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Version: 1.0
(July 25, 2005)

Are we Frakking Nuts?

Apr 20, 2012 by Ugh
The Washington Post continues to publish interesting stuff, and today has what (ISTM) to be another jaw dropper of an article. It begins: The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said.

Uh, whut? Surely this is unprecedented, oh wait: The practice has been a core element of the CIA’s drone program in Pakistan for several years.

Awesome. And: In Pakistan, the CIA “killed most of their ‘list people’ when they didn’t know they were there,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with drone operations. The agency has cited the Pakistan experience to administration officials in arguing, perhaps counterintuitively, that it can be more effective against al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate if it doesn’t have to identify its targets before an attack.

In the CIA's defense, that certainly would cut out the red tape before one can shoot off a Hellfire missile. "Who are you shooting at?" "We don't know, but yeee-haaaaa!"

Creative use of passive voice bonus: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as the Yemen-based group is known, has not been linked to a major terrorist plot since its failed attempt to mail parcels packed with explosives to addresses in Chicago in 2010. The death of Awlaki in a CIA drone strike last year is thought to have diminished the group’s ability to mount follow-on attacks.

Is known by whom? Is thought to have diminished by whom? And yet: But U.S. counterterrorism officials said that Awlaki’s death did not extinguish the group’s determination to attack the United States.... So it's not only a war on terror but a war on determination?

Obama administration officials have refused to provide details of how militants are targeted or to disclose the identities of those killed.

So, apparently, this is a way to avoid such pesky questions.

We're so totally screwed.


Apr 20, 2012, 20:33:31 John Thullen wrote:

"Are We FRAKKING Nuts?"

Ask a drone:


Apr 20, 2012, 20:47:49 John Thullen wrote:

Personally, I look forward to one of the commas in the Second Amendment being interpreted by Antonio Scalia and the other four horseman of the allfuckedupalypse as allowing me to launch swarms of Nano Quadrators against say, Ralph Reed, to pick one target among our target-rich environment.

I could stand my ground ... at a distance ... all in self-defense, of course.

But, really, think of the possibilities for domestic law enforcement and protection of the Homelandsiegheil.

I wonder about the disposition of tens of millions of mosquito-sized armed drones purchased by the FBI and the CIA once Michelle Bachmann is Chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

I'll need a fly-swatter and a fleet of tiny mobile anti-aircraft installations.

Apr 21, 2012, 08:11:29 DonaldJ wrote:

I think we've always been frakking nuts when it comes to the killing of quite possibly innocent people by US forces (or our allies). To be fair, a lot of other democratic countries are nuts in the same way. The Crooked Timber blog put up a post the other day about the coverup of British atrocities in the twilight era of their empire. France was rather nasty in Algeria. Israel's record stinks. Concern over the human rights violations of one's own country (if the offenses are directed at foreigners) is usually going to be a fringe issue.

In America it helps if it can be made a partisan issue, as more people will denounce an atrocity if it can be blamed on the evil Republicans. That won't happen in this case.

Apr 24, 2012, 07:14:03 DonaldJ wrote:

Digby had a piece on this subject today--not specifically the drone issue, but the whole business of US violation of human rights and the lack of accountability--


She basically says what I said, only much better. The issue has been around for decades, it transcends both political parties, and the closest we ever came to confronting it was right after Watergate with the Church and Pike commission reports and in the end almost nothing came of it.

Apr 25, 2012, 05:52:59 sapient wrote:

Well, I certainly agree with Digby when she says this: 'America's post-war imperialism is a complicated subject and one that is above my pay grade to sort out properly."

It has a lot to do with what happened in WWII (some of which happened as a result of WWI), and what was learned from WWII, and the desire of western nations not to engage in those kinds of wars again (especially not to be on the losing side thereof).

The "national security state" is very understandable in that context. The continuing responsibility to learn how to deal with the power that we have is the issue, in my opinion. Not ceding power.

Apr 25, 2012, 08:59:44 DonaldJ wrote:

"It has a lot to do with what happened in WWII (some of which happened as a result of WWI), and what was learned from WWII, and the desire of western nations not to engage in those kinds of wars again (especially not to be on the losing side thereof). "

We commonly see the example of WWII and the failure to stop Hitler in time cited as a reason for bombing, overthrowing, sanctioning, or terrorizing the citizens of this or that country, but if WWII had never happened there would be some other reason given. We were intervening in Latin America before WWII. Countries always have some noble-sounding excuses for doing what they do.

Apr 25, 2012, 09:08:24 DonaldJ wrote:

I particularly liked Digby's closing summary. You (sapient) probably liked this part-

"Which is why people who've been around a while shift in their seats and get uncomfortable when someone says they must stick to their principles and reject partisan loyalty. When it comes to the empire, it's hard to see exactly what good that will do."

I liked the next paragraph--

"Having said that, I do believe it's important to speak out regardless of who's in charge or what "emergency" is currently requiring that we all "watch what we say." I don't know how to break up the empire, but I do know that people of conscience still exist and could change the dynamic over time while others are subject to persuasion, at least around the edges. And someone's got to preserve the principles underlying the constitution aside from the 2nd and 10th amendments. We may need to use them again someday."

Apr 25, 2012, 09:44:08 sapient wrote:

"I do know that people of conscience still exist and could change the dynamic over time while others are subject to persuasion, at least around the edges."

I'm not seeing much success here, with those self-styled people of conscience, are you?
What I see is a more responsible use of power by one political party as opposed to the other.

The self-styled people of conscience (who seem to reject the possibility that anyone else has one) tend to (IMO) foster apathy among those who might otherwise get excited about voting for Democrats (who, although not perfect, are consistently more responsible than Republicans, not only in foreign policy but in every other issue - environment, domestic economic policy, welfare, equal rights and everything else).

Apr 25, 2012, 10:04:11 DonaldJ wrote:

I was actually hoping you'd go with digby on this, sapient. She is sort of a mediator between our respective positions.

"Self-styled" people of conscience? Sheesh. Digby is going to vote Democratic, but she doesn't think people should shut up about human rights violations. And yeah, I think there's been a lot of success over the decades which wouldn't have happened if we'd just relied on hero politicians--it was those self-styled people of conscience who led the charge on a great many human rights campaigns, from civil rights to gay rights, and the politicians followed. No reason why it couldn't continue to work that way, unless you think the activist types should simply shut up and wait for the politicians to do it. Which is weird--I actually think Obama had a point (whether he was sincere or not is a separate question) when he said he wanted people to push him in the right direction. It's always worked that way. I always liked how Garry Wills described it in an old book of his "Confessions of a Conservative" (written when he'd made the switch to being what most would call a liberal.) You need the compromising politicians but you also need the activists. I feel like I'm defending motherhood here--it ought to be unnecessary to say any of this because it's so freaking obvious.

