Thursday, July 21, 2011 10:49 AM
Would you like to take a ride on the euthanasia coaster?
Slavoj Žižek, “philosophy’s answer to Bob Dylan,” chats with the Guardian about WikiLeaks, Lady Gaga, and a new communist society.
Obvious news, finally quantified: Two sociologists have analyzed 42 years of Rolling Stone covers and determined that women are increasingly presented as sex objects.
In the modern homestead, the woman’s role is a lot like her role in yesteryear’s homestead.
Would a medium-sized bargain be better politically for Obama than the grand bargain he was hoping for?
Even if you think your child has the next Great American Novel in them, they may need a few pointers to actually become a writer.
Gay rights improved by French fries. RIP, Wallace McCain (d. May 13, 2011).
Fun mashup: Sesame Street rock the Sure Shot.
At Denmark’s Roskilde festival, design firm UiWE tested a chic, communal urinal for women.
Star anise, sun-dried tomatoes, and cake sprinkles. Check out these amazing hyper-close-ups of common foods.
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial said that WikiLeaks and News Of The World hacking are “largely the same story.” You can’t make it up.
Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. are getting lambasted for the phone-hacking scandal. Call it eye-for-an-eye, but the hacker collective called LulzSec now has The Sun and News of the World in their crosshairs. As LulzSec’s twitter account says, “expect the lulz to flow in coming days.”
And the most misleading headline of the week award goes to…“Michele Bachmann’s Migraines: Joan Didion Weighs In”.
Paul Ford, writing for New York, mourns the end of endings brought about by social media.
A sad tale about the state of things at Ireland’s National Library.
Christopher Walken reads
The Three Little Pigs. (Just for fun.)
Have changed attitudes toward getting hammered left us with a bland literary landscape?
Renegade artists take over bus shelter ads in Madrid. Long live civil disobedience!
Downsized drama is over. The Germ Project brings back big, complex, messy theater.
This college lecture has been brought to you by the Koch brothers.
If you missed the recent episode of Frontline about the Kill/Capture campaign in Afghanistan, watch it now.
In defense of treating books badly.
Image by iluvcocacola, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, July 08, 2011 10:23 AM
This article was originally published at
We still don’t know if he did it or not, but if Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old Army private from Oklahoma, actually supplied WikiLeaks with its choicest material -- the Iraq War logs, the Afghan War logs, and the State Department cables -- which startled and riveted the world, then he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom instead of a jail cell at Fort Leavenworth.
President Obama recently gave one of those medals to retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who managed the two bloody, disastrous wars about which the WikiLeaks-released documents revealed so much. Is he really more deserving than the young private who, after almost ten years of mayhem and catastrophe, gave Americans -- and the world -- a far fuller sense of what our government is actually doing abroad?
Bradley Manning, awaiting a court martial in December, faces the prospect of long years in prison. He is charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He has put his sanity and his freedom on the line so that Americans might know what our government has done -- and is still doing -- globally. He has blown the whistle on criminalviolations of American military law. He has exposed our secretive government’s pathological over-classification of important public documents.
Here are four compelling reasons why, if he did what the government accuses him of doing, he deserves that medal, not jail time.
1: At great personal cost, Bradley Manning has given our foreign policy elite the public supervision it so badly needs.
In the past 10 years, American statecraft has moved from calamity to catastrophe, laying waste to other nations while never failing to damage our own national interests. Do we even need to be reminded that our self-defeating response to 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia) has killed roughly 225,000 civilians and 6,000 American soldiers, while costing our country more than $3.2 trillion? We are hemorrhaging blood and money. Few outside Washington would argue that any of this is making America safer.
An employee who screwed up this badly would either be fired on the spot or put under heavy supervision. Downsizing our entire foreign policy establishment is not an option. However, the website WikiLeaks has at least tried to make public scrutiny of our self-destructive statesmen and -women a reality by exposing their work to ordinary citizens.
Consider our invasion of Iraq, a war based on distortions, government secrecy, and the complaisant failure of our major media to ask the important questions. But what if someone like Bradley Manning had provided the press with the necessary government documents, which would have made so much self-evident in the months before the war began? Might this not have prevented disaster? We’ll never know, of course, but could additional public scrutiny have been salutary under the circumstances?
Thanks to Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures, we do have a sense of what did happen afterwards in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just how the U.S. operates in the world. Thanks to those disclosures, we now know just how Washington leaned on the Vatican to quell opposition to the Iraq War and just how it pressured the Germans to prevent them from prosecuting CIA agents who kidnapped an innocent man and shipped him off to be tortured abroad.
