The Numbers Game

Libertarians often point out that the government in unable to do anything efficiently. In most cases that is true but there is one thing governments are very efficient at, killing people:

A secret document obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.

The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.

The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.

I’m guessing these higher numbers are due to the fact that the creators of the document and the Pakistani government aren’t using the new definition of militant. They should get a newer edition of the Newspeak Dictionary.

Obama’s Empty Gitmo Promise

After reneging on his original promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison (Gitmo) Mr. Obama promised that he would really close Gitmo this time. Of course he has no intention of closing Gitmo because if he did then the facility would be closed:

The relevant law is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). This statute confirms the president’s power to wage war against al-Qaida and its associates, which was initially given to him in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed shortly after 9/11. The NDAA also authorizes the president to detain enemy combatants, and bans him from transferring Guantanamo detainees to American soil.

The NDAA does not, however, ban the president from releasing detainees. Section 1028 authorizes him to release them to foreign countries that will accept them—the problem is that most countries won’t, and others, like Yemen, where about 90 of the 166 detainees are from, can’t guarantee that they will maintain control over detainees, as required by the law.

There is another section of the NDAA, however, which has been overlooked. In section 1021(a), Congress “affirms” the authority of the U.S. armed forces under the AUMF to detain members of al-Qaida and affiliated groups “pending disposition under the law of war.” Section 1021(c)(1) further provides that “disposition under the law of war” includes “Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by” the AUMF. Thus, when hostilities end, the detainees may be released.

The president has the power to end the hostilities with al-Qaida—simply by declaring their end. This is not a controversial sort of power. Numerous presidents have ended hostilities without any legislative action from Congress—this happened with the Vietnam War, the Korean War, World War II, and World War I. The Supreme Court has confirmed that the president has this authority.

Since nothing is preventing Mr. Obama from closing Gitmo he must want it open, which means his promise to close the facility is empty. Somehow Obama’s supporters still believe he is against war. In reality Obama is just like Bush, a warmonger who gets off on the fact that he can personally order the assassination of anybody he wants. In fact Obama so enjoys order assassinations that he actually had to redefine “enemy combatant” and create new classes of enemies because he was running out of people to have butchered.

The Ouroboros of War

People in this country often assume that the people labeled terrorists hate us because of our freedom. It’s an absurd concept on the surface. Why would people in a foreign country give a damn about the freedoms a person living in a foreign country enjoys? Unless they have nothing else to worry about they most likely are going to invest their time, money, and lives on such matters. If the terrorists don’t hate us because of our freedoms then why do they hate us? It’s simple, our government is bombing them:

For the first time, a civilian affected by a US drone strike in Yemen has testified before members of Congress. Farea al-Muslimi, an American-educated Yemeni journalist whose home village of Wessab had been attacked by a US drone just six days prior, went before the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights yesterday, during a special hearing on the effects of America’s secret drone wars on civilian populations and the US rule of law. But despite previous commitments, representatives of the Obama administration were notably absent.

“The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine,” said Muslimi to the bipartisan panel of US Senators, which included committee chair Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Al Franken (D-MN). The strike killed six people including its intended target, Hamid Radman al Manea, a local man suspected to have ties with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP). Muslimi was not an eyewitness to the strike, but he claims that the man was well-known around his home town and could have easily been arrested by local authorities — seemingly at odds with the US government’s legal position that drone strikes are only justified when capture is “unfeasible.”


Muslimi described his experience living in America as having changed his life, and has spoke highly of the US to his fellow Yemenis ever since his return. “Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time,” he said, describing the anger he has seen play into the hands of terrorist recruiters. “What the violent militants previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant… This is not an isolated instance. Drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis.”

Most people remember how they felt during 9/11. First they were shocked then, after the shock wore off, they became angry. The same thing happened after the bombing in Boston, people were first in a state of shock and became angry afterward. It’s no different for people living in other parts of the world. When an American drone bombs a village and takes out several children along with the target the people of that community, especially the people who knew the victims, become furious. They want justice, they want to strike back at the monster that struck their community.