Apr 25, 2012, 10:42:41 Turbulence wrote:

"I'm not seeing much success here, with those self-styled people of conscience, are you?"

Indeed. Let us pause to mock losers like Martin Luther King Jr. What a failure. The good Reverand with his "conscience" is such a joke. It makes me wonder, how many divisions does the Pope have?

Apr 25, 2012, 10:46:28 Turbulence wrote:

Look, we all know the truth. If Martin Luther King was really a good person, he should have shut his mouth and stopped criticizing Johnson on Vietnam. After all, there was an epic political battle being fought between Democrats and Republicans and Democrats really were much better than Republicans. Therefore, criticizing Johnson on prosecuting a war that exterminated a few million Asians was an act of moral cowardice.

With the hindsight of history, we now know: King was a moral leper for daring to criticize Johnson on Vietnam.

Apr 25, 2012, 21:08:13 russell wrote:

"I'm not seeing much success here, with those self-styled people of conscience, are you?"

Seriously, fuck that. And the horse it rode in on.

What Turb said.

I've had my own personal experience with political engagement based on conscience. And I have friends who have had way, way more experience than I have had, including being jailed.

Sometimes it has a good impact, sometimes it has no impact at all.

If you think any of the positive changes made in the last 50 years would have happened without people putting their asses on the line, you have your head up your butt. And when I say "asses on the line" I mean putting themselves at risk of physical and/or legal or economic harm.

Your dismissal of people acting out of conscience is callow in the extreme. Who the fuck do you think you are?

What have you, personally, accomplished, sapient? What have you ever put on the line? What have you, personally, put at risk in the name of something you believed in or thought was important?

I'd like to see the list, otherwise I'll invite you to STFU.

I will stop now before I get seriously rude.

Apr 25, 2012, 21:12:45 russell wrote:

The other comment I'll make is that any criticism of Obama, at all, immediately brings a reply along the lines of "then perhaps you'd prefer a Republican".

It's a weak and childish argument, and I personally am sick of it.

I would prefer Bernie Sanders, but Bernie is not on offer. So I'll live with what I can get. But if I have an issue with what I can get, I will speak up, because otherwise 'what I can get' will inexorably devolve into crappier and crappier options.

'The trouble with normal is it only gets worse'. So it behooves EVERYONE to not simply settle for what's on the menu.

Apr 26, 2012, 01:45:11 sapient wrote:

Well, when was talking about "self-styled people of conscience," I was talking about contemporary politics.

I agree that MLK was an actual person of conscience, self-styled or not. I was actually around in those days, Turbulence, and my family was deeply involved in the Poor People's Campaign. I was a middle school student so, no, russell, I don't claim credit. But it was important to me, and formative. Likewise, the movement opposing Vietnam.

What have we learned from the disaster that 1968 became, exactly? What have we learned from the election of Nixon, the disparagement of Carter as "weak", the election of Reagan/Bush I with the Oliver North shadow government, the election of the most conservative Democrat running, Bill Clinton (whom I grew to admire), and the election of Bush II?

What I've learned is that it's basically a miracle that Obama, an African-American former community organizer and, yes, person of conscience, was elected. You can criticize him all you want, people. But I'm not going to do it because, weak and childish as I am, I do not want another Republican president. That is why we are in the shape we're in - we've had almost a half-century of it, and the Supreme Court will take their poison forward through the rest of my lifetime.

And, by the way, russell, I am not talking about people's personal accomplishments, and I'm not disparaging anyone personally (other than the fact that I intensely dislike the attitude that some seem to hold here that they are the only people with a conscience, and that their particular way of responding to their conscience is the only appropriate one).

And, no, I'm not going to recite my personal accomplishments and failures. I'm pretty old, and I've racked up quite a few items in both categories. My comments are about political strategy, not individual character. FWIW, my conscience (yes, I think that's what it is) doesn't present things in the black and white terms that seem to be apparent to so many of the people who comment here.

Apr 26, 2012, 02:00:08 DonaldJ wrote:

"I intensely dislike the attitude that some seem to hold here that they are the only people with a conscience, and that their particular way of responding to their conscience is the only appropriate one)."

That would be me, I'm guessing. I don't care if I upset some anonymous person on the internet. I read a lot of blogs where I'd be considered a sellout because I do hope Obama wins and I could go into almost sapient-like lengths about how the Republicans scare me. But there's no reason why this should shut people up about the problems which are in some sense so deep they transcend party divisions. Again, this doesn't seem like rocket science. Third parties can't win the Presidency for the forseeable future, so one should vote the D ticket, but if we don't talk about what is wrong then nothing will ever change for the better.

Digby summed it up nicely, I thought, and I also thought there was a chance sapient would see her stance as a reasonable one. But I guess not.

Apr 26, 2012, 02:02:56 sapient wrote:

Since I'm on a rant, I'll continue that thought with this:

I believe in the principle "Thou Shalt Not Kill." But I guess I really don't, because I'm not a pacifist. There are a lot of people whose "conscience" (if you'll acknowledge that they have one) forces them to struggle with the questions of when war is appropriate, how war should be fought, and all of the issues that we talk about here. That's why I object to "morality" and "conscience" being brought in as some kind of a trump card.

People are affected by the violence of war, but people are also affected by inaction when war might be called for. People who are in the midst of war are affected by how a war is wound down. "People of conscience" can disagree on what the best course of action is. Pretending that I am a "person of conscience" but that you're not is like saying that God is on my side. That's bullshit.

Apr 26, 2012, 02:09:07 DonaldJ wrote:

"There are a lot of people whose "conscience" (if you'll acknowledge that they have one) forces them to struggle with the questions of when war is appropriate, how war should be fought, and all of the issues that we talk about here. That's why I object to "morality" and "conscience" being brought in as some kind of a trump card. "

Islamic suicide bombers, for instance, struggle with these issues from what I've read. Some Republicans openly favor torture, or what others would call torture. One should always read various points of view. Why should disagreement about torture or assassination or indefinite detention or whatever keep someone from invoking "morality"?

Apr 26, 2012, 02:24:27 sapient wrote:

Donald, I don't disagree that people have various moral compasses. Morality is definitely an issue for conversation. But do you include torture-favoring Republicans as "people of conscience"? I didn't think so. But, in fact, they are. That's why I don't like the term.

Apr 26, 2012, 02:25:15 sapient wrote:

By the way, Digby uses it with a link, but the link is broken.

Apr 26, 2012, 02:33:01 DonaldJ wrote:

"But do you include torture-favoring Republicans as "people of conscience"? I didn't think so. "

Don't assume my answer. In this case you are incorrect. I was being quite literal--Muslim extremists and Republicans who favor torture might very well have sincere rationalizations for committing the atrocities they favor. In fact I'm sure some do.

