Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Come at me, bro

In a March 2010 address before the American Society of International Law, Harold Koh, the U.S. State Department's top legal rationalizer, explained why Barack Obama believes he is entitled to kill anyone in the world he chooses.

"[T]he United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law," Koh patiently explained. And that right enables the U.S. government to carry out anywhere in the world “lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

So drones, according to Koh, are essentially the U.S. government's industrial-strength pepper spray, the inhabitants of the rest of the world its swarthy would-be rapists. Yeah . . . about that, courtesy The Washington Post:
Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabab is based, is surrounded by American drone installations. And officials said that JSOC has repeatedly lobbied for authority to strike al-Shabab training camps that have attracted some Somali Americans. 
But the administration has allowed only a handful of strikes, out of concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.
As it turns out, firing missiles at poor foreigners from unmanned killing machines has nothing to do with Defending America, U.S. officials readily conceding that al-Shabab is but a "regional menace." But firing missiles at poor foreigners from unmanned killing machines could cause said foreigners to strike back, meaning -- god this is good -- that in the future there may actually be something to the U.S.'s claims to be acting in self-defense, albeit only to counter a threat it created.

"Sweet," says every military contractor and general in Washington.

It's a good thing there isn't the same threat of blowback from the U.S. government's broad campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan or Afghanistan, otherwise we might be in trouble!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Institutional racism: The sine qua non of ethnic cleansing

"So, if the underlying sine qua non for any acceptable policy proposal is the long-term preservation of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people . . . ."

And if it isn't?

HOLIDAY BONUS: It sure takes a lot of chutzpah to include the following in a piece that calls for ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the West Bank:
This leads to the second element of the proposal: The grave ethnic discrimination against the Palestinians resident in the Arab world where, as I recently pointed out, severe restrictions are imposed on their freedom of movement, employment and property ownership.

But most significant, they – and they alone – are denied citizenship of the countries in which they have lived for decades.

Palestinians overwhelmingly want to acquire citizenship of the countries of their long-standing residence, opinion surveys indicate.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Israeli drones save lives'

A couple weeks ago the editors at The Washington Post did something rather out of character: they published a piece by reporter Scott Wilson on the impact Israeli drones have had on the residents of Gaza, noting the hundreds of civilians killed in the past few years and detailing the way it has impacted every aspect of daily life -- you may not want to go over to a friend's house if there's something hovering outside armed with missiles and programmed to eliminate anybody wearing a keffiyeh. Obviously, this is outrageous. Clearly. This is the Post we're talking about: its Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists is supposed to be focusing on the quiet, turgid courage of those pulling the trigger, not on the torments of the targeted.

Dan Arbell, deputy chief of mission for the Israeli embassy in Washington, agrees. In a letter to the editor, he writes:
Oddly, The Post devoted a massive front-page headline and two full pages of print not to the tens of thousands of terrorist rockets aimed at Israeli neighborhoods or to the rapidly nuclearizing Iranian regime that routinely threatens to wipe Israel off the map but to Israeli drones over the Gaza Strip.
More inexplicably still, most of the article deals with the drones’ impact on Gaza residents while mentioning only in passing the trauma and devastation wrought by the more than 13,000 rockets and mortars fired at millions of Israeli civilians since 2000. Not one of these Israeli victims was interviewed for the article — in contrast to the numerous quotes from Palestinians — nor was any Israeli government source cited. Rather, the article relies solely on the infamously biased Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Israeli drones save lives. They protect Israelis from terrorist attacks and reduce the need for large-scale ground operations in Gaza. This fact, too, was overlooked in an article that failed to meet Post standards.
Dan Arbell, Washington
The writer is deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Israel.
Dude's right about the "standards" thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bradley Manning and the American empire

My first of what I'm hoping will be a regular bi-weekly column is now up over at Al Jazeera. Read it. Tweet it. Love it.

So free yourself

I could keep you all for myself
I know you gotta be free
So free yourself
I could keep you all to myself
I know you gotta be free
To kill yourself

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Never forget

Never forget that the war in Iraq and the ensuing occupation, which isn't really ending no matter what the president says, were horrific crimes against humanity -- that hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children died horrific, violent deaths because the Washington establishment chose to exploit the horrific, violent deaths of 3,000 Americans in order to carry out a horrific, long-planned "shock and awe" invasion of a country that had nothing to do with it. Anyone who supported that war and hasn't spent the last eight years begging forgiveness should be treated as a pariah, their lives made miserable as every day they are loudly and impolitely reminded that they have the blood of countless innocents on their hands.