As our foreign policy threatens to careen into yet more disasters in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, we can only hope that more whistleblowers will follow the alleged example of Bradley Manning and release vital public documents before it’s too late. A foreign policy based on secrets and spin has manifestly failed us. In a democracy, the workings of our government should not be shrouded in an opaque cloud of secrecy. For bringing us the truth, for breaking the seal on that self-protective policy of secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
2: Knowledge is powerful. The
WikiLeaks disclosures have helped spark democratic revolutions and reforms across the Middle East, accomplishing what Operation Iraqi Freedom never could.
Wasn’t it American policy to spread democracy in the Middle East, to extend our freedom to others, as both recent American presidents have insisted?
No single American has done more to help further this goal than Pfc. Bradley Manning. The chain reaction of democratic protests and uprisings that has swept Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and even in a modest way Iraq, all began in Tunisia, where leaked U.S. State Department cables about the staggering corruption of the ruling Ben Ali dynasty helped trigger the rebellion. In all cases, these societies were smoldering with longstanding grievances against oppressive, incompetent governments and economies stifled by cronyism. The revelations from the WikiLeaks State Department documents played a widely acknowledged role in sparking these pro-democracy uprisings.
In Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen, the people’s revolts under way have occurred despite U.S. support for their autocratic rulers. In each of these nations, in fact, we bankrolled the dictators, while helping to arm and train their militaries. The alliance with Mubarak’s autocratic state cost the U.S. more than $60 billion and did nothing for American security -- other than inspire terrorist blowback from radicalized Egyptians like Mohammad Atta and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Even if U.S. policy was firmly on the wrong side of things, we should be proud that at least one American -- Bradley Manning -- was on the right side. If indeed he gave those documents to WikiLeaks, then he played a catalytic role in bringing about the Arab Spring, something neither Barack Obama nor former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (that recent surprise recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) could claim. Perhaps once the Egyptians consolidate their democracy, they, too, will award Manning their equivalent of such a medal.
Bradley Manning has exposed the pathological over-classification of America’s public documents.
“Secrecy is for losers,” as the late Senator and United Nations Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say. If this is indeed the case, it would be hard to find a bigger loser than the U.S. government.
How pathological is our government’s addiction to secrecy? In June, the National Security Agency declassified documents from 1809, while the Department of Defense only last month declassified the Pentagon Papers, publicly available in book form these last four decades. Our government is only just now finishing its declassification of documents relating to World War I.
This would be ridiculous if it weren’t tragic. Ask the historians. Barton J. Bernstein, professor emeritus of history at Stanford University and a founder of its international relations program, describes the government’s classification of foreign-policy documents as “bizarre, arbitrary, and nonsensical.” George Herring, professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky and author of the encyclopedic From Colony to Superpower: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy, has chronicled how his delight at being appointed to a CIA advisory panel on declassification turned to disgust once he realized that he was being used as window dressing by an agency with no intention of opening its records, no matter how important or how old, to public scrutiny.
Any historian worth his salt would warn us that such over-classification is a leading cause of national amnesia and repetitive war disorder. If a society like ours doesn’t know its own history, it becomes the great power equivalent of a itinerant amnesiac, not knowing what it did yesterday or where it will end up tomorrow. Right now, classification is the disease of Washington, secrecy its mania, and dementia its end point. As an ostensibly democratic nation, we, its citizens, risk such ignorance at our national peril.
President Obama came into office promising a “sunshine” policy for his administration while singing the praises of whistleblowers. He has since launched the fiercest campaign against whistleblowers the republic has ever seen, and further plunged our foreign policy into the shadows. Challenging the classification of each tightly guarded document is, however, impossible. No organization has the resources to fight this fight, nor would they be likely to win right now. Absent a radical change in our government’s diplomatic and military bureaucracies, massive over-classification will only continue.
If we hope to know what our government is actually doing in our name globally, we need massive leaks from insider whistleblowers to journalists who can then sort out what we need to know, given that the government won’t. This, in fact, has been the modus operandi of WikiLeaks. Our whistleblower protection laws urgently need to catch up to this state of affairs, and though we are hardly there yet, Bradley Manning helped take us part of the way. He did what Barack Obama swore he would do on coming into office. For striking a blow against our government’s fanatical insistence on covering its mistakes and errors with blanket secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves not punishment, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
At immense personal cost,
Manning has upheld a great American tradition of transparency in statecraft and for that he should be an American hero, not an American felon.
