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Peace and War
Ann Jones discusses her new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story. Jones is an independent journalist and photographer and the author of 8 books, contributor to 15 others, and author of countless articles. Her work has been translated into 10 languages. She now lives in Norway.
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Imagine you awake to the sound of a machine noisily buzzing over your house, and another machine nearby in the sky, and another. These machines and others like them have been around for months. They never leave. While you live in the United States, the machines belong to the government of Pakistan. The machines are unmanned drones armed with missiles. Every once in a while they blow up a house or a car or a couple of kids playing soccer or a grandmother walking to the store, sometimes a McDonald's or a shopping center.
Imagine that you've learned to live with this. The popularity of homeschooling has skyrocketed, as nobody wants to send their kids outside. Telecommuting is now the norm for those able to maintain employment. But there's no getting used to the change. Your kids wake up screaming and refuse to sleep. Your rage makes you physically ill. Antidepressants are on everybody's shopping lists, but shopping is a life-and-death proposition. Canada is facing an immigration crisis. So is Mexico.
Now, Pakistan claims to be targeting evil criminals with surgical precision. And some in the U.S. government go along with this. But others object. The U.S. Supreme Court declares the drone deaths to be murder or war -- murder being illegal under U.S. law, and war being illegal under the U.N. Charter via Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Congress insists that criminals must be indicted and prosecuted, that negotiations with hostile groups cannot succeed while drones tear the negotiators limb from limb, and that Pakistan has no right to put its robots in our skies no matter what its good intentions. Statements agreeing with this opposition to the drones are signed by everybody who's anybody. Popular demonstrations against the drones, and -- bravely -- in the face of the drones, dwarf anything seen before. In fact, the world joins in, and people protest Pakistan's murder spree all over the globe. Human rights groups in various countries denounce it as criminal. The Pakistani prime minister reportedly checks off men, women, and children to kill on a list at regular Tuesday meetings. He's burned in effigy across the United States.
But Pakistani human rights groups take a different tack. In their view, some of the drone murders in the United States are illegal and some are not. It depends on the knowledge and intentions of the Pakistani officials -- did they know those kids were just playing soccer or did they believe their soccer ball was an imminent threat to the nation of Pakistan? Was blowing up those kids necessary, discrete, and proportionate? Were they militants or civilians? Was blowing them up part of an armed conflict or an act of law enforcement, and what type of armed conflict or what law was being enforced? Pakistan, these groups argue, must not blow people up without identifying them, without verifying that they cannot be captured, and without taking care not to kill too many civilians in the process. Further, Pakistan must reveal the details of its legal reasoning and decision making, so that the process has transparency. Indeed, Pakistan must begin running its proposed drone killings by a judge who must sign off on them -- a Pakistani judge, but a judge nonetheless.
The Pakistani human rights groups are not made up of evil people. They very much mean well. They want to reduce the number of Americans killed by drones. And they are not permitted to declare all drone killing illegal, because these killings might be part of a war, and these groups have adopted as a matter of strict principle the position that wars must never be opposed, only tactics within wars. They believe this makes them "objective" and "credible," and it certainly does do that with certain people. These Pakistani human rights groups are not pulling the trigger, they're trying to stop it being pulled as often. Lumping them together with the Pakistani military would be Bushian (with us or against us) thinking. But it's harder to see that from under the drones here in the United States with the kids wailing and Uncle Joe's brains still staining the side of the Pizza Hut, than it would be perhaps in Pakistan or at the United Nations Headquarters in Islamabad.
From here in the United States, the cries are for justice. Many want the prime minister of Pakistan prosecuted for murder. Many are beginning to view the absence of such legal justice as grounds for violence. I'm growing worried over what my neighbors and even myself might unleash on the rest of the world. I'm beginning to fall in love with the feeling of hatred.
Watch the Wounds of Waziristan video.
Do a die-in like this one.
Watch this video of an event on drones and militarization at NYU.
Watch this video of drone survivors visiting Congress.
Sign the petition at BanWeaponizedDrones.org
Ask your Congress member and senators to introduce legislation banning weaponized drones. Ask state legislators to do same.