War is a self-feeding cycle. One group bombs another group, the other group bombs the first group back, the first group retaliates for the other group’s bombing by bombing them back, the other group retaliates for the first group’s retaliation, and so on. Eventually everybody is either dead or one side is out of soldiers, ordinance, or willpower to continue the fight. Nobody really wins. Sure, one group gets to declare victory but their victory only came at a tremendous cost.

Considering the fact that the United States is bombing people in the Middle East is it any surprise that the bombing in Boston was likely a retalitatory strike:

The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 were motivated by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack,” the Post writes, citing “U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.”

Patriotic folk are usually quick to say “We’re bombing military targets, they’re bombing civilian targets. It’s completely different!” That sentiment is bullshit. The United States has been targeting specific individuals and hasn’t made a notable attempt to avoid taking out innocent bystanders in its quest. Instead of using snipers or other assassins to take out targets in a manner that carriers minimal risk to bystanders the United States has taken the lazy route of dropping Hellfire missiles on suspects (since there is no trial to affirm guilt the people being bombed are merely suspects). Then, to compound its stupidity, it drops another bomb to ensure the target’s death and often kills emergency responders who arrive to care for the victims of the initial blast. There is no notable difference between bombing suspects with drones and the tactics of the people labeled by the state as terrorists.

Another thing often said by patriotic folk is “They’re targeting civilians, we’re not!” Ironically these are the same people who blame all Muslims and Middle Easterners for the actions of a handful of individuals. These bombers were likely patriotic folk themselves and, like patriotic folk here, lay the blame for the actions of a handful of American individuals on all Americans. In other words they don’t see their actions as targeting civilians just as many patriotic folk here don’t see dropping bombs from drones on civilian populations as targeting civilians. When you assign blame collectively don’t be surprised when your enemy does the same.

So here we sit. The government which claims to represent us has declared war on the people of the Middle East. Knowing they cannot win a conventional war they have opted to use the only tactic that has been effective at fighting the United States, fourth generation warfare. Many people here claim that the Muslims, Middle Easterners, or Muslim Middle Easterners are attacking us and we need to attack them back. When the people of the Middle East are attacked they claim that the Americans are attack them and see the need to return the favor. This cycle will continue until one side either wises the hell up or runs the other out of resources. Unless the United States does the former the people we call terrorists will do the latter. Until one of those two conditions are met the cycle will continue, bombs will be dropped, people will die, and demands for revenge will continue.

So Much for Leaving Afghanistan in 2014

Obama has made a big stink about getting the United States out of Afghanistan by 2014. When he first announced his plan I wondered how he was going to weasel out of it. When he said the United States was leaving Iraq he really meant that American soldiers were going to be replaced with mercenaries. It sounds like Obama is planning the same thing for Afghanistan except he’ll be replacing American soldiers with more flying murder machines:

The US military is due to pull most combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But after that, an armed American presence could remain over Afghan skies, depending on what agreement for continuing operations is reached between the US and Afghanistan. Air Force Major General H.D. Polumbo, Jr, told reporters at the Pentagon today that drones, including armed unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the US, will likely continue to be used to support the Afghan army’s operations through 2014 and probably on into 2015.

I’m sure the Afghan government will become very agreeable when Obama explains that they either accept drones flying in their sky or face being added to the kill list themselves.

Rand Paul’s Apparently Flip-Flop on Domestic Drone Usage

Libertarian sites are expressing shock from the supposed savior’s change in attitude regarding domestic drone usage. Last month Rand Paul performed a 13 hour filibuster against domestic drone usage but yesterday he had an apparent change of heart:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he would have supported police using drones in last week’s hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing.

“If there is a killer on the loose in a neighborhood, I’m not against drones being used to search them,” Paul told Fox Business Network.


Paul said that the question of an “imminent threat” was the pivotal one when considering drone policy.

