Afghanistan

Remote Control Killing Like Sport – unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

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Defence contractor giants like Boeing, Lockeed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others, as well as smaller rivals compete for growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). They include remote control operated killer drones, also called unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).

It’s America’s newest sport. From distant command centers, far from target sights, sounds, and smells, operators dismissively ignore human carnage showing up as computer screen blips little different from video game images. The difference, of course, is people die, mostly noncombatants. More on that below.

On March 10, 2010, Der Spiegel writer Marc Pitzke headlined, “How Drone Pilots Wage War,” saying:

They “sit in air-conditioned rooms far away from (America’s wars). They guide their weapons with joysticks and monitors. The remote warriors work with a high degree of precision – at a fraction of the cost of a fighter jet,” but just as deadly.

Operators use computer keyboards and five monitors. One says “I’ve got eight missiles and two bombs on two Predators. Weapons ready.”

The main monitor shows a target’s aerial view “from a considerable height….Three, two, one. Impact,” after pushing a red button. “Excellent job,” the man says after a destructive explosion. The entire mission lasted two minutes “against a faceless enemy” attacked by remote control half a world away.

“The whole thing looks like a computer game,” virtual war “that doesn’t require combatants to get their hands dirty” or perhaps souls compromised for mindlessly slaughtering civilians lawlessly – what America’s media never explain or why Washington wages war.

Each drone system includes four aircraft, a ground station, a satellite link, and launch site maintenance crew, keeping UAVs ready to use round-the-clock on a moment’s notice. Like America’s wars, moreover, drone technology is a growth business, Insitu’s Steven Sliwa saying the industry is well positioned like the aeronautical one during WW II – up-up-and-away for big profits.

America’s Drone Command Centers

Two currently operate, the CIA’s at its Langley, VA headquarters, the Pentagon’s at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base, about 35 miles from Las Vegas.

Look-alikes, they’re sterile, insular, secure computer rooms manned by “combat commuters.” By day, they wage war, then drive home for dinner, relaxation, and family time, dismissive of killing for a living like mafia hit men, except they do it daily on a global scale against nameless, faceless targets.

Working in pairs, a pilot sits at one end of a computer station, a sensor operator at the other, controlling visual surveillance, able to zoom in for closer views, capturing images from drone cameras and satellites.

The Pentagon’s team maintains constant radio contact with its Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) Qatar headquarters and US Kandahar, Afghanistan base where UAVs take off and land.

ACLU National Security Project director Hina Shamsi calls Predator drones “targeted international killings by the state.” On February 8, 2010, she and Law Professor Philip Alston’s London Guardian article headlined, “A killer above the law?” saying:

Sanitized killing on the cheap leaves disturbing issues unanswered, including a program shrouded in secrecy, no accountability, and dubious “no reports” of civilian casualties despite “credible (ones) that hundreds of innocents have died.”

International law, in fact, demands accountability. “When complete secrecy prevails, it is negated. Secrecy also provides incentives to push the margins in problematic ways….Equally discomforting is the ‘PlayStation mentality’ that surrounds drone killings. Young military (recruits, CIA operatives, and private civilian contractor) personnel raised on a diet of video games now kill real people remotely using joysticks.”

Lawless abuses always follow secrecy without accountability, killer drones a perfect example. On July 12, 2009, Greg Grant’s Infowars.com article headlined, “Drones Hardly Even Kill Bad Guys,” saying:

Counterinsurgency advisor David Kilcullen “told lawmakers last week that drone strikes” successfully hit militants 2% of the time. All others are noncombatant civilians. These casualties then “become an extension of war by other means. Tactics that physically defeat elements of the enemy and lose the population lose the war,” besides issues of legality.

In his book “Wired for War,” Peter Singer called drone technology disturbingly “seductive” because it makes combat look “costless.”

Britain’s former Iraq air chief marshal said it was “virtueless war,” requiring no heroics or getting one’s hands dirty.

According to Law Professor Mary Dudziak, “Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on….endless war,” as well as its fallout, including the human cost, and America’s illegal targeted assassination program.

Ramping Up Drone Warfare

In FY 2012, the Air Force plans to double its advanced killer drone fleet, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk class, MQ-9 Reaper, and MQ-1 Predator.

General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers are especially valued, the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long endurance, high surveillance targeting, used by the Air Force, Navy, US Customs and Border Protection, UK Royal Air Force, and Italian Air Force. The CIA prefers smaller, lightweight, less obtrusive drones for killing.