Bradley Manning is only the latest in a long line of whistleblowers in and out of uniform who have risked everything to put our country back on the right path.
Take Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, a Pentagon-commissioned secret history of the Vietnam War and the official lies and distortions that the government used to sell it. Many of the documents it included were classed at a much higher security clearance than anything Bradley Manning is accused of releasing -- and yet Ellsberg was not convicted of a single crime and became a national hero.
Given the era when all this went down, it’s forgivable to assume that Ellsberg must have been a hippie who somehow sneaked into the Pentagon archives, beads and patchouli trailing behind him. What many no longer realize is that Ellsberg had been a model U.S. Marine. First in his class at officer training school at Quantico, he deferred graduate school at Harvard to remain on active duty in the Marine Corps. Ellsberg saw his high-risk exposure of the disastrous and deceitful nature of the Vietnam War as fully consonant with his long career of patriotic service in and out of uniform.
And Ellsberg is hardly alone. Ask Lt. Colonel (ret.) Darrel Vandeveld. Or Tom Drake, formerly of the National Security Agency.
Transparency in statecraft was not invented last week by WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange. It is a longstanding American tradition. James Madison put the matter succinctly: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
A 1960 Congressional Committee on Government Operations report caught the same spirit: “Secrecy -- the first refuge of incompetents -- must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society… Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.” John F. Kennedy made the same point in 1961: “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.” Hugo Black, great Alabaman justice of the twentieth-century Supreme Court had this to say: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.” And the first of World-War-I-era president Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points couldn’t have been more explicit: “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
We need to know what our government’s commitments are, as our foreign policy elites have clearly demonstrated they cannot be left to their own devices. Based on the last decade of carnage and folly, without public debate -- and aggressive media investigations -- we have every reason to expect more of the same.
If there’s anything to learn from that decade, it’s that government secrecy and lies come at a very high price in blood and money. Thanks to the whistleblowing revelations attributed to Bradley Manning, we at least have a far clearer picture of the problems we face in trying to supervise our own government. If he was the one responsible for the WikiLeaks revelations, then for his gift to the republic, purchased at great price, he deserves not prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the heartfelt gratitude of his country.
Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York and a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, the American Conservative magazine, CounterPunch.org, and Le Monde Diplomatique. His next book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, will be published by O/R Books this fall. He is covering the Bradley Manning case and trial for TomDispatch.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Madar discusses the Manning case, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
Copyright 2011 Chase Madar
Friday, February 11, 2011 9:56 AM
This article was originally published at TomDispatch.com
Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old from Crescent, Oklahoma, enlisted in the U.S. military in 2007 to give something back to his country and, he hoped, the world.
For the past seven months, Army Private First Class Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Twenty-five thousand other Americans are also in prolonged solitary confinement, but the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detention have been sufficiently brutal for the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to announce an investigation.
Pfc. Manning is alleged to have obtained documents, both classified and unclassified, from the Department of Defense and the State Department via the Internet and provided them to WikiLeaks. (That “alleged” is important because the federal informant who fingered Manning, Adrian Lamo, is a felon convincted of computer-hacking crimes. He was also involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the month before he levelled his accusation. All of this makes him a less than reliable witness.) At any rate, the records allegedly downloaded by Manning revealed clear instances of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, widespread torture committed by the Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S. military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll caused by the American invasion.
For bringing to light this critical but long-suppressed information, Pfc. Manning has been treated not as a whistleblower, but as a criminal and a spy. He is charged with violating not only Army regulations but also the Espionage Act of 1917, making him the fifth American to be charged under the act for leaking classified documents to the media. A court-martial will likely be convened in the spring or summer.
Politicians have called for Manning’s head, sometimes literally. And yet a strong legal defense for Pfc. Manning is not difficult to envision. Despite many remaining questions of fact, a legal defense can already be sketched out. What follows is an “opening statement” for the defense. It does not attempt to argue individual points of law in any exhaustive way. Rather, like any opening statement, it is an overview of the vital legal (and political) issues at stake, intended for an audience of ordinary citizens, not Judge Advocate General lawyers.
After all, it is the court of public opinion that ultimately decides what a government can and cannot get away with, legally or otherwise.
Read Chase Madar's “
Opening Statement for the Defense of Bradley Manning
, Soldier and Patriot” at
Thursday, December 23, 2010 12:33 PM
Every week we share links to stories, articles, and other interesting things we’ve come across online for you to enjoy over the weekend. It’s the utne.com crockpot; we add the ingredients for a great online meal. This time, it's a holiday meal! Enjoy!