Ask the ICC to prosecute drone murders.
Join in anti-drone actions everywhere.
November 9 at CIA Headquarters, join in the First Anniversary of Monthly Protests of Drone Murders at the CIA.
Come to the Drone Summit in Washington DC, November 16-17
The day before the Summit, November 15th, join us for a march from the White House to the headquarters of drone maker General Atomics. After the Summit, on November 18th, we will lobby members of Congress to push for legislation regulating the use of killer drones and domestic spy drones.
Every Tuesday: Stop the Killing
March 14-16, 2014, Santa Barbara, Global Network's 22nd Annual Conference
June 6-9, 2014, Sarajevo Peace Event
July 26-27, 2014, Third National UNAC Conference, Purchase, NY
July 28, 2014, 100 Years Since Launch of War to End All Wars That Created More Wars
August 27, 2014, 86 Years Since Signing of the Kellogg Briand Pact
Small Actions, Big Movements: the Continuum of Nonviolence - International Conference of WRI co-hosted by Ceasefire Campaign 4 Jul 2014 - 8 Jul 2014, Cape Town, South Africa
I was on Margaret Flowers' and Kevin Zeese's Clearing the Fog Radio today ( http://clearingthefogradio.org ) together with Naureen Shah of Amnesty International. The show ought to appear soon on iTunes here, and mixcloud here, and is already on UStream here although it seems to be missing the audio. I had earlier published a critique of AI's report on drones.
On this show, Shah explained that Amnesty International cannot oppose all drone strikes in an illegal war, because Amnesty International has never opposed a war, because doing so would make it look biased, and A.I. wants to appear to be an unbiased enforcer of the law. But, of course, an illegal war is a violation of the law -- usually of the U.N. Charter which most lawyers whom A.I. hangs out with recognize, never mind the Kellogg-Briand Pact which they don't.
Refusing to recognize the UN Charter, in order to appear unbiased, is a twisted notion to begin with, but perhaps it had good intentions at one time. However, now the U.N. special rapporteur finds that drones are making war the norm rather than the exception. That's a serious shifting of the ground, and might be good reason to reconsider the ongoing feasibility of a human rights group avoiding the existence of laws against war.
Shah also argued against banning weaponized drones on the grounds that they could be used legally. That is, there could be a legal war (ignoring Kellogg-Briand) and during that legal war a drone could legally kill people in accordance with someone's interpretation of necessity, discrimination, proportionality, intention, and so forth. Shah contrasts this with chemical weapons, even though I could imagine a theoretical scenario in which a targeted murder in a closed space could use chemical weapons in plausible accord with all of the lawyerly notions of "legal war" other than the ban on chemical weapons.
Of course, practically speaking, weaponized drones are slaughtering and traumatizing innocent people and will do so as long as they're used. The notion of civilizing and legalizing atrocity-free war was ludicrous enough before the age of drone murder. It's beyond outrageous now.
President Dwight Eisenhower is often admired for having avoided huge wars, having declared that every dollar wasted on militarism was food taken out of the mouths of children, and having warned -- albeit on his way out the door -- of the toxic influence of the military industrial complex (albeit in a speech of much more mixed messages than we tend to recall).
But when you oppose war, not because it murders, and not because it assaults the rights of the foreign places attacked, but because it costs too much in U.S. lives and dollars, then your steps tend in the direction of quick and easy warfare -- usually deceptively cheap and easy warfare.
President Obama and his subordinates are well aware that much of the world is outraged by the use of drones to kill. The warnings of likely blowback and long-term damage to U.S. interests and human interests and the rule of law are not hard to find. But our current warriors don't see a choice between murdering people with drones and using negotiations and courts of law to settle differences. They see a choice between murdering people with drones and murdering people with ground troops on a massive scale. The preference between these two options is so obvious to them as to require little thought.
President Eisenhower had his own cheap and easy tool for better warfare. It was called the Delightfully Deluded Dulles Brothers, and -- in terms of how much thought this pair of brothers gave to the possible outcomes of their reckless assault on the world -- it's fair to call them a couple of drones in a literal as well as an analogous sense.
