Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.

The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Swatting the Bottom of the Workforce.

This Dec. 2 Salon.com article describes in refreshing clarity what is happening right now in the U.S. on the bottom wrung of the employment ladder. What it comes down to is working people who do not bring in enough on full time employment to meet the basic needs of living from week to week. The battle described between WalMart and McDonald's executives and a few base-wage employees who possess the courage to stand up for themselves pinpoints what it is Americans (and residents of other G8 countries) have lost track of and don't have any business ignoring.

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

What does the drama in Washington over the “fiscal cliff” have to do with strikes and work stoppages among America’s lowest-paid workers at Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza?

Everything.

Jobs are slowly returning to America, but most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 7 out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage — like serving customers at big-box retailers and fast-food chains. That’s why the median wage keeps dropping, especially for the 80 percent of the workforce that’s paid by the hour.

It’s also part of the reason why the percent of Americans living below the poverty line has been increasing even as the economy has started to recover — from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2011. More than 46 million Americans now live below the poverty line.

Many of them have jobs. The problem is that these jobs just don’t pay enough to lift their families out of poverty.

So, encouraged by the economic recovery and perhaps also by the election returns, low-wage workers have started to organize.

Yesterday in New York, hundreds of workers at dozens of fast-food chain stores went on strike, demanding a raise to $15-an-hour from their current pay of $8 to $10 an hour (the median hourly wage for food service and prep workers in New York is $8.90 an hour).

Last week, Wal-Mart workers staged demonstrations and walkouts at thousands of Wal-Mart stores, also demanding better pay. The average Wal-Mart employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Wal-Mart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.

These workers are not teenagers. Most have to support their families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of fast-food workers is over 28; and women, who comprise two-thirds of the industry, are over 32. The median age of big-box retail workers is over 30.

Organizing makes economic sense.

Unlike industrial jobs, these can’t be outsourced abroad. Nor are they likely to be replaced by automated machinery and computers. The service these workers provide is personal and direct: Someone has to be on hand to help customers and dole out the burgers.

And any wage gains they receive aren’t likely to be passed on to consumers in higher prices because big-box retailers and fast-food chains have to compete intensely for consumers. They have no choice but to keep their prices low.

That means wage gains are likely to come out of profits – which, in turn, would affect the return to shareholders and the total compensation of top executives.

That wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

According to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, most low-wage workers are employed by large corporations that have been enjoying healthy profits. Three-quarters of these employers (the fifty biggest employers of low-wage workers) are raking in higher revenues now than they did before the recession.

McDonald’s — bellwether for the fast-food industry — posted strong results during the recession by attracting cash-strapped customers, and its sales have continued to rise.

Its CEO, Jim Skinner, got $8.8 million last year. In addition to annual bonuses, McDonald’s also gives its executives a long-term bonus once every three years; Skinner received an $8.3 million long-term bonus in 2009 and is due for another this year. The value of Skinner’s other perks — including personal use of the company aircraft, physical exams and security — rose 19% to $752,000.

Yum!Brands, which operates and licenses Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, has also done wonderfully well. Its CEO, David Novak, received $29.67 million in total compensation last year, placing him at number 23 on Forbes’ list of highest-paid chief executives.

Wal-Mart – the trendsetter for big-box retailers – is also doing well. And it pays its executives handsomely. The total compensation for Wal-Mart’s CEO, Michael Duke, was $18.7 million last year – putting him at number 82 on Forbes’ list.

The wealth of the Walton family – which still owns the lion’s share of Wal-Mart stock — now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

Last week, Wal-Mart announced that the next Wal-Mart dividend will be issued on December 27 instead of January 2, after the Bush tax cut for dividends expires — thereby saving the Wal-Mart family as much as $180 million. (According to the online weekly “Too Much,” this $180 million would be enough to give 72,000 Wal-Mart workers now making $8 an hour a 20-percent annual pay hike. That hike would still leave those workers under the poverty line for a family of three.)

America is becoming more unequal by the day. So wouldn’t it be sensible to encourage unionization at fast-food and big-box retailers?

Yes, but here’s the problem.

The unemployment rate among people with just a high school degree – which describes most (but not all) fast-food and big-box retail workers – is still in the stratosphere. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it at 12.2 percent, and that’s conservative estimate. It was 7.7 percent at the start of 2008.

High unemployment makes it much harder to organize a union because workers are even more fearful than usual of losing their jobs. Eight dollars an hour is better than no dollars an hour. And employers at big-box and fast-food chains have not been reluctant to give the boot to employees associated with attempts to organize for higher wages.

Meanwhile, only half of the people who lose their jobs qualify for unemployment insurance these days. Retail workers in big-boxes and fast-food chains rarely qualify because they hadn’t been on the job long enough or were there only part-time. This makes the risk of job loss even greater.

Which brings us back to what’s happening in Washington.

Washington’s obsession with deficit reduction makes it all the more likely these workers will face continuing high unemployment – even higher if the nation succumbs to deficit hysteria. That’s because cutting government spending reduces overall demand, which hits low-wage workers hardest. They and their families are the biggest casualties of austerity economics.

And if the spending cuts Washington is contemplating fall on low-wage workers whose families are under the poverty line – reducing not only the availability of unemployment insurance but also food stamps, housing assistance, infant and child nutrition, child health care and Medicaid – it will be even worse. (It’s worth recalling, in this regard, that 62 percent of the cuts in the Republican budget engineered by Paul Ryan fell on America’s poor.)

By contrast, low levels of unemployment invite wage gains and make it easier to organize unions. The last time America’s low-wage workers got a real raise (apart from the last hike in the minimum wage) was in the late 1990s, when unemployment dropped to 4 percent nationally – compelling employers to raise wages in order to recruit and retain them, and prompting a round of labor organizing.

