The American Bear


Contemporary Colonialism: The Permanent US Drone War Base in Djibouti | Kevin Gosztola

As Reporters Without Borders describes the country, “There is no media freedom in Djibouti. This is one of the few African countries without any privately-owned or independent media. At the same time, the international media show little interest in this small Horn of Africa country although it is strategically located at the entrance to the Red Sea and has French, US and Japanese military bases.”

Djibouti is a dream paradise for a hub, where covert military operations are launched to assassinate individuals in areas away from any current theaters of declared war. It is a perfect sanctuary for America’s perpetual war to further normalize the idea that the world is a battlefield, where the US can launch attacks anywhere it deems appropriate.

The increasingly entrenched policy of state-sanctioned murder is intentionally shielded. A counterterrorism adviser that the Senate does not confirm oversees the program. Congress is kept from providing oversight. A president can share aspects of the program that make it look tough and righteous, while concealing the aspects that invite scrutiny of operations. There is no requirement of transparency because all can be cloaked in secrecy in the name of national security. It is completely dictatorial and paves the way for a robotic death squad to be unleashed and operate in whatever manner it chooses without any constraints whatsoever. [++]

We are concerned that the use of such “signature” strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States. Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned that the authority to target terrorist suspects whose identity does not need to be known goes further than what Congress authorized when it passed the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the attacks of September 11th (9/11). As you know, the AUMF only authorized the use of force against those responsible for the attacks of 9/11 and those who harbored them, not against individuals whose identity is unknown, but that merely fit a certain profile of suspected terrorist activity. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers write a letter to the President

Drone Attacks and the Brennan Doctrine | Naureen Shah

"In remarks on Monday, US counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan admitted for the first time that US drones have killed civilians. 'It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened,' he said." - That’s rich, John.

“Terrorists”, whom the Obama administration may go after with lethal force, are not just people linked to the 11 September 2001 attacks, or active members of al-Qaida. According to [US counter-terrorism adviser John] Brennan, most of them are already dead:

“Al-Qaida has been left with just a handful of capable leaders and operatives.”

Yet there are, according to Brennan, thousands of individuals the US can lawfully target in drone strikes. Under the hugely expansive definition he described Monday, the US can kill individuals across the globe. Brennan named potential targets not just in Pakistan and Yemen, but in Somalia, Nigeria and west Africa. The Obama “war on terror” may include groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which Brennan described as attempting to “destabilize regional governments”, and Boko Haram, a group that “appears to be aligning itself” with al-Qaida and is “increasingly looking to attack western interests in Nigeria”. Moreover, the US can kill not just leaders and operatives, but individuals who “possess unique operational skills that are being leveraged in a planned attack”.

The trouble with this definition of whom the US may target is not just its breadth, but its distance from any conventional interpretation of the laws of war. The rules on who can be targeted are complex and highly contested, especially in this context. But every formulation starts from the presumption that individuals who are not members of the armed forces are entitled to protection against intentional attack. As presumptive civilians, they can only be targeted for so long as they directly participate in hostilities, or, according to the international committee of the Red Cross, as members of an organized armed group with a “continuous combatant function”.

Perhaps the Obama administration sees these rules as unworkable. Maybe it has chosen to sidestep ongoing debates within the legal community and newly interpret the rules according to the larger object and purpose of humanitarian law.

But Brennan pretended otherwise. He equated his broad definition of whom the US can kill to the targeting of “enemy leaders” in the second world war. These wars are plainly not the same. The US shooting, for example, of Japanese General Yamamoto – the military architect of Pearl Harbor – is on a different legal and moral plane than the intentional killing of a civilian with “unique operational skills” employed in an “affiliate” attack against “regional governments”.

Rhetorical leaps like Brennan’s breed skepticism and doubt. The definition of who may be killed is not just about a rigorously reviewed kill list, but about whom the US can kill in “signature strikes” – individuals whose identities are unknown, who are targeted because they match intelligence-provided “signatures” – like “a tall man driving a blue car”. The leading role of the CIA, an agency designed to operate in secret and without public accountability, adds worry. Yet Brennan did not mention the agency once in his lengthy remarks.