John Foster Dulles at the State Department and Allen Dulles at the CIA are the subject of a new book by Stephen Kinzer called The Brothers, which ought to replace whatever history book the Texas School Board has most recently imposed on our children. This is a story of two vicious, racist, fanatical jerks, but it's also the story of the central thrust of U.S. public policy for the past 75 years.
The NSA didn't invent sliminess in the 21st century. The Dulles' grandfather and uncle did. Cameras weren't first put on airplanes over the earth when drones were invented. Allen Dulles started that with piloted planes -- the main result being scandal, outrage, and international antagonism -- a tradition we seem intent on keeping up. Oh, and the cameras also revealed that the CIA had been wildly exaggerating the strength of the Soviet Union's military -- but who needed to know that?
The Obama White House didn't invent aggression toward journalism. Allen and Foster Dulles make the current crop of propagandists, censors, intimidators, and human rights abusers look like amateurs singing from an old hymnal they can't properly read.
Black sites weren't created by George W. Bush. Allen Dulles set up secret prisons in Germany, Japan, and the Panama Canal Zone, the MKULTRA program, and the Gladio and other networks of forces staying behind in Europe after World War II (never really) ended.
The Dynamic Dulles Duo racked up quite a resume. They overthrew a democratic government in Iran, installing a fierce dictatorship, and never imagining that the eventual backlash might be unpleasant. Delighted by this -- and intimately in on it, as Kinzer documents -- Eisenhower backed the overthrow of Guatemala's democracy as well -- both of these operations being driven primarily by the interests of Foster Dulles' clients on Wall Street (where his firm had been rather embarrassingly late in halting its support for the Nazis). Never mind the hostility generated throughout Latin America, United Fruit claimed its rights to run Guatemala, and who were the Guatemalans to say otherwise?
Unsatisfied with this everlasting damage, the Dulles Brothers dragged the United States into a war of their own making on Vietnam, sought to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia, teamed up with the Belgians to murder Lumumba in the Congo, and tried desperately to murder Fidel Castro or start an all-out war on Cuba. The Bay of Pigs fiasco was essentially the result of Allen Dulles' confidence that he could trap a new president (John Kennedy) into expanding a war.
If that weren't enough damage for two careers, the Disastrous Dulles Dimwits created the Council on Foreign Relations, shaped the creation of the United Nations to preserve U.S. imperialism, manufactured intense irrational fear of the Soviet Union and its mostly mythical plots for global domination, convinced Truman that intelligence and operations should be combined in the single agency of the CIA, sent countless secret agents to their deaths for no earthly reason, unwittingly allowed double agents to reveal much of their activities to their enemies, subverted democracy in the Philippines and Lebanon and Laos and numerous other nations, made hysteria a matter of national pride, ended serious Congressional oversight of foreign policy, pointlessly antagonized China and the USSR, boosted radically evil regimes likely to produce future blowback around the world and notably in Saudi Arabia but also in Pakistan -- with predictable damage to relations with India, failed miserably at overthrowing Nasser in Egypt but succeeded in turning the Arab world against the United States, in fact antagonized much of the world as it attempted an unacceptable neutrality in the Cold War, rejected Soviet peace overtures, aligned the U.S. government with Israel, built the CIA headquarters at Langley and training grounds at Camp Peary, and -- ironically enough -- radically expanded and entrenched the military industrial complex to which "covert actions" were supposed to be the easy new alternative (rather as the drone industry is doing today).
The Dulles Dolts were a lot like King Midas if the king's love had been for dogshit rather than gold. As icing on the cake of their careers, Allen Dulles -- dismissed in disgrace by Kennedy who regretted ever having kept him on -- manipulated the Warren Commission's investigation of Kennedy's death in a highly suspicious manner. Kinzer says no more than that, but James Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable points to other grounds for concern, including Dulles's apparent coverup of Oswald's being an employee of the CIA.