We knew there was something trippy about the jolly old elf, but have you heard about the roots of the Santa Claus myth in Russian psychedelic shamanism? Christmas will never be the same.
Is that an intoxicated reindeer on your sweater? The Wall Street Journal gets festive with a trend-piece on ugly Christmas sweater parties.
It’s time for the yearly deluge of Top 10 lists. And, per usual, the hype around new artists, albums, and films (which are at best above average) is often as ludicrous as it is historically barren. A Blog Supreme’s list of 5 jazz reissues that put 2010 to shame helps keep things in proper perspective.
Get the whole family holding hands around the computer and sing "The 12 Days of WikiLeaks."
While you’re standing in line waiting to purchase that new iPad for Uncle Albert, consider this: Apple computer, citing its “developer guidelines,” has banned a WikiLeaks application from its online store. (Hat tip to Tech blogger Shelly Palmer.)
Speaking of WikiLeaks, the Center for Public Integrity once again ignores the media hype to actually do some reporting and concludes many of the memos expose the
“U.S. government’s penchant to make even trivial details classified secrets.”
“The most significant change to food safety regulation in 75 years” is how one expert describes the new U.S. food safety bill, whose landmark passage this week was downplayed amid flashier news and pre-holiday hubbub. President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon after the new year.
Pat Robertson is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. What’s next, treating gays like real people?
Senior editor Brad Zellar reads a twisted Christmas story. (Content may not be suitable for some viewers.)
Image by ~Merete, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010 5:30 PM
Writing for Guernica, anti-war activist Norman Solomon had this to say about the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this week:
No government wants to face documentation of actual policies, goals and priorities that directly contradict its public claims of virtue. In societies with democratic freedoms, the governments that have the most to fear from such disclosures are the ones that have been doing the most lying to their own people.
That above statement—as well as the rest of the essay by Solomon, and others, like this one by Arianna Huffington and this one by Tom Hayden in The Nation—is exactly why Tim Heffernan at Esquiremisses the point on what WikiLeaks is doing. These leaked documents may not be all that surprising when one thinks about what governments do and how armies act in times of war. Any lack of surprise, however, comes from previous speculation (by you, me, anyone paying attention) for which there is now proof in the form of these released documents. While they may confirm more than inform, what led us to become informed has been much guess work and the stuff of Tom Clancy novels—not necessarily the proof of actual government documents. The dismissal, then, of these documents as unimportant is the wrong response. Indeed, confirming speculation is of great importance, otherwise the deceit continues unabated and jabs of “conspiracy theory” are more easily thrown (see video below).
Another point where the debate goes awry is in discussing the prosecution of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is the vehicle by which these cables—and the previous war logs—are released. The only people who should be held accountable by any U.S. court would be those providing the information to the messenger, as was pointed out this morning on Democracy Now! by Scott Horton, a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine:
I think, here, the U.S. government does have a basis to bring criminal claims against persons who disclose this information. It’s the individuals who owe the duty to the United States to preserve the confidentiality or secrecy of the information and who disclosed it. So whoever did that—and, of course, Bradley Manning is a focus—would naturally be the subject of a criminal investigation and prosecution.
While the claim that WikiLeaks should be prosecuted is troubling, The Washington Times’ claims that WikiLeaks should be responsible for any sort of “verification” or “corroboration” of the leaked documents may be more so. The paper itself admits that “The WikiLeaks database may be a starting point for analysis of events in the Iraq war, but it renders only a superficial look at any given topic.” Why then should an organization whose stated purpose is “to publish original source material” be expected to also fulfill the job of the journalists who come to the “starting point” to create their stories? It is the responsibility of The New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and, yes, even The Washington Times—though they apparently have the desire to shirk that responsibility—et al. to craft the stories that appear as news to the public. As with the Pentagon Papers, the lot of the information is there, but it may take news organizations or political theorists to wade through what it all means. That’s the journalists’ responsibility, not that of the vehicle delivering the information.
And while the expectation of The Washington Times is misbegotten, it is another suggestion in the same article that is downright scary:
The government also should be waging war on the Wikileaks Web presence. There are a variety of means whereby technicians could render inoperable the sites distributing the classified information. Wikileaks could respond by using alternate sites, but those could be targeted as soon as they came online. Wikileaks has a small staff and limited resources. Relentless attacks on the servers and sites dispensing this classified information would have a debilitating effect on the leakers' morale and help widen the fissures that already have appeared in the group. This battle could offer some practical experience to American cyberwarriors who one day will face even greater threats from state-sponsored Web war.
