The Conversation We Must Have

It’s easy to overlook our far away wars and the deaths caused by drone attacks when most people in the country are trying topresident strangelove hang on to their jobs, homes, and incomes.  It’s more than enough effort just to hang on while watching your  hopes of secure, middle class lifestyles and retirement being diddled away in shows of Potomac political harangues, power plays, and stupid political memes.  However, a big portion of who we are as a country has to do with our face to the world and the values we display.  It’s a subject we must follow carefully because we’re as bad as we’ve ever been in many ways.

Hence, I bring you back to the topics of renditions, torture, drone strikes, domestic spying, and national security issues evoked by 9/11 and continued because we can’t have national discussions about the big policies any more.  We’re too busy defending erosion of our lives and rights here.  There is an important article at WAPO that highlights the immoral side of our “war” against terror that continues under the Obama administration.  Americans interested in human rights and our vision of an American “morality” must read this.

The three European men with Somali roots were arrested on a murky pretext in August as they passed through the small African country of Djibouti. But the reason soon became clear when they were visited in their jail cells by a succession of American interrogators.

U.S. agents accused the men — two of them Swedes, the other a longtime resident of Britain — of supporting al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that Washington considers a terrorist group. Two months after their arrest, the prisoners were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in New York, then clandestinely taken into custody by the FBI and flown to the United States to face trial.

The secret arrests and detentions came to light Dec. 21 when the suspects made a brief appearance in a Brooklyn courtroom.

The men are the latest example of how the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Renditions are taking on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice.

I find this quote shocking.

The impasse and lack of detention options, critics say, have led to a de facto policy under which the administration finds it easier to kill terrorism suspects, a key reason for the surge of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Renditions, though controversial and complex, represent one of the few alternatives.

“In a way, rendition has become even more important than before,” said Clara Gutteridge, director of the London-based Equal Justice Forum, a human rights group that investigates national security cases and that opposes the practice.

Our country is caught up in fighting fights that were dealt with decades ago because one party wants to throw us back into the good ol’ days of witch hunts and control and ownership of other human beings through religious extremism and economic coercion and privateering.  We’re having to fight for the lessons of the civil war, the depression, and civil rights era.  Meanwhile, the national security industrial complex–in our names–erodes the very basic rights of our citizens and the way we behave abroad.  As pointed out at emptywheel,  Murdoch and son love them some Obama for extensions of abusive wiretapping.  Murdoch and son are themselves guilty of criminal wiretapping in the UK.  Is that ironic?

In addition to applauding Obama’s “fairly ruthless antiterror prosecut[ions] and unapologetic assert[ions] of Presidential powers,” the WSJ revels in this opportunity to mock those who thought illegal wiretapping was wrong.

This is a turnabout from 2007 and 2008, when letting U.S. spooks read al Qaeda emails or listen in on phone calls that passed through domestic switching networks supposedly spelled doom for the American Republic. Democrats spent years pretending that Mr. Bush’s eavesdropping program was “wrong” and “destructive,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it at the time, lamenting that “I never thought I would see a President act in direct defiance of federal law.”

Maybe this mutual love of abusive wiretapping is why–as Elliot Spitzer has pointed out–DOJ has thus far failed to pursue News Corp under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

And finally, where is the inept U.S. Department of Justice in all this?

The DOJ has brought many irrelevant and tiny cases against companies for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal to bribe either individuals or government officials, even in a company’s overseas operations. The DOJ loves to use the statute to show just how tough it is.

Yet now they have the most important case sitting right there in front of them. It’s easy. Even a rookie could field this one.

But what are they doing? It’s not clear.

If they fail to make this case against News Corp., Eric Holder is a failure as attorney general.

After all, Eric Holder’s DOJ successfully fought to give legal sanction to Cheney’s illegal wiretapping. It would look rather silly, after having extended warrantless wiretapping past the end of the Obama Administration, for them to prosecute Rupert Murdoch for doing the same thing Cheney did.

There is little oversight in all of these human rights outrages.  Congress appears to be more interested in creating near-catastrophe problems with the economy and defunding planned parenthood then actually doing its oversight duties on the executive branch.  There are many things begun in the Bush administration that were criticized by Democrats that are now completely ignored by congressional committees.  Republicans have no interest in these issues and Democrats don’t want to criticize the administration.  Here’s another example of questionable policy from the WAPO article.

The State Department officially categorized al-Shabab as a terrorist organization in 2008, making it illegal for Americans or non-citizens to support the group. Still, Obama administration officials acknowledge that most al-Shabab fighters are merely participants in Somalia’s long-running civil war and that only a few are involved in international terrorism.

Is any one questioning the wisdom of adding dubious organizations to the terrorist list or is this just another way to expand the power, scope, and aggregate buying of the National Security Military Complex?

How many of you know that we’ve just recently upped its drone attacks in Afghanistan despite UN condemnation?  This caused Wired Magazine to call 2012 “The Year of the Drone in Afghanistan”.