Lessons learned? One would hope so. I would recommend these steps:
Abolish the CIA, and make the State Department a civilian operation.
Ban weaponized drones, and avoid a legacy as bad as the covert operations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Stop the disgustingly royalish habit of supporting political family dynasties.
And rename Washington's international, as well as its national, airport.
The U.N. and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International recently released a flurry of deeply flawed reports on drone murders. According to the U.N.'s special rapporteur, whose day job is as law partner of Tony Blair's wife, and according to two major human rights groups deeply embedded in U.S. exceptionalism, murdering people with drones is sometimes legal and sometimes not legal, but almost always it's too hard to tell which is which, unless the White House rewrites the law in enough detail and makes its new legal regime public.
When I read these reports I was ignorant of the existence of a human rights organization called Alkarama, and of the fact that it had just released a report titled License to Kill: Why the American Drone War on Yemen Violates International Law. While Human Rights Watch looked at six drone murders in Yemen and found two of them illegal and four of them indeterminate, Alkarama looked in more detail and with better context at the whole campaign of drone war on Yemen, detailing 10 cases. As you may have guessed from the report's title, this group finds the entire practice of murdering people with flying robots to be illegal.
Alkarama makes this finding, not out of ignorance of the endless intricacies deployed by the likes of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Rather, Alkarama adopts the same dialect and considers the same scenarios: Is it legal if it's a war, if it's not a war? Is it discriminate, necessary, proportionate? Et cetera. But the conclusion is that the practice is illegal no matter which way you slice it.
This agrees with Pakistan's courts, Yemen's National Dialogue, Yemen's Human Rights Ministry, statements by large numbers of well-known figures in Yemen, and the popular movement in Yemen protesting the slaughter. While the other "human rights" groups ask President Obama to please lay out what the law is, whether his killing spree is part of a war or not, who counts as a civilian and who doesn't, etc., Alkarama actually compares U.S. actions with existing law and points out that the United States is violating the law and trying to radically alter the law. This conclusion results in a clear and useful set of recommendations at the end of the report, beginning with this recommendation to the U.S. government:
"End extrajudicial executions and the practice of targeted killings by drones and other military means."
This recommendation is strengthened by a better informed and more honest report that much more usefully conveys the recent history of Yemen (including by noting honestly the destructive impact of the IMF and the USA), describes the indiscriminate terror inflicted by the buzzing drones, and contrasts drone murders to alternatives -- such as negotiations. This analysis enriches our understanding of why drone wars are counterproductive even from the point of view of a heartless sociopath rooting for Team USA, much less someone concerned about human rights.
It is, then, possible to write a human rights report from a perspective concerned with the rights of humans, and not some combination of concern with human rights and devotion to U.S. imperialism. This is good news for anyone interested in giving it a try. The field is fairly wide open.
Some nations' statements at the U.N. debate on drones this month, including Brazil's, also challenged the legalization of a new form of war. And all of these groups and individuals have something to say about it as well.
Free Screening of Brand-New Film: Unmanned: America's Drone Wars
This November 11th at 11 a.m. will mark 95 years since World War I ended. Next July 28th will mark 100 years since it started. The world war, the great war, the war for no good reason, the war of poison gas, the war to end all wars, the war of mass stupidity, the war that went on for days after the Germans agreed to end it, the war that continued until 11 a.m. as that time had been set to end it, the war whose last man killed in action was a suicidal American who ran at the Germans at 10:59, the war that in fact was intentionally not ended but extended into mass-punishment of the German people until World War II could be commenced, this century-old piece of historical stupidity that shames our species is about to be commemorated on a serious scale -- so dust off your gas masks and get ready.
A hundred years. A hundred ever-loving years, and we've neither learned that wars don't end wars nor ever really ended World War II, ever brought the troops home from Japan and Germany, ever scaled back the taxation and military spending and foreign basing and war profiteering.