The Pentagon just released its 30-year aircraft procurement plans, projected to be more robotic than ever, budgeted for about $25 billion annually, including doubling its robot fleet by 2021, saying:

“The number of platforms in this category – RQ-4 Global Hawk-class, MQ-9 Reaper, and MQ-1 Predator-class unnammed aircraft systems – will grow from approximately 340 in (FY) 2012 to approximately 650 in FY 2021.”

The Army’s got a Gray Eagle Reaper-like drone. The Marines want a similar one as part of their Group 4 Unmanned Air System program. The Navy’s so-called Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Strike and Surveillance initiative aims to put jet-powered killer drones on carrier decks no later than 2018. Around the same time, the Air Force may start buying jet-powered ones to complement its prop-driven Reaper.

By decade’s end, it hopes to have enough medium and large drones to maintain at least 65 round-the-clock “orbits” compared to now. Combined with other service branches, 100 or more permanently positioned killer drones may launch precision-guided bombs and missiles on targets virtually anywhere.

Moreover, improved sensors like the Air Force’s Gorgon Stare and new foliage-penetrating radars will let new generations of drones do what multiple ones are needed for now.

Given the profit potential, US defense contractors are scrambling for part of a bigger pie, developing new killer drone models, including Boeing’s X-45C, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B and General Atomic’s Avenger. Others will follow to satisfy the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for remote killing and destruction on a global scale.

If America’s military had a motto, it would be war is good, the more the better. How else can generals get stars?

Remote Control High Altitude Killing

In March 2010, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit:

“demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas. In particular, the lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and the other basis information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings.”

At issue is using them against civilians, including US citizens abroad after Obama authorized targeting any suspected of terrorist involvement, with or without proof.

The ACLU sued the Defense, State, and Justice Departments after each provided no requested information “nor have they given any reason for withholding documents. The CIA answered the ACLU’s request by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant documents.” CIA wasn’t sued because the ACLU appealed its non-response to the Agency Release Panel.

UAVs were first used in Vietnam, mainly as reconnaissance platforms. In the 1980s, radar killer drones called Harpy air defense suppression systems were employed. In the Gulf War, unmanned combat air system (UCAS) and X-45 air vehicles were used.

Others were deployed in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America’s new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and domestically, including for law enforcement – in fact, virtually anywhere for targeted attacks and/or surveillance globally.

At issue is their legality, given their use outside traditional battlefields for extrajudicial assassinations, a practice US and international laws prohibit. Yet reports confirm Obama’s ramped up use with long-term grander schemes – why the ACLU and other human rights groups express concern.

A December 2009 Social Science Research Network Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper titled, “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones: A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004 – 2009” said the following:

“First drones launch missiles or drop bombs, the kind of weapons that may only be used lawfully in an armed conflict. Until the spring of 2009, there was no armed conflict (in Pakistan). International law does not recognize the right to kill without warning outside an actual armed conflict. Killing without warning is only tolerated during the hostilities of an armed conflict, and, then, only lawful combatants may lawfully carry” them out.

CIA members “are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing persons – even in an armed conflict – is a crime.” US military forces may be “lawful combatants in Pakistan” only if its government officially requested them. It did not.

Further, beyond targeted individuals, collateral killing is commonplace. “Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been up to” 50 civilians for each militant. As a result, drone use violates “the war-fighting principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality and humanity.”

Nonetheless, violations continue daily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Libya, having escalated dramatically in recent years. Along with bombers and helicopter gunships, their use in Afghanistan (and North Waziristan, Pakistan) is so pervasive that anyone in the open or near targeted sites risks death – civilians, including vulnerable women and children for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On March 13, 2010, Der Spiegel headlined, “Drones Are Lynchpin of Obama’s War on Terror,” calling them his weapon of choice. “But the political, military and moral consequences are incalculable.”

One report said in the past two years the Air Force Research Laboratory embarked on a program to “build the ultimate assassination robot (described as) a tiny, armed drone for the US special forces to employ in terminating ‘high-value targets’ ” that most often are noncombatants.

On April 4, 2010, New York Times writers Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah headlined, “Drones Batter Qaeda and Allies Within (North Waziristan) Pakistan,” referring to a “stepped-up campaign….over the past three months (casting) a pall of fear over an area (by) fly(ing) overhead sometimes four at a time, emitting a beelike hum virtually 24 hours a day, observing and tracking targets, then unleashing missiles on their quarry….”

The ferocity of strikes, in fact, got one Pakistani to say, “It seems they really want to kill everyone….,” civilians, of course, most vulnerable. Almost daily, noncombatant casualties are reported, sparking public anger and protests, including over America’s regional presence.