Last month, military stats revealed that the U.S. had launched some 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan thus far in 2012. That made Afghanistan the epicenter of U.S. drone attacks — not Pakistan, not Yemen, not Somalia. But it turns out those stats were off, according to revised ones released by the Air Force on Thursday morning. There have actually been 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year. That means drone strikes represent 11.5 percent of the entire air war — up from about 5 percent last year.

Never before in Afghanistan have there been so many drone strikes. For the past three years, the strikes have never topped 300 annually, even during the height of the surge. Never mind 2014, when U.S. troops are supposed to take a diminished role in the war and focus largely on counterterrorism. Afghanistan’s past year, heavy on insurgent-hunting robots, shows that the war’s future has already been on display.

Many of the victims of these attacks have been citizens.  Drones are also operating in Pakistan, Yeman, and Somalia.

Reports say over 3,300 people, many of them women and children, were killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.

Rights and peace groups opposed to the targeted killings say the US administration has already violated international law by pursuing its assassination drone attacks.

Meanwhile, the UN plans to set up an investigation team in Geneva to probe the American drone attacks, as UN officials are concerned that Washington is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones.

The targeted killings started under former President George W. Bush and were expanded by President Barack Obama. In 2012, Obama personally approved the names put on the “kill lists” used in the targeted killing operations carried out by American assassination drones.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the only countries targeted by the US assassination drones. The unmanned aircraft are also operating in Yemen and Somalia.

According to a report compiled by the Washington think-tank, New America Foundation, the number of the US drone airstrikes in Yemen almost tripled this year compared with the previous one.

The report said that the United States has intensified its drone strikes in Yemenas well, increasing the number of operations drastically from 18 in 2011 to 53 in 2012 and killing at least 223 people.

Then, there is the Espionage Act where

There has been so much dysfunction in Congress these days–as well as active religious and right wing extremism aimed at women, GLBT, and minorities–that it’s hard to look to other faucets of our policy.  It’s important that we follow these important human rights abuses that are done in our name also.  It would be nice to be able to focus on really important policy issues for  a change, wouldn’t it?

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11 Comments on “The Conversation We Must Have”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for writing about this, Dak. I’ve continued reading about these atrocities, and it makes me very angry; but I feel helpless to do anything about it. They just renewed FISA again, and I commented that Congress seems to be able to be bipartisan when it comes to violating the rights of American citizen.

    We truly are experiencing the Shock Doctrine. As you said, we have to spend so much time and energy just keeping our basic individual rights from being eroded and at the same time trying to survive in a hostile economy. And of course, there’s more austerity coming and no attempts to encourage job creation.

    • RalphB says:

      I just saw at TPM that Al Jazeera is acquiring Current TV so the US may hear a lot more about drones once that’s complete.

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s difficult for me to understand how incomprehensibly greedy and mean our country has become in some quarters and they are on display daily on TV.

      We can’t come to the rescue of our neighbors in need that were devastated by Sandy. We act like its an act of patriotism and necessity to pull out the rug from the elderly when it isn’t … there is no action to put people back to work. It’s all about preserving the wealth and power of a few. It’s like we’re headed back to the dark ages where superstition ruled the day and a bunch of aristocrats in fortresses worried about hordes of barbarians taking their wealth. It’s sad. It’s like we’re turning our back on our real heritage.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        I couldn’t agree more, kat. We’ve been moving in this direction for some time & so many seem oblivious to it. Serfdom or slavery, take your pick. If the young don’t die of diseases or wars, by the time they hit 40 they will die of old age. And, of course, why educate them – they are either too stupid to learn or simply expendable. Where are those damn guillotines when you need them?

      • RalphB says:

        Too many people today have no conception of our real heritage. They think we’re supposed to worship money. People who came of age during the Reagan “ME” years and most of their progeny are lost.

      • NW Luna says:

        America: Freedom and liberty for those in power to do what they want to those without power. You could read “money” for “power” since money = power in the U.S.

        FDR would be considered a looney radical today by both legacy parties. Eisenhower and his warning about the military-industrial power complex would be anathema to the Republicans (and the Dems). Americans today are worse off than were Americans two generations ago.

        What will the U.S. be like for the non-rich in another generation?

      • HT says:

        Absolutely spot on Luna, but it’s not just America – look at what’s happening around the world – the corporatists/plutocrats have gained control and they aren’t going to give an inch. They’ve bought every political process and politician for sale and have effectively taken control. Just my opinion of course, but other than Iceland, can you name a country that has fought back?

      • NW Luna says:

        HT, you’re right. Corporatocracy rules most of the world, and the U.S. is simply the most egregious example of all the developed countries.

  2. Fannie says:

    Hillary is heading home………….yay, she needs tender loving care now.

    • NW Luna says:

      That’s good news!

    • HT says:

      As my Mom would have said, she’s a peach and deserves the best. I hope this means that the blood clot has been dissolved. My Mom died from a clot that hit her heart so I’m hoping that all is truly okay.