“Here’s the distinction — I have never argued against any technology being used against having an imminent threat an act of crime going on,” Paul said. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a Drone kills him or a policeman kills him, but it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub, or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.”

I said an apparent change of heart because the sentiment expressed above isn’t actually a change in heart. Last year Mr. Paul introduced legislation that he claimed protected Americans from being killed by drones. I noted that there was a major hole in the legislation that effectively rendered it useless:

Sounds good so far, right? Let’s have a look at the exceptions mentioned in the above paragraph:

(1) PATROL OF BORDERS- The use of a drone to patrol national borders to prevent or deter illegal entry of any persons or illegal substances.

So drones will continue to be used to monitor the 100 miles “Constitution free zone” that 2/3 of the United States population lives within? It appears as though Rand Paul’s bill only protects 1/3 of the population from these unwarranted drone uses. That appearance is deceiving though as there are more exceptions:

(2) EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES- The use of a drone by a law enforcement party when exigent circumstances exist. For the purposes of this paragraph, exigent circumstances exist when the law enforcement party possesses reasonable suspicion that under particular circumstances, swift action to prevent imminent danger to life is necessary.

There it is, the one exception that makes this entire bill meaningless. Law enforcement don’t need a warrant to use a drone if they have “reasonable suspicion” that circumstances are such that imminent danger to life exists. “Reasonable suspicion” is another way of saying “because law enforcement wants to.” It’s a catchall phrase that has been used by law enforcement agents to avoid that pesky Forth Amendment.

If his legislation was any indicator Rand Paul has always been fine with using drones to kill Americans so long as the state’ arbitrary “terrorist” label is applied to the target beforehand. Everybody can stop being surprised now. Rand Paul isn’t being inconsistent, he’s always been find with killing Americans with drones.

Kill ‘Em All

Poor Obama, it seems that he’s killed so many people with his beloved drones that he’s running out of people to kill. But worry not! He’s found a way to create new targets:

According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration is reconsidering its opposition to a new Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, the foundational legal basis of the so-called war on terrorism. That short document, passed overwhelmingly by Congress days after the 9/11 attacks, tethered a U.S. military response to anyone who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” Nearly all of those people are dead or detained.

There are two ways to view that circumstance. One is to say the United States won the war on terrorism. The other is to expand the definition of the adversary to what an ex-official quoted by the Post called “associates of associates” of al-Qaida.

And that’s the one the administration is mooting. “Administration officials acknowledged that they could be forced to seek new legal cover if the president decides that strikes are necessary against nascent groups that don’t have direct al-Qaeda links,” the Post reports. Examples of the targets under consideration include the extreme Islamist faction of the Syrian rebellion; the Ansar al-Sharia organization suspected of involvement in September’s Benghazi assault; and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed terrorist who broke with al-Qaida but is believed to be behind the January seizure of an Algerian oil field.

Remember the halcyon days when Obama and his supporters spoke in opposition to Bush’s wars? I miss those days. Even though I knew Obama would turn out to be a war monger I had some hope that his supporters would continue to carry the anti-war flag after the election. Here was are four years later and Obama’s supporters are mostly quite when it comes to war. As it turns out the war protests were never about oppose war, they were just demonstrations made by people who were angry that their guy wasn’t the one ordering the slaughter.

A Glimpse of Things to Come in the United States

Some time ago the federal government was trying to legally obtain the power to strip and American citizen of their citizenship. At the time it seemed obvious that the reason the politicians in Washington DC were going for that power was to give Obama a means of getting around his promise not to indefinably detain American citizens under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The United Kingdom may just demonstrated another benefit of stripping citizenship, the government can blow a former citizen up with a drone and claim they haven’t killed any citizens:

The Government has secretly ramped up a controversial programme that strips people of their British citizenship on national security grounds – with two of the men subsequently killed by American drone attacks.

Governmental protections are more mythological than unicorns. Any supposed legal protection put into place is easily bypassed with the stroke of a pen.