In late April, Obama authorized a major Libyan war escalation, ordering the use of killer drones. At an April 21 press conference, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright announced the deployment of Predator UAVs, saying:

“What they will bring that is unique to the conflict is their ability to get down lower, therefore to be able to get better visibility on….targets now that they have started to dig themselves into defensive positions.”

Also announced was that surveillance drones have flown throughout the conflict. Now Hellfire missile firing ones are being used, supplementing daily terror bombings and low-flying Apache helicopter gunship killing machines hitting anything on the ground that moves.

A recent CBS News poll shows 60% of Americans against the Libyan war, only 30% saying military involvement in North Africa is justified. It represents a sharp drop from March when 70% supported intervention.

World outrage is also growing, including from the Pan Afrikanist Steering Committee of Namibia against The United Nations Resolution 1973 (PSCNAUNR), calling NATO’s Libya war “a desecration of the Afrikan homeland by a set of Europeans.”

Saying it’s an “appalling atrocity,” Western supported “mercenaries” are being used “to kill, maim, destroy local infrastructures, and attack Afrikans….living in fear of their lives within Libya.”

NATO, “under the guise of the UN, deliberately started its bombardment under a hidden agenda for Regime Change” in violation of international law. “It is now crystal clear that the motive behind Resolution 1973 was of a sinister nature, (effectively) representing a Declaration of War” against a nonbelligerent state.

June 12 on the Progressive Radio News Hour, Cynthia McKinney reported from Tripoli, saying hospitals, schools, residential houses, and other non-military sites have been bombed, causing numerous civilian casualties. NATO and America’s media duplicitously deny it.

However, other independent sources confirm strikes on commercial airports, seaports, power generating facilities, and other sites unrelated to military necessity, terrorizing, killing, and injuring Libyan civilians by intensified attacks.

A Final Comment

As president, Obama intensified US belligerence in multiple theaters, defying international and constitutional law. He may, in fact, have a new target in mind, what a June 10 White House press release suggests, saying:

“The United States strongly condemns the Syrian government’s outrageous use of violence…particularly in the northwestern region. There must be an immediate end to the brutality and violence. We regret the loss of life and extend our condolences to all those who have suffered.”

The double standard gross hypocrisy requires no comment, especially in light of the Washington, Israel, Saudi, and Lebanon’s March 14 Alliance project to destabilize Assad’s government, including by inciting and supporting armed militants for regime change.

So far, Russia and China have blocked a proposed Security Council resolution condemning Syrian violence, fearing passage perhaps means more war. It’s America’s favored strategy against regimes it doesn’t control.

Notably, three rogues senators (John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham) openly support regime change, saying in a joint statement:

“By following the path of (Gaddafi) and deploying military forces to crush peaceful demonstrations, al-Assad and those loyal to him have lost the legitimacy to remain in power in Syria. We urge President Obama to state unequivocally (that it’s) time for (him) to go,” stopping short of calling for war they may join with others in demanding it.

Despite waging multiple imperial wars, Obama, in fact, may oblige them, heading America perilously closer to all out general war, especially to distract growing millions from their economic misery at home.

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Staged Bin Laden Killing Hokum

As reported, it sounded more like bad fiction than eliminating “Enemy Number One,” especially with no visuals, corpse, independent proof, and shifting official accounts.

In Hollywood, it’s called rewrite. In politics, it’s lying, a Washington bipartisan specialty, notably on issues mattering most.

Also at issue is conducting lawless operations for any purpose. More on that below.

Previous article discussed the staged May Day hokum, accessed through the following link:

Click here – > https://awakeningtempest.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/lies-damn-lies-and-bin-ladens-death/

They addressed the alleged killing of a dead man, an administration and media spread lie. David Ray Griffin’s important book titled, “Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?” provided convincing objective and testimonial evidence of his mid-December 2001 death, of natural causes, not a commando hit squad getting their man.

Issues and Answers

After years of using bin Laden simultaneously as a CIA asset and “Enemy Number One,” why the shift now? Aside from eliminating the alleged top terror threat, major events like this are always strategically timed for political reasons.

At least several stand out now, including:

(1) Boosting Obama’s sagging image. It worked according to a New York Times poll showing an approval bump from 46% in April to an early May 57%, even though the euphoria will soon fade in hard times.

(2) Diverting attention from eroding domestic needs, notably growing angst over a deepening Main Street depression.