Apr 26, 2012, 03:21:26 russell wrote:

"What have we learned from the disaster that 1968 became, exactly? What have we learned from the election of Nixon, the disparagement of Carter as "weak", the election of Reagan/Bush I with the Oliver North shadow government, the election of the most conservative Democrat running, Bill Clinton (whom I grew to admire), and the election of Bush II? "

What I've learned is that there are a lot of people in this country who think conservative Republican governance is exactly what they want.

That's the reality.

And nobody was saying a damned thing about your conscience. You were the one disparaging the conscience-based efforts of other people.

Not me, not DonaldJ, not anyone else here. You.

The topic introduced by Ugh was the expansion of the drone program, by the CIA, to target people who, basically, "look suspicious". We don't know who they are, we don't know exactly what they're doing, but it "looks suspicious" to us, so we are going to kill them.

I'm not seeing the WWII connection. I'm not seeing a responsible use of power.

I'm seeing the continuation of Cheney's 1% doctrine. I'm seeing the continuation of the American practice of discarding its principles when they become inconvenient or problematic. I'm seeing the pursuit of political and military goals by an agency that is not accountable to military command and control, and that is barely accountable to Congress. And I'm seeing the continuation of policies that compromise our credibility in the world, and that create tremendous ill will toward us.

I think all of that sucks, and I find it completely appropriate to say so.

The reason conservatives have gained power in the US is because lots of folks think their policies are perfectly splendid. Not because DonaldJ, or Ugh, or I make critical comments about Obama's foreign policy on a blog.

Another reason conservatives have done so well in recent decades is that they have engaged in a deliberate program of changing the terms of debate. It's called moving the Overton window, and the window moves specifically by NOT presenting your point of view in ways carefully crafted to not make waves.

So I'm not buying the "don't criticize Obama" argument on political strategy merits either.

I like Obama quite well, but he is not the be-all and end-all of progressive government in the US. I'm not going to temper everything I think and say based on how it will effect Obama's chances, not least because nobody gives a crap what I say.

But also not least because that's not my freaking job.

Apr 26, 2012, 03:25:23 sapient wrote:

Well, we agree then. I guess I don't understand why the term is used at all.

In moral terms, to me, it would be much easier to draw bright lines if I were a pacifist. But I'm not. So then it becomes a matter of what I'm comfortable with and how I justify it. If people were to take me to task on my moral thought process, I would completely understand. But in practical terms, that's not what we're faced with. As you acknowledge (and thank you for that), we live in a world where there are two political choices with starkly different outcomes.

A lot of what Digby says in the post you linked to I do agree with. I don't agree with this paragraph:

"None of this is to say that President Obama hasn't been eager to advance the security state, particularly considering that his campaign in 2008 largely rested on his alleged anti-war bonafides. He is reported to particularly enjoy the secret authority of the commander in chief, so he is deserving of some special condemnation."

Obama didn't run as an anti-war candidate. He always spoke about focusing where the actual threat was coming from. When Digby talks about his enjoyment of the secret authority of the commander in chief, she links to herself, linking to David Ignatius who provides unsourced psychoanalysis of the Obama's attitudes.

And then she talks about people of conscience, as though Obama, the sell-out, doesn't have one.

I think the idea of "the national security state" and how it works, and whether we need it, or whether we need so much secrecy, or whether we're damaging our future with our foreign policy, etc. - all of those things are worth discussing, although the picture is very big, and discussing it generally tends to be a conversation among various dogmas.

Someone who devoted his post-Harvard Law School years to community organizing in Chicago's south side is as close to a "person of conscience" (by my definition) as I can imagine ever being elected to make these calls. I just don't believe that he is so power-drunk that he's not still using his conscience to figure out what to do. In other words, I am inclined to trust his judgment, or at least pose the possibility that he might have compelling reasons for choosing a particular course.

We're so totally screwed? No, actually, we're not. But we will be.

Apr 26, 2012, 03:37:30 sapient wrote:

Sorry, my comment was responding to Donald.

I'll respond to russell when I have more time, but I'd like to point out right away though this: "And nobody was saying a damned thing about your conscience. You were the one disparaging the conscience-based efforts of other people." Perhaps I disagree with the efforts. I also disagree with pretending that they are the only efforts that are "conscience-based."

I'd also like to point out that if you read the article Ugh talks about, you will find out that:

"The agency [the CIA] might be able to replicate that success [of Pakistan] in Yemen, the former intelligence official said. But he expressed skepticism that White House officials, including counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, will approve the CIA’s request.
The situation in Pakistan’s tribal territory 'is far less ambiguous than in Yemen,' the former official said. 'Brennan has been deliberate in making sure targets we hit in Yemen are terrorist targets and not insurgents.'"

In other words, the administration is likely not to approve the CIA's request.

We're so not totally screwed.

Apr 26, 2012, 04:11:17 russell wrote:

"Perhaps I disagree with the efforts."

That's fine.

And if you disagree with the effort, it's more than adequate to simply say so.

"I also disagree with pretending that they are the only efforts that are "conscience-based.""

I don't see anybody pretending anything of the sort.

Apr 26, 2012, 04:46:06 sapient wrote:

When I made the original comment, I was referring to the Digby article that Donald linked to.

I think that there are many people who object to various foreign policy efforts and the way that they are conducted. That's fine. But instead of talking about the issues directly, they talk about the Bill of Rights and their conscience. The Bill of Rights certainly has a bearing on how we treat prisoners of war, and certain other things. It has little to do with enemies on the battlefield.

I understand that there are disputes about "the battlefield" and the "enemy" and whether this is a "war" etc. Those are legitimate topics. But those are the issues. For example, if we are at war and there is an enemy, to what extent to we have to learn the names of each person we see making explosives which we believe they're going to use to blow themselves up in a crowded public space? Etc.

More broadly, we reacted horribly to the 9-11 attack, IMO. If it happened again, I'm not confident that the country wouldn't elect another pack of sadistic imperialists (and yes, I think that the Cheneys fall into that category) to use the attack as an excuse for whatever. I'm not convinced that the drone warfare that's happening in Pakistan is the worst moral choice ever. It might be wise. I think its defensible. When we talk about it, I don't think it should be in terms of "people of conscience" versus "people without conscience".

Apr 26, 2012, 05:53:04 DonaldJ wrote:

It's too easy--it's always been too easy--for Americans to trust that our government is blowing up the right people. There are a lot of reasons for preferring Democrats to Republicans, but on this issue the difference is depressingly small. And when we blow up the wrong people, apart from the morality of that, it tends to increase the number of people who would like to see another 9/11.

