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed.” …
“These clauses of the Constitution are not of the broad, general nature of the Due Process Clause, but refer to rather precise legal terms which had a meaning under English law at the time the Constitution was adopted. A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial. Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment.” William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court, page 166.
The form of the AUMF, in singling out all members of al-Qaeda wherever they are and regardless of nationality or of actual criminal action, as objects of legitimate lethal force, is that of a bill of attainder. Congress cannot declare war on small organizations– war is declared on states. Such a bill of attainder is inherently unconstitutional.
3. The memo’s vision violates the principle of the separation of powers. It makes the president judge, jury and executioner. Everything is done within the executive branch, with no judicial oversight whatsoever. The powers the memo grants the president are the same enjoyed by the absolute monarchs of the early modern period, against whom Montesquieu penned his Spirit of the Laws, which inspired most subsequent democracies, including the American. Montesquieu said:
“Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.
There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.
Most kingdoms in Europe enjoy a moderate government because the prince who is invested with the two first powers leaves the third to his subjects. In Turkey, where these three powers are united in the Sultan’s person, the subjects groan under the most dreadful oppression.
Ironically, given contemporary American Islamophobia, the Obama administration has made itself resemble not the Sun-King, Louis XIV, who at least did have a court system not completely under his thumb, but rather, as Montesquieu saw it, the Ottoman sultans, who he claimed combined in themselves executive, legislative and judicial power. (Actually the Muslim qadis or court judges who ruled according to Islamic law or sharia were also not completely subjugated to the monarch, so even the Ottomans were better than the drone memo).
4. The memo resurrects the medieval notion of “outlawry”– that an individual can be put outside the protection of the law by the sovereign for vague crimes such as “rebellion,” and merely by royal decree. A person declared an outlaw by the king was deprived of all rights and legal protections, and anyone could do anything to him that they wished, with no repercussions. (The slang use of “outlaw” to mean simply “habitual criminal” is an echo of this ancient practice, which was abolished in the UK and the US).
I wrote on another occasion that the problem with branding someone an “outlaw” by virtue of being a traitor or a terrorist is that this whole idea was abolished by the US constitution. Its framers insisted that you couldn’t just hang someone out to dry by decree. Rather, a person who was alleged to have committed a crime such as treason or terrorism had to be captured, brought to court, tried, and sentenced in accordance with a specific statute, and then punished by the state. If someone is arrested, they have the right to demand to be produced in court before a judge, a right known as habeas corpus (“bringing the body,” i.e. bringing the physical person in front of a judge).
The relevant text is the Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
5. The memo asks us to trust the executive to establish beyond the shadow of a doubt the guilt of an individual in a distant land, to whom access is so limited that the US cannot hope to capture him or have local authorities capture him. But Andy Worthington has established that very large numbers of the prisoners the US sent to Guantanamo were innocent of the charges against them. If the executive arm of the government can imprison people mistakenly, it can blow them away by drone mistakenly. A US government official once told me the story of an Iraqi Shiite who had fled persecution under Saddam through Iran all the way to Afghanistan. In 2001, locals eager to make a buck turned him in as “Taliban” to the US military, which apparently did not realize that Iraqi Shiites would never ever support a hyper-Sunni movement like that. So the Iraqi Shiite was sent to Guantanamo and it could even be that Taliban themselves were paid by the US for turning him in. The official may have been speaking of Jowad Jabar. These American officials are way too ignorant to be given the power to simply execute human beings from the sky on the basis of their so-called ‘intelligence.’
Then there is the whole premise of the memo, quite apart from its substance. The memo, as Glenn Greenwald points out, ratifies the Bush/Cheney theory that the whole world is a battlefield on which the US is continually at war. Treating the few hundred al-Qaeda, spread around the world in 60 small cells, as an enemy army, making them analogous to German troops in WW II, is insane on the face of it. Our current secretary of state, John Kerry, largely rejected the notion. Al-Qaeda consists of criminals, not soldiers, and they pose a police counter-terrorism problem, not a battlefield problem. The notion that the whole world is a battlefield violates basic legal conceptions of international law such as national sovereignty.
