Archive for the ‘Military’ Category
Peter Beinart tells us in the Atlantic why attacking ISIS is not a good idea. His recommendation carries more weight in view of his enthusiastic support for the Iraq War. Take a look at this Atlantic article from July 2015 that Beinart wrote:
I have a fantasy. It’s that every politician and pundit who goes on TV to discuss the Iran deal is asked this question first: “Did you support the Iraq War, and how has that experience informed your position?”
For me, it would be a painful question. I supported the Iraq War enthusiastically. I supported it because my formative foreign-policy experiences had been the Gulf War and the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, all of which led me to exaggerate the efficacy of military force and downplay its risks. As Iraq spiraled into disaster, I felt intellectually unmoored. When my sister-in-law was deployed there for a year, leaving her young daughter behind, I was consumed with guilt that I had contributed to their hardship. To this day, when I walk down the street and see a homeless veteran, I feel nauseous. I give some money and a word of thanks, and think about offering an apology. But I don’t, because there’s no apology big enough. The best I can do is learn from my mistake. These days, that meanssupporting the diplomatic deal with Iran.
In his current article in the Atlantic, Beinart writes:
or close to a decade, the trauma of the Iraq War left Americans wary of launching new wars in the Middle East. That caution is largely gone. Most of the leading presidential candidates demand that the United States escalate its air war in Iraq and Syria, send additional Special Forces, or enforce a buffer zone, which the head of Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, has said would require deploying U.S. ground troops. Most Americans now favor doing just that.
The primary justification for this new hawkishness is stopping the Islamic State, or isis, from striking the United States. Which is ironic, because at least in the short term, America’s intervention will likely spark more terrorism against the United States, thus fueling demands for yet greater military action. After a period of relative restraint, the United States is heading back into the terror trap.
To understand how this trap works, it’s worth remembering that during the Cold War, the United States had relatively few troops in the Arab and Muslim world. When Ronald Reagan was elected president, Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, did not even exist. All of this changed in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and President George H. W. Bush dispatched 700,000 troops to expel him and defend Saudi Arabia. After the war was won, thousands stayed to deter Saddam, and to enforce no-fly zones over Iraq.
Before the Gulf War, the Saudi native Osama bin Laden and his associates had focused on supporting the mujahideen, who were fighting to repel the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But after the U.S.S.R.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, al-Qaeda turned its attention to the United States, and in particular to America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia. In 1992, al-Qaeda issued a fatwa calling for attacks on American troops in the Middle East. After the United States intervened in Somalia later that year, Somali rebels allegedly trained by al-Qaeda shot down two Black Hawk helicopters. In 1995, al-Qaeda operatives took credit for bombing a joint U.S.-Saudi military facility in Riyadh. And in 1996, a truck bomb devastated a building housing U.S. Air Force personnel in the Saudi city of Dhahran. (Although Saudi Hezbollah carried out the attack, the 9/11 Commission noted “signs that al-Qaeda played some role.”) That same year, another al-Qaeda fatwa declared, “The latest and the greatest of these [Western] aggressions … is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places”: Saudi Arabia. On August 7, 1998, the eighth anniversary of the beginning of that “occupation,” al-Qaeda bombed America’s embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The fact that al-Qaeda justified its attacks as a response to American “occupation” makes them no less reprehensible, of course. And al-Qaeda might well have struck American targets even had the U.S. not stationed troops on Saudi soil. After all, as a global superpower, the United States was involved militarily all across the world in ways al-Qaeda interpreted as oppressive to Muslims.
Still, it’s no coincidence that bin Laden and company shifted their focus away from the U.S.S.R. after Soviet troops left Afghanistan and toward the United States after American troops entered Saudi Arabia. Key advisers to George W. Bush recognized this. After U.S. forces overthrew Saddam in 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said one of the benefits “that has gone by almost unnoticed—but it’s huge—is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia.” The United States, he reasoned, had thus eliminated “a huge recruiting device for al-Qaeda.”