I don't really expect anything from an American President except rationalizations and BS on this subject. All the incentives are in favor of lying. A President has to be seen as "tough" and "macho" in foreign policy and if anything a Democratic President has to prove it more. If Obama seemed to have the concerns of human rights organizations regarding who we can blow up and who we can't, and if there was another terrorist attack on our soil, he'd be ripped to shreds. Or that's how it is now. I would like to see a day where Americans didn't reward macho posturing, but don't see how we arrive at that point without criticizing macho posturing.

Apr 26, 2012, 06:35:39 russell wrote:

"I understand that there are disputes about "the battlefield" and the "enemy" and whether this is a "war" etc."

Yes, that is correct.

Other disputes, relevant here:

Whether the CIA should be engaging in military action, of any kind, at all.

Whether we should be supporting political regimes who are arguably illegitimate, in order to achieve what are basically tactical goals.

Whether a military response to terrorist organizations is effective in the first place, and if so, in what cases.

The issue of conscience is relevant because some things are actually wrong, and the reason to not do them is because they are actually wrong, regardless of whatever pragmatic advantage they bring.

And as it turns out, quite often the 'pragmatic advantages' we glean from doing stuff that is, quite simply, f**king wrong are chimerical. That list is actually quite long.

You appear to object to the use of 'person of conscience' as a term. I have no attachment to it, that's fine with me. My only point is that, contrary to your dismissive reference, people who have acted out of conscience have prompted many of the biggest changes - good and bad, for that matter - that have happened in our history.

It's the juice behind the politics.

So yes, those self-styled persons of conscience have been very very effective, for pretty much the entire history of the US.

Apr 26, 2012, 07:25:06 sapient wrote:

Donald, I pretty much agree with your 5:53ish comment.


"people who have acted out of conscience have prompted many of the biggest changes - good and bad, for that matter - that have happened in our history."

I agree with that.

"So yes, those self-styled persons of conscience have been very very effective, for pretty much the entire history of the US."

To the extent that they were "self-styled persons of conscience," as opposed to people who were listening to their conscience, I would argue that the moral self-aggrandizers aren't necessarily the effective ones, at least not towards the values that I would support.

Apr 26, 2012, 08:50:43 sapient wrote:

I'd like to bring people's attention to a recent L.A. Times article:

and, particularly to this sentence: "In the meantime, the White House has raised the bar to who the CIA is allowed to target [in Pakistan], applying new limits and all but curtailing so-called 'signature strikes' where CIA targeters deemed certain groups and behavior as clearly indicative of militant activity."

Basically, Obama is taking a more "conservative" (using the term generically) approach to how we're behaving in Pakistan, as well as trying to draw down the war in Afghanistan.

So are we so totally screwed? I would argue that, in terms of our President's decisions, no, we are not so totally screwed. In terms of the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan, maybe they are. Especially the women folk.

Apr 26, 2012, 10:25:55 russell wrote:

"the White House has raised the bar to who the CIA is allowed to target"

Glad to hear it.

Apr 26, 2012, 23:38:38 DonaldJ wrote:

Glenn has a somewhat different view of
a story about what sounds like a similar policy in Yemen--

This might be a step forward. At least they're not claiming (as Brennan did) that drone strikes do not kill civilians. It's good if they take more care not to kill civilians, but we'll see how that works out. I'm a little cautious when governments talk about only killing people who engage in behavior "clearly indicative of militant activity"? And are we at war with all "militants"?

Apr 26, 2012, 23:50:55 DonaldJ wrote:

Just to keep you from exploding, sapient, I agree with the bulk of Obama's list of accomplishments as mentioned in this excerpt from a Rolling Stone interview--

Apr 27, 2012, 00:59:57 sapient wrote:

Thanks, Donald, esp. for the Balloon Juice link. I read BJ quite regularly but for some reason haven't been lately. Makes me happy.

I won't read the Glenn link - sorry - my own technique to keep myself from exploding.

Apr 27, 2012, 01:31:49 Slartibartfast wrote:

"He always spoke about focusing where the actual threat was coming from."

That would be...where? Afghanistan? Libya?

Conservatives? Bitter clingers to religion and guns?

Little crippled girls waiting to get on an airplane?

Seriously, where?

Apr 27, 2012, 01:49:38 sapient wrote:

Slartibartfast, sorry you're confused, but since we're talking about what Obama said, and it's recorded, you can clear things up pretty quickly by listening to him:

Apr 27, 2012, 02:08:45 Ugh wrote:

Fortunately there's a non-Glenn link:


"The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said.
U.S. officials said that Obama approved the use of 'signature' strikes this month and that the killing of an al-Qaeda operative near the border of Yemen’s Marib province this week was among the first attacks carried out under the new authority."

Apr 27, 2012, 02:17:15 Ugh wrote:

And the bootstrapping:

"In recent months, U.S. spy agencies have collected intelligence indicating plots against American diplomats or U.S. special operations troops who are working alongside Yemeni counter-terrorism units."

Apr 27, 2012, 02:38:32 sapient wrote:

Also from the article:

"Congressional officials have expressed concern that using signature strikes would raise the likelihood of killing militants who are not involved in plots against the United States, angering Yemeni tribes and potentially creating a new crop of al-Qaeda recruits."

I wonder why those "congressional officials" aren't named. Or why Congressional concern trolls haven't engaged in a public discussion of this matter.

Apr 27, 2012, 04:23:35 DonaldJ wrote:

"I wonder why those "congressional officials" aren't named."

I can think of various possible reasons, but don't know. If they are Democrats, they might not want to be seen criticizing Obama openly in an election year. Republicans (if some are privately rational) might not want to be seen publicly expressing opposition to killing Muslims.

" Or why Congressional concern trolls haven't engaged in a public discussion of this matter."

I don't know why they would be trolls. The concern expressed seems perfectly legitimate.

Apr 27, 2012, 05:07:02 sapient wrote:

I don't know, Donald. For one thing, what is a Congressional official? A Congressperson? Any Congressperson who is concerned about policy should be on the record, IMO, including Democratic critics. Besides, they could easily have avoided the "seeming to criticize" if they'd said something when the earlier article was written, but of course did not have the courage to do so. I think it's irresponsible for Greg Miller to use this unsourced quote.

I'm not a fan of the Washington Post, and this is an example of why. In addition to unsourced quotes, Bruce Ackerman's legal analysis is cited (the same Bruce Ackerman who believes that Obama's appointment of Elizabeth Warren to begin the CFPB was another step towards the imperial presidency). But his view (while legitimate, and worthy of note) isn't the only legal opinion on the subject. (See, e.g. Robert Chesney.)

