Category Archives: War Mongering

Snowden, the NSA, and the end of freedom

Just a couple observations regarding all this NSA stuff.

First of all, the main argument the government is using to justify vacuuming up massive amounts of personal communications is that they are only targeting communications where one party is a foreign national outside the country.  Oh, really?  Can someone please explain why I suddenly lose my 4th Amendment rights by simply talking to a citizen of another country?  For that matter, who in government made the decision that the ordinary citizens of other countries have no right to privacy?

If Snowden were a Russian spy, Russia would be protecting him.  If he were a Chinese spy, China would be protecting him.  But Snowden chose to spy for the American people and they don’t even care enough to stand up for him.  They’re more interested in what Justin Bieber is saying about Bill Clinton.

The reason European countries are not responding with anything beyond lip service to the revelations of NSA spying on its European allies is because they are all engaged in the same practice of domestic spying.  While intelligence agencies agencies may face legal restriction on domestic spying, they can circumvent those restrictions when the data is collected by an intelligence agency of a partnering country.  The last thing those countries want is for that capability to be exposed or interfered with.  So, you can be sure that Europe does not see Snowden as someone worthy of protection.

Ever since Obama proclaimed that the U.S. will not take extraordinary measures to capture or kill Snowden, he has indeed been taking extraordinary measures.  Of course, like most of Obama’s abuse of power, it is being done in secret, so we only see the clumsy outcomes after the fact.  Sending his VP to intimidate Ecuador’s president not to take Snowden was an extraordinary measure.  Telling European countries that the Bolivian President was smuggling Snowden out of Russia, ultimately leading to the forced landing the Bolivian President’s plane is an extraordinary measure.  Later today, in yet another extraordinary measure, President Obama will talk directly with Putin by phone about Snowden.  And those are only the ones we know about.  The point here is that Obama lies, as do his lackeys.

Let us understand that the war on terrorism is not a justification to spy on Americans.  It’s an excuse to spy on Americans.  Just like government is the biggest threat to liberty, an actively engaged citizenry is the biggest threat to government power.  Permitting government easy access to all domestic communications, makes effective activism virtually impossible because it subjects everyone to the potential for blackmail, a practice that the U.S. government has a history of engaging in.  It allows government advanced notice of activist activities or gatherings so as to be able to engage in countermeasures.

If the U.S. government were really interested in fighting terrorism, they wouldn’t be looking for ways to spy on American citizens.  They would target the root cause of terrorism which stems from perpetual U.S. military and espionage activities directed at other countries.  Since WWII ended, the U.S. government has conducted 29 regime change actions throughout the world.  It’s no coincidence that our government’s repeated targeting of middle eastern countries for these operations has sown powerful resentments in Muslim cultures.  The U.S. has developed a history of perpetuating corrupt despotic governments and helped to bring down legitimate democratically elected heads of state.  Terrorists don’t “hate us for our freedom”.  They attack us because they have been on the receiving end of our aggression and interference for decades.  What is surprising is not that they are retaliating.  What’s surprising is that they waited this long.  Terrorist attacks against the U.S. will continue to be a fact of life as long as the U.S. continues to engage in its own brand of terrorism around the world.  In maintaining our aggression against these countries, terrorists will continue to target the U.S. and they will eventually acquire the capacity to inflict mass casualties.  The only hope we have of avoiding that inevitability is to stop being their enemy, a strategy that neither democrats nor the republicans are willing to pursue.  Why should they, when terrorism provides them an excuse to grow their own governmental power?

Take your pick. You can’t be both and atheist and a conscientious objector

From HuffPo:

Margaret Doughty, an atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, was told by immigration authorities this month that she has until Friday to officially join a church that forbids violence or her application for naturalized citizenship will be rejected

Doughty stated on her application for citizenship that she could not pledge to bear arms to defend the U.S. due to her moral objection to war.  In response, U.S. Immigration Services told her she couldn’t claim conscientious objector status unless she was a member in good standing of a nonviolent religious organization.  They said a note “on official church stationary [sic]” would do the trick and she needed to have it by her hearing on Friday (June 21).

The idea that you could only morally oppose war if you believe in God is an insult to anyone with an IQ greater than their hat size.  That the U.S. government could suggest such a thing is, well, not that surprising.  It’s not like these kinds of policies (or any other government policies, for that matter) are invented by America’s most gifted citizens.

Oh, and one more thing.  The woman is 64.  Even if she lives to be 100, it is very unlikely that anyone in the U.S. will be asked to participate in a war to defend the U.S.  The U.S. military  hasn’t been involved in a defensive operation in a very very long time.

Yikes! WMDs! Atack, attack, ATTACK!!!

The CIA, the same agency that erroneously claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which led to the U.S. invasion and nearly decade-long occupation of Iraq is now claiming that Syria has crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons.  According to CNN, “the intelligence community” estimates that chemical weapons account for as many as 100-150 of the approximately 90,000 deaths since the rebellion began.

If the CIA can be believed, Assad called Obama’s bluff and now the U.S. is getting ready to embark on a new chapter in the epic struggle to make even more enemies in the Arab world while providing a stimulus package to the U.S. Military Industrial Complex.  Obama certainly can’t back out now, not that he would want to, because it would make him look like a sissy idiot.

So, here we are again with a big story about WMDs and just in time to displace all those headlines about embarrassing revelations of domestic spying by the NSA.  It’s probably just coincidence…

With luck, the thing in Syria will be over by the time Iran crosses their red line.

NSA director promises more details on surveillance

From the New York Times:

“We have pledged to be as transparent as possible,” he said after emerging from a classified briefing with House members. “I think it’s important that you have that information. But we don’t want to risk American lives in doing that. So what we’re being is very deliberate in this process so that we don’t end up causing a terrorist attack by giving out too much information.”

I think the director of the NSA is a little confused.  Providing details on NSA surveillance of Americans does not cause terrorist attacks.  I’m no expert, but my guess is that the terrorist threat stems more from our military involvement in a number of middle eastern countries, including a couple of invasions, multiple wars, trade sanctions (which themselves would constitute an act of war were they directed at any western country), support for despotic and corrupt governments, the stationing of huge numbers of troops there, and the continued killing of innocent people (including children) with drone attacks.  Apparently Muslims have a very low tolerance for that kind of thing and it makes them want to retaliate.

But, repeatedly telling people that the truth constitutes a security risk while all of the above makes us safer may just be a big enough lie that most people will believe it.

As Joseph Goebbels used to say…

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The CIA often doesn’t know who their drones are killing, but they are certain about them being enemy combatants

NBC News has received classified documents that apparently show that one in four of those killed in drone attacks are not necessarily affiliated with any enemy group.   Apparently, they are classified as “other militants” based solely on the fact that they were killed by U.S. drone attacks.  This harkens back to the days of the Vietnam war when the U.S. gauged its success by the number of Vietnamese they killed, classifying them all as enemy simply on the basis of having killed them.

Though the Obama administration has previously said it targets al Qaeda leaders and senior Taliban officials plotting attacks against the U.S. and U.S. troops, officials are sometimes unsure of the targets’ affiliations. About half of the targets in the documents are described as al Qaeda. But in 26 of the attacks, accounting for about a quarter of the fatalities, those killed are described only as “other militants.” In four others, the dead are described as “foreign fighters.”

In some cases, U.S. officials also seem unsure how many people died. One entry says that a drone attack killed seven to 10 people, while another says that an attack killed 20 to 22.

Yet officials seem certain that however many people died, and whoever they were, none of them were non-combatants. In fact, of the approximately 600 people listed as killed in the documents, only one is described as a civilian. The individual was identified to NBC News as the wife or girlfriend of an al Qaeda leader.

Given that teh U.S. is not exactly at war with Pakistan, one would think that the CIA would be a little more careful about indiscriminate killing.  Of course, if the mission is to perpetuate the war on terror by creating as much ill will toward the U.S. as possible, then the CIA is doing a commendable job.  The beneficiaries of perpetual war are probably quite pleased.

According to the NYT article there are two kinds of drone attacks.  “Personality” strikes target known targets. “Signature” strikes are different:

In so-called “signature” strikes, intelligence officers and drone operators kill suspects based on their patterns of behavior — but without positive identification. With signature strikes, the CIA doesn’t necessarily know who it is killing. One former senior intelligence official said that at the height of the drone program in Pakistan in 2009 and 2010, as many as half of the strikes were classified as signature strikes.

The war on terror = perpetual war

Glenn Greenwald discusses the administration position that the war on terror is expect to continue for and, in terms of importance, why that should be teh lead story in the news instead of the Benghazi, IRS, or DOJ/AP scandals.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

He makes a good point.  Attacks on the U.S. by foreign terror organizations have universally been in response to perpetual Western (especially U.S.) interference in the affairs of middle eastern countries.  The U.S. then uses that as an excuse to further ramp up and broaden that interference which leads to broader foreign support for the very terrorist organizations we claim to be fighting.  Contrary to the common belief that wars happen to the U.S., the real fact of the matter is that the U.S. pursues war.

Greenwald continues:

…the “war on terror” cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of “terrorism”), and (2) the nation’s most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its phentermine continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for “at least” another 10-20 years?

If the past is any measure, public opposition to war is only roused by flag-draped caskets of American soldiers, the institution of the draft, and burdens that bring the actual cost of war directly to their front to in a highly visible way.  Neither political party is against war.  Blind patriotism is becoming just as widely embraced by the left as the right.

Another factor affecting the public reaction to the permanent war on terror is the stunning lack of understanding of (or interest in ) how U.S. military activities in the Middle East provoke a terrorist response.  Furthermore, Americans think that terrorism violates the ethics of war, so it’s easy to demonize the terrorists who are simply retaliating with the only methods that make sense against an opponent that could easily crush them in a conventional conflict.

The U.S. is engaged in a global war with objectives that have never been defined  against an enemy that is perpetually being redefined and with no idea what constitutes winning or losing or how to know when it’s over.  If war is the health of the state, then this state has truly arrived.

A single vote against the Authorization to Use Military Force

Mere days after 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization to Use military Force (AUMF).  Now, 12 years later, we’re still at war bombing multiple countries and some Senators, Dick Durban for one, are complaining that military force has gone way past the scope of the AUMF.  They are saying, no one could possibly have known this would happen.  But, it’s pretty clear at least one member of Congress knew exactly would could happen and was the only person to vote against AUMF cautioning Congress a mere three days after 9/11:

“[W]e must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.

“In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to ‘take all necessary measures’ to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.

“At this time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of the two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, ‘I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States. I believe that with the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake.’

“Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today.”

And what was the reaction to her stand against the AUMF?  Greenwald explains:

To say that Lee was vilified for her warnings is a serious understatement. She was deluged with so many death threats that she was given around-the-clock police protection.

For Congress to suggest that no one could have known the risk posed by the AUMF is ludicrous.  They only need look at their own history to realize the predictability of their behavior in time of crisis and the disastrous results that follow.  Of course, Congress rarely acknowledges it’s mistakes, especially when those mistakes result in thousands of dead bodies.  And the media does nothing to take up the slack.  Last night, Stephen Colbert was fondly remembering the great LBJ who is responsible for about 30,000 dead U.S. bodies.  Oopsy.  Just a mistake.  Who could have known?

Greenwald sums it up nicely:

Barbara Lee’s lone vote against the 2001 AUMF – three days after the 9/11 attack – was an act of incredible and rare courage that is worth commemorating in its own right. But it was also prescient and wise, using America’s past bad acts to warn of the dangers likely to be unleashed by enacting it. If Dick Durbin wants to acknowledge his gross error in voting in favor of such a blank check for presidential war-making – one that led to 12 years of war in numerous nations with no end in sight – he should do so honestly. Instead of pretending that nobody could possibly have known this would happen as a deceitful means of excusing his bad acts, he should instead acknowledge that there were people who did know and tried to warn the nation about it, but those weren’t the types of voices to which he paid any attention because they weren’t emanating from the Pentagon, the Brookings Institution and the columns of Tom Friedman. That is the mistake he should acknowledge and learn to rectify.

Congress doesn’t attract the kind of people with the integrity to acknowledge their own culpability for what government does.  It’s always someone else’s fault.

There are no bad people in Congress, just people with a great capacity to rationalize.

Guantánamo vs. drone strikes

Obama is seen as being a great humanitarian with his rhetoric about closing the Guantánamo prison camp.  Is that really true?  An suggests that, rather than contradict his public stand on Guantánamo by sending more accused enemy combatants there, he is instead just opting to kill them with drone strikes.

Obama’s apparent concerns about civil liberties don’t seem that sincere considering that the total number of detainees taken to Guantánamo is a mere 780 compared to the 2000-3000 people killed in U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan alone, many of them women and children.  Prisoners can be released.  Death is permanent.

It’s not hard to imagine that democrats would have their panties in a wad if a republican president were conducting that many drone attacks, but their voices get strangely quiet when it’s their guy doing it.  Such stunningly transparent hypocrisy is one reason why I could never be a republican or democrat even if I agreed with them.

 

Moyers interviews Greenwald

In an interview with Bill Moyers that is scheduled to air on PBS this evening, Glenn Greenwald explains what motivates terrorist attacks against the U.S. (and it’s not because “they hate us for our freedom”).  He discusses reactions to the Boston bombings.

With regard to privacy, Greenwald says that citizens are supposed to know almost everything about their government, which is why it’s called the “public sector”, and government should know very little about citizens (unless they commit a crime), which is why it’s called the private sector.  Instead this has been turned on its head.  Government has become exceedingly secretive and it tries to know everything about citizens.

The belief that the more the government knows about us, the safer we’ll be is false.  The fact is that, the more the government knows about us, the more likely they will be to abuse their powers.  As I have said numerous times before, the biggest threat to liberty almost invariably  comes from our own government.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

  • Careful driving is not probable cause for the police to search your car.  At this point, I’m pretty sure you can probably count on one hand the activities that are not probably cause for a search.
  • If you work at a company that provides free lunch, like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, the IRS wants to tax it as income.
  • RTP, Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello.  This is a personal tragedy for most guys om their 60s and 70s.