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten War by Richard Rubin is 500 pages of excellent history of World War I but without the appropriate rejection of the decision to go to war or the embarrassment one should feel for those who thought they could find glory or goodness by joining in that mass murdering madness. We tend to look down on all sorts of aspects of early 20th century morality. Colonialism, sexism, racism, corporal punishment in schools, creationism -- you name it, we've moved on. Yet writers still recount wars as if the decision to take part in them were neutral or admirable.
In a way this makes sense, given what we're all taught about history. The Khan Academy is a wonderful website for kids (or anyone) to use in learning math. But if you click over to the section on history it's literally nothing but wars. Perhaps they plan to add in a few unimportant things that happened during the pauses in between wars, but they haven't done so yet. It's nothing but war after war after war. That's history. President Kennedy supposedly said Lincoln would have been nothing without the Civil War -- it takes war to make greatness. It takes war to be in the history books.
Richard Rubin found and interviewed the last remaining U.S. veterans of World War I before they died. As he spoke with them their average age was 107. Everything he learned and recorded is of great interest, but much of it is simply about what it's like to become 107. Such a study could have been done of non-veterans. A comparison could have been made of veterans and non-veterans. Or a study like this one could have looked at World War I resisters. That there's not a similar book about them, and now can never be, says little about them and a great deal about all of us. A comparison of the lifespans of veterans and refuseniks would have been an interesting test of the author's theory that going along to get along increases your life.
It is perhaps not too late to track down and interview the last remaining survivors of the strongest peace movement the United States has known -- that of the 1920s and 1930s -- but somebody would have to do it and do it soon.
Perhaps Richard Rubin will take up that idea, but I tend to doubt it. His fascination is with war, not wisdom. And not just his fascination, but most people's. The sad fact is that, in Rubin's telling, these World War I veterans didn't tend to develop an appropriate sense of regret over a period of 85 years. There are, no doubt, cases of slave owners who by 1950 were able to express some regret over slavery. But slavery was on its way out. War is ever on its way in.
Despite my lengthy caveat, The Last of the Doughboys really is an excellent book, for what it is. The discussions of World War I songs and World War I books, and so forth, are quite wonderful. And Doughboys is not blatantly dishonest war hype. It includes the facts about the Lusitania (that Germany had warned Americans not to get on a ship with arms and troops as it would be sunk). It doesn't look closely at the war propaganda, but it is straightforward enough on the clampdown on speech and civil liberties, and the vicious demonization of Germans and the Kaiser. It doesn't mention the Wall Street coup or the name Smedley Butler, but its coverage of the Bonus Army is otherwise good. It doesn't focus on opposition or alternatives, but it does convey the pointlessness of the horror, and it does recount the badly misguided way in which the war was ended.
Yet, ultimately, Rubin is striving to give more credit and honor to warriors unfairly overshadowed by the glorification of World War II. The heroes of the original world war saved the world in the snow and shoeless and uphill both ways. Rubin wants World War I to get its due -- unlike some wars. The war on the Philippines, for example, he calls "not much of" a war, despite the fact that it cost the population involved a greater percentage of its lives than any other U.S. war has inflicted on any other population, including the population of the U.S. -- including in the U.S. Civil War. Go to the Philippines and say it wasn't much of a war, I dare you. It was the model for the costly, pointless, racist, one-sided slaughters of the 21st century. World War I was a model only for its expansion into World War II. Otherwise it's obsolete.
My friend Sandy Davies, who knows this stuff, recently looked up what the costs have been of the ongoing warmaking by the United States since the pair of World Wars. I think it's relevant because every single time I speak about ending war and take questions on the topic I'm asked "What about Hitler?" In the days since Hitler's been gone, as the world has moved on from Hitler-like expansionism, as a great portion of the world has moved away from war, the United States, according to Davies, has spent $37-40 trillion (in 2013 dollars) on war and preparations for war.