My calling the "congressional official" a concern troll is about the reluctance to go public with an opinion. If it's so politically deathly to oppose the policy, why does anyone expect Obama to do it?

Apr 27, 2012, 05:08:41 sapient wrote:

Just to add: The reason a Congressperson needs to go public is that it's the job of Congress to exercise checks and balances, not to be an unnamed critic. Executive power grabbing? Imperial presidency? I would say impotent Congress.

Somebody has to step up to make decisions.

Apr 27, 2012, 06:28:22 Slartibartfast wrote:

"Somebody has to step up to make decisions."

That rationale has turned out poorly for many, many millions of people.

Apr 27, 2012, 09:36:07 sapient wrote:

Slartibartfast, you're a bit too cryptic for me to respond to. Perhaps I'm too linear? All I know is that I don't understand a word you say. Sorry, I tried.

Decisions turn out well or badly depending on whether they're good or bad. Life doesn't just happen in this world - our actions and inactions affect each other. Or maybe not? Again, I don't really get your comment, and I assure you that maybe it's me.

Apr 27, 2012, 21:20:26 russell wrote:

for laughs and giggles, i just went back and re-read the AUMF it authorizes the use of military force against folks involved in planning or executing the 9/11 attacks, and/or folks who harbor those folks.

that expanded into a war against al-qaeda. whatever 'al qaeda' is, and the definition of what al qaeda is, and who is or is not in it, is not so crisp.

that has now expanded to launching missiles at people places and things if the CIA thinks it looks like they might be bad people engaged in bad things.

as far as i can tell, ackerman is right. this is well beyond what was authorized in the AUMF. if you think otherwise, i invite you to explain why.

and by 'explain why' i don't mean give me 1,000 reasons why it might be a good idea to kill people who want to kill us, i mean explain why this particular action is authorized by the AUMF.

or, if that's not available, explain what other authorization the president has to expand the use of military force in this way.

the CIA is not part of the armed forces. i don't understand why they are allowed to employ military force at all in the first place.

analyzing intelligence for 'signatures' of suspicious activity is not an exact science. it's not a science at all. it is, literally, a guessing game. it's a process of making more or less well-informed guesses, based on partial or unclear information.

so we are now authorizing a non-military organization to blow people up, with missiles, in a country and in the midst of a population that we are otherwise not at war with, based on their best guess that Somebody Bad is doing Something Bad in a given place at a given time.

and this is a non-military organization with a piss-poor track record of using military force and political violence wisely or well.

i appreciate that it reflects badly on obama when people raise questions about this stuff. and i would really, really, really prefer another four years of obama to even one long afternoon of mitt romney as president.

but this isn't just about obama. it's not even primarily about obama. there are much, much larger things at stake here than who wins this fall. believe it or not.

Apr 28, 2012, 00:52:11 Ugh wrote:

Look, Obama Administration reverses itself on...child labor in agri-business:

This was necessary because....?

Apr 28, 2012, 01:40:36 Ugh wrote:

More context from the Washington Post:


Which makes this move look even more craven, to wit "Three-quarters of working children under 16 who died of work-related injuries in 2010 were in agriculture, according to the Child Labor Coalition."

Apr 28, 2012, 03:19:36 sapient wrote:

russell, I agree that the CIA drone attacks are problematic, but they are authorized under Title 50 of the U.S. Code. An interesting short article is here: http://www.defensemedianetw... and a longer article (which is referenced in the shorter one, and which I haven't finished reading myself) is here:

So much of this is secret, that there's no way for the public to know for sure how effective and necessary it is. I'm very uncomfortable with that too, but I can also see an argument for it (as well as the secrecy). There's certainly an argument that focused drone attacks are a more gentle policy than a full fledged war and occupation of a country. Obviously, it would be nice if we lived in a peaceful world, but we don't. The question becomes: Are there organized groups of people in the world whom we need to take violent action against before they attack us (or other civilians in other nations)? If the answer is yes, and the targeted people don't control the government of a country but they do have a well-funded and effective enterprise, how do we organize our efforts against them? I'm not sure that drone attacks are a bad answer to that question in certain circumstances. I agree that there should be more guidance as to when they can be authorized, and more public discussion generally. But I don't see a possibility of that happening in a constructive way at this particular time, do you? So I'm left with trusting that Obama is trying to do the right thing (which since he represents my views on many issues, I feel okay about doing). Would I trust Bush? No! I wouldn't, and didn't, trust Bush even to use ordinary military powers with wisdom.

As far as the AUMF is concerned, Congress wrote it, Congress can object to its continued use as a justification for drone attacks, Congress can amend it and Congress can repeal it. Where is Congress? The tacit approval of Congress is IMO tantamount to supplementary authorization. Whenever we hear anything from Congress, it's about doing more destruction, not less.

Finally, as has already been discussed, if there's another terrorist attack, we really are screwed. I don't want one - not only because I'd like us to avoid the carnage, but I really wouldn't want to face the political fallout.

Our country is in a difficult situation, I admit it. I don't think there are any easy answers.

Apr 28, 2012, 06:43:12 DonaldJ wrote:

Um, wait, we're now at war with every group of people who might attack civilians in other nations? What's next, air strikes on our own allies and our own military bases?
And why can't we have a constructive discussion at this time? Sure, the incentives are all in favor of Democratic politicians talking tough and blowing people up to establish their national security credentials, something I said above, but that's a description of the problem, not a reason for applauding Democrats when they blow people up, some of whom might be innocent or if they are militants, might not be at war with us. (Though if we blow some of them up, they will be.)

And this business of trusting some individual who is unaccountable and not another--well, I thought our system was set up to minimize the need for that sort of thing. Why bother with checks and balances on warmaking powers if it all boils down to which individual we "trust"?

Apr 28, 2012, 11:32:33 sapient wrote:

Donald: "Um, wait, we're now at war with every group of people who might attack civilians in other nations?"

No, of course not. Should have said and, not or. I definitely need an editor.

Why can't we have a constructive discussion? Well, I guess "we" can, here on this blog. But I notice that the people who actually have power to do something aren't talking publically. Did you note my objection to the "Congressional official" who was quoted anonymously? Is that constructive discussion? I don't think so.

As to "trusting some individual who is unaccountable," that individual is not unaccountable at all. I do believe in checks and balances. That's why I'm always ranting: where's Congress? Congress has the power to exercise checks. Why isn't it doing so?

Apr 28, 2012, 12:34:21 russell wrote:

"they are authorized under Title 50 of the U.S. Code"

Can you point me to the relevant article? Not trying to jerk you around, there's just a lot in Title 50 and I'd like to see what you're referring to.

Thanks in advance, no snark.

