Saturday, March 9, 2013

What drones do

Syed Rifaat Hussain, my dear friend and former student, sent me this striking cry from Afghan Peace Volunteers (he took classes with me at the same time Condi Rice did). Rifaat has been the leading strategic studies expert at Islamabad, meeting with General Kayani. He has spoken at Stanford and elsewhere about the horrors of the drone strikes in Pakistan, trying to move neo-cons and Democratic neo-neo cons about this. When he speaks, listeners, if responsible (Condi and others from Rand sometimes attend), tend to remain silent...


About the slaughter of innocents by drones, he is absolutely right. And that it makes decent people detest NATO and the US was revealed in the peculiar New York Times and New Yorker reports on John Brennan, one announcing Obama taking out a cleric in Yemen, father of 7, who spoke out against Al-Qaida plus the police chief, his cousin, in order to get what he and Brennan imagined were three “major” Al-Qaida ops – see my analysis of the slaughter of innocents here.


To the Democratic neo-neo cons who advise in and apologize for these horrific, counterproductive and unnecessary – blowback-inviting – policies, I urge reading the protest below by ordinary Afghanis.


There is an issue, as the authors say, about being human here.


Rand Paul held up the committee approval of John Brennan to be CIA director and then filibustered. He asked Brennan whether the US President can kill American citizens suspected of support for “Al-Qaida” on American soil (Obama and Brennan murdered Awlaki’s 16 year old son and another American 16 year old driving with him in Yemen and have yet to say anything public about it).


Brennan refused to answer (the killer is an artful dodger…).


Attorney General Holder did not answer quickly and held out for the possibility of using drones in a national emergency such as 9/11.


Obama, the constitutional law professor, is wrong. Rand Paul is right to stick up for civil liberties and that the government should not become a tyranny – murdering American citizens, here or abroad, far from the field of battle without any procedure, and as an exercise of “commander in chief” power.


I heard Ed Schultz two nights ago, attempting to mock Rand Paul (Rand is an odious racist about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he says he would not have voted for...).

Ed derided particularly Paul's thought that sometimes people unintentionally (in terms of grasping the consequences) elect horrible leaders as Hitler was in Germany (Hitler had about 40% of the vote and was appointed Chancellor by von Hindenburg).


But Rand Paul was here underlining the decisive concern in the Federalist Papers and in constitutional law generally in the United States and England about preventing tyranny. A president cannot be judge, jury and executioner. That is a leading point, since Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws, in decent constitutional design.


Schultz produced a commentary which, unusually, mirrored Rush Limbaugh's or John McCain's or Lindsay Graham's in partisan error.


Graham did amusingly note that the Republicans who are now screaming at Obama never said a word against George Bush.


That the Republican party and the NRA are hypocrites, however, as Lindsay hints, does not mean that there is anything wrong with Paul's argument or anything right about the murders, often in countries thet the US has aggressed against without any declaration - Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia for example. Here is a basic political and moral question on which Obama, Schultz, Graham and McCain inter alia are on the wrong side: do the American regime affirm the rule of law - which elevates habeas corpus, outlaws torture and restricts or balances a President's capacity to wage war unilaterally and even to extinguish American citizens, with no legal procedure, far from the field of battle, or is it increasingly (since the Bush-Cheney period) a tyranny?


The neocons, influenced by Leo Strauss and his followers, are in fact, partisans of authoritarianism (in his May 1933 letter to Karl Loewith, Strauss recommended "the principles of the Right, fascist, authoritarian, imperial - and not the laughable and childish imprescriptible rights of man." See here and here. This was called by the Nazi lawyers Carl Schmitt sovereignty - "he is sovereign who makes the decision in the state of the exception" is the first sentence of his 1923 Political Theology. Strauss was a student of Schmitt and Heidegger. See here and here.


It was known in the Bush-Cheney regime as "commander in chief power." It is this which Obama and Howard Koh, formerly a defender of the War Powers Act, now a sycophant for Presidential power, and other Democratic neo-neo cons are consolidating in a bipartisan regime (the concept is Jack Balkin's).


Jack Goldsmith and others on the Right - Goldsmith is himself a war criminal in organizing extraordinary rendition of prisoners to be tortured - cheer on Obama for doing this.


Yet Rand Paul did not get to the heart of the issue. In this respect, he differs from Ron Paul, his father, since about drones, the latter emphasizes that killing innocent people from half the world away is evil and makes America antagonists motivated, in this respect, with justice.


Imagine if drones arrived from a newly dominant Saudi-China late in the 21st century in Texas against some resistant group and whoever was near them. Imagine that a declining US government was incapable of stopping this or even acquiesced in it. We might not support the resistant group. Yet most of us I think would detest the aggressors and murderers, and some would fight back.