That’s one reason why job growth must be the nation’s number one priority. Not deficit reduction.

Yet neither side in the current “fiscal cliff” negotiations is talking about America’s low-wage workers. They’re invisible in official Washington.

Not only are they unorganized for the purpose of getting a larger share of the profits at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and other giant firms, they’re also unorganized for the purpose of being heard in our nation’s capital. There’s no national association of low-wage workers. They don’t contribute much to political campaigns. They have no Super PAC. They don’t have Washington lobbyists.

But if this nation is to reverse the scourge of widening inequality, Washington needs to start paying attention to them. And the rest of us should do everything we can to pressure Washington and big-box retailers and fast-food chains to raise their pay.

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

Still Extraordinary, a Change of Edition.

Life inside the borders of the United States becomes increasingly stark and alarming as living steadily becomes easier for a slimmer percentage of the population each day. The lifestyle, which former Vice President and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney famously stated is not up for negotiation, falls under criticism for conspicuous consumption in all areas from eating too much to purchasing extravagances that boggle the mind on a regular basis in the name of improving an often mysterious sector of society known to us in daily news as "The Economy." The last time wages increased above the pace of increase in the cost of living here was in the early 1970s. Labor organizations have all but disappeared, leaving the workforce to fend for itself, each individual in a job performance review (for those whose jobs have performance reviews) fending for him or herself. Meanwhile battle overseas has shed boundaries, no longer known by "name of country"+"War", following the chaotic NATO nightmare of Libya, the dissolution of Iraq and Afghanistan into administrative presence of the U.S. military for the rest of eternity and the evident State Department contemplation of acting as it pleases the state in Syria next, someday possibly Iran and Yemen. With the U.S. facing apparently urgent fiscal responsibilities on Capitol Hill, the average citizen is left wondering how we can afford any presence in a country besides our own. Many average Americans have what they refer to as jobs because of U.S. foreign wars, but the commute hardly seems realistic. And operating a machine via satellite that's moving across the other side of the planet in a completely different time of day, frequently to destroy lives of ordinary citizens, seems more like a video game and bizarre at best. If we had better economic priorities in U.S. culture, we might find ourselves building viable occupations and civic institutions at home. Municipalities continue to go bankrupt like in San Bernardino, California and Birmingham, Alabama. Why do individuals and families struggle at local levels as the upper levels of government and industry make excuses and back away, taking with them the revenue generated by working hands? The historic moment immediately following a presidential election is a good time to raise concerns about economic priorities among everyday citizens, especially in a wealth country that holds the user manual on the current global economic system and tends to set examples internationally for how to proceed in the face of adversity and successive failure of the usual solutions. Look to our site for valuable observations and discussions you can get involved in as we proceed into the year 2013.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jeremy Scahill & Tom Engelhardt Talk U.S. Empire

Part of a Lannon Foundation lecture series. Topics include Pakistan, Egypt, Mubarak, People Power in general, Tunisia, Yemen, the Tucson shootings, UAVs, non-drone air warfare in the FATA, Petraeus, McChrystal, active and retired military sources critical of U.S. mission, strategy and tactics and the status of the United States as a force (for anything) in the world in the near future and potential for utter decline. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

FAIR:"Does Anyone Object to U.S. Drone Wars in Pakistan?"

From Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting back on Oct. 3, 2010 by Peter Hart

Apparently not, judging by the Washington Post's October 3 story ("Military Drones Aid CIA's mission") about the CIA's expansion of its drone war in Pakistan. It is "part of a high-stakes attempt by the Obama administration to deal decisive blows to Taliban insurgents," and also "a significant evolution of an already controversial targeted killing program."

Post readers get details from "a U.S. official"--who says things like, "Our intelligence has gotten a lot better." The only other perspective comes from Bruce Reidel at Brookings, who is "a former CIA analyst who led the Obama administration's initial overhaul of its Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy." In other words, not much of a critic.

There are obviously fundamental questions about this policy--such as whether it's legal, something Jim Lobe wrote about recently for Inter Press Service (4/2/10).

Tags: CIA, Jim Lobe, Pakistan

Inter Press Service story from April 2010 ...


Legality of Drone Strikes Still in Question
By Jim Lobe*

WASHINGTON, Apr 2, 2010 (IPS) - While welcoming an initial effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to offer a legal justification for drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists overseas, human rights groups say critical questions remain unanswered.

In an address to an international law group last week, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh insisted that such operations were being conducted in full compliance with international law.

"The U.S. is in armed conflict with al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9/11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defence under international law," he said. "...(I)ndividuals who are part of such armed groups are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law."

Moreover, he went on, "U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war," which require limiting attacks to military objectives and that the damage caused to civilians by those attacks would not be excessive.

While right-wing commentators expressed satisfaction with Koh's evocation of the "right to self-defence" - the same justification used by President George W. Bush - human rights groups were circumspect.

"We are encouraged that the administration has taken the legal surrounding drone strikes seriously," said Jonathan Manes of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "While this was an important and positive first step, a number of controversial questions were left unanswered."

"We still don't know what criteria the government uses to determine that a civilian is acting like a fighter, and can therefore be killed, and... whether there are any geographical limits on where drone strikes can be used to target and kill individuals," he told IPS.

"He didn't really say anything that we took issue with," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), who also complained about the lack of details.

"But it still leaves unanswered the question of how far the war paradigm he's talking about extends. Will it extend beyond, say, ungoverned areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen? Because you don't want to leave a legal theory out there that could be exploited by a country like Russia or China to knock off its political enemies on the streets of a foreign city," he added.