Over the years I've tried to think of some situation from our history that's analogous to the current threat from militant Islam. The nearest thing I can come up with is the anarchist movement at the cusp of the 19th-20th C.

Anarchism was an international movement, and it sought the overthrow of most of the institutions in the US at that time. Wall St was bombed, a President was assassinated, the home of the AGUSA was bombed. Luigi Galleani, then a resident of Vermont, published a magazine laying out detailed instructions on how to build and use bombs to further the anarchist program.

It was kind of a hairy time.

The national response was to round up anarchists and deport them. A lot of the investigation and rounding up ran roughshod over the civil rights of the folks involved, and those actions were later - and not that much later - repudiated.

Nobody was assassinated. Nobody was sent to a supermax in Florence CO to slowly sink into permanent psychosis as a result of a regime of rigorous isolation. No teams of trained professional killers were sent abroad to find and neutralize anarchist plotters in their lairs, even though there were anarchist plotters to be found in plenty.

There are lots of differences between then and now. But one of the differences is that the strongest, most controversial federal response was the Palmer raids, and those were repudiated within a year or two. They proved to be the end of Palmer's political career.

It's been over 10 years since 9/11, and we're hunting scary arabs with missiles in whatever weird obscure god-forsaken corner of the planet we can get to.

What the hell happened to us?

Another dimension to this is that, if you build are really really cool hammer, not only does everything look like a nail, you are highly likely to go looking for nails.

In other words, having all these cool space-age weapons seems to incline us to use them.

It seems to be human nature.

If we had to actually put real live human beings on the ground in Yemen, or Somalia, or wherever, in order to find and kill all these people who are dire existential threats to Americans, I'm not sure we'd do it. And that makes me wonder how essential it is.

"We're guided by the beauty of our weapons", says Leonard Cohen. There's something to that.

Last but not least, I don't trust the CIA directorate of ops any further than I can throw them. I have some exposure, through professional work, with the discipline involved in moving from intelligence to a decision to engage a target on the military side. I don't really have a lot of faith that the CIA has the same level of discipline. They don't have the same degree of visibility, they don't have the same level of civilian accountability and oversight, and their track record sucks. I don't trust them, and to be perfectly honest I wouldn't mind seeing them shut down.

Gathering intelligence is a valuable function. Blowing people up should be limited to military channels, IMVHO.

Apr 28, 2012, 21:36:16 DonaldJ wrote:

The anonymous Congressional official(s) made legitimate points. I'm not sure I understand you here. You defend every action Obama takes, but here your complaint is that Congress should be going further and exerting real control. Well, yes they should, and they don't.

Apr 28, 2012, 21:42:15 Slartibartfast wrote:

"Slartibartfast, you're a bit too cryptic for me to respond to."

This is not too difficult. Giving someone or some organization a lot of power purely because there are tough decisions to be made can and has turned out very very badly. Obvious example, without intent to Godwin: Nazi Germany.

I see myself as (hopefully) becoming less trusting that our leadership will do the right thing, and I see sapient as getting more trusting. But that might be just the relative positions of power of our parties of preference.

I is alliterate, apparently.

Apr 28, 2012, 21:54:57 sapient wrote:

russell, as to Title 50, I think it's a fairly complicated compilation of 50 U.S.C. 413a and 413b, as well as executive orders and congressional authorizations that aren't codified. The articles that I referred to earlier talk loosely about Title 10 (military) and Title 50, and there's another article here: Those articles aren't completely responsive, but the language of those sections is vague, and contemplates classified conversations and authorizations between the President and the agencies and Congress.

I'm not here to champion the way the law has developed. I share your concerns about the CIA, and agree that the history of that organization doesn't inspire confidence. On the other hand, wars aren't fought the way they used to be fought and if drone warfare is what will be used, how the targets are determined seem logically an intelligence task. I absolutely agree with you about accountability and oversight but, again, the place to ask for more of that is Congress. It's impossible, of course, to say whether we would be doing the same things if we had to put people on the ground to do them, but human history is replete with examples of our freely spending young lives on war, so I'm not prepared to imagine that we'd suddenly stop.

As to the comparison with the turn of the 19th century to 20th century anarchist movement, I don't completely agree with your view of history. Sure, the specific actions taken against anarchists in this country seem tame compared to today, but the paranoia about "anarchism/socialism" (which were very much tied together in the minds of the capitalist mainstream, and even among the intellectuals involved in those movements) was at least partly responsible for the United States intervention in the Russian Civil War, the Red Scare, the Cold War, and arguably the state that we're in today. So, yeah, the war is fought differently, and the enemy is more narrowly chosen. I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Apr 28, 2012, 22:03:43 sapient wrote:

Slaribartfast, I champion checks and balances constantly. "Where is Congress?" I constantly ask.

No, I am not in favor of Nazi-ism, and thanks that we don't have it. But since we seem to have a system that allows the President a lot of authority, and we also have an impotent (or destructive) Congress, it's really important to elect a President who is likely to make smart decisions. I trust Obama to use wisely the powers that the President obviously has been allowed by Congress.

Apr 29, 2012, 00:03:34 Slartibartfast wrote:

That's fine that you trust Obama, sapient, but I do not.

Apr 30, 2012, 01:08:54 DonaldJ wrote:

I know you have this allergy to him, sapient, but you really should read this Glenn link from today--

Or just click on his links. As he mentioned, Chris Hayes had a discussion about the drones on his show yesterday. ( Chris Hayes does the only consistently intelligent show on MSNBC as far as I know.)

But since you might not click on GG, here are two particularly relevant paragraphs--

"Later that day, Hayes tweeted this: “A bit taken aback by the ugliness that drone conversation seems to bring out in some people.” What he meant was the avalanche of angry Twitter attacks from steadfast Obama loyalists who gleefully defended the drone program, mocked concerns over civilian deaths, and insisted that he should not be covering such matters because they may harm Obama in an election year (of course, it’s not only the President’s followers, but, as Hayes noted, the President himself who is quite adept at finding humor in his drone attacks).

Contrary to Bergen’s generous belief that progressives are deluding themselves about Obama’s militarism, many are fully aware of it and, because it’s a Democrat doing it, have become aggressively supportive of it. That, without a doubt, will be one of Obama’s most enduring legacies: transforming these policies of excessive militarism, rampant secrecy and civil liberties assaults from right-wing radicalism into robust bipartisan consensus (try though they might, not even progressives will be able to turn around and credibly pretend to object to such things the next time there is a GOP President)."

Apr 30, 2012, 06:47:57 sapient wrote:

Right, Donald. Judging from the paragraphs you quoted, I don't really want to read it. The fact that he states that Obama supporters "glleefully" defend the drone program, "mocked concerns" over civilian deaths - the quoted words are exactly why I despise Glenn Greenwald. I don't know many people who are "gleeful" about war generally, much less the drone program. I'm certainly not.