The problem was that to remove thousands of troops from Saudi Arabia, the United States sent more than 100,000 to invade and occupy Iraq. A dramatic surge in terrorist attacks against American and allied forces ensued. As Robert Pape, the director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago, has enumerated, the world witnessed 343 suicide attacks from 1980 to 2003, about 10 percent of them against America and its allies. From 2004 to 2010, by contrast, there were more than 2,400 such attacks worldwide, more than 90 percent of them against American and coalition forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Many of those attacks were orchestrated by al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate, which in 2006 established the Islamic State of Iraq. After weakening in 2007 and 2008 (when the U.S. paid Sunni tribal leaders to fight jihadists), the Islamic State strengthened again as the Obama administration’s inattention allowed Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to intensify his persecution of Sunnis. Then, after Syrians rebelled against Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic State expanded across Iraq’s western border into Syria, later renaming itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Significantly, when the last American troops left Iraq, in December 2011, isis did not follow them home. “In its various incarnations,” notes Daniel Byman, a counterterrorism expert who is a professor at Georgetown, the Islamic State “focused first and foremost on its immediate theater of operations.” Although isiswas happy if people inspired by its message struck Western targets, it made little effort to orchestrate such attacks. Research fellows at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment detected only four isis-related plots in the West from January 2011 to May 2014.
But beginning in the fall of 2014, . . .
10 things about the Flint tragedy, from Michael Moore, including the use of Flint for live-ammunition military exercises
Michael Moore reports:
News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River. When the governor’s office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint’s residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.
Here are ten things that you probably don’t know about this crisis because the media, having come to the story so late, can only process so much. But if you live in Flint or the State of Michigan as I do, you know all to well that what the greater public has been told only scratches the surface.
- While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water. A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.
- For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented. Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the Governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River. “How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer. I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the State may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.
- There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water. In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water. Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least ten have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.
- People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold. Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home. So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?
- While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed. Here’s a story which has received little or no coverage outside of Flint. During these two years of water contamination, residents in Flint have had to contend with a decision made by the Pentagon to use Flint for target practice. Literally. Actual unannounced military exercises – complete with live ammo and explosives – were conducted last year inside the city of Flint. The army decided to practice urban warfare on Flint, making use of the thousands of abandoned homes which they could drop bombs on. Streets with dilapidated homes had rocket-propelled grenades fired upon them. For weeks, an undisclosed number of army troops pretended Flint was Baghdad or Damascus and basically had at it. It sounded as if the city was under attack from an invading army or from terrorists. People were shocked this could be going on in their neighborhoods. Wait – did I say “people?” I meant, Flint people. As with the Governor, it was OK to abuse a community that held no political power or money to fight back. BOOM!
- The Wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff Is a Spokeswoman for Nestle, Michigan’s Largest Owner of Private Water Reserves. . .
I want some confirmation on some of this: the Army practicing urban warfare with live ammunition seems incredible.
John Walcott reports in Politico:
On September 9, 2002, as the George W. Bush administration was launching its campaign to invade Iraq, a classified report landed on the desk of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It came from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and it carried an ominous note.
“Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD,” Rumsfeld wrote to Air Force General Richard Myers. “It is big.”
The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence knew—or more importantly didn’t know—about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Its assessment was blunt: “We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. … We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”
Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war. But he never shared the eight-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.
While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration’s case for war, the JCS report conceded: “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”
The rationale for the invasion has long since been discredited, but the JCS report, now declassified, which a former Bush administration official forwarded in December, nevertheless has implications for both sides in the 2016 presidential race, in particular the GOP candidates who are relying for foreign policy advice on some of the architects of the war, and the Democratic front-runner, who once again is coming under fire from her primary opponent for supporting the invasion.
Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose military assistant was on the short list of people copied on the JCS report, is one of Jeb Bush’s foreign policy experts. Other supporters of the war, though they do not appear to have been aware of the JCS report, are involved in the various advisory roles in the 2016 campaign. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is advising Ted Cruz; and Elliott Abrams and William Kristol are supporting Marco Rubio, whom Reuters reported is also briefed regularly by former Cheney adviser Eric Edelman.
The rise of ISIL and recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have given Democrat Bernie Sanders the ability to draw a straight line from the current Middle East chaos straight back to Clinton’s vote in favor of what he calls “one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of the United States,” a conflict that has claimed the lives of 4,500 Americans and some 165,000 Iraqis.
Rumsfeld was not under any legal or administrative obligation to circulate an internal DoD report, but not doing so raises questions about whether the administration withheld key information that could have undermined its case for war. Time and again, in the fall of 2002 and into early 2003, members of the administration spoke forcefully and without qualification about the threats they said Saddam Hussein posed. The JCS report undercut their assertions, and if it had been shared more widely within the administration, the debate would have been very different.