Drone attacks, which have increased significantly under Obama, are widely considered to have become the single-most effective weapon in Washington's campaign disrupt al Qaeda and affiliated groups, especially in the frontier areas of western Pakistan.

In Obama's first year in office, more strikes were carried out than in the previous eight years under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), they reportedly killed "several hundred" al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban militants since Obama in 2009, forcing many of them to flee their border hideouts for large cities where precision attacks would be much harder to carry out without causing heavy civilian casualties.

But the strikes - as well as cruise-missile attacks carried out by the U.S. military against suspected terrorist targets in Yemen and Somalia - have drawn growing criticism from some human rights groups and legal scholars, notably the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Philip Alston, who have argued that several aspects of these operations may violate international law.

Their focus has been less on the use of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Washington's forces are engaged in active hostilities and the Pentagon has implemented relatively transparent procedures to maximise compliance with the laws of war, than on the frontier areas of Pakistan and other "ungoverned" areas where al Qaeda and Taliban militants have gained refuge. The CIA, whose procedures remain secret, is in charge of drone operations.

The weapon itself "is one of the least problematic from a civilian-protection standpoint, because drones can hover over their targets and observe whether civilians are present before delivering a payload, and because they carry relatively small and precisely guided munitions," noted Malinowski.

"The question is a legal one: under what circumstances can you use lethal force at all? Our view has always been that it should be limited to zones of active armed conflict where normal arrest operations are not feasible."

A related question involves who may be targeted. While many authorities insist lethal force can be used under the laws of war against those who are actively participating in armed conflict, the U.S. has used defined participation in very broad terms, including membership in - or even financial support of - an armed group.

In his remarks to the American Society for International Law, Koh, who was one of the harshest and most outspoken critics of the Bush administration's legal tactics in its "global war on terror", acknowledged some of these concerns, noting that his speech "is obviously not the occasion for a detailed legal opinion."

"(W)hether a particular individual will be targeted in a particular location will depend upon considerations specific to each case, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereignty of the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those states to suppress the threat the target poses," he said.

Koh added that Washington will ensure the application of the principles of "distinction" and "proportionality" in the laws of war.

While noting criticism that the use of lethal force against some individuals far removed from the battlefield could amount to an "unlawful extra-judicial killing", he insisted that "a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defence is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force."

"Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise," he said.

Alston, the U.N. rapporteur, was far from satisfied with these assurances, however, calling Koh's statement "evasive".

He "was essentially arguing that 'You've got to trust us. I've looked at this very carefully. I'm very sensitive to these issues. And all is well,'" he told an interviewer on 'Democracy Now' Thursday.

"The speech did not provide essential information about the drone/targeted killing programme, including the number and rate of civilian casualties, and the internal oversight and controls on targeted killing, especially within the CIA," said Manes of the ACLU, which has filed a lawsuit to acquire that information.

Tom Parker of Amnesty International was more scathing about Koh's position, suggesting that it was one more concession - along with indefinite detention and special military tribunals for suspected terrorists - to the framework created by Bush's "global war on terror".

"The big issue is where the war is and whether it's a war, and we couldn't disagree more strongly as to the tenor of Koh's comments," he said. "It goes back to the idea of an unbounded global war on terror where terror is hardly defined at all."

*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Foreign Policy magazine's AfPak Channel has today's lodown on Pakistan's near collapse

Gilani losing his authority and a coalition in the Pakistani government. A suicide bomber on Christmas Day attacking would-be recipients of UN aid. Total number of drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010 lands at 118. AfPak has the full update.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jeremy Scahill on Dec. 2 Democracy Now!: WikiLeaks Cables Confirm Secret U.S. War Ops in Pakistan

Award-winning journalist Jeremy Scahill on the strategy of prevarication implemented by U.S. political and military leadership to confuse the U.S. public about its role in a war in Pakistan that continues but has no official grounding in terms of law, national or international.

Friday, October 22, 2010

More US aid to Pakistan, with mild griping in the place of clear objectives

From BBC News by Kim Ghattas in Washington, Oct. 21, 2010

First, an important stat from the BBC ...

"Since 2005, Pakistan has received more than $1bn (£636.4m) of military aid a year from the US - and received close to $2bn for the last fiscal year."

Next, an excerpt ...

A White House report sent to congress earlier this month laments the Pakistani army's inability to hold territory it has seized from insurgents, a failure that means gains are likely to be short-lived.

"The Pakistan military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al-Qaeda's forces in North Waziristan," the report said, referring to the region in north-western Pakistan seen as a Taliban and al-Qaeda haven.

"This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritizing its targets."

Full story

The end of the BBC piece references an Oct. 19 New York Times editorial written by By Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan.

Its suggestions are clear and outline a possible future of the US in Central Asia that not only continues along the current self-appointed world police trajectory, but reveals how intricately the pursuit of US enemies fits together with conquest and empire. It's a slight variation on colonialism, but with a much more tempestuous wind at its back. Which brings us back to spending tax money on military equipment and missions.


An excerpt ...

The United States should demand that Pakistan shut down all sanctuaries and military support programs for insurgents or else we will carry out operations against those insurgent havens, with or without Pakistani consent. Arguments that such pressure would cause Pakistan to disintegrate are overstated. Pakistan’s institutions, particularly the country’s security organs, are sufficiently strong to preclude such an outcome.

Nonetheless, this aggressive approach would require the United States to think through a series of likely Pakistani responses. To deal with an interruption of our supply lines to Afghanistan, for example, we must stockpile supplies and start bringing in more materiƩl through the northern supply routes and via air.

At the same time, we should present clear, significant incentives. In exchange for demonstrable Pakistani cooperation, the United States should offer to mediate disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan; help establish a trade corridor from Pakistan into Central Asia; and ensure that Pakistan’s adversaries do not use Afghanistan’s territory to support insurgents in Pakistani Baluchistan.