Obama Dismisses Envoy Tasked with Shutting Down Guantanamo Bay

Obviously Obama is taking his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center very seriously. He’s taking his promis so seriously that he’s dismissed the envoy tasked with shutting down Gitmo:

The State Department has reassigned its special envoy for closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in another step away from one of President Barack Obama’s first campaign promises.

Ambassador Daniel Fried is starting this week as the department’s sanctions coordinator, according to an internal notice, focusing on governments like Iran and Syria.

And no one is replacing Fried as lead diplomat to persuade countries to resettle Guantanamo inmates approved for release. Instead, those responsibilities will now transfer to the department’s legal office.

The only thing I miss about George W. Bush’s presidency is the fact that self-proclaimed Democrats were anti-war. Now that their man is in power they seem to be entirely accepting of torture, detainment without trial, and everything else they claimed to oppose during Bush’s reign.

It’s Because He’s the King

The New York Times surprised me today by asking a relevant question, “Who Says You Can Kill Americans, Mr. President?” The article opens by explaining:

PRESIDENT OBAMA has refused to tell Congress or the American people why he believes the Constitution gives, or fails to deny, him the authority to secretly target and kill American citizens who he suspects are involved in terrorist activities overseas. So far he has killed three that we know of.

Presidents had never before, to our knowledge, targeted specific Americans for military strikes. There are no court decisions that tell us if he is acting lawfully. Mr. Obama tells us not to worry, though, because his lawyers say it is fine, because experts guide the decisions and because his advisers have set up a careful process to help him decide whom he should kill.

He must think we should be relieved.

The three Americans known to have been killed, in two drone strikes in Yemen in the fall of 2011, are Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico; Samir Khan, a naturalized American citizen who had lived in New York and North Carolina, and was killed alongside Mr. Awlaki; and, in a strike two weeks later, Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was born in Colorado.

Mr. Obama, regardless of the fairy tales he told everybody about opposing war, has been one of the most dangerous warmongers of our time. He continued the war in Iraq (which is still ongoing), ramped up the war in Pakistan, got American involved in a war in Libya (even though Gaddafi was previously awarded for advancing human rights in the region), has failed to wrap up the war in Afghanistan (he claims we’re leaving earlier than expected, but he’ll probably pull another Iraq and replace our forces with mercenaries), has ordered several bombings in Yemen, and involved this country in other scattered conflicts around the world. On top of engaging this country in numerous wars Mr. Obama has also ordered the assassination of American citizens, making him the first president to publicly do so.

What gives him such powers? We haven’t a clue because he refuses to even provide his justification. At the very least it would be nice to know why he thinks he can do these things. In all likelihood his justification would be something along the lines of “I’m the king so I get to kill whoever I want. Now get out of my sight before I have you executed, serf.”

One Set of Rules for Obama, Another Set of Rules for Everybody Else

Obama has a hardon for blowing people up with drones. He enjoys his flying death machines so much that he celebrated his reelection by blowing up some people in Yemen. Hell, Obama has blown up so many people with his precious drones that the government has lost count of the number of people killed. So far the rules about how will and will not be assassinated by Obama has remained a mystery. Obama has shown no desire to justify his murderous rampage and even told Congress to bugger off when they started whispering about drone oversight. But if Obama is one thing he’s a hypocrite and therefore wants one set of rules for himself and another set of rules for his successor:

After four years in which more than 300 drone strike killed some 2,500 people, President Obama and his team thought it was finally time to develop some actual, written-down rules on when the United States could kill someone. And what led them to this conclusion? Could it have been a recognition that perhaps there was something troubling about the widening net of suspects deemed eligible for murder by the U.S. government? Not really. They were just worried somebody else was going to make the decisions. “There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” an official tells the New York Times.

Fearing that Romney being the next guy with his finger over the drone button the Obama administration went to work codifying rules pertaining to drone assassinations. Since Obama wont the election I’m guessing those written rules will be filed in the recycling bin until 2016. Either way it’s always entertaining to point out the president’s hypocrisy.