It's often said -- by assholes -- that other cultures not lucky enough to be considered a part of the enlightened "West" do not value human life as much as those of us who, through the accident of birth, ended up being raised in the land of hormone-infused milk and tainted honey. But, you know: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq again, Yemen, Somalia...

That's the macro level. Here's the micro version courtesy of the New York Times and one of its reporters who found a trove of U.S. military documents in an Iraqi garbage dump detailing an investigation into the 2005 Haditha massacre, in which more than 20 civilians -- including babies and grandmothers -- were coldly and calculatingly murdered by U.S. troops. One might be as struck as I at the, dare I say, almost oriental manner in which American soldiers and their commanders deal with human life. And, like me, one might tremble with rage at the regrettably startling fact that none of the top-level fucks responsible for the Iraq war has to worry about anything more than where their next six-digit speakers' fee will come from:
Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, in his own testimony, described it as “a cost of doing business.

The stress of combat left some soldiers paralyzed, the testimony shows. Troops, traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters. Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly wrong.


“When a car doesn’t stop, it crosses the trigger line, Marines engage and, yes, sir, there are people inside the car that are killed that have nothing to do with it,” Sgt Maj. Edward T. Sax, the battalion’s senior noncommissioned officer, testified.
He added: “I had Marines shoot children in cars and deal with the Marines individually one on one about it because they have a hard time dealing with that.”


When the initial reports arrived saying that more than 20 civilians had been killed in Haditha, the Marines receiving them said they were not surprised by the high civilian death toll.
Chief Warrant Officer K. R. Norwood, who received reports from the field on the day of the events at Haditha and briefed commanders on them, testified that 20 dead civilians was not unusual.
“I meant, it wasn’t remarkable, based off of the area I wouldn’t say remarkable, sir,” Mr. Norwood said. “And that is just my definition. Not that I think one life is not remarkable, it’s just —”
An investigator asked the officer: “I mean remarkable or noteworthy in terms of something that would have caught your attention where you would have immediately said, ‘Got to have more information on that. That is a lot of casualties.’ "
“Not at the time, sir,” the officer testified.
General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a continuing pattern of civilian deaths.
“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military acronym for coalition forces in western Iraq.
Given that the same establishment that backed the Iraq war remains in power today -- please, don't be fooled by nominal party affiliations -- chances are it will happen again. And again.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

K Street is scared

Someone forwarded me an email that is apparently being circulated to lobbying firms on K Street. It's long, so I've pasted it after the jump:

Friday, December 02, 2011

'The Democrats are not your friends' "Occupy DC distances from Democrats. Or does it?"
A young man named Charles Davis, 27, took to the floor and called out for the group’s attention. Davis told the occupiers he had ridden in an elevator with Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

“And he joked that he is the 1 percent,” Davis hollered. Boos all around. “And he called us anarchists!”

“The Democrats are not your friends!”

The group cheered — but not as loudly as they had for Edwards. Davis’ message, meant to reinforce the theme of the night, seemed to fall flat in the excited aftermath of Edwards’ appearance.


Edwards had somehow knocked the group off its message.

“She’s turning this into a campaign stop,” Davis said, after he addressed the group.

Occupy DC’s Action Committee had been at odds lately, he said, deciding two nights earlier to reverse a previous decision to join former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones’ group Rebuild the Dream,, and SEIU in protests on the Mall. Occupy, the committee concluded, would run separate events.


Davis worries that Occupy DC could become a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, much like the Tea Party was for Republicans.

“It’s been kind of a problem, especially here in D.C.,” he said. “People think the Democrats are their friends, and they’re kind of willingly being co-opted. A lot of the people involved in the Action Committee, for instance, are paid to elect Democrats.”

Such may be the nature of protest in the political city, where most everyone falls into one of two categories. Of course, there aren’t many Republicans living in D.C.’s two Occupy Wall Street encampments.

“I think it’s just the culture,” Davis said. “It’s maybe a little bit more politician-friendly than other Occupies around the country.”
A clarification: I, of course, am an anarchist. But when Democratic politicians use the word, they're using it as a thoughtless slur -- like "nihilist" or "commie" -- not because they think occupiers are just inspired by the works of Emma Goldman and Peter Kropotkin.