It seems that Pres. Trump could very well have made the largest foreign policy miscalculation in the Mid-East region since Pres. Bush II invaded Iraq in 2003. The assassination of Quds Force Comdr. Suleimani last night in Baghdad via a missile fired from a drone upon his motorcade could be just it.
Here’s a clip from the NYT today showing how the Trump administration is going to try and justify this destabilizing attack in the world’s most volatile (and resource rich) area :
“Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” [Trump] said, speaking to reporters from his resort in West Palm Beach, Fla. “We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war.”
At this point the people have not been told by the administration what “imminent attack” Suleimani was “plotting.” Did they “cherry pick” the intelligence to justify the attack, just like the Bush II administration did so to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Are they using this assassination as a ploy to rally American popular support beneath Trump’s approval numbers and divert attention from the Dem’s primary race for President in 2020?
I can’t wait to see what kind of justification Secy State Pompeo and Trump reveal to the American people for this foolish, foolish act. We remember Iraq’s WMD’s. We won’t be fooled again…
An article in The Guardian reports that on Thursday, the UN Human Rights Committee harshly criticized the U.S. for human rights abuses which include racial discrimination, drone attacks, the detention of prisoners at Gitmo, and even our gun policies, amongst many other offenses.
It is a good thing to have an organization such as the UN holding even the world’s most powerful nation up to a mirror at times and dare to damn it’s policies.
An excellent piece in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf on a recent drone strike that attacked a wedding party convoy in Yemen killing 17 and critically wounding 9. Friedersdorf explains that if that happened in America all drone strikes in the U.S. would stop. He also goes on to make many other good points regarding the killing of innocents through drone strikes and how the government does not care.
Carrying on the argument against the op-ed in Foreign Affairs advocating drone use, his next point gets at a key point in the debate:
Individuals join anti-American terrorist groups for many reasons, ranging from outrage over U.S. support for Israel to anger at their own government’s cooperation with the United States. Some people simply join up because their neighbors are doing so.
What he fails to mention here is that some people also hate and attack America because of the United States’ killing people overseas, which would obviously include drone attacks. We know incidents like the Ft. Hood shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing were carried out for this reason because the perpetrators have said so. In short, it is a cycle of violence with no real end in sight or an end that is truly feasible without one side ignoring past casualties, a scenario that is highly unlikely.
But sometimes imminent and intolerable threats do arise and drone strikes are the best way to eliminate them.
This assumes, of course, every drone strike that is carried out is launched against an “imminent” threat, a point that is highly debatable since we now know drones have been used to kill people who were not after the United States. If all or even most of the “militants” killed by drones were “imminent threats”, why has the government been so reluctant to give any proof of a just a few of the lesser known casualties? We know about the bigger names killed as they are reported extensively, but they are the minority. Can’t they just give us some of the smaller fish and show exactly how they were deemed “imminent threats”? Since the attacks are carried out in the name of U.S. citizens, it is something we deserve to know and be able to confirm.
A memo released by the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks revealed that Pakistan’s army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, privately asked U.S. military leaders in 2008 for “continuous Predator coverage” over antigovernment militants, and the journalist Mark Mazzetti has reported that the United States has conducted “goodwill kills” against Pakistani militants who threatened Pakistan far more than the United States.
Wait, I thought I was making the case for that being a bad use of drones? Kind of bizarre an advocate would mention it as well since this is a clear misuse of the system. And with calls for austerity and the ongoing sequester, how much of our tax dollars went into fighting Pakistan’s battles for them? As the NSA scandal has focused on secrecy from a domestic perspective, we should keep in mind that that is not the only government secrecy we should be worried about because a much more destructive kind is being carried out overseas.
A 2012 poll found that 74 percent of Pakistanis viewed the United States as their enemy, likely in part because of the ongoing drone campaign…A poll conducted in 2007, well before the drone campaign had expanded to its current scope, found that only 15 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of the United States. It is hard to imagine that alternatives to drone strikes, such as SEAL team raids or cruise missile strikes, would make the United States more popular.
And we are now taught by this that our only “alternatives” to drones are boots on the ground or bigger bombs. In other words, we can choose the “kill a lot of people approach” or the “kill even more people approach”. Here’s an idea. How about neither?
I’m reminded of a comment bin Laden made back in 2004 just before the U.S. presidential election. He stated, “…contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example – Sweden?” A fair question. And since it has been so long, maybe that has changed…Nope. Still no Islamist attacks on Sweden. I wonder what those crazy Swedes do so different from the U.S.? Are they putting boots on the ground instead of using drones? Maybe their bombs are bigger? Or maybe they do neither and don’t get targeted in return. Just a thought.
Indeed, it appears that Awlaki is the only U.S. citizen who has been deliberately killed by a drone.
This is a nice dodge of the fact the government has acknowledged four Americans were killed by drones, including a minor and a man on the FBI’s Most Wanted List (who we apparently weren’t specifically targeting). He does use the word “deliberately” to deliberately ignore this fact and it’s clever. Shady, but clever. In all honesty, with thousands killed by drones, I don’t know why the author even bothers going out of his way to dodge this. It’s a well known fact at this point so who does he think he is hiding this from? It’s just a weak attempt at covering the truth about how many American citizens have been killed by drones.