“Late last August, a 40-year-old cleric named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber stood up to deliver a speech denouncing Al Qaeda in a village mosque in far eastern Yemen. It was a brave gesture by a father of seven who commanded great respect in the community, and it did not go unnoticed. Two days later, three members of Al Qaeda came to the mosque in the tiny village of Khashamir after 9 p.m., saying they merely wanted to talk. Mr. Jaber agreed to meet them, bringing his cousin Waleed Abdullah, a police officer, for protection. As the five men stood arguing by a cluster of palm trees, a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky and incinerated them all, along with a camel that was tied up nearby. The killing of Mr. Jaber, just the kind of leader most crucial to American efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, was a reminder of the inherent hazards of the quasi-secret campaign of targeted killings that the United States is waging against suspected militants not just in Yemen but also in Pakistan and Somalia.”—Sorry, we thought you were “up to no good”
The doctrine of national security imposed by the United States on Latin America, which fostered the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, is making a comeback in Honduras where a new law is combining military defence of the country with police strategies for maintaining domestic order.
The law created the National Directorate of Investigation and Intelligence (DNII), a key agency in the security structure that does not appear to be accountable to any other body, and does not appear to be under democratic civilian control.
“This bill unites or fuses military defense and internal security, which is dangerous, because one of the aims after the Cold War was to separate these fields, due to the negative effects (their union had) on systematic violation of human rights” in the region, sociologist Mirna Flores, an expert on the issue, told IPS.
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.”—
One of the ways in which humans wrestle with the existence of evil is by hoping that the evil doer gets his or her just desserts. This hope is expressed with expressions such as “what goes around comes around” or “you reap what you sow.”
Despite all of this wishful thinking, it is rare for cosmic justice to be served as completely as it was in the case of the late Chris Kyle. Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper in Iraq who served five tours of duty and by his own estimate killed 150 people. This week Kyle was himself shot to death and by another veteran no less.
Kyle should have lived in ignominy for taking so many lives, but instead he was decorated with medals and became a celebrity as a result of what should have been prosecuted crimes. Kyle wrote a best selling book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in American History. He had a starring role in a NBC reality show, Stars Earn Stripes, a disgraceful ode to militarism and empire. He and another veteran met their end in an ill-advised effort to treat a former marine suffering from PTSD. Kyle was good at killing but he wasn’t much of a mental health professional. He used a shooting range as a venue to treat other vets having difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Let’s just say it didn’t work out very well.
The United States government committed a terrible crime when it invaded Iraq nearly ten years ago. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed range from 150,000 to over 1 million. Like human beings throughout human history, Iraqis didn’t take kindly to being occupied and they fought back as best they could. The media may call them terrorists or insurgents, but Iraqis have as much right to defend themselves and their country as anyone else in the world and Kyle had no right to kill any of them.
Obviously he didn’t see it that way. He felt justified and quite moral in killing so many people and he did it in typical American fashion. In a Fox news interview, Kyle declared that Iraqis were not really human beings and thus had lost any right to stay alive.
“I considered the people I was killing to be savages because of the violence they committed against American troops, the beheadings, the rapes of innocent villagers. They lived by putting fear into other people’s hearts and civilized people don’t act that way. I wasn’t so much committed to killing them as I was committed to making sure that every service member over there, whether American or allied, came home – I was killing them to protect my fellow Americans. You have to get into the mentality and you can not think of them as human beings.”
Don’t think of them as human beings. That is the long standing clarion call of white supremacy, manifest destiny and imperial delusion. America has long accepted decidedly uncivilized behavior as being morally superior, even when it obviously isn’t.
American troops were guilty of raping their fellow soldiers and Iraqi prisoners and other civilians too. As for beheadings it should be pointed out that humans are decapitated by bombs and bullets. All of the allegations Kyle made against Iraqis can be laid at America’s door step too. Civilization is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
The people who plan the wars don’t suffer. George W. Bush and Tony Blair went on to make millions of dollars giving corporate speeches and Blair even has the gall to present himself as a religious leader of sorts. The Iraqi victims and the soldiers maimed or killed or suffering from PTSD pay the real price for the wrong doing planned from on high.
Kyle is survived by a wife and young children who are no doubt grieving, but the same is surely true of his 150 victims. They left family behind. Children are fatherless or motherless or homeless because of the “civilized” United States. It is tragic for all of these people to have suffered so much but until they can be seen as civilized human beings, there will be no end to American slaughter.