More fundamentally, the United States needs to demonstrate that, even after our troops depart Afghanistan, we are resolved to stay engaged in the region. To that end, the United States should provide long-term assistance to Pakistan focused on developing not only its security apparatus, but also its civil society, economy and democratic institutions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pakistan arrests 7 militants, foil plot to kill PM

Associated Press story dated Oct. 14 appears on Pakistan Conflict Monitor

Pakistan arrests 7 militants, foil plot to kill PM

By KHALID TANVEER (AP)

MULTAN, Pakistan — Pakistani police arrested a group of Islamist militants plotting to kill the prime minister in a gun and suicide bomb attack at his house, officials said Thursday. The seven men also are accused of targeting other government leaders for assassination.

Militants in Pakistan have frequently attacked government officials, security officers and political leaders as part of a campaign to destabilize the U.S.-allied government and take over the state. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack near Islamabad in 2007.

The conspiracy against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was nearly complete, police officials said.

The suspects are accused of belonging to the al-Qaida-linked group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Their plan included monitoring Gilani's movements and storming his private residence in the central city of Multan with guns and a suicide bomber, police investigator Waris Bharwana said.

"These terrorists were arrested in a timely fashion, and surely we have averted an attack on the prime minister," he said.

Authorities did not offer any evidence to back up their allegations.

Like other top officials, Gilani does not publicize his movements ahead of time and travels with extensive security.

Abid Qadri, a regional police chief, said authorities learned about the plot during an initial interrogation of the seven militants, who were arrested late Wednesday after a shootout near a village in central Pakistan.

The militants opened fire when police tried to pull their car over for a routine check, Qadri said. Nobody was wounded in the shooting, but two men managed to escape, he said.

A judge has ordered the seven suspects be held and questioned in a prison. Their next court date is Oct. 27, Bharwana said.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni Muslim extremist group, has been linked to the Taliban as well as al-Qaida. The group has been accused of attacking minority Shiite worship places and assaulting security forces and other targets.

Some of the suspects are believed to have taken part in an attack last year on the offices of Pakistan's main spy agency in Multan, which is in Punjab province in central Pakistan, Qadri said.

The men were also conspiring to kill Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, also a Multan native, and the minister for religious affairs, who last year survived an assassination attempt in Islamabad, Qadri said. He said the suspects also had plans to attack a dam, a bridge and military installations.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New America Foundation raises unaddressed issues in U.S.-Pakistan military ops

Video from the New America Foundation, one of the groups taking action to inject debate into the largely closed and classified U.S. military pursuits within the borders of Pakistan presents a legal approach not previously offered on U.S.-Pakistan relations and campaigns.

This legal framework is directly related to the relegated priorities of arresting the occurrences of civilian victims and casualties, the unpopularity among the resident population of the attacks and their value in neutralizing terrorists, Pakistan's sovereign duty to its citizenry, frailty of legal arguments supporting the CIA's drone program and the prosecution of a classified and therefore supposedly covert war inside an overt one. Relegated, that is, beneath the priority of executing leadership in international terrorist cells or organizations (extrajudicial killing being a related issue of separate special importance) and implementing a technology that allows targets (and collateral victims) to be eliminated while soldiers prosecuting the attack operate from safety half the world away.


Featured Speaker
Christopher Rogers
Pakistan Field Fellow, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)
BACKUP LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9yQMj289Hg
In the event the embedded video won't work, please use the YouTube link above.






Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pakistan erupts in the news; U.S. rift threatens West's policy in Central Asia

From a possible revision of ally status for Pakistan with the U.S. to the average Pakistani being sick to death of the CIA using robots to kill their children, Pakistani spies insisting the Taliban kill for purposes of intimidation to no chance for suggesting in U.S. media that drone attacks are not the best strategy, Pakistan is in the news and coming undone in America's unending quest to simplify the lines drawn by 9/11 into Us and Them, cowboys and radical religious guys who won't sleep or stop praying to play with their children until every last cowboy is dead.

Should the U.S. Give Up on Pakistan? The Atlantic Monthly online
By Max Fisher | October 07, 2010 4:25pm

Does Anyone Object to U.S. Drone Wars in Pakistan? Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
10/04/2010 by Peter Hart

Blasts kill 8 at Sufi shrine in Pakistan; Los Angeles Times
No one claims responsibility for the attacks in Karachi, which injured 65. Militants have targeted shrines and mosques serving adherents of non-orthodox Muslim doctrines.
By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times
October 8, 2010

Hamburg mosque which links 9/11 to the badlands of Pakistan; London Guardian
Ian Traynor reports from Germany on an abandoned prayer hall in the spotlight again after US terror alerts
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 7 October 2010 19.41 BST

Pakistan criticizes drone strikes
By the CNN Wire Staff
October 7, 2010 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oct. 3 report on drone strike at funeral for drone strike victims

This illuminating article posted by the Denver chapter of an autonomous political action group, Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (Denver). Note the lead to these compelling and utterly disturbing source stories:

CIA used 'illegal, inaccurate code to target kill drones''They want to kill people with software that doesn't work'by Chris Williams, TheRegister.co.uk, Sept. 24

And also,

"CIA used pirated, inaccurate software to target drone attacks: lawsuit"by Daniel Tencer, RawStory.com, also dated Sept. 24

Drones kill 28 people, then hit the funeral

www.raimd.wordpress.com

A recent string of bombings, killing dozens in Pakistan, has the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or “drone,” making headlines once again. So-called “Predator Drones” have become one of imperialism’s favorite tools of oppression. Bombing attacks by these vehicles are being carried out consistently and more frequently than ever. (1).

