Killer Drones And The Militarization Of U.S. Foreign Policy

The MQ-9 Reaper, a combat drone, in flight. Wikimedia Commons / Ricky Best

By Ann Wright for AFSA – The militarization of U.S. foreign policy certainly didn’t start with President Donald J. Trump; in fact, it goes back several decades. However, if Trump’s first 100 days in office are any indication, he has no intention of slowing down the trend. During a single week in April, the Trump administration fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into a Syrian airfield, and dropped the largest bomb in the U.S. arsenal on suspected ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan. This 21,600-pound incendiary percussion device that had never been used in combat—the Massive Ordinance Air Blast or MOAB, colloquially known as the “Mother of All Bombs”—was used in the Achin district of Afghanistan, where Special Forces Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar had been killed a week earlier. (The bomb was tested only twice, at Elgin Air Base, Florida, in 2003.) To underscore the new administration’s preference for force over diplomacy, the decision to experiment with the explosive power of the mega-bomb was taken unilaterally by General John Nicholson, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In praising that decision, Pres. Trump declared that he had given “total authorization” to the U.S. military to conduct whatever missions they wanted, anywhere in the world—which presumably means without consulting the interagency national security committee.

Our National Bird: The Medium Is The Message

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By Dave Foster for Anti-War – Sonia Kennebeck’s film National Bird illuminates the tragic personal aspect of America’s drone wars. The film explores the aftermath of drone strikes from the personal experiences of several people, some of whom were on the receiving end and others involved with targeting and weapon delivery. The tragedy of the survivors and victims’ families are visceral and obvious. National Bird also gets up close and personal to what may have been less obvious to the audience prior to the film, namely the haunting psychic turmoil of some of the U.S. service members involved in the drone operations. While these latter stories are a compelling compliment to those of the victims, the inquiring public and policy makers do not require inside information on the drone program’s targeting deliberations and trigger-pulling decisions. A simple thought experiment is all that is needed to clearly show why our armed drone program is a moral failure. Supporters of America’s use of armed drones in counterterrorism operations typically point to the program’s advantages of a comparatively light footprint of US forces on foreign soil, the accuracy of weapons delivery verses that for manned aircraft, and to the reportedly strict vetting process for targeting.

Trump’s First One Hundred Days Of War Crimes

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By Charles Pierson for Counter Punch. President Donald J. Trump closed out his first hundred days in office on April 29. Not marked by any notable achievements, Trump’s first hundred days did yield an impressive and ever-lengthening list of scandals. And war crimes. During his short time in office, Trump has racked up an impressive list of war crimes. Congratulations, Mr. President! Where to begin? Nine days after Trump’s Inauguration, US Navy SEALs together with elite troops from the United Arab Emirates descended on the village of Yaklaa in the Yemeni governorate of Bayda. At the time, the White House said that the mission’s objective was to enter a compound controlled by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and gather intelligence by grabbing computers and cell phones. It was not until a week later that US military officials stated that the prime objective of the raid was to capture or kill AQAP emir Qassim al-Rimi.

The Never Ending US Wars

End the Endless War

By Tom Engelhardt for Tom’s Dispatch. Here’s a footnote to America’s present wars that’s worth pondering for a few moments. The U.S. Air Force is running out of ordinary bombs, smart bombs, and in some cases missiles. No kidding. The air war over Syria and Iraq that began in August 2014 and is now two-and-a-half years old has eaten through America’s supply of bombs. The usual crew of weapons makers evidently can’t produce such munitions fast enough to keep up, so the U.S. military is, for instance, cutting into its stockpiles of smart bombs in Asia to send some to the Middle East and Africa simply to keep pace with demand — and, according to recent reports, it may nonetheless be failing to do so. Consider this a longer term problem since, in the era of Donald Trump, the generals are increasingly running their own wars, which, if the daily drumbeat of news about them is accurate, are only ramping up further. Everywhere you look, from Yemen to Iraq, Syria to Somalia, the American military is growing more assertive as civilian casualties rise and constraints of any sort, whether on special operations raids, drone strikes, or the use of the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, fall away.

Justice Action At Hancock Drone Base, Syracuse

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By Ray McGovern. Syracuse: On Good Friday, April 14, 2017, nine nonviolent civil resisters of Upstate Drone Action were arrested at the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base witnessing against extrajudicial drone killings perpetrated from the base. Three people hung on large drone crosses representing victims of US drone strikes in seven majority Muslim countries. Eleven others held smaller drone crosses headed by the phrase, DRONES CRUCIFY, each followed by one of these: Children, Families, Love, Peace, Community, the US Constitution, UN Charter, Rule of Law, US Treaties, Due Process, or Diplomacy.

Mass Mobilization To Stop The Drone Wars

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By Staff of Shut Down Creech! – Join us April 23 – April 29, 2017 at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada for a 3rd national mobilization of nonviolent resistance to shut down killer drone operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia and everywhere. Includes weeklong Camp Justice peace encampment. Alternatives to camping available. In the last two years we had nearly 150 activists each year join us from 20 different states across the country, including dozens of veterans. Both years, in multiple and successful resistance actions, we were able to nonviolently interrupt business as usual, with dozens who risked arrest and were arrested to stand in strong opposition to the illegal U.S. “targeted killing” program.