Read the whole piece

Drones make the waging of war too easy

Though drone strikes in Pakistan have declined sharply this year, the recent attacks on al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen have brought attention to the United States’ expanding and secretive campaign.

Incidents like these have inspired the fear that drones make it easier to not only conduct but perhaps even go to war. This general argument is intuitive and moves in three broad steps: drones are appealing because they save the lives that would otherwise be committed to action; dollars are generally easier to expend than human lives; and because if we can go to war for less, we will.

(Source: azspot)

My Drone War | Pir Zubair Shah

Taliban fighters speaking a Waziri dialect of Pashto call the drones bhungana — “the one that produces a bee-like sound.” Their local adversaries call them ababeel — the name of a bird mentioned in the Quran, sent by God to defend the holy city of Mecca from an invading army by hurling small stones from its mouth. Over the several days I spent in Ali Khel I became accustomed to their sound. It was there all the time. During the day it was mostly absorbed into the hum of daily life, but in the calm of the night the buzzing was all you heard.

This kind of reporting trip, risky as it was, had become increasingly necessary, given the cagey and outright confusing response by the Pakistani government to the escalating air war over its territory. When news of the early attacks got out, officials were evasive, suggesting that the militants had been killed while making explosives in their compounds. Then, after a drone strike took out a madrasa in the Bajaur tribal area in October 2006, killing more than 80 people, the government claimed that Pakistani bombers had done the job. Militants responded that November with a suicide bombing of a military barracks in the Dargai area of Malakand district, killing 42 soldiers and wounding dozens more.

The government learned its lesson, retreating back into ambiguity. From that moment on, only the residents of the areas targeted by the drones would have a clear understanding of what was happening — but those areas were mostly beyond the reach of the media. [continue reading]

IT WAS IN SEPTEMBER 2006 that I heard a drone for the first time, flying over the mud-walled village of Ali Khel, a couple of miles west of Miram Shah. It was a hot summer night, too hot in the house of the building-contractor friend with whom I was staying, so I had gone out to sleep in the open along with several laborers who worked for him. The men were telling me about their travels in Afghanistan, how they would cross the border to fight for the Taliban and then return after a week or two to North Waziristan to work and make some money. Then I heard the buzzing, far above our heads — like a bee, but heavier and unceasing, drifting in and out of earshot. The laborers said nothing. My Drone War | Pir Zubair Shah

US Drone Strikes Surged During Yemen Uprising

A new study out from the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) provides some of the clearest accounting yet of the United States’ covert war on terror in Yemen, including the use of drone strikes. It shows that seventy-five percent of US drone attacks there have taken place since May 2011 during the instability created by the uprising in Yemen.

Altogether, TBIJ finds 44 US attacks have taken place in Yemen. About 34 of them have happened since May of last year. Somewhere between 275-390 people have been killed. Fifty-four to one hundred of those have been civilians while 221-289 have been “alleged militants.”

Data on recent attacks reveals an escalation in drone strikes this month. The number of attacks are now equal to, if not more than, the number of CIA drone attacks in Pakistan.

(Source: azspot, via jayaprada)

Which dystopian novel is it where thousands of surveillance robots constantly monitor us from the stratosphere? The chilling effects this could have on protest, not to mention acts of more militant resistance, should be obvious. And it’s hard to imagine that, in terms of day-to-day policing, this will mean less police violence and fewer arrests. Add the Department of Justice’s secret memoranda giving the president power to declare U.S. citizens enemies of the state and have them assassinated, and the legal framework now exists to make all U.S. citizens Awlakis, which is to say, blown up by missiles fired from an invisible robot by executive fiat. The Drone of Permanent War

The Drone of Permanent War

But the real game-changer embedded in the law is the opening of U.S. airspace to unmanned drones. Although Predator drones already patrol our border with Mexico, and some police forces have obtained smaller drones of their own, the legal ability of federal agencies to fly unmanned missions over civil space was unclear, unwritten. Now they’ve got a big green light, and “the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates,” says Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Eerily, the law also makes way for the use of commercial drones: it’s not clear what Google, GE, or General Motors would do with a drone, but it’s hard to imagine something benevolent. The FAA projects that there could be 30,000 drones in American skies by 2020.