Predator Drones are center stage as the US ups its assault on Pakistan’s northwest border region. At least 28 people were killed as a result of drone strikes in South Waziristan during the week of September 19 (2). The week’s two bloodiest attacks, responsible for more than a dozen deaths, took place on September 22. The initial strike launched two missiles at a targeted vehicle, killing seven. A funeral was arranged for the victims in the following hours; subsequently, this funeral was also targeted by a drone strike, resulting in more deaths yet. This absurd sequence mirrors an incident that took place last summer. On the morning of Tuesday 23 June 2009, unmanned drones killed more than 45 people in a series of bombings including a strike on a funeral procession for victims of the earlier assault (3).

Violence caused by drone missiles has sparked outrage in Pakistan, where drones have killed at least 1,700 people(4). The mutilation caused by the bombings makes compiling a solid count of the deaths all but impossible. Even so, it is clear that hundreds of those killed have been civilians (5). Drones have been a fixture in Pakistan for over five years; however, US officials do not officially comment on any drone activities. The attacks fall under the veil of CIA secrecy. It is clear, nonetheless, that using drones has become particularly attractive to decision-makers in the past two years. Estimated death tolls clearly show drone attacks being responsible for more deaths in 2009 alone than in the four years between 2004-2008 combined (6).

With mounting numbers of casualties, drone attacks have become known for their haphazard destruction. Missiles fired from the unpiloted vehicles are often grossly off-target. This, and general belligerence have contributed to the high civilian deaths which have, embarrassingly for the US, included Amerikan citizens (7).

Part of the cause of the vehicle’s reckless imprecision is being revealed in an ongoing lawsuit. Accusations and evidence depict the as CIA consciously utilizing faulty targeting software in the unmanned vehicles. IISI, a small, Massachusetts-based software company alleges that IT firm “Netezza” facilitated the CIA with a pirated, and knowingly-unreliable, version of their software to the CIA for use in US drone vehicles. The location-analysis software in turn may have produced locations up to 13 meters off target (8). IISI was pressured to meet a quick deadline to provide the software, when the company voiced reservations, Netezza allegedly went ahead and reverse-engineered the program themselves. The IISI Chief Technology Officer summarized his earliest feelings on the situation, stating, “they want to kill people with my software that doesn’t work” (9). The lawsuit aims to halt use of the pirated software by Netezza and its clients, including the CIA. IISI has expressed concern that the buggy software may lead to loss of innocent life. Unfortunately, the host of civilian deaths cannot be declared a mere “software issue.” Such recklessness is hardwired into the logic of imperialism.

Predator Drones are becoming a standard instrument in the oppression of Third World peoples by . As RAIM has noted (xhttp://raimd.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/imperialism-drones-on/), US drones are now deployed everywhere from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and recently on the militarized US/Mexico border. Israel used US-provided drones in attacks on Gaza in December 2008. The First World is looking to a high technology, impersonal approach of fighting their battles. These machines cause much destruction, but high-tech gadgetry will not defeat Third Wold resistance. As comrade Lin Biao wrote in “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!”

However highly developed modern weapons and technical equipment may be and however complicated the methods of modern warfare, in the final analysis the outcome of a war will be decided by the sustained fighting of the ground forces, by the fighting at close quarters on battlefields, by the political consciousness of the men, by their courage and spirit of sacrifice. Here the weak points of U.S. imperialism will be completely laid bare, while the superiority of the revolutionary people will be brought into full play. The reactionary troops of U.S. imperialism cannot possibly be endowed with the courage and the spirit of sacrifice possessed by the revolutionary people. The spiritual atom bomb which the revolutionary people possess is a far more powerful and useful weapon than the physical atom bomb. (10)

The Third World majority, collectively terrorized by imperialism, must collectively defeat imperialism. The enemy’s extravagant technology cannot hold up against People’s War.

Notes.

1. Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann’s drones database at the New America Foundation
xxhttp://counterterrorism.newamerica.net/drones
2. xxhttp://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/09/2010921181212227907.html
3. xxhttp://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/06/200962317958264507.html
3. Ibid. Protest
4.xxhttp://counterterrorism.newamerica.net/drones#2010chart
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. xxhttp://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/09/cia_drones_killed_us_citizens.html
8. xxhttp://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/cia-inaccurate-software-drone-attacks/
9. Ibid.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

UK Guardian: U.S. Military drones lent to CIA program for "covert" ops in Pakistan

At least British newspaper editors believe nation-states are supposed to declare war formally and publicly before breezing into a so-called demilitarized zone (Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA; not unlike its meta-linguistic cousin, the convenient geographic designation, "Afpak") to drop 300-pound missiles on designated combatants and their families. In the place of working out a deal with an unstable regime operating in the militarized shell of a former dictatorship-avec-parliament (in reference to General Pervez Musharraf). Doesn't mean David Cameron's government is going to want to help impoverished people living in rural Pakistan.

A caveat: Extraordinary Edition would like to editorially acknowledge Islamabad's politicians ... are politicians. Thusly shall they slither and writhe between their constituents and unimaginable power offered them by their counterparts in stronger states. Guardian article appears below.


US secretly shifts armed drones to fight terrorists in Pakistan

The Pentagon and CIA are stepping up America's secret war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan by secretly diverting aerial drones and missiles from Afghanistan.

By Toby Harnden in Washington
Published: 5:23PM BST 03 Oct 2010

Predator drones are flown over Pakistan and intelligence gained is passed to Islamabad

Predator and Reaper drones have been lent by the US military to the CIA as part of a shift in strategy that underlines the Obama administration's view that Pakistan is unable or unwilling to target Islamist sanctuaries on its own soil.

Tensions between the US and Pakistan have flared after a key route used to supply American troops in Afghanistan was shut after three Pakistani soldiers were killed in an attack by a Nato helicopter gunship.

On Friday, insurgents attacked fuel tankers in Pakistan in another indication of the increasing vulnerability of Western supply routes.

The additional drones enabled the CIA to increase the number of strikes in Pakistan in September, averaging five strikes a week that month, up from an average of two to three per week.

This increase in drone activity was partly aimed at disrupting a suspected terrorist plot to strike in Western Europe. Americans officials believe Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders are behind plots potentially aimed at Britain, France and Germany.

American surveillance drones are flown over Pakistan and intelligence gained passed to Islamabad. But Pakistan has formally banned US military operations on its soil, citing the country's sovereignty.

But the CIA has secretly conducted missile strikes launched from drones with Pakistani complicity. This has allowed Pakistan to condemn the strikes, which are strongly opposed by its predominantly anti-American population.

"You have to deal with the sanctuaries," said John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, told the Wall Street Journal. "I've pushed very, very hard with the Pakistanis regarding that." Mr Kerry discussed the issue with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, in Washington last week.

The secret arrangement between the Pentagon and CIA underlines the consensus in the Obama administration that safe havens on Pakistani territory near the Afghan border is the major obstacle to success in the war in Afghanistan.

"When it comes to drones, there's no mission more important right now than hitting targets in the tribal areas, and that's where additional equipment's gone," an American official told the Wall Street Journal.

"It's not the only answer, but it's critical to both homeland security and force protection in Afghanistan."

The proposal for the CIA to use military resources emerged during last year's Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review. There was resistance from some at the Pentagon who argued that the drones were needed against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Since taking command in Afghanistan in July, Gen. Petraeus has placed greater focus on the tribal areas of Pakistan, according to military and other government officials.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

U.S. agrees to probe of strike that killed 3 Pakistani soldiers

By Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, October 2, 2010

ExEd note: The key significance of these incidents and the story being told is that the U.S. and Pakistan have not been called upon until now to acknowledge or publicly discuss the undeclared U.S. war in Pakistan in a direct way using language that affirms U.S. presence and cross-border operation into Pakistan. Since the victims alleged are said to be soldiers, a new element emerges politically. Between the U.S. and Pakistan, seeming only because a new element emerges between the government in Pakistan and the communities over which it claims to legitimately govern.

An excerpt appears below ...

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, telephoned Pakistan's military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, Friday to discuss the incursion, as the administration moved to calm a potentially critical breach with a key partner in the Afghanistan war. Officials who discussed the sensitive negotiations on the condition of anonymity said that a joint investigation could help soothe feelings on both sides.

Pakistan has said that three of six Frontier Corps soldiers manning a mountaintop post near Pakistan's western border were killed when helicopters launched missiles at them after the soldiers fired their rifles to warn that the aircraft were on the Pakistan side. Pakistan has lodged diplomatic protests and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told Parliament on Friday that the government "will consider other options if there is interference in the sovereignty of our country."

Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, said Friday that military officials have not yet confirmed that Pakistani border troops were killed in the NATO airstrike. Dorrian had previously said that U.S. helicopters had crossed the border but said they had fired on insurgents who were preparing a mortar attack against troops from the U.S.-led coalition on the other side.

U.S. military officials said it was not clear to them whether the same helicopters were involved in both attacks or whether they were separate incidents. A Pentagon spokesman Thursday suggested the aircraft was within its rights to fire after being fired on.

Pakistani military officials have countered that the soldiers were poorly armed and could never have threatened the helicopters with their rifles. The officials have also dismissed U.S. suggestions that the pilots may not have known where the border or the Pakistani military outpost was, saying that detailed maps and high-technology coordination and surveillance established after a similar incident in 2008 would make such confusion impossible.

The deaths of the Pakistani soldiers came amid a sharp escalation in attacks against insurgent strongholds in Pakistan by unmanned CIA drones. Those attacks are highly unpopular in Pakistan, where the government only privately acquiesces to them. U.S. officials said there is also a private agreement that U.S. aircraft can enter Pakistani airspace, within a narrow band along the border, if acting in self-defense against cross-border attacks. Pakistan denies such agreement exists.

Meanwhile, in response to reports of political upheaval in Pakistan, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the United States considers Pakistan a "key ally" and believes that "the government of Pakistan is committed to democracy and to the preservation of civilian leadership."

Adding to the complexity of Pakistan's political situation, retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup and served as president until elections in 2008, announced in London that he was re-entering Pakistani politics at the head of a newly formed party.

brulliardk@washpost.com deyoungk@washpost.com

DeYoung reported from Washington. Correspondent Ernesto Londono in Kabul and special correspondent Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.

NATO fuel tankers torched in Pakistan

Related Extraordinary Edition post from May, 2010; a Jeremy Scahill story from his blog atthenation.com

This post created on an alert from AlethoNews, "27 NATO fuel tankers destroyed in Pakistan"

Saturday, October 02, 2010
By Karin Brulliard, The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Armed men torched dozens of NATO fuel tankers in southern Pakistan on Friday, police said, as supply convoys remained blocked at a vital entry point to Afghanistan for a second consecutive day.

Police in the town of Shikarpur said 10 "extremists" shot and set fire to at least 30 NATO trucks stopped at a filling station, destroying the vehicles but injuring no one. Much of the fuel and other supplies bound for coalition forces in Afghanistan arrive at the southern port of Karachi, then are trucked north toward border points at Torkham or Chaman.

In the southeastern province of Baluchistan, a truck driver and his assistant were burned alive in a second attack, which targeted a single tanker in a restaurant parking lot, the Associated Press reported. The agency quoted police officer Mohammad Azam as saying "anti-state elements" were behind the attack. He did not name any particular group.

The Torkham pass, in the northwest, remained closed to NATO trucks Friday, one day after Pakistan blocked their passage in apparent retaliation for recent U.S. air incursions into Pakistan, including an airstrike Thursday that allegedly killed three Pakistani soldiers. The incidents drew a strong rebuke from Pakistan and deepened tensions with the United States, an ally.

Pakistan's ambassador to Belgium lodged a protest over the incursions with NATO on Friday, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told parliament that the government "will consider other options if there is interference in the sovereignty of our country."

Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, said Friday that military officials have not yet confirmed that Pakistani border troops were killed in the NATO airstrike. He said the Pakistani border crossing closure has had minimal impact on NATO operations so far. "We're still bringing in a lot of stuff" via supply routes into the landlocked country from the north and south, he said. "There has not been an immediate impact."

A border security official in Pakistan's northwestern region said passenger vehicles and non-NATO supplies were being allowed to pass at Torkham on Friday. The Chaman border crossing remained open to all vehicles, and Pakistani media reported that the NATO trucks burned in Shikarpur were heading in that direction.

It is not uncommon for Islamist insurgents to attack NATO fuel trucks. But the incidents typically occur in the northwestern mountains, where several militant groups are based and wield influence. In the normally placid Chitral district near the Afghan border Thursday, police officials said 200 militants held a dozen policemen hostage and stole their weapons.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CIA publicly announces its increase in drone attacks in Pakistan

C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: September 27, 2010

WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.

The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan.

Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American troops.

Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, the strikes point to a new willingness by military officials to expand the boundaries of the campaign against the Taliban and Haqqani network — and to an acute concern in military and intelligence circles about the limited time to attack Taliban strongholds while American “surge” forces are in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.

As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.

“Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens,” said one senior administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. “He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more.”

Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.

But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.

“We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before a Senate panel last week.

The senior administration official said the strikes were intended not only to attack Taliban and Haqqani fighters, but also to disrupt any plots directed from or supported by extremists in Pakistan’s tribal areas that were aimed at targets in Europe. “The goal is to suppress or disrupt that activity,” the official said.

The 20 C.I.A. drone attacks in September represent the most intense bombardment by the spy agency since January, when the C.I.A. carried out 11 strikes after a suicide bomber killed seven agency operatives at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan.

According to one Pakistani intelligence official, the recent drone attacks have not killed any senior Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have already fled North Waziristan, he said, to escape the C.I.A. drone campaign.

Over all the spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year, according to the Web site The Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes. A vast majority of the attacks — which usually involve several drones firing multiple missiles or bombs — have taken place in North Waziristan.

The Obama administration has enthusiastically embraced the C.I.A.’s drone program, an ambitious and historically unusual war campaign by American spies. According to The Long War Journal, the spy agency in 2009 and 2010 has launched nearly four times as many attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush administration.

One American official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The United States, he said, hopes to “keep the pressure on as long as we can.”

But the C.I.A.’s campaign has also raised concerns that the drone strikes are fueling anger in the Muslim world. The man who attempted to detonate a truck filled with explosives in Times Square told a judge that the C.I.A. drone campaign was one of the factors that led him to attack the United States.

In a meeting with reporters on Monday, General Petraeus indicated that it was new intelligence gathering technology that helped NATO forces locate the militants killed by the helicopter raids against militants in Pakistan.

In particular, he said, the military has expanded its fleet of reconnaissance blimps that can hover over hide-outs thought to belong to the Taliban in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

The intelligence technology, General Petraeus said, has also enabled the expanded campaign of raids by Special Operations commandos against Taliban operatives in those areas.

Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reminder from the desk of General Musharraf: don't criticize Pakistani military

Associated Press story

Pakistani minister resigns after criticizing army

By ZARAR KHAN (AP)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's federal minister for defense production resigned after being summoned by the prime minister to explain comments he made criticizing the army and accusing it of killing prominent politicians.

Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi accused the army of killing several high-profile Pakistani figures, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and ethnic Baluch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani later summoned Jatoi to explain his comments. He told reporters Sunday the minister made his statements "in his personal capacity, and within five or six hours he resigned."

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told local TV that Jatoi's comments were "against our policies."

The army is widely considered the most powerful institution in Pakistan and it is risky for officials to criticize it. The military has carried out three coups against civilian governments in Pakistan and has ruled the country for much of its 63-year history.

Bugti, the Baluch tribal leader, was killed in an August 2006 military operation. The 79-year-old's remote cave hide-out collapsed in an unexplained explosion while security forces were searching for tribal insurgents who fight for a larger share of natural resources extracted from impoverished Baluchistan. The exact details of Bugti's death are disputed.

Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 after speaking at an election rally in a garrison city just outside Islamabad. The military-led government at the time blamed the killing on the Pakistani Taliban, which stage attacks throughout the country from their sanctuary in the tribal areas near the Afghan border. Critics in Pakistan speculated the nation's military or intelligence apparatus could have been involved in the killing, which the government refuted.

The tribal areas also host a range of militant groups focused on battling NATO troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. has stepped up pressure on these groups this month by carrying out 19 missile strikes, including two on Sunday — the most intense barrage since the attacks began in 2004.

In the first strike Sunday, a drone fired three missiles at a house in Datta Khel, part of the North Waziristan tribal area, killing three suspected militants, said Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Minutes later, a drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in the same area, killing four suspected militants, the officials said.

The exact identities of the seven people killed in the attacks were not known, but most of this month's airstrikes have targeted forces led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a commander once supported by Pakistan and the U.S. during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Haqqani has since turned against the U.S., and American military officials have said his network — now effectively led by his son, Sirajuddin — presents one of the greatest threats to foreign forces in Afghanistan. Another militant commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and his forces also hold sway in North Waziristan.