US Missile Drones Deployed To North Korea Border

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By Jason Ditz for Anti War – The US has announced its intention of permanently deploying a company of Grey Eagle drones capable of firing Hellfire Missiles, to South Korea, along the border with North Korea. Officials are saying they’ll provide “surveillance” capabilities. Yet the fact that they chose to send a missile-capable drone suggests surveillance isn’t the primary goal of this deployment. The Trump Administration has already shown an interest in escalating the use of drones to attack targets in places that are not directly part of current US military operations. While the US throwing more military forces at the Korean Peninsula is nothing new…

Ten Resisters Speak Truth To Power In The Courtroom

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By Max Obuszewski for Popular Resistance. According to Baggarly, “After leaving the courtroom, the assistant prosecutor, who had been nodding in agreement during much of our time speaking, thanked us very much for the education.” Embroski also indicated he would try to return the Dan Berrigan cut-outs and the banner which the police confiscated. Unfortunately, the defendants did not file a Motion to Preserve the Evidence. This would have forced the police to bring the banner and the cut-outs into court. It would have been a sight to see Dan Berrigan back in a courtroom. The eloquence of the defendants’ sentencing statements seemed to have an effect on Judge Davis. I sensed that he was touched by the sincerity of the statements. And for sure, there was a lot of speaking truth to power in a courtroom in Alexandria, VA, on March 2, 2017.

Newsletter - The Propaganda Of War

No war We say no to war

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of the disaster at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. An earthquake at sea triggered a large tsunami that overwhelmed the plant and destroyed three of the four reactors on the coast. The cores of two of the reactors melted down and their whereabouts remain unknown. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds shares photos from his trip last year to the area to document the ongoing radioactive contamination. He writes, “these photos cannot adequately convey the scientific and human impact of the worst industrial cataclysm in the history of the world.” On this anniversary, we face another perilous situation that is brewing. Scientists moved the doomsday clock to 2 and a half minutes from midnight.

New Evidence Contradicts Pentagon’s Account Of Yemen Raid

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By Alex Emmons for The Intercept. THE PENTAGON’S TOP Middle East commander told Congress on Thursday that he found no signs of “poor decision-making or bad judgment” in a January raid in Yemen that killed 10 children and at least six women, as well as Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. “I made the determination that there was no need for an additional investigation into this particular operation,” said Gen. Joseph Votel. Earlier on Thursday, The Intercept published its own investigation of the raid based on eyewitnesses, including a 5-year-old who described how his mother was gunned down while trying to flee what other family members said was indiscriminate gunfire from a helicopter. The White House has tried to shame the raid’s critics into silence.

U.S. Drone Strikes Have Gone Up 432% Since Trump Took Office

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By Carey Wedler for Anti-Media – When he was in office, former President Barack Obama earned the ire of anti-war activists for his expansion of Bush’s drone wars. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning head of state ordered ten times more drone strikes than the previous president, and estimates late in Obama’s presidency showed 49 out of 50 victims were civilians. In 2015, it was reported that up to 90% of drone casualties were not the intended targets. Current President Donald Trump campaigned on a less interventionist foreign policy, claiming to be opposed to nation-building and misguided invasions. But less than two months into his presidency, Trump has expanded the drone strikes that plagued Obama’s “peaceful” presidency.​

Newsletter - This Is What Austerity Looks Like

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. George Lakey of Waging Nonviolence wrote about the root cause of the recent protests in Sweden – increasing wealth inequality from austerity measures imposed over the past few decades. The media reported that the protests were a response to the police murder of a 69 year-old man, but they were actually due to a growing division between classes that is also fueling racism. Even though the wealth divide is much smaller in Sweden than it is in the United States, it is obvious to Swedes when compared to surrounding countries. In the United States, austerity measures in the form of cuts to social programs, lower wages and tax cuts for the wealthy have also fueled tremendous wealth inequality and economic insecurity. Similar to Sweden, this is the root of civil unrest. Lakey urges people in the US to fight back via nonviolent revolution.

Drone Resisters Acquitted, Juror Tells Them: 'Keep Doing It'

Upstate Drone Action

By Staff for Institute for Public Accuracy. Four drone resisters, James Ricks, Daniel Burns, Brian Hynes, and Ed Kinane, from the 2015 big books action were found innocent of all charges at 11 p.m. at the Dewitt Town Court. After deliberating for only about a half hour, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty on all charges. Applause erupted in the courtroom upon the jurors’ announcement of the verdict. The four were charged with obstruction of government administration, disorderly conduct, and trespass and faced a year in jail. Following the rendering of the verdict, a juror approached Brian Hynes and said ‘I really support what you are doing. Keep doing it.’ “During the trial, Brian Hynes told the jury, “This is not a case about contested facts, this is a case about contested meanings.” Hynes went on to explain to the jury that they could, in the words of the 4th Circuit of Appeals, acquit for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion.

Drone Protesters Arrested On Tuesday

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By Toby Blomé for War Is A Crime – Anti-drone activists blocked traffic at the Main Gate into Beale AFB for over 30 minutes today during early morning commute hour. They stood across the gate entrance holding life-sized cardboard replicas of the 15 drone victims killed during a Sept. 27, 2016 U.S. drone strike in Eastern Afghanistan. As traffic backed up behind the blockade, activists read the name, age and occupation of each of the 15 Afghan Civilian men who were killed that night while sleeping in their beds in Achin district, Afghanistan. The men had been gathered to welcome a friend/relative returning from his hajj, or sacred pilgrimage to Mecca. 13 others were injured in the drone attack. The drone deaths included a 26 yr. old teacher, a 70 yr. old village elder, a 30 yr. old principal, and laborers and farmers of varying ages, as well as a 17 yr. old youth according to a human rights organization based in Afghanistan. Activists were trying to humanize the lives of the victims that are so often kept anonymous by the media. Many of the activists gave heartfelt personal statements to the base personnel that witnessed the action

Obama Killed 16-Year-Old American In Yemen. Trump Just Killed 8-Year-Old Sister

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By Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept – IN 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September, 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate – the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out – another drone-killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention.