Monday, May 28, 2012

Of drones and detention

As Memorial Day 2012 draws to a close, I notice the American flags flying all around and hear people thanking all those who fought in the likes of Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq for "keeping us free." All I can do is look at the flag and think of how much blood has been needlessly shed in its name, how many people have had their lands invaded without cause, how many have been tortured, how many innocent civilians have been "collateral damage," how many atrocities like those at My Lai and Abu Ghraib have been committed.

There have been pretty much three wars in American history that actually defended our freedom: the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and World War II in the Pacific theater. Unless a solider fought in one of those wars, there is no reason to thank him for defending our freedom and protecting our way of life. To the contrary, the illegal engagements we've been involved in since 9/11 have only added to anti-American hatred around the world and bred more terrorists -- because we're doing exactly the kinds of things that led to 9/11 in the first place. We have learned nothing.

And the way this nation slavishly worships anyone in a military uniform is repulsive. The military should be regarded as a horrible last option, when all other attempts at diplomacy have failed -- not as a tool for harassing the rest of the world and bending other nations to our will whenever we darn well feel like it. There is no draft: If people simply refused to serve and fight, these wars could not be fought.

Unless, of course, you replace soldiers with drones. The unmanned planes can indiscriminately drop bombs wherever its controllers want it to -- and with no human element in place when the strike occurs, who knows who's down there on the ground? If we happen to kill some innocent women and kids -- well, that's just the price you pay for fighting the never-ending War on Terror.

 Just look at what your Nobel Peace Prize-winning Commander-in-Chief has accomplished:

Makes you wonder where all the antiwar protests went.

This past weekend alone, drone bombs killed 16 people in Pakistan, including four shoppers at a bakery. In Yemen, hundreds are dying, aided by drone attacks: Up to a dozen civilians were droned to death a few weeks ago -- but that's OK, since the CIA says it's fine to drop bombs even if we're not sure who the targets are.

Naturally, this is not sitting well with the locals under assault despite having done nothing wrong. As puts it:
The bloodshed caused by the Obama administration's offensives in Yemen is probably detrimental to U.S. security. Jeremy Scahill, reporting for Nation, exposed in February after visiting Yemen how U.S. airstrikes that kill civilians and those ill-defined as militants -- along with support for the brutal Yemeni government -- foments anti-Americanism and fuels international terrorism.

Charles Schmitz, a Yemen expert at Towson University in Maryland, told the Los Angeles Times, "The more the U.S. applies its current policy, the stronger Al Qaeda seems to get."
We have learned nothing from 9/11. We have not grasped that blowback is a consequence of our belligerent foreign policy.

And hey, if we're lucky, we can all have drones flying overhead at home to spy on all of us -- in the name of national security, of course.

It's already starting. The FAA recently relaxed rules allowing law enforcement to use drones in Los Angeles County. Elsewhere, a SWAT team recently borrowed a drone from Fatherland Security to make sure it was safe to arrest a rancher over a dispute involving six cows. If you're one of those people who thinks "I don't have to worry about any of this, because I don't have anything to hide," keep this story in mind. This is not a terrorist we're talking about -- it's a rancher in a dispute over some cows. This is what happens when you let the government intrude more and more into our lives and liberties because you're cowering in fear over whatever bogeyman the state has decided to scare you with today.

At least there are victories of a sort and I-told-you-sos on a few fronts. First is the admission from a former TSA executive that whole-body scanners have never resulted in a terrorist-related arrest. Will it make any change in the farce that is Airport Security Theater? Probably not, but it's good to feel vindicated.