Change the name, as John Rawls suggests in his idea of an original position, and one can see easily what the act is.


Or recall the Company's minions in Avatar...


As the Afghans say below, what America is doing in murdering children is not incidental to its wars and its use of drones. It is not, in military jargon "collateral damage" (Catholic sophists speak of "double effect" here - one intends to kill what one imagines not being there to be Al-Qaida operatives and "incidentally" murders many others).

The policy is simply murder and makes every decent person detest the US (I speak as an Obama supporter twice and some one who would much prefer that America not do evil and counterproductive things).


For a review of the dangerousness of drones used domestically, both from the standpoint of privacy and murder, listen to Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now here. Drones can fly high, spy on you in your back yard and infrared your house, and you won’t know a thing – “privacy” is a thing of the past if drones are adopted in the United States. They are being widely procured including in Colorado.


The truth is that the newly elevated Brennan should have never have been considered for leader of the CIA; he is a war criminal (a torturer under Bush, and a pretty large scale murderer of innocents with drones under Obama). He is responsible for Obama’s counting any male teenager (any male) in the presence of a suspected terrorist taken out by a drone as also a terrorist…


But the CIA is largely a secret police organization, and since Bush, beyond the law...


Routine American murderousness toward non-white people is also rooted in the founding amnesias toward indigenous people - Sand Creek is a striking example - and blacks. We have in America Founding Slave-owners...See here and here.


The 8 and 7 year olds murdered in Afghanistan are to be counted terrorists according to the White House…


Published on Monday, March 4, 2013 by Common Dreams
'We Are Those Two Afghan Children Killed by War'
by Afghan Peace Volunteers and Hakim

(the program would not reproduce the photograph - see here).

Members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers gathered in protest outside the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul in Sunday to protest the killing of two boys, aged 7 and 8, by NATO military forces. (Photo: Courtesy of Afghan Peace Volunteers)

Two young Afghan boys herding cattle in Uruzgan Province of Afghanistan were mistakenly killed by NATO forces last week.

They were seven and eight years old.

Our globe, approving of ‘necessary or just war’, thinks, “We expect this to happen occasionally.”

Some say, “We’re sorry.”

Therefore, with sorrow and rage, we the Afghan Peace Volunteers took our hearts to the streets.

We went with two cows, remembering that the two children were tending to their cattle on their last day.

We are those two children.

We want to be human again.

Don’t we see it? Don’t we hear it?

All of nature, the cows, the grass, the hills and the songs, crave for us to be human again.

We want to get out of our seats of pride and presumption, and give a cry of resistance.

We want the world to hear us, the voice of the thundering masses.

“We’re so tired of war.”

“Children shouldn’t have to live or die this way.”

“This hurts like mad, like the mad hurt of seeing a child being caned while he’s crying from hunger.”

“We have woken up, and we detest the method of mutual killing in war that the leaders of the world have adopted.”

We say, with due respect to the leaders, but with no respect for their acts of violence, “We are very wrong. You are very wrong.”

“We cannot go on resolving conflicts this warring way.”

We are those two Afghan children

Unless we see the cattle’s submission upon being blown up to pieces, and understand the momentary surprise of the seven year old listening to music on his radio, and empathize with the eight year old who had taken responsibility for the seven year old, and weep torrentially with the mother of the children, we are at risk of losing everything we value within ourselves.

Hearing the NATO commander General Joseph Dunford say that they’re sorry makes us angry; we don’t want to hear it.

We don’t want ‘sorries’. We want an end to all killing. We want to live without war.

We want all warriors to run back anxiously to their own homes, and fling their arms around their sons and daughters, their grandsons and grand-daughters, and say, “We love you and will never participate in the killing of any child or human being again.”

In the days to come, we’ll remember the distraught mother and family of the two children

We know they won’t eat, or feel like breathing or living. They will remember, yet not want to remember.

Their mother will feel like giving away tens of thousands of cows just so she can touch her two children’s faces again. No, she’ll not only touch their faces, she will shower them with the hugs and kisses only mothers can give.

Do not insult her grief or her poverty by giving her monetary compensation for her children.

If they were alive, they would say along with their mother, “We are not goods.”
We went out there with our hearts and two cows this morning. We stood in front of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, next to a trash-lined river no one wants to clean up, and we began to feel human again.

We had begun to cry for our world.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers are a grassroots group of ordinary, multi-ethnic Afghans seeking a life of non-violence, the unity of all people, equality, and self-reliance. We seek non-military solutions for Afghanistan and do not work for the benefit of any political group or religion.

Hakim ( is a mentor for the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul.


For the vivid youtube video that accompanied this statement of Afghanis protesting we are the two children, with English subtitles, see here.

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