There is another old saying which perfectly describes the death of Chris Kyle. “The chickens come home to roost.”
“Once upon a time, an argument over whether such drone strikes were legal or not might have had some heft to it. After all, the United States was once hailed, above all, as a ‘nation of laws.’ But make no mistake: today, such a ‘debate’ will, in the Seinfeldian sense, be an argument about nothing, or rather about an issue that has long been settled. The drone strikes, after all, are perfectly ‘legal.’ How do we know? Because the administration which produced that 50-page document (and similar memos) assures us that it’s so, even if they don’t care to fully reveal their reasoning, and because, truth be told, on such matters they can do whatever they want to do. It’s legal because they’ve increasingly become the ones who define legality.”—
It would, of course, be illegal for Canadians, Pakistanis, or Iranians to fly missile-armed drones over Minneapolis or New York, no less take out their versions of bad guys in the process. That would, among other things, be a breach of American sovereignty. The U.S. can, however, do more or less what it wants when and where it wants. The reason: it has established, to the satisfaction of our national security managers — and they have the secret legal documents (written by themselves) to prove it — that U.S. drones can cross national boundaries just about anywhere if the bad guys are, in their opinion, bad enough. And that’s “the law”!
What it means to be in such a post-legal world — to know that, no matter what acts a government official commits, he or she will never be brought to court or have a chance of being put in jail — has yet to fully sink in. This is true even of critics of the Obama administration, who, as in the case of its drone wars, continue to focus on questions of legality, as if that issue weren’t settled. In this sense, they continue to live in an increasingly fantasy-based version of America in which the rule of law still applies to everyone.
In reality, in the Bush and Obama years, the United States has become a nation not of laws but of legal memos, not of legality but of legalisms — and you don’t have to be a lawyer to know it. The result? Secret armies, secret wars, secret surveillance, and spreading state secrecy, which meant a government of the bureaucrats about which the American people could know next to nothing. And it’s all “legal.”
Consider, for instance, this passage from a recent Washington Post piece on the codification of “targeted killing operations” — i.e. drone assassinations — in what’s now called the White House “playbook”: “Among the subjects covered… are the process for adding names to kill lists, the legal principles that govern when U.S. citizens can be targeted overseas, and the sequence of approvals required when the CIA or U.S. military conducts drone strikes outside war zones.”
Those “legal principles” are, of course, being written up by lawyers working for people like Obama counterterrorism “tsar” John O. Brennan; that is, officials who want the greatest possible latitude when it comes to knocking off “terrorist suspects,” American or otherwise. Imagine, for instance, lawyers hired by a group of neighborhood thieves creating a “playbook” outlining which kinds of houses they considered it legal to break into and just why that might be so. Would the “principles” in that document be written up in the press as “legal” ones?
Here’s the kicker. According to the Post, the “legal principles” a White House with no intention of seriously limiting, no less shutting down, America’s drone wars has painstakingly established as “law” are not, for the foreseeable future, going to be applied to Pakistan’s tribal borderlands where the most intense drone strikes still take place. The CIA’s secret drone war there is instead going to be given a free pass for a year or more to blast away as it pleases — the White House equivalent of Monopoly’s get-out-of-jail-free card.
In other words, even by the White House’s definition of legality, what the CIA is doing in Pakistan should be considered illegal. But these days when it comes to anything connected to American war-making, legality is whatever the White House says it is (and you won’t find their legalisms seriously challenged by American courts).
“Since the al-Qaeda leader was aware of the relative powerlessness of his organization and its hundreds or, in its heyday, perhaps thousands of active followers, his urge was to defeat the U.S. by provoking its leaders into treasury-draining wars in the Greater Middle East. In his world, it was thought that such a set of involvements — and the ‘homeland’ security down payments that went with them — could bleed the richest, most powerful nation on the planet dry. In this, he and his associates, imitators, and wannabes were reasonably canny. The bin Laden tax, including that $120 million for Inauguration Day, has proved heavy indeed.”—Tom Engelhardt
Civil liberties groups order NYPD to stop spying on Muslims February 5, 2013
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday that aims to stop police in the Big Apple from continuing surveillance that specifically targets practicing Muslims.