The fact that anyone in the world can view Pentagon classified documents at will sends a signal of American impotence and inspires future cyberfoes. If Wikileaks wants to play this game, the very least our government can do is suit up and get out on the field.
That’s the true American spirit! Get caught lying and use the whistleblower as target practice for a future war. Norman Solomon long ago concluded that the “nation’s military and diplomacy are moving parts of the same vast war machinery.” With calls to action like that from The Washington Times we might as well add the nation’s media to the list.
Source: Guernica, Esquire, Democracy Now!, The Washington Times, The Huffington Post, The Nation
licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 9:55 AM
From an interview with WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum:
The people of Afghanistan are not shocked by this information. Nobody needs to tell them what the conditions are like on the ground. They don't have reports with this level of specificity; rather they live with everyday terror and fear.
Source: Boing Boing
Monday, July 26, 2010 4:47 PM
This article was originally published by ProPublica.
This morning, The New York Times, England’s The Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel published reports on what’s been termed the “War Logs”—nearly 92,000 documents about the war in Afghanistan made public by WikiLeaks. To put the leaked documents in context, we pulled together some of the best, past reporting on the main themes in the reports.
Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan The documents suggest that Pakistan’s intelligence service has been aiding the Taliban and the Afghan insurgency. (See some of the documents here.) At the heart of this debate is the question Dexter Filkins posed in his Pulitzer-Prize winning coverage in late 2007: “Whose side is Pakistan really on?”
Much of the reporting on this issue centers on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Taliban warlords and Al Qaeda have a strong base. A “Frontline” documentary from 2006 looked at those groups’ presence in the Waziristan region, and how the Taliban there received assistance from the Pakistan intelligence service. Later, The New York Times’ David Rohde detailed the inner workings of the Taliban in the region in his account of his kidnapping in 2009, when he was taken over the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Further south in Pakistan, the Taliban has grown in Quetta, where, as Carlotta Gall wrote in 2007, there were signs that “Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them.”
For more analysis, in a 2008 Q&A with Harpers, the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid explained that the roots of Pakistan’s covert support for the Taliban solidified when the U.S. focused on hunting down Al Qaeda after Sept. 11, leaving the Taliban free to develop in Pakistan. Now, the New Yorker’s Steve Coll says Pakistan’s military believes that Islamic militias could be “useful proxies to ward off a perceived existential threat from India.”
One particular member of Pakistan’s intelligence agency frequently appeared in the WikiLeaks documents. According to the documents, the agency’s former director, Hamid Gul, has strong connections with the Taliban and has been supporting the Afghan insurgency. The Washington Post’s Candace Rondeaux profiled Gul last year, when he was implicated in the bombings in Mumbai.
From the beginning of the war, press reports have drawn attention to civilian deaths resulting from U.S. and NATO strikes in Afghanistan. One Washington Post report from October 2001 noted growing concern among Afghans over errant airstrikes, saying locals were beginning to view Americans as just another in the long line of invaders that had come through the country.
Just months later, The New York Times reported that American attacks had already killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Afghan civilians. The story line was much the same in 2007, when the Times reported that civilian deaths were causing divisions within NATO and undermining support for the Afghan government. The reports range far and wide, but below is a sampling of some of the most devastating attacks in recent years.
- In April 2007, Marines opened fire on unarmed civilians and killed 10 people, wounding more than 30 others. The Washington Post reported it was “one of the largest” civilian death tolls since the war had begun.
- In August 2008, the Post noted that increased reliance on airstrikes had led to more civilian deaths, including one attack that killed at least 90 innocent Afghans.
- In an incident highlighted in the Times’ coverage of the WikiLeaks documents, NATO bombs targeted a couple of hijacked fuel tankers and killed more than 100 people in Kunduz Province last September. At the time, The Washington Post reported that at least a dozen of the victims were civilians. The leaked documents show the military concluded the strike had killed 56 people, none of them insurgents.
- Today, the Times reported that a NATO strike in Helmand Province killed 52 people, according to Afghan officials. American military officials did not deny the report, but said it was premature to reach any conclusions.