(3) Hyping fear for intensified, not less, imperial war, and perhaps preparing the ground for a major false flag attack to advance America’s grand scheme for unchallengeable global dominance.

On May 4, Webster Tarpley told Press TV that balkanizing Pakistan is planned to use it “as an energy corridor between Iran and China or between India and Europe.” Afghanistan is insufficient, he said.

“The Pakistan corridor could be created and the goal of US policy (is) to take the Afghan war and export it to Pakistan and to promote the division along the well-known lines of Punjabis, Baluchestan, (Abdolmalek) Rigi supported by NATO and so forth, and then, of course, Pashtunistan, which is the epicenter of all this.”

He also suspects something greater, using bin Laden’s alleged killing as “the equivalent of the Sarajevo assassination of June 22, 1914.” Weeks later, WW I began. Tarpley wonders if general war is coming, involving regional and major powers.

“I think the world situation is much more dangerous (now) than most people” imagine, he said.

Ahead, he also sees a new manufactured top enemy, perhaps named after staged revenge attacks in America and/or Europe. Not from Al Queda, he believes, but from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), whether or not it will work.

Perhaps a dirty bomb will be used as pretext to seize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. If so, he sees a good chance of events “leading towards a general war between the two countries, and in the middle of that we have to remember that the supply line for the invaders in Afghanistan goes from Karachi across Pakistani territory for (nearly) 1,000 miles.”

Imagine the consequences of disrupting it, besides drawing in other nations, possibly including China and Russia. No one knows for sure what’s coming, but reckless plans produce unpredictable consequences.

Shifting Official Stories

On May 2, after Sunday’s staged event, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said Navy Seals killed bin Laden in a firefight. “Whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don’t know,” he said.

On May 1, New York Times writers Peter Baker, Helene Cooper and Mark Mazzetti headlined, “Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says,” saying:

“When American operatives converged on (his compound, he) ‘resisted the assault force’ and was killed in the middle of an intense gun battle, a senior administration official said, but details were still sketchy early Monday morning.”

In 24 hours, things changed, White House press secretary Jay Carney saying bin Laden was shot in the head unarmed. Other first reported details also changed, putting a lie to the entire account, including Brennan explaining that commandos had orders to capture him alive if he didn’t resist, saying:

“If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that.”

On May 4, Times writers Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti headlined, “Account Tells of One-Sided Battle in Bin Laden Raid,” saying:

The revised account “suggested that the raid, though chaotic and bloody, was extremely one-sided, with a force of more than 20 Navy Seal members quickly dispatching the handful of men protecting bin Laden.”

In fact, US commandos took no fire. Initially saying otherwise compounded the big lie about what really happened and why extrajudicially.

On May 3, CIA director Leon Panetta repeated the deception, telling Public Broadcasting:

“There were some firefights that were going on as these guys were making their way up the staircase of that compound.”

On May 4, Washington Post writers Anne Kornblut and Felicia Sonmez headlined, “White House goes silent on bin Laden raid,” saying:

Obama “ruled out publicly releasing (bin Laden) photographs….(giving) no new details about the raid (after earlier) fitful attempts to craft a riveting narrative,” now completely discredited.

He also “contradict(ed Panetta’s) assertion Tuesday that the photos would eventually be made public….” Moreover, “the White House found itself struggling to (explain what happened,) and having to justify the legal basis for it.”

Gerald Celente’s Assessment

In a May 4 commentary, Trends Research Institute founder Gerald Celente quoted Obama, saying “justice has been done….The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.” At time same time, Hillary Clinton warned about terror not “stop(ping) with the death of bin Laden, (so) we must redouble our efforts.”

If it’s safer, asked Celente, why double down? “These were but two of the contradictions coming out of the White House” after the raid with “many (other) discrepancies (to) follow.”

Moreover, “absent from America’s non-stop exultation and self-congratulation,” as well as cheerleading media coverage, “was any discussion of the practical consequences” going forward. With or without bin Laden or others targeted, it:

— won’t win the losing Iraq and Afghan wars;

— lower unemployment;

— stop Western nations from economic decline;

— revive housing or other real estate;

— “solve the debt and deficit crises;

— lower oil and food prices; (or)

— reverse” devastating radiation spreading from Fukushima.

It also won’t end America’s permanent war agenda or curb a domestic one on working households, unionism, public education, human and civil rights, and vital benefits, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, on the chopping block for elimination.

According to Celente, “the restored, rebuilt, new and improved terror bandwagon rolls again….and it will keep rolling until Election Day 2012.” Moreover, they’ll keep fear alive and they’ll blame everyone but themselves.