Second is the good news that a federal judge has blocked the enforcement, for now, of the indefinite-detention provision of NDAA that O'Bomber signed into law when no one was looking:
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Chris Hedges, who was one of the plaintiffs in the case, told Russia Today that the impact of the decision was "huge."
"It invalidates a law," he explained, "that was, of course, signed by the president on New Year's Eve and permitted the U.S. military -- overturning about 200 years of domestic law -- to engage in domestic policing, to seize U.S. citizens, to hold them in military facilities, including our offshore penal colonies, to strip them of due process, and to detain them … until the end of hostilities, whenever that is."
Hedges emphasized that a major factor in the judge's decision was that the government lawyers were unable to say for certain that he and the other reporters and activists who brought the suit would never be subject to the provisions of the law as enacted.
"We went through the State Department terrorism list," he stated, "and in the course of my twenty years as a foreign correspondent, most of them with The New York Times, I had direct contact with seventeen of those groups, including al Qaeda. And there's no exemption in this provision for journalists."
He also noted that his fellow plaintiffs were particularly concerned that "by linking legitimate dissent to terrorist organizations, the military could be used to crush any kind of protest."
Hedges called the ruling "a tremendous step forward for the restoration of due process and the rule of law." Naomi Wolf was even more exuberant; she said of the judge:
"She is so completely, obviously right. It's nothing short of treason to have put forward legislation like this, let alone to have had most of the people who represent us and our president sign off on this clearly, obviously criminally unconstitutional -- unconstitutional is inadequate. It's anti-constitutional. It's dictatorial."
It should have been obvious to anyone that you can't deny American citizens due process, and that you can't write a bill so vague and far-reaching that it essentially shuts down free speech by turning every critic of American policy a potential terrorist suspect. Yet the vast majority of Congress signed off on it, and former Constitutional law professor Barack Obama signed it into law -- after insisting that the provision for indefinite detention of American citizens be included in the bill.

But never fear: The tyrants, dictators, and traitors weren't done. On May 18, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state and Rep. Justin Amash, a sharp young Paulestinian from Michigan, drafted an amendment that would have repealed the indefinite-detention provision for good. The amendment was defeated, with critics saying it would have enabled terrorists.

That's right. Members of the United States Congress now argue, without embarrassment, that defending Constitutional liberties ENABLES TERRORISTS.

Instead, Congress passed an amendment led by Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, and Scott Rigell, a Republican from Virginia, that essentially says nothing. It states that NDAA will not "deny the writ of habeas corpus or deny any Constitutional rights for persons detained in the United States under the AUMF [Authorization for the Use of Military Force] who are entitled to such rights."

As Amash pointed out:
The first part of the amendment does nothing. In other words, if you have constitutional rights, then you have constitutional rights.
The ACLU made a detailed case against it:
The question with the NDAA was never whether habeas rights are lost. Instead, the question is whether and when any president can order the military to imprison a person without charge or trial. The NDAA did not take away habeas rights from anyone, but it did codify a dangerous indefinite detention without charge or trial scheme. And nothing in the proposed bill by Rigell would change it. The Rigell bill won't stop any president from ordering the military lockup of civilians without charge or trial.

And there's more. Not only is it a useless bill, but it could end up causing harm too. It doesn't accurately and fully list who is entitled to habeas (for example, it doesn't even mention American citizens traveling outside the country), which could end up causing confusion.

They are hoping you will fall for their trick and waste all your time and energy on something meaningless -- and not fight for legislation that actually protects people from indefinite detention without charge or trial.
And people did fall for the trick. But then, weasel words intended to mollify the American public are nothing new with NDAA, with the detention provision itself stating that the military is not "required" to detain American citizens. The military is not required to -- but it still can. The choice of words is downright Clintonian in its effort to distract people from what's really going on. 

It's tough in this ongoing fight to even know who's on your side. Adam Smith is no friend to peace and liberty, despite his support of the repeal of indefinite detention. He voted for NDAA in the first place, and he now supports lifting a ban on the government dissemination of propaganda.

You wonder why the government would feel the need to fill us all with propaganda, until you run across a purportedly leaked document from the U.S. Army detailing how "re-education camps" will work, including the employment of people charged with fostering detainees' appreciation of U.S. policy and weeding out rabble-rousers amongst the detainees. These camps are said to be set up for use on U.S. soil, and in case there's any doubt as to whether Americans would be targeted for detainment, one part of the document refers to identifying captives by their Social Security numbers -- something a member of Al Qaeda is not likely to possess.

Talk of FEMA camps around the country has been going on for a long time now. It sounds crazy, but you have at least one member of Congress railing against the Occupy movement and emphasizing how important it is to prevent the Occupiers from shaping policy, and you have Fatherland Security monitoring the entire movement. We've all seen how the militarized cops have been cracking down on the protests all over the country. Let's face it -- these are the people who, like them or not, are announcing to the world that the emperor has no clothes. They pose a direct threat to the corporate ruling class, which in turn controls the two major political parties. They won't tolerate a threat to their power, and since they own most of the politicians in D.C., including the president, they'll do the corporations' bidding.

Yeah, it all sounds like fringe conspiracy-theory stuff, but as it's been said:

Food for thought. And at the very least, no one has ever died from turning off the TV and doing some critical thinking.

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