Which dystopian novel is it where thousands of surveillance robots constantly monitor us from the stratosphere? The chilling effects this could have on protest, not to mention acts of more militant resistance, should be obvious. And it’s hard to imagine that, in terms of day-to-day policing, this will mean less police violence and fewer arrests. Add the Department of Justice’s secret memoranda giving the president power to declare U.S. citizens enemies of the state and have them assassinated, and the legal framework now exists to make all U.S. citizens Awlakis, which is to say, blown up by missiles fired from an invisible robot by executive fiat. Is there a moment when the transition to police state actually occurs, or if you’re asking that question has it already happened?

(Source: azspot, via randomactsofchaos)


Willie Osterweil: The Drone of Permanent War | Dissent

In short, drones provide the technological impetus and the military capacity to turn the entire world into one giant, permanent theater of war and a subject of total surveillance. The United States opening its own air space to drones merely follows this logic, which is already on display in the Middle East. Though bombing can never achieve the tactical victories of a full-fledged military campaign, America has not won a war in a long time. Perhaps there are Drone advocates within the Pentagon who truly believe they will make war more winnable, but surveillance and bombing from the air alone are incapable of successfully combatting guerilla warfare: think “Vietnamization” (or the rampant destruction called “success” in Kuwait and Kosovo). But one of the major goals of war under a profitable mercenary or contractor army becomes its continual propagation, irrespective of results. For the massive funneling of taxpayer dollars into a privatized military sector tasked with justifying itself through constant engagement, each drone’s ticket price, from $4.5 million for Predators up to $200 million for “Global Hawks,” only sweetens the deal. Drones will not make war easier, or more humane, or more accurate, or more successful. They will, however, make it last longer. For a military that functions more and more like a global police force, and an American police apparatus that acts more and more like an occupying military force, for turning the entire world into a field for constant low-level violent confrontation, the drone is a perfect tool.


Militants and civilians killed in multiple US Somalia strikes | Bureau of Investigative Journalism

As many as 21 US military strikes in Somalia since 2007 have killed up to 169 people, new research by the Bureau indicates. Of those killed, between 11 and 59 people are reported to be civilians.

US military intervention in war-torn Somalia is shown to be on a far lower scale than in Yemen or Pakistan. However, US attacks escalated sharply against al Shabaab targets in 2011.

The Bureau has carried out a detailed examination of reports of western military activity in Somalia spanning over more than a decade. These are drawn from credible media, from academic research, from US and UK military and diplomatic records and from other reputable sources.

ACLU: Surveillance Drones Coming to a Police Department Near You


If there had been any doubt about drones being used for aerial surveillance inside the U.S., those doubts were dispelled when Congress passed and the president signed a law requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to integrate drones into American airspace by 2015. In our recent report on domestic drones, we argued that protections must be put in place to safeguard Americans’ privacy from unwarranted surveillance by drones. Among other things, we called on Congress or the FAA to take privacy into account when setting the rules for the use of drones.

Now we have joined together with our coalition partner the Electronic Privacy Information Center to petition the FAA to “address the threat to privacy and civil liberties involved in the integration of drones in the national airspace.” You should sign, too. Let’s make it clear that Americans are deeply concerned that drones not become a common feature of our skies until strong privacy protections are in place to ensure they do not become tools for routine aerial surveillance of American life.

(Source: socialuprooting)

Former CIA Director Hayden Slams Obama Drone Program | Democracy Now!

Up is down, black is white, and ex-CIA director under W., Michael “destroy the tapes” Hayden, is more dovish than the Obama administration on the ethics of drone warfare:

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden [!!!] has openly criticized the Obama’s administration use of pilot-less drones to assassinate suspected militants around the world. Hayden said, “Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel." The drone program began under President George W. Bush but has rapidly expanded under Obama. So far, the Obama administration has carried out drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Libya. Hayden also criticized the U.S. assassination of the U.S. born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Hayden said, "We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him, but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?"