Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category
It appears that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is hell-bent on getting the US into another war. AIPAC is the most powerful lobby in Washington. By massive campaign donations and unscrupulous principles, they own virtually every member of Congress. Every candidate must meet with them before running and win their approval — that’s an indication of their power.
In theory AIPAC is supposed to “inform” (i.e., pressure) Congress in ways that support the interests of the Israeli people. That itself is somewhat questionable (remember George Washington’s warning about the dangers of foreign nations influencing our government.) But what’s much worse, today AIPAC is a completely dysfunctional organization. It exists now to perpetuate itself, and to protect the jobs of its staff.
War would be bad for Israel. Assad has never attacked Israel, and probably never would. With a regime change, anything could happen. AIPAC is pushing for war because that’s the only thing they know how to do. They’re good at it. It’s all about inertia, power, and control.
In the final analysis, AIPAC is anti-Semitic, because it hurts Israel and hurts Jews. It takes advantage of the sympathies and good-will of American Jewish donors, who naively think they are helping Israel. Instead they are feeding a monster.
My latest letter to Sen. Boxer (D-CA), requesting an official rationale for our continued military involvement in Afghanistan. I will post her reply, whenever it arrives.
September 12, 2012
The Honorable Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0505
Dear Senator Boxer,
Subject: Please explain US goals in Afghanistan
I request a communication from your office that explains why the US is still fighting in Afghanistan.
In previous letters, you have (1) acknowledged that Al Qaeda has little if any presence in Afghanistan, and (2) suggested that our goal there is not so much to prevent domestic terrorism as it is “geopolitical” in nature.
You also alluded to “volatility” in the region.
At this time I request clarification of your references to geopolitics and volatility, as these vague terms have a wide range of possible meanings. What, specifically, is the concern of the US in Afghanistan? Are we trying to counter potential influence of China in the region? Or perhaps of Russia? Or Iran? Or Pakistan? Is this necessary for our national security? Why?
Or is our goal to prevent Pakistani nuclear arms from falling into the hands of terrorists?
Or is the thinking that we need to set up a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan in order to support the general Westernization of the Caspian Sea region? And if that is the case, are our motives humanitarian, or selfishly economic?
Rather than continue to speculate as to motives, I would prefer that you, my Senator, kindly inform me as to what they are.
I would also strongly encourage you to investigate the possibility of including moderate factions of the Taliban in negotiations aimed at ending hostilities.
John S. Uebersax
On 30 April 2012, counter-terrorism czar John Brennan, in remarks delivered at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington DC, attempted to present the clearest legal and ethical justification so far for America’s anti-terrorism policies, including drone warfare in Pakistan and Yemen.
An optimistic interpretation of the speech is that it signals a new attitude of openness and transparency in the Obama administration’s approach to drone strikes. A more cynical view is that Brennan’s remarks offer mere rationalizations for a policy pursued for more dubious motives. The truth is likely somewhere between these two extremes.
In any case, Brennan made several arguments to justify the ethics of drone strikes, and these deserve a response. The following are some of the points which Brennan’s speech did not adequately address:
1. It remains ambiguous as to whether the claimed legal and moral justification for drone strikes derives from a war paradigm, a criminal justice paradigm, or some different paradigm altogether. This administration, like the previous one, seems to flip-flop on this question, choosing either position to suit its interests. Brennan’s comments, which included references to the killing of German and Japanese commanders in World War II, seem to lean towards the war paradigm. However: if drone strikes are considered acts of war, then international law does not recognize civilian drone operators as lawful combatants. More generally, why wouldn’t the US be bound by the Geneva Conventions? These would require that the US be much more cautious to avoid civilian casualties (and, I believe, to report them when they occur.) Another particularly offensive point in this regard is the alleged follow-up strikes which target militants (or others) who come to recover bodies of victims of an initial strike.
2. Again, if we are following a war paradigm, is there not a moral requirement to attempt negotiations, or at least some sort of discussions, with al Qaida? This would seem to follow directly from the ‘war only as last resort’ principle of just war theory.
3. Brennan contended that drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are aimed at killing high-level commanders of al Qaida and affiliated groups – because they constitute a direct threat and are involved in planning or implementing terrorist acts against the United States. However, it is the general perception that the drone war in Pakistan is primarily an extension of the Afghanistan war – i.e., directed at least as much against Taliban militants (who pose no direct threat to the US) as against al Qaida. Failure to consider this point seems, at the least, somewhat disingenuous by Brennan.
4. The monochromatic portrayal of al Qaida as an international terrorist organization with no aim other than harming the United States is surely incomplete. Rather, it would seem that, at least as an immediate priority, al Qaida factions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere, are more concerned with regime change in their own countries than in attacking the United States. It is hard to believe that an al Qaida field commander in Pakistan or Yemen, engaged in a dire struggle against domestic military forces, has much spare time to master-mind a terrorist attack within US borders.
5. Supporting the previous point, note that al Qaida actively participated in the Libyan coalition to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. In that sense, the Libyan al Qaida factions were de facto allies of the United States.
6. We must also not neglect to mention the role that the illegal Israeli occupation and virtual annexation of the West Bank plays as a motive in al Qaida activity. The Obama administration seems to accept that the occupation is illegal. Should this not then be seen as a mitigating factor in measuring our response to al Qaida (i.e., a reason to be proportionately less extreme in application of force)?
7. Brennan’s assertions that our drone strike and other counter-terrorist actions are working is less than fully credible. The strikes are winning no friends internationally. Clearly they are making Pakistanis angry; and, while there are no firm facts and figures available, the possibility that this is drawing new recruits to al Qaida and other insurgency groups must be taken seriously.
8. Brennan’s remarks do not indicate that he or President Obama recognize that drone strikes are morally different from other forms of warfare in these three important respects. First, the very presence of drones in the skies must be seen as terrorizing. Second, drone assassination is like shooting fish in a barrel or extermination of animals; their use is inherently inhumane. Third is the dehumanizing effects of requiring drone operators to act as exterminators — a far cry from what used to pass as ‘honorable warfare.’ If you’re being shot at yourself, risking life an limb, its undoubtedly easier to soothe a conscience over the killing of another human being. Drone operators do not have this remedy.