In court papers filed by the NYCLU, the civil liberties group asks a federal judge to grant an injunction “against ongoing violations” perpetrated by the NYPD in which officers of the law have spied on local Muslims through the guise of an alleged counterterrorism program. Of particular target is an elusive “Demographics Unit,” a squad of NYPD officers who have surveilled local Muslims in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks but only exposed last year by an expose published by the Associated Press.
The NYCLU insists that surveillance waged at Muslims must stop immediately, as spying on persons not linked to a specific crime violates the terms of a historic 1985 settlement known as the Handschu agreement. In that case, the court sided with plaintiff Barbara Handschu and agreed that the NYPD violated constitutions protections granted under the First Amendment by compiling dossiers of known anti-war protesters and other political activists. Following that ruling, the NYPD has only been allowed to conduct surveillance if it suspects criminal activity.
Last year, Queens, NY resident Shamiur Rahman testified that he served as a paid informant for the NYPD for months, and visited mosques and other Muslim gathering places in order to gather intelligence. Rahman said before court that his NYPD handler, “Steve,” told him that the agency considered being a religious Muslim as an indicator of terrorism. As the AP’s investigation widened, the Demographics Unit was linked to collecting intelligence from masques, community centers, bookshops and cafes across the greater New York region. Rahman claimed that, with his help, the NYPD was handed information
“One of my earliest assignments was to spy on a lecture at the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College in Manhattan,” Rahman testified. “I was told to report any ‘buzz words’ like jihad or revolution by the speaker. I was also told to monitor the student group itself. My NYPD boss Steve told me to take pictures at the group’s events, to determine who belonged to the group and to identify its leadership. I took pictures of people in the group and recorded the license plate numbers of their cars.”
In September, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly insisted, ”As a matter of Police Department policy, undercover officers and confidential informants do not enter a mosque unless they are following up on a lead vetted under Handschu.” In a statement this week, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne added, ”The NYPD adheres to the Constitution in all it does, and specifically the Handschu guidelines in the deployment of undercover officers to help thwart plots against New York City and to identify individuals engaged in support of terrorism.”
The NYCLU thinks otherwise, though, and is asking a federal judge to make sure the NYPD stops immediately. “We think the surveillance of innocent Muslims is an infringement of civil liberties by the police and a violation of the guidelines,” Paul Chevigny, a New York University law professor and one of five attorneys on the Handschu case, tells CNN. “There’s no indication of crime in connection with any of the organizations they’ve infiltrated,” he says.
“Investigations of any community which are not based upon indications of crime create fear and erode the confidence of a community in the power of a legal system to protect it,” Chevigny adds in a statement published by Newsday.
In the motion filed on Monday, the NYCLU writes, “When surveillance is conducted to detect crime, it will stop when the crime is stopped or the danger passes, but a surveillance program of the sort that the NYPD conducts has no end. Its pervasive injurious effects must increase as people become more aware of the surveillance. This is the essence of a police state.”
The Obama administration’s targeted-killing program has relied on a growing constellation of drone bases operated by the CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command. The only strike intentionally targeting a U.S. citizen, a 2011 attack that killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia.
The base was established two years ago to intensify the hunt against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the affiliate in Yemen is known. Brennan, who previously served as the CIA’s station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over locating an agency drone base inside the kingdom.
The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate … as well as potentially damaging counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.
It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland. … The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states. [+]
[…] This new claim that evidence is not required to kill someone is the true foundation of Too Big To Curtail. To really appreciate how extreme the whole concept is, understand that it is already blatantly illegal for a president to execute an American citizen without so much as a indictment. Indeed, if the constitutional notion of “due process” means anything at all, at minimum it means at least being formally charged with a single crime.
But in the new white paper, the Obama administration isn’t just laying waste to that most basic of ideas — it is going further and insisting that even within the extra-constitutional “kill list” deliberations inside the White House, the president doesn’t actually need evidence to order someone’s death.
This, of course, creates a legal architecture to justify the administration’s heretofore shocking declaration that, according to the New York Times, “it in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” It also explains why Obama’s spokesman said the president was justified in executing a 16-year-old U.S. citizen simply because the kid “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” According to the Justice Department white paper, those killings are all now perfectly legal because supposedly the law “does not require the United States to have clear evidence” in order to kill anyone, much less posthumously identify them as a threat.