There's $32 trillion since 1948 in Department of So-Called-Defense spending documented in http://comptroller.defense.gov/defbudget/fy2014/FY14_Green_Book.pdf plus $780 billion to the War Department in 1946-7 before it was rebranded. Extra funding to the Energy Department, the V.A. and other departments is harder to find, but can be estimated at:
Nuclear weapons (DOE): $1.7 - 3 trillion
V.A.: $1.3 to 2.5 trillion
Other departments: $1 to 2 trillion
Then there's the real cost: 10 to 20 million dead in wars the U.S. has been directly involved in, or 15 to 30 million if you count the DRC, Cambodia, the French War in Indochina, and the Iran-Iraq War. "These numbers are very conservative," says Davies, "based on publicly available estimates, generally ignoring Les Roberts' findings in Rwanda and the DRC that passive reporting methods generally only count 5-20% of deaths in war zones." These figures include:
Korea: 2.5 to 3.5 million
Vietnam: 2 to 4 million
Iraq: 400,000 to 1.5 million
Afghanistan (total): 1 to 2 million
China: 1.75 million
Indonesia: 500,000 to 2 million
Angola: 500,000 to 1 million
Somalia: 300,000 to 500,000
Guatemala: 200,000 to 300,000
East Timor: 100,000 to 220,000
El Salvador: 100,000 to 120,000
Syria: 90,000 to 130,000
Operation Condor: 60,000 to 100,000
Colombia: 50,000 - 200,000
Laos: 40,000 to 100,000
Nicaragua: 30,000 to 55,000
Libya: 25,000 to 50,000
plus smaller numbers in many other countries.
Either we're on a record streak of greatest generations after greatest generations, or we've caught a war addiction so badly that we've come to imagine it's normal, and that -- in fact -- it's all that ever has happened in the world.
"What, quite unmanned in folly?"--Lady MacBeth
The new film Unmanned: America's Drone Wars should be required viewing in all schools and homes in the United States, including the home of the U.S. president who could not be bothered to meet with the child victims of his drones who spoke in Congress this week.
One could even speculate what the appropriate fantasized outcome might be if, Clockwork Orange-style, Obama were compelled to view Unmanned. But fantasies are what got us into this. Former drone pilot Brandon Bryant opens this beautifully made, fast-moving film by describing his childhood comic-book-induced fantasies about "good guys" and bad guys" and how to become a hero. Bryant was up against student debt when a recruiter told him that he could work in a James Bond control center.
Bryant, who faced up to reality too late, comes and goes through the course of a film that shows the suffering of drone victims and drone operators, honestly and accurately, without trying to equate the two.
The testimony of drone victims in D.C. this week was far from the first such testimony anywhere. On October 28, 2011, drone victims testified in Islamabad, Pakistan, where their conference was followed by a huge rally protesting U.S. drone strikes. In this film, we watch 16-year-old Tariq Aziz attend the conference to describe the killing of his cousin. Three days later, Tariq and another cousin are murdered in their car by a U.S. drone.
We see numerous people, including law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, point out that Aziz could quite easily have been questioned or arrested if he had been suspected of some crime. Obama has killed thousands and captured a handful, and in many cases we know that capture would have been perfectly possible but was not attempted. The U.N.'s special rapporteur last week admitted this is illegal, as are various other types of drone murders, including one that the film focuses in on: signature strikes.
(Why all drone murders are not illegal and immoral, and why we cannot all clearly say as much, is beyond me.)
We see a publicly announced, publicly held, community meeting hit with numerous missiles from drones. Pieces of flesh and debris lie everywhere. Innocents are slaughtered. Tribal elders are killed. People are made afraid to meet each other. Institutions are destroyed. Children are traumatized. Hatred of the United States is inflamed. And -- as always -- the New York Times prints that an anonymous U.S. official claims the victims were terrorists (never mind the lack of any evidence of that).
Pakistan's courts have ruled the drone strikes -- all of them -- illegal, and the CIA guilty of committing murder. Suits have been filed against the U.K. and the U.S. Protests have erupted all over the globe. And experts seem to agree that the drone murders are making Americans less safe, not protecting them. But drone profiteers are raking in the money.
Unmanned names names and shows faces. This film is what the nightly news would look like in a sane nation not addicted to war. You can watch the film and get a copy of it to screen locally. I highly recommend it. And then I recommend doing something about it. Here's a place to start.