The Times reports that the leaked documents also include details on secret commando raids, citing notable successes but also increased civilian casualties from the operations. In February of last year, the paper detailed just such a raid, in which bearded American and Afghan forces kicked open the door to one man’s house. The story recounts how Syed Mohammed was taken from his home by the commandos and interrogated for several hours before being released:
“When he returned home, Mr. Mohammed said, he went next door to his son’s house, only to find that most of his family had been killed: the son, Nurallah, and his pregnant wife and two of his sons, Abdul Basit, age 1, and Mohammed, 2. Only Mr. Mohammed’s 4-year-old grandson, Zarqawi, survived.”
A month later, the Times was reporting that the military had temporarily halted such raids after media coverage and a U.N. report that singled out the secret missions for contributing to a rising civilian death toll.
The Times says the documents show that drone aircraft have not been as “impressive” as they are typically portrayed. “Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry,” the Times writes. The documents mention one situation of a drone that went “rogue” and eventually had to be shot down by a fighter jet before it crossed out of Afghan territory.
The drones have become an increasingly popular tool for the military. Because they’re operated off-site, in theory they reduce casualties for U.S. troops. NPR and “60 Minutes” each went inside the Nevada headquarters of the Army’s drone operations, where pilots use remote controls to fly and monitor the drones. They use satellites and a camera mounted inside to be the eyes of the drone, which NPR said was like “seeing the world through a soda straw.”
The drones are gaining popularity not only with the Army, but with the CIA as well. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer looked at the how the CIA’s increased dependence on drones represent “a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force.”
Image by the Department of Defense.
Thursday, April 08, 2010 2:14 PM
Does the WikiLeaks video released this week, showing U.S. Blackhawk helicopter crew members boasting and congratulating each other as they gun down unarmed journalists and children, reveal that U.S. military personnel take glee in killing?
Well, if it doesn’t, these bumper stickers spotted on the Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune Marine bases in North Carolina—and posted on the right-wing blog One Man’s Thoughts—will help anyone with doubts round out the picture. If you don’t live near an armed forces base or socialize with soldiers, this is the noble and morally conscious military culture you’re missing out on:
“Waterboarding Is Out So Kill Them All!”
“Interrogators Can’t Waterboard Dead Guys”
“U.S. Marines—Travel Agents to Allah”
“When in Doubt, Empty the Magazine”
“The Marine Corps—When It Absolutely, Positively Has to Be Destroyed Overnight”
“Marines—Providing Enemies of America an Opportunity to Die for their Country Since 1775”
“Happiness Is a Belt-Fed Weapon”
“Artillery Brings Dignity to What Would Otherwise Be Just a Vulgar Brawl”
“A Dead Enemy Is a Peaceful Enemy—Blessed Be the Peacemakers”
“Marine Sniper—You Can Run, But You’ll Just Die Tired!”
“What Do I Feel When I Kill a Terrorist? A Little Recoil”
Let me be clear: I know people who serve in the U.S. military. I admire their resolve, their courage, and their sense of duty. They do not have stickers like this on their vehicles.
Source: One Man’s Thoughts
Monday, April 05, 2010 4:02 PM
Wikileaks, that fabulous repository of leaked documents, has released a classified video that puts us inside the cockpit of an Apache helicopter as its pilots slaughter a group of men gathered on a street in a Baghdad suburb in 2007. Two of those men were reporters for the international news agency Reuters. Here’s what Wikileaks says about the video:
Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.
The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.
After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement.”
…WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003-2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.
The men whose voices we hear in this video mistook a Reuters camera for an RPG. About this mistake and those who would call the killing indiscriminate, Mediaite had this to say:
It is easy to explain why things worked out or didn't go according to plan in hindsight. But the brave men and women put their lives on the line, and often don't have the time to consider every possible angle. Put another way, what if that were an RPG and they took more time to consider the options—they could have very likely ended up dead. War is hell, and to pretend that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often, or to claim that the actions took were indiscriminate, is an affront to every member of the US Military.
This is a weak defense. Mistaking a camera for an RPG is understandable from that distance. This is exactly why any haste whatsoever is unacceptable. Are the innocent lives of those reporters somehow less valuable than the lives of the men in the war machine with the terrible guns? If the answer is no, then the "what were they supposed to do, wait to be shot down?" defense falls apart. Must we put all the metal of the downed American helicopters in Iraq on a scale with the dead from seven years of "mistakes" like this one? The American military, who occupied and invaded Iraq, has the burden of extreme, unflagging caution. No doubt there are members of the military who get this and agonize over judgments made under unthinkable pressure. But is that what happened here? Before you answer be sure you watch the video at least long enough to hear the chuckling and the casual banter as they watch a man writhing on a sidewalk in his final moments—and then finish him off.
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