In the context of the administration’s other high-profile legal moves, this is nothing short of a tectonic shift in long-term jurisprudential standards. When it comes to Obama campaign contributors on Wall Street, Too Big to Jail means no amount of overwhelming evidence can prompt a single white-collar prosecution, regardless of the scope of financial terrorism. Meanwhile, when it comes to any U.S. citizen the president unilaterally deems a terrorist, Too Big to Curtail means that not a single shred of actual evidence is needed to not just to prosecute him, but to outright execute him.
Should the Congress continue to do nothing about this shift — say, for instance, by confirming the CIA nomination of one of the architects of Too Big to Curtail, John Brennan — this double standard will be the new assumed normal, one that (heads up liberal Obama defenders!) will be exploited by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. As evidenced by its statements to the Times, the Obama administration clearly knows that to be the case — and is now doing its best to guarantee that its radical precedents are cemented for the long haul.
The Bush administration said Monday that Israel’s policy of pinpoint killings of Palestinians was inflaming the Middle East conflict and urged the Israelis to alleviate what it called the humiliations of the Palestinian people.
In sterner terms than those used by President Bush days earlier, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said “Israel needs to understand that targeted killings of Palestinians don’t end the violence but are only inflaming an already volatile situation and making it much harder to restore calm.”
Boucher was referring to Israel’s policy of seeking out and killing Palestinian leaders it says had plotted or supervised terrorist acts.
Of course, a few days later, the Bush administration would enthusiastically embrace “the dark side”, as Cheney so famously said, but nonetheless, here we are, 12 years later, and “pinpoint killing” - even American citizens - is the norm.
Another day, another patent troll. Or so it seems. The threat of the patent troll is not new—we’ve written about it time and again. But the troubling trend of suing downstream users and content providers really makes us mad. First it was the app developers, then those who scan documents to email. Now, the latest outrage: podcasters. Yes, really. And EFF wants to help organize those facing the threat so that we can guage the size of the problem and hopefully help people find counsel and a way to work together in response. [++]
Pressbot was asked about the targeted killing “white paper” at the very beginning of Tuesday’s briefing. He said the strikes were
“OUTPUT 0 LEGAL 1 ETHICAL 2 WISE 3 PURE END”
“THE LEADER IS VERY RESPONSIBLE AND PURE” Pressbot said. “HIS PRIMARY FUNCTION IS TO PROTECT ALL HU-MANS IN THE HOMELAND” He added that the strikes were conducted “WITHOUT VIOLATING THE PURITY SUBROUTINE AND APPLICABLE INPUT/OUTPUT FUNCTIONS.
"THE CYBER-MAN BRENNAN IS AUGMENTED WITH AUGUSTINE/AQUINAS IMPLANTS. THE BRENNAN KNOWS ALL. HIS SOUND OUTPUTS EXPLAIN ALL. HIS PRIMARY FUNCTION IS TO PROTECT ALL HU-MANS IN HOMELAND WITHOUT VIOLATING THE PURITY SUBROUTINE AND APPLICABLE INPUT/OUTPUT FUNCTIONS.
“THE PURITY OF THE LEADER MAKES OVERSIGHT REDUNDANT. LEADER AND THE CYBER-MAN BRENNAN DO NOT REQUIRE DIAGNOSTICS. LEADER AND THE CYBER-MAN BRENNAN DO NOT MAKE MISTAKES”
And that, essentially, is all he would say, despite a torrent of questions about the paper.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama gravely and indignantly warns Syria that its use of chemical weapons would be “totally unacceptable” (Obama), that it would “cross a red line and those responsible would be held accountable” (Clinton), and the New York Times and the Western establishment repeats this without comment, one marvels at the mind-boggling hypocrisy. After all, the United States has been the champion user of chemical weapons in modern times, has opposed international agreements to curb their use, and now regularly employs depleted uranium in its wars—a nuclear as well as chemical weapon that affects many people beyond the immediate targets. The U.S. use of Agent Orange on a massive scale in the Vietnam War is well- known, as is its deployment of white phosphorus munitions in Iraq. Could it be that Clinton, Obama, and mainstream media (MSM) journalists don’t know this? Or is it once again the simple arrogance of power and internalized belief that only when an enemy does something ugly does morality and international law begin to apply? [continue]