The report originated with a question from the man whose obsession with “known unknowns” became a rhetorical trademark. On August 16, 2002, Rumsfeld asked Air Force Maj. Gen. Glen Shaffer, head of the Joint Staff’s intelligence directorate, “what we don’t know (in a percentage) about the Iraqi WMD program,” according to a Sept. 5 memo from Shaffer to Myers and three other senior military officials.
On September 5, Shaffer sent Myers his findings, titled “Iraq: Status of WMD Programs.” In a note to his boss, he revealed: “We don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know.”
And while the report said intelligence officials “assess Iraq is making significant progress in WMD programs,” it conceded that “large parts” of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs were concealed. As a result, “Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”
What Myers said when he received the report is not known, but by September 9, it had made its way across Rumsfeld’s desk, where it elicited his terse, typed summation: “This is big.”
But it wasn’t big enough to share with Powell, who in five months would be asked to make the U.S. case for war to the United Nations. Nor was it shared with other members of the National Security Council, according to former NSC staff. An intelligence official who was close to CIA Director George Tenet said he has no recollection of the report and said he would have remembered something that important.
Did President Bush see it? Or Vice President Dick Cheney? If they did, it didn’t temper what they said in public. Cheney had already kicked off the administration’s campaign in Nashville on August 27, saying, “The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago.”
“Many of us,” he added, “are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.”
This was the beginning of what White House chief of staff Andrew Card later called a campaign to “educate the public” about the threat from Iraq.
Rather than heed the JCS’s early warning — as well as similar doubts expressed by some CIA, State Department and Defense Intelligence Agency officers — and seek more reliable intelligence, Rumsfeld and Cheney turned to a parallel intelligence apparatus they created that relied largely on information from Iraqi defectors and a network of exiles led by the late Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress.
On Sunday, September 8, 2002 — three days after Shaffer reported that evidence on Iraq’s nuclear program was sparse — the Times’ Judith Miller and Michael Gordon led the newspaper with a report with the headline, “US Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts.” . . .
We were betrayed and tens if not hundreds of thousands died as a result—plus we now have ISIS to contend with, along with various nations falling apart in the Middle East (Iraq among them).
Dexter Filkins writes in the New Yorker:
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the eponymous scientist, saddened by the death of his mother, sets out to create a human replicant in his laboratory. But instead of a human, a giant grotesque emerges, with yellow eyes, over-stretched skin, and a volatile disposition. Victor Frankenstein refers to it as “the Monster” and “the Creature.’’ His creation runs wild, killing Victor’s bride and his best friend, driving its creator to torment and sadness.
The tale of Frankenstein is the proper lens through which to view the attack by Taliban gunmen this week on a school in Pakistan. The assault, at Bacha Khan University in the city of Charsadda, killed at least twenty-two people and wounded at least nineteen. In this case, Victor Frankenstein, the scientist, resembles the generals of the Pakistani military, whose Creature is the out-of-control Pakistani Taliban.
The attack in Charsadda could have been worse: guards at the university killed a man before he could detonate an explosive vest that he’d wrapped around his body. Last year, there was an even more horrific assault on a school in the nearby city of Peshawar, where Taliban gunmen killed a hundred and forty-five people, most of them children.
In both cases, Pakistan’s leaders vowed to crush the Taliban. And the Pakistani military has launched a series of offensives in the desolate reaches of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where the group has its headquarters. We can only hope that the Pakistani military succeeds. But this is where our sympathy should end—and where the tale of Pakistan’s Frankenstein begins.
The Afghan Taliban came together with the assistance of the Pakistan military, which helped organize the group in the mid-nineties, during the long and horrible civil war that followed the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. By 1995, with tens of thousands dead, Afghanistan had devolved into a state where rapacious warlords and their gangs fought each other over the spoils of conflict, which often included the country’s young women and boys. There was no functioning government.
Pakistan’s military-intelligence service, known by its acronym, the I.S.I., feared that the chaos would spread across the border. So, spotting a group of fierce fighters driven by a medieval vision of Islam, the I.S.I. poured its support behind them. The Taliban, led by a one-eyed cleric called Mullah Omar, swept across the country and captured the capital, in 1996. (The story has been told in many places, including in The Wrong Enemy, from 2014, by the Times reporter Carlotta Gall.) Omar gave sanctuary to another religiously inspired madman, Osama bin Laden, and they stayed in Afghanistan until they were chased away by American forces, in 2001.