The ultimate truth about drones is the faster we retire the program, the faster we will be doing something to actually stop the level of hatred in the Islamic world of one vicious aspect of United States’ foreign policy.
Foreign Affairs published op-eds recently to debate the for and against sides of drone warfare (although the against often sounds like a commendation of the program). Since I have made no secret about being against the policy, I’ll be taking a closer look at many of the points advocating for drones. Let’s get into it.
Critics of drone strikes often fail to take into account the fact that the alternatives are either too risky or unrealistic…Worse yet, in Pakistan and Yemen, the governments have at times cooperated with militants. If the United States regularly sent in special operations forces to hunt down terrorists there, sympathetic officials could easily tip off the jihadists, likely leading to firefights, U.S. casualties, and possibly the deaths of the suspects and innocent civilians.
The author here is admitting the only difference between drones and the alternatives is U.S. casualties since the other deaths would likely happen either way. In other words, the deaths of foreigners are acceptable, whether innocent or not. Can’t imagine why that position would anger anyone overseas.
And this ignores the fact that, just maybe, governments are helping their own people because they are not fans of their sovereignty being violated by a foreign power and they look weak when their people are attacked. The author points out there are secret agreements between the U.S. and these governments but they still openly oppose them to their populations. This means, from the perspective of their citizens, anytime an attack happens their governments look weak and powerless against the U.S., further stoking hatred in the general population against America and creating more extremism.
And even if a raid results in a successful capture, it begets another problem: what to do with the detainee. Prosecuting detainees in a federal or military court is difficult because often the intelligence against terrorists is inadmissible or using it risks jeopardizing sources and methods. And given the fact that the United States is trying to close, rather than expand, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, it has become much harder to justify holding suspects indefinitely. It has become more politically palatable for the United States to kill rather than detain suspected terrorists.
So, we have enough evidence to kill someone but we can’t prove that in a court of law? One way of looking at that is the part highlighted. Another, however, is the fact that more than half of the inmates at the mentioned Guantánamo Bay facility have been granted their release but still remain in prison. Which begs the question: are we choosing to kill because of the inadmissibility of evidence and giving up intelligence or are we doing it because we don’t want to admit we get info wrong about many suspects and do it more often than we want to acknowledge? Considering the facts, it’s a very fair question.
Furthermore, although a drone strike may violate the local state’s sovereignty, it does so to a lesser degree than would putting U.S. boots on the ground or conducting a large-scale air campaign.
This still ignores the fact that it’s a clear violation of international law and it angers people throughout the world, whether friend or foe, when the U.S. conducts these acts regardless of which we choose. The anti-drone argument gives some of the international polling data on drones with “Turkey (81 percent against), Jordan (85 percent against), and Egypt (89 percent against)…51 percent of Poles, 59 percent of Germans, 63 percent of French, 76 percent of Spanish, and a full 90 percent of Greeks” opposed to the policy. And it should be noted those countries are not the ones being attacked with drones.
Yesterday, Pres. Obama outlined a new policy for using drone attacks across the Middle East that will be more transparent, more involved by Congress, and less prolific across the board. Here’s a good article on this topic in the NYT. The article also goes on to outline Obama’s new policies on Gitmo and relieving us from a constant war footing here in the U.S. regarding terror.
After reading an article last week about Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei condemning the bombing in Boston but criticizing the U.S. policy on drone attacks, the question came to mind as to just how relevant it was for him to associate the two so closely. He stated:
The Islamic Republic of Iran, which follows the logic Islam, is opposed to any bombings and killings of innocent people, no matter if it is in Boston, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria and condemns it…The US and other so-called human rights advocates remain silent on the massacre of innocents in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but they cause a ruckus after a few blasts in the United States.
This week an op-ed appeared in the Atlantic addressing this issue specifically. An important summary from the piece:
But propaganda is most powerful when it’s at least within shouting distance of the truth–and, unfortunately, that’s the case here. Obama’s drone strikes have killed, if not more civilians than mujahideen, lots of civilians, including women and scores of children. Every time such killing happens, the jihadist narrative, the narrative that seems to have seized the minds of the Tsarnaev brothers, gains a measure of strength.
This is a commonsensical realization but there is another underlying issue that would contribute to this argument: the evolution of Al Qaeda’s message.
What I mean by that is there seems to be a change in how Al Qaeda once presented its message and how it delivers it now. If we look at the issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda’s magazine, linked in the Atlantic piece, we see many articles addressing and encouraging lone wolf-types of attacks similar to what we saw in Boston. This comes along with ideas on how to attack as an individual, such as creating car crashes and, coincidentally, using ricin.
Overall, the emphasis in the rhetoric seems to be on attacking and terrorizing civilians. As noted by the author:
That’s where drone strikes can come in handy, and the latest issue of Inspire spells out the logic explicitly: Because America is “ruled by the people,” its “rulers (people) should pay for their country’s action till they change their system and foreign policies.” So “war on America including civilians” is legitimate, says Inspire,so long as Americans are killing Muslim civilians with drone strikes. “The equation should be balanced. Like they kill, they will be killed.”