The U.S. wants Pakistan to launch an army offensive against insurgents in North Waziristan, but the government has resisted. Analysts believe Pakistan wants to maintain its historic relationship with the Haqqani network, which could be an ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

The 19 missile strikes this month have killed around 90 people, according to an Associated Press tally based on Pakistani intelligence reports.

U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the drone attacks but have said privately they have killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the region, which is largely out of the control of the Pakistani state.

Pakistan often criticizes the attacks as violations of the country's sovereignty, but the government is widely believed to help the U.S. carry out the strikes. Criticism of the missile attacks has been more muted in recent months.

Associated Press writer Ishtiaq Mahsud contributed to this report from Dera Ismail Khan.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To be clear, US forces still in Iraq to the tune of 50,000

From Aletho News

The End of Combat My Eye
aletho | September 23, 2010 at 10:33 am | Categories: "Hope and Change", Deception | URL: http://wp.me/pIUmC-3Zt
Soothing Falsities

By JOHN LaFORGE | Counterpunch | September 23, 2010

The press made a big deal of it. The president even starred in an Oval Office TV show about the “end to U.S. combat” in Iraq, which was announced on August 31. Mr. Obama said he’d fulfilled a promise to end the war.

Obama’s bit of theater cost less than George Bush’s May 1, 2003 shameless declaration of “mission accomplished,” his circus-act-in-military-flight-suit-to-the-flight-deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Yet the president’s speech was just as dishonest.

Just listen to Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery Buchanan, who told National Public Radio for Sept. 19, “Our rules of engagement have not changed.” Indeed, since the “end of combat,” U.S. soldiers have been in at least two fierce shoot outs involving the use of U.S. warplanes. A Sept. 15 battle included “at least” four U.S. helicopter gunships. Another, in Diyala province, saw U.S. planes dropping two 500-pound bombs.

Gen. Buchanan told NPR he “… understands why most people would call this combat.” Most people, general?

Two days after the President’s “combat’s over” routine, Col. Malcolm Frost, the commander of the “advisory” brigade in Diyala, wrote in a note to soldiers’ families, “We will move around Iraq fully protected in armored Strykers and other armored vehicles, wearing full body armor, and fully loaded with ammunition to deal with the enemy …” the New York Times reported.

Col. Frost currently has the same combat soldiers as a combat brigade -- but supplied with 51 “advisers.” Since his unit arrived in Iraq in July, in an “advisory” capacity, two of his soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded. Tell the families of the dead that the war is over.

Another soldier was killed Sept. 16 while detonating seized explosives. If these aren’t combat fatalities, I’m the Queen of Moravia.

Today—among the 50,000 U.S. soldiers still occupying Iraq—there are 4,500 “Special Forces” commandos. These Green Berets, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and “unconventional” or secret assassination (known for PR purposes as “targeted killing”) squads still storm Iraqi houses and villages at night trying to kill “insurgents” and “suspected members of other armed groups,” according to Baghdad reporters for the Times.

As the GoArmy website says, “missions are … sometimes classified.” You might say that the war in Iraq is now entirely classified, since fighting has been declared over by the Commander-in-Chief himself.

Bombings, firefights, nighttime raids and covert operations might be viewed by most people as combat. But with the feel-good peacewash of presidential speech writers, our military occupation of Iraq can be transformed for the deluded into foreign aid.

Mark Twain described our situation well: “Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those concise, soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its quarterly newsletter.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

North Waziristan motorcyclists latest to be killed by UAV

From the Long War Journal ...

US Predators strike again in North Waziristan
By Bill Roggio September 20, 2010

Excerpts appear here—

"Four 'militants' were reported killed in the strike, but their affiliation to terror groups is unclear. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda commanders have been reported killed."

"The areas controlled by Bahadar and by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network have been hit especially hard this year. Despite the fact that Bahadar and the Haqqani Network shelter al Qaeda and other South and Central Asian terror groups, the Pakistani government and military refuse to take action in North Waziristan. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are viewed as 'good Taliban' as they do not attack the Pakistani state."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mainstream news mechanics evaluated, more money allocated to drone warfare for next year

From Ceasefire Magazine online Sept. 19, 2010

Piece by Musab Younis

An excerpt ...

The drone issue is an interesting one. A typical report from the BBC this week, for example, mentions that “twelve people were killed” in a drone strike, probably “militants”, in what is “the 12th drone strike this month in the region”, before adding: “The American military does not routinely confirm drone operations.”

The report is striking by virtue of omission. Nothing is mentioned of the civilian casualties of drone strikes – which were reported by Pakistani authorities to have reached 700 in January of this year (the figure now is surely higher), since the drone war began. Nothing is mentioned of the Gallup poll conducted for Al Jazeera which suggests that less than one in ten Pakistanis support the drone strikes. The same poll asked Pakistanis who they considered to be the greatest threat to their country – the Taliban, India, or the US. A majority of 59 percent said the US. 11 percent said the Taliban.

None of this is mentioned by the BBC. Why should we care what Pakistanis think about the military attacks taking place in their country? And the suggestion that most of them consider the US a greater threat than the Taliban is a difficult one, because it would undercut the central narrative of the news coverage of drone strikes: that though they at times entail unfortunate consequences, they are conducted for the security of the West and Pakistan. The idea that the US could be making the region less secure is, in this context, inconceivable.

Statistics have also vanished: such as the fact that this year, the US has allocated fifteen times more money to Predator drones than to the Pakistan floods relief effort ($2.2bn versus $150m). And there is no question of the reader being subjected to any uncomfortable suggestions, such as that made by the New Yorker last year that assassination, euphemistically termed “targeted killing”, is now “official US policy”, despite the violation of international law, and even the US constitution, that it entails.