Following the American invasion, the Taliban’s leadership (Omar included) fled to Pakistan, where it was received with open arms by the I.S.I. Over the next several years, as the Americans neglected their Afghan project, the Taliban grew stronger in their safe havens. All the while, the U.S. government lavished billions on the Pakistani government and military, even as they betrayed their benefactors. In Afghanistan today, the Taliban are as strong as they have been at any point since 2001.
While the Afghan Taliban flourished in its Pakistani sanctuaries, an unintended consequence developed: the ideology of the Taliban took root in Pakistan itself. Before long, the Pakistani Taliban was born, and it was as radical—and in some cases even more radical—than its Afghan progenitor. While the relationship between the various groups of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban is complex, there is no question that the Pakistani movement is a spin-off of the Afghan one.
For years—indeed, even today—the Pakistani generals imagined they could have it both ways: that they could support the Afghan Taliban while ignoring the Taliban inside Pakistan. The Pakistani military often aided the C.I.A.’s drone campaign in Pakistan, but, while the Americans wanted to go after both groups of Taliban, the Pakistanis typically only helped them with the Pakistani cells. The Pakistani generals were playing a double game inside a double game: they took the Americans’ billions and supported the Taliban fighters who were killing the Americans, and they secretly helped the Americans kill Pakistani Taliban in the C.I.A.’S drone war, letting the Pakistani civilian leaders take the heat.
Not surprisingly, the double-double game was too clever by half. . .
The Obama and George W. Bush administrations are alike in their determination that clear evidence of human rights crimes never be exposed. Cora Currier reports in The Intercept:
The government has refused to meet the deadline for the release of videotapes that show a detainee at Guantánamo being force-fed while on hunger strike.
A federal judge had given the government until Friday, January 22, to release around 11 hours of footage in which a Syrian detainee, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, is forcibly removed from his cell, restrained, and force-fed. Dhiab’s lawyers have called the footage “extremely disturbing.”
In a notice filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., lawyers for the Justice Department said that they would appeal the judge’s order to release the tapes. The government has previously said that the videos are properly classified, and that if released, they might “inflame Muslim sensitivities overseas.”
The lawsuit originated when Dhiab asked a judge to halt what he said was a painful and punitive procedure of force-feeding. Dhiab was released to Uruguay in December 2014, but a group of news organizations, including The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, intervened in the case to argue that the videos should be made public.
“It’s disappointing that — yet again — Obama’s lawyers have suppressed the evidence that shows most eloquently why the president is right, and Guantánamo ought to close,” Cori Crider, an attorney with the human rights group Reprieve, said in a statement. Crider, who has seen the tapes, said they “would make your blood run cold.”
In an editorial published Wednesday, the Miami Herald — whose reporter Carol Rosenberg is the most stalwart observer of operations at the detention center — said that appealing to prevent the release of the videos would be tantamount to “aiding, basically, a government cover-up” of detainee abuse.
The paper compared the tapes to the infamous photos of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, writing that “disclosure of such horrors, though difficult to hear and to see, is at the foundation of Americans’ right to know what it being done on their behalf.”
Rosenberg has been tracking the number of Guantánamo detainees on hunger strike since a mass protest began in March 2013. At one point, more than 100 detainees were refusing food, and nearly half of them were being tube-fed. The Pentagon stopped publicly reporting the numbers of detainees refusing food or being force-fed in December 2013, saying that it was simply a way for the detainees to “draw attention to themselves, and so we’re not going to help them do that.” . . .
Pakistan shows what can happen when the Deep State (the power nexus around national security—see Michael J. Glennon’s book National Security and Double Government on how that’s being developed in the U.S.) becomes strong enough to operate on its own, independently of the elected government. Dexter Filkins reports in the New Yorker:
Imagine a country that is embroiled in a long and bloody conflict with its neighbor, and each time its democratically elected Prime Minister tries to reach out and make peace, his own army launches an attack to make sure the peace doesn’t take hold. You might think you were trapped inside a dystopian movie. Unless, of course, you’ve been to Pakistan, where this happens all the time.
This week, Pakistani officials said they had detained Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group, for his alleged role in overseeing the attack on an Indian airbase in the city of Pathankot earlier this month. The attack left seven Indians dead. Jaish-e-Mohammed is one of several Pakistani militant groups whose members routinely cross into India and carry out attacks there, for the ostensible purpose of prying loose Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.