But if we look back at some of Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, he doesn’t seem to be as concerned with attacking civilians as he is with attacking what he sees as more symbolically important targets. And he even makes a distinction between the American people and the actions of the government. After describing many instances of what he sees as American oppression, he leaves the reader with these remarks:
In conclusion, I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaida. No.
Your security is in your own hands. And every state that doesn’t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.
Bin Laden clearly had a eye on symbolism, along with casualty counts, when he targeted the U.S. for his attacks. America’s military dominance was attacked by hitting the Pentagon and the U.S.S. Cole. America’s economic dominance was attacked by bringing down the WTC. And America’s heavy hand in foreign affairs was attacked when Al Qaeda struck at U.S. embassies.
And therein lies the new evolution and difference with the Boston attack. It wasn’t an attack on a structure that also carried a certain symbolism for the U.S. It was specifically targeted at civilians and civilians only just as the rhetoric contained within the pages of Inspire would suggest. There may not be a direct link between the Boston bombers and Al Qaeda (and in all likelihood none will be found) but there is little doubt where the Tsarnaev brothers drew their inspiration.
As American tactics in finding and destroying Islamic extremists has evolved over the years with the expanded use of drone, the tactics used against us has gone through its own evolution. We are seeing the next phase in the War on Terror and the likelihood of more lone wolf attacks in the future is seemingly high. The question now becomes: how much longer will we let drone attacks be carried out in our name when we are being told they are the reason for the oncoming lone wolves?
The South American country of Uruguay has legalized gay marriage through its Chamber of Deputies. Good to see a country mature enough to do it through legislation and not have to wait until the court system informs the public what the phrase “equal rights” actually means (looking at you America). And the good news for Americans is the legislation states “gay and lesbian foreigners will now be allowed to come to Uruguay to marry, just as heterosexual couples can.” So, if the Supreme Court doesn’t have the guts to legalize gay marriage in the United States when they release their decision, there is always Uruguay! (Or Canada, Argentina, Denmark, etc.)
Guantanamo Hunger Strikes Worsen, Free People Being Mistreated
We have to continue asking: why is Guantanamo still open? In a story getting little to no press in the U.S., hunger strikes of prisoners at the base have worsened as the inmates continue to protest their treatment and possible desecration of the Koran by guards. The truly awful part of this: most of the prisoners have been granted their release but are still there. As reported in the Guardian, 86 prisoners have been granted their release out of a total population of 166. Guantanamo has now long been a disgrace to human rights and Obama’s broken promise of closing the base will continue to worsen America’s standing with the rest of the world everyday it stays open and abuse continues of those inside for reasons now beyond comprehension.
Mexico Drug Killings Down 14%! (Note: No Reason For Celebration)
The first four months of President Nieto’s administration have been apparently better then the same four month period last year during Calderon’s term. The killings due to drug violence have dropped to 4,249 from 4,934. Impressive! Just one problem: the “official” count seems to be a little lower than what the actual numbers probably are. From the article:
Bloody clashes are still common in Mexico and it can be impossible to know how many people died because drug traffickers take their dead away before authorities reach the scene.
In the border city of Reynosa there were at least four major shootouts between rival drug gangs in March. One of the clashes lasted several hours. People reported dozens of dead on social networks and at least 12 were corroborated by witnesses. The official account only listed two dead.
It might be a reason to celebrate a decrease in violence. Then again, there’s a good chance the “official” decrease is a sham and things could be even worse. Who really knows?
The U.S. Government Lied About Drone Attacks (with proof!)
The U.S. government, whether under Bush or Obama, has stated drone attacks were specifically and, more importantly, legally directed at members of Al Qaeda and its allies who were imminent threats to America and were plotting action against us. In other words, it’s self defense only. Not true according to this article from McClatchy that examined classified documents from both administrations. One small piece of info from the long report:
While U.S. officials say the Taliban Movement of Pakistan works closely with al Qaida, its goal is to topple the Pakistani government through suicide bombings, assaults and assassinations, not attacking the United States. The group wasn’t founded until 2007, and some of the strikes in the U.S. intelligence reports occurred before the administration designated it a terrorist organization in September 2010.
This is getting into a very murky legal area if the U.S. is killing members of groups that are not in any way a threat to the U.S. It is an obvious violation of international law (along with pretty much the entire drone policy) but it brings up the question of what happens when other countries develop the technology and begin using it according to the same legal (a.k.a. not-really-legal) definitions? Could we justifiably take action against Iran if they used drone attacks against Israeli assets because they viewed them as an imminent threat? What about North Korea using it against what they view as a threat?
When little evidence is needed to justify what is a threat (as is the case with the drone attacks), how will we be able to say that is not right when the policy spreads?
An excellent, excellent piece in the NYT outlining the events that led up to the killing of Al-Quaida member Anwar al-Alwaki and his son Abdulrahman. It has great info into each determining event and legal decision on how they were destroyed by drone missile fire. Extremely thought provoking.