And then the second paragraph is all about false equivalencies between Obama and Bush. Excessive militarism? Obama got us out of Iraq and is trying to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Rampant secrecy? Obama closed down the infamous "black sites" - and, sure, there's classified stuff - we're still fighting the inherited war. Civil liberties assaults? Give me a break.

Apr 30, 2012, 12:46:54 DonaldJ wrote:

He was referring to some specific tweets, I think. You ought to watch the Saturday Chris Hayes show, or the parts about the drone program. Obama himself made a stupid joke about drones himself a year or two ago.

As for the rest, there's more to life than who supports Obama or says mean things about Obama supporters. You can't stand Glenn but Glenn is just a convenient place to go for information about US human rights violations, whether under Bush or Obama or any future President. He's not the primary source and the fact that he hurts your feelings by generalizing about Obama supporters (he doesn't mean every single one--you don't see digby usually taking offense, for instance) is or should be irrelevant. On the drone issue you could see some of the people who've done the actual reporting and investigating on the Chris Hayes show. That's true on virtually every issue he writes about.

As for false equivalences, yawn. I'm certain that a lot of the outrage about Bush human rights violations was more about Bush than the violations. If McCain had won and had carried out identical policies to Obama on drones I'm also certain there would be more--much more--criticism of those policies from Obama supporters than there is in this universe. And as for black sites, Jeremy Scahill was writing about one last year--

As for Iraq, my understanding is that the Iraqi government got us out of Iraq. And as for "excessive militarism", Glenn was actually basing his piece on something that appeared in the NYT today

Apr 30, 2012, 21:45:42 sapient wrote:

Donald, do you really think it would have mattered what the Iraqi government thought if Bush/Cheney had been in office?

I occasionally watch the Chris Hayes show (although Saturday is rarely TV time for me). I agree that it's been worthwhile when I've seen it.

I don't think the NYTimes editorial substantiates the charge of "excessive militarism". For a "war", the casualty count has been quite low. And as to civilian casualties in Afghanistan caused by coalition forces, see
They've gone steadily down under Obama.

Anyway, I don't object to people keeping tabs on actual or potential human rights violations by the CIA. Context is important though, and it's also nice to keep in mind what the object is, what the alternatives are, and what changes can be made. Obviously some people don't think that it's necessary or appropriate to use either the CIA or the military to find and fight people whose purpose is to organize suicide bombers to blow up civilians. When we disagree on the premise, it's certainly going to be difficult to agree on the process.

Apr 30, 2012, 21:48:41 sapient wrote:

Oh, and just one other thing: people who object to fighting terrorists as a "war" also object to the "adversarial process." So I'm not sure where that leaves us as far as they are concerned.

May 01, 2012, 00:11:40 DonaldJ wrote:

"Donald, do you really think it would have mattered what the Iraqi government thought if Bush/Cheney had been in office?"

I don't know. Neither do you. I see that sort of argument used quite often--pick persons or people or groups that are regarded as "bad" (and I put Bush/Cheney in that category) and then demonize them further. People use this framing all the time, but it proves nothing.

Anyway, your argument has changed--previously, Obama was given credit for taking us out of Iraq and now he's given credit for not being as bad as he could have been.

You can watch Chris Hayes online--better yet, you can watch just segments that are of interest online.

"Obviously some people don't think that it's necessary or appropriate to use either the CIA or the military to find and fight people whose purpose is to organize suicide bombers to blow up civilians. "

Are we back to that? It's our duty to fight everyone in the world who (according to us) might be plotting to kill civilians?

May 01, 2012, 00:34:47 sapient wrote:

My argument about Obama hasn't changed. On Iraq, he opposed it from the beginning and he followed through on a sane way to leave. I don't know how to fault him on that, or why anyone would want to do so.

"Are we back to that? It's our duty to fight everyone in the world who (according to us) might be plotting to kill civilians?"

I think it's worth discussing who we should be fighting and why, or what we should do about the very real fact that people are involved in a movement to use suicide bombers to kill massive numbers of civilians in our country and others. Do we need to know exactly which building they're going to hit before we take action, or do we try to incapacitate the movement generally?

My own view is that law enforcement methods should be used when possible, and military methods should be used when necessary. Are there problems with such a policy? Yes. Are there other problems with not pursuing such a policy? Yes.

May 01, 2012, 01:57:56 russell wrote:

"Do we need to know exactly which building they're going to hit before we take action"

I would say that, in a context where "take action" means "fire missiles into civilian neighborhoods in countries with whom we are not otherwise at war", that it makes sense for us to know who *we* are going to hit before we take action.

It seems like a pretty freaking low bar, to me.

May 01, 2012, 02:04:52 sapient wrote:

russell, it's helpful when you make inflammatory statements to say which "civilian neighborhoods" you're talking about, and whether it was a mistake.

Again, it serves no one's interest to kill innocents. Aside from the morality (which even I don't ignore), even the most callous war monger realizes that doing so is counterproductive.

Also, I hope you checked out the link regarding the progressive decrease in the number of civilian casualties under Obama, whose defense establishment is learning and implementing more careful policies (possibly at a price of U.S. military lives).

And in news regarding Obama's intelligent foreign policy, the threat of military strikes against Iran seems to have been reduced:

But, I'm sure he won't get any credit for that (and obviously we're not out of the woods completely).

May 01, 2012, 02:09:18 sapient wrote:

By the way, russell, aside from stating the obvious that we shouldn't bomb civilians, what do you think we should do about people who are organizing and training suicide bombers to purposely hit civilian targets here and elsewhere? Nothing? Arrest them after the fact (even though they hide in countries where it's impossible)? Take on the role of the Executive for a moment and let us know what you would do, rather than what you wouldn't do.

May 01, 2012, 02:10:30 DonaldJ wrote:

What Russell said.

Also, another non Glenn person comments on the NYT piece--

May 01, 2012, 02:31:37 DonaldJ wrote:

I should have linked to this earlier, but here is the Michael Hastings article in Rolling Stone about the drone program. I think Hastings was one of the people on Chris Hayes last Saturday--

May 01, 2012, 02:41:12 sapient wrote:

A rise in killer drones during Obama's administration, and a reduction in civilian casualties. And that's bad because ....?

May 01, 2012, 09:32:34 russell wrote:

"aside from stating the obvious that we shouldn't bomb civilians, what do you think we should do about people who are organizing and training suicide bombers to purposely hit civilian targets here and elsewhere?"

Something other than dropping missiles on people who are not trying to harm us.

"Take on the role of the Executive for a moment and let us know what you would do, rather than what you wouldn't do."