Azhar’s detention is almost certainly a farce, staged to placate foreign leaders. If the past is any guide, Azhar, who has been detained many times before, will soon be free and able to carry out more attacks. This is the way it has worked in Pakistan for years.
The attack on the airbase in Pathankot, on January 2nd, came little more than a week after the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, flew to Lahore to meet the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, for a surprise summit. It was the first visit by an Indian leader to Pakistan in twelve years. By all accounts, the meeting went well. That’s an unqualified good; both countries possess nuclear weapons, and their unresolved disputes, especially over Kashmir, could have terrifying consequences. India and Pakistan have already been to war with each other four times.
So why would Pakistani-based fighters follow up a feel-good summit with a cross-border attack? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time, or the second, or even the third.
In 1999, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus across the border to meet Sharif, and the two men pledged that peace would prevail between their two countries. Less than three months later, Pakistani soldiers, dressed up like jihadis, crossed the Indian border in the Himalayas and captured several Indian army posts. The Indian army repelled the invaders but the fighting, centered around the town of Kargil, came dangerously close to spinning out of control. It doesn’t appear that the Pakistani military, which orchestrated the attack, ever bothered to ask Sharif for permission.
In July, 2001, Vajpayee invited the Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, who had recently declared himself Chief Executive after seizing power from Sharif in a military coup, to the Indian city of Agra to talk peace. Three months later, Pakistani-based guerrillas mounted an assault on the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly building, and two months after that they launched a brazen attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. Indian troops were nearly ordered to cross the border, but the crisis was defused.
In September, 2008, Pakistan’s first elected leader in nine years, President Asif Zardari, made a series of peaceful overtures to India. Two months later,Pakistan-based terrorists attacked the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and other targets in Mumbai, killing more than a hundred and fifty people and wounding more than three hundred.
I’m not the first person to notice that Pakistani militants regularly try to sabotage peaceful relations between their country and India. Aparna Pande, at the Hudson Institute, has put together a chronology of these attacks.
But the important point is . . .
The US government increasingly acts in an authoritarian manner as the deep state increases its control. William Grigg writes at Free Thought Project:
The U.S. Government failed to deter them through threats of criminal prosecution, and clumsy attempts to intimidate their families. Now four former Air Force drone operators-turned-whistleblowers have had their credit cards and bank accounts frozen, according to human rights attorney Jesselyn Radack.
— unR̶A̶D̶A̶C̶K̶ted (@JesselynRadack) November 22, 2015
“My drone operators went public this week and now their credit cards and bank accounts are frozen,” Radack lamented on her Twitter feed (the spelling of her post has been conventionalized). This was done despite the fact that none of them has been charged with a criminal offense – but this is a trivial formality in the increasingly Sovietesque American National Security State.
Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland and Stephen Lewis, who served as drone operators in the US Air Force, have gone public with detailed accounts of the widespread corruption and institutionalized indifference to civilian casualties that characterize the program. Some of those disclosures were made in the recent documentary Drone; additional details have been provided in an open letter from the whistleblowers to President Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Director John Brennan.
“We are former Air Force service members,” the letter begins. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruiting tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
Elsewhere the former drone operators have described how their colleagues dismissed children as “fun-sized terrorists” and compared killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long.” Children who live in countries targeted by the drone program are in a state of constant terror, according to Westmoreland: “There are 15-year-olds growing up who have not lived a day without drones overhead, but you also have expats who are watching what’s going on in their home countries and seeing regularly the violations that are happening there, and that is something that could radicalize them.”
By reliable estimates, ninety percent of those killed in drone strikes are entirely harmless people, making the program a singularly effective method of producing anti-American terrorism. “We kill four and create ten,” Bryant said during a November 19 press conference, referring to potential terrorists. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”
Haas explained that the institutional culture of the drone program emphasized and encouraged the dehumanization of the targeted populations. “There was a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were monitoring,” he recalled. “Shooting was something to be lauded and something we should strive for.”
Unable to repress his conscience or choke down his moral disgust, Haas took refuge in alcohol and drug abuse, which he says is predictably commonplace among drone operators. At least a half-dozen members of his unit were using bath salts and could be found “impaired” while on duty, Haas testifies.
Among the burdens Bryant now bears is the knowledge that . . .