Legal Implications

Commenting on German television, former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said:

The May 1 assault “was quite clearly a violation of international law. The operation could also have incalculable consequences in the Arab world in light of all the unrest.”

He’s right, of course, despite Attorney General Eric Holder saying:

The action was “lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way….I’m proud of what they did. And I really want to emphasize that what they did was entirely lawful and consistent with our values.”

In other words, according to him, Obama, other administration officials, Washington groupthink, and editorial writers and pundits, acting lawlessly is lawful.

On June 27, 2010, in their Harvard National Security Journal article headlined, “Law and Policy of Targeted Killing,” Harvard Law Professors Gabriella Blum and Philip Heymann said:

“The right of a government to use deadly force against (anyone) is constrained by both domestic criminal law and international human rights norms that seek to protect the individual’s right to life and liberty….Guilt must be proved in a court of law, with (charged) individuals (given) the protections of due process guarantees.”

“Killing an individual without trial is allowed only” in self-defense or need to save other lives. “In almost any other case, it would be clearly unlawful, tantamount to extrajudicial execution or murder.”

In other words, sending US commandos against anyone, especially in another country’s sovereign territory, violates US and international law. Guilt or innocence of any crime deprives no one of due process and judicial fairness, afforded Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

Targets otherwise are judged guilty by accusation, not arrested, tried, Mirandized, or afforded justice. Just a bullet, bomb or slit throat, America’s “rules of engagement” morality.

On May 3, Der Spiegel writer Thomas Darnstadt headlined, “Was Bin Laden’s Killing Legal?” quoting University of Cologne Law Professor Claus Kress saying:

Achieving justice for any crime isn’t “achieved through summary executions, but through a punishment that is meted out at the end of a trial.” Doing it commando style guns blazing can also cause tragic and inevitable escalations of injustice, he added.

On May 28, 2010, Philip Alston published his UN Human Rights Council “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,” expressing great concern that Washington “seems oblivious” to the implications of using drone attacks against people “labeled as terrorists, (and for) assert(ing) an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe,” adding:

“But this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”

“The most prolific user of targeted killing today is the United States” in gross violation of international law. (This) expansive and open-ended interpretation of the right to self-defense goes a long way towards destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the UN Charter. If invoked by other states, in pursuit of those they deem to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos.”

It would also render international law null and void. No nation for any reason can be judge, jury and executioner, with no allowed exceptions.

Consider also that in 1996, Obama opposed the death penalty, and in his book titled, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,” he said it “does little to deter crime.”

As a Senate and presidential candidate, however, he changed to accommodate public opinion, simultaneously calling death penalty justice so flawed that a national moratorium should be declared. In February 2008, he also said “no one in this country is above the law.”

As president, however, he authorized torture, illegal wars, mass killings and targeted assassinations. As a result, he violates it daily abroad and at home, unaccountable to the law he once taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Perhaps a refresher course or two might help.

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TARIQ ALI: “Obama’s Afghan-Pak Syndrome”

Few days ago I wrote a post about ‘The denial of democracy to the Arab World’ and I was impressed with Tariq Ali’s explanation of what role USA and UK play in the current uprising in Libya and mainly in the Middle East.  If you haven’t seen it yet then click here to see the interview.

Tariq Ali impressed me with his straight forward talk which happens to be both accurate, knowledgeable and well informed, something which I find to be increasingly rare occurrence by commentators who address the public about global affairs.  Soon after my first post about Tariq Ali’s interview I received an email from a reader who pointed me to another talk by Tariq Ali on “Obama’s Afghan-Pak Syndrome” – after watching this talk I was once again over-impressed by Tariq Ali, so impressed that I decided to share this here with you.

The reason why I find this talk interesting and believe to be ‘a must’ watch is because, Afghanistan seems to be a strategic battle ground for all great empires.  It is here where we have seen great world dominant nations like Russia fall and where in history military conquests have collapsed – instead of learning from history we find our countries involved in a war in the same geographic location where no military has succeeded.

Tariq Ali is author of more than 20 books, including history, politics, and fiction. His most recent books are Protocols of the Elders of Sodom (2009) and The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (2008). He is a regular contributor to The Guardian, New Left Review, and the London Review of Books.

British-Pakistani writer, journalist, and historian Tariq Ali spoke at Hampshire College on November 17 for the the Twelfth Annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture. The annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture honors the teaching, scholarship, and activism of the late Eqbal Ahmad, who was a longtime Hampshire College professor.