Remember this question, from way upthread?

"What have you, personally, accomplished, sapient? What have you ever put on the line?"

Why did I ask you that? Can you guess?

I asked you that because every time somebody questions anything Obama does, you will eventually reply as you have replied to me, here.

"Well then, what would *you* do?"

Here was your reply when that rhetorical gambit was turned back on you:

"And, no, I'm not going to recite my personal accomplishments and failures. "

So, you can dish it out, but you can't take it.

I'm fine with taking it, however, and am perfectly happy to make a reply.

Were I the executive, I hope I would do the f**king harder and better thing, and not respond to the crimes of a generous handful of individuals by turning other people's neighborhoods into war zones.

What I hope I would do would be to institute reasonable and effective security procedures so that, no matter what some violent asshole on the other side of the planet wanted to do, it would actually be kind of hard to blow up Americans.

What I hope I would do would be to actually acknowledge and perhaps even try to address some of the complaints that other people in the world have about this country and its foreign policy, and which give rise to some - not all, but some - of the violence that folks try to inflict on us.

And I hope that I would provide some kind of meaningful moral leadership at a difficult time, such that people would understand that you can, after all, only be so safe, and it's not worth abandoning our own principles and credibility in the world to try to gain some incremental additional bit of security.

What I hope I would *not* do is give the fucking CIA directorate of ops permission to fire missiles at people because they think their behavior is suspicious.

So, you declined to answer my "what would you do" question, however I have answered yours. I'll not answer another, so don't bother asking. If you wish to deal with the substance of anything I have to say, fine, otherwise I'm not going to engage in discussion with you. It's f***ing rude to reply to people by presenting them with cute little hoops to jump through.

May 01, 2012, 10:26:42 DonaldJ wrote:

Fine, sapient, don't take the drone issue seriously. It's good that overall fewer people are dying under Obama in Afghanistan and Iraq than before, but that's not a tough standard to meet--somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million civilians died in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

It's not good that we are killing people, many of them civilian, in other places with drones. It's bad in itself and it also might turn out bad for Americans, if we are creating new enemies who bitterly resent it. But sure, everything is judged according to whether it makes Obama look good or bad, then I suppose it makes sense to respond the way you respond.

May 01, 2012, 12:34:04 sapient wrote:

Sorry you are offended, russell. My question wasn't an attempt to offend. And your earlier question to me, about "what have I done" seemed to me to be a request to list the various sacrifices I've made to prove that I am a "person of conscience" which is what we were talking about when you asked. That, to me, seemed like an unfair question, as though you're asking me to go to confession.

What I asked you was more in the nature of "what would you do if you were President," in other words, what would your ideal President do as a matter of policy to address the problem of terrorism? You answered me, and I'm satisfied with that, but I don't really understand the anger component. I wasn't asking you something like "russell, how many hours have you spent in jail as a prisoner of conscience?" If you don't get the difference, you're not such a sensitive guy after all.

I basically have come to this conversation in a good faith attempt to talk to people about something we disagree on. I think it's perfectly fair that you think what we should do is to increase our internal security and hope for the best. I disagree, depending on the threat posed by people attempting massive violence. I don't know that it's "effective moral leadership" to ask that our civilian citizens (as well as other nations' civilians who suffer from al Qaeda attacks) to endure suicide bombings when we're in a position to stop the people who are coordinating them. (And, just to note, most of the places where drone strikes have occurred are already war zones - we're not turning peaceful, functional nations into war zones.)

So, sorry again, russell, if you considered my question to you a "cute little hoop." Thanks for answering it.

Donald, I do take the drone issue seriously. ( I see that the link of casualty figures that I referred to isn't working. If you'd like, go to Wikipedia and search for Civilian casualties in the War in Afghanistan (2001–present) which is the name of the article. ) The casualty figures I mentioned didn't include Iraq. They were strictly for Afghanistan where we have taken increased casualties, in order to pursue a policy that more carefully spares civilians. Drone warfare has targeted people who are most likely to be the "enemy" and excluded civilians to a greater extent than other types of warfare.

I realize that you believe we shouldn't be fighting at all - okay, I get it. But it's unrealistic to pretend that any president would put an immediate unilateral end to fighting a war that Congress authorized. If you and russell think that's plausible, fine. Eventually, perhaps you can find someone who will provide the "meaningful moral leadership" that russell talks about.

May 01, 2012, 13:06:14 DonaldJ wrote:

Sapient, if I concede that civilian deaths inflicted by the US are down in Afghanistan (something I never disputed and have no problem admitting), will you concede that there might be a problem with the use of drones in Yemen and Pakistan? Getting you to concede that the US might be doing anything wrong anywhere is like pulling teeth when Obama might be to blame. I'm ready to give up--it's like talking to a Bush supporter in 2002-2005.

Another link.

May 01, 2012, 22:04:18 sapient wrote:

Donald, I concede that "there might be a problem with the use of drones in Yemen and Pakistan." I don't concede that there is a problem, or that the President is "power-grabbing," etc., but I'm not comfortable with the lack of public discussion about the limits of this war. That situation I blame on Congress, whose AUMF has been read to be open-ended, without any objection from Congress.

That said, in any public discussion, I would support the use of drones against people (al Qaeda and people emulating their terror techniques) who take shelter in a country without a functional legal system in order to carry on a program to recruit, train and equip suicide bombers to carry out terrorist attacks aimed at our country or our allies (or in some cases other countries not our allies). Although drone warfare (or warfare of any kind, for that matter) isn't a pleasant thing, less pleasant is the thousands of civilians who have been targeted and killed by al Qaeda. To the extent that we have disabled that organization, I'm happy for it. (The war in Iraq and Bush's mishandling of Afghanistan were obviously a huge setback to this process.)

May 03, 2012, 01:49:13 DonaldJ wrote:

A policy that results in the killing of hundreds (and possibly thousands) of innocent people to prevent bad guys from killing thousands of other innocent people is morally problematic at best. Plus it may lead to more people who want to kill us. There's the arrogance of the thing--no matter what I might think of my own government I wouldn't like to live in a world where other countries felt free to send in assassins (human or mechanical) to take out real or alleged American war criminals, nor would I care to listen to excuses made for the civilians killed as well.

Also, I don't really see why the blame for the lack of serious public discussion should be placed solely on Congress--there's blame to be shared with the Administration as well.

Another link, this one to Medea Benjamin responding to Brennan's comments a day or two ago--

May 03, 2012, 04:56:55 sapient wrote:

Equally morally problematic is allowing mass murderers to coordinate and carry out their efforts undeterred. Sometimes war is justified, even though it's ugly. It seems to me that trying to limit it inasmuch as possible to fighting against the warriors is the best approach.

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