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A New Book Transforms Our Understanding of What the Vietnam War Actually Was
Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.
Now, in Kill Anything that Moves, Nick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth. Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.
It has been Turse’s great achievement to see that, thanks to the special character of the war, its prime reality -- an accurate overall picture of what physically was occurring on the ground -- had never been assembled; that with imagination and years of dogged work this could be done; and that even a half-century after the beginning of the war it still should be done. Turse acknowledges that, even now, not enough is known to present this picture in statistical terms. To be sure, he offers plenty of numbers -- for instance the mind-boggling estimates that during the war there were some two million civilians killed and some five million wounded, that the United States flew 3.4 million aircraft sorties, and that it expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs.
Yet it would not have been enough to simply accumulate anecdotal evidence of abuses. Therefore, while providing an abundance of firsthand accounts, he has supplemented this approach. Like a fabric, a social reality -- a town, a university, a revolution, a war -- has a pattern and a texture. No fact is an island. Each one is rich in implications, which, so to speak, reach out toward the wider area of the surrounding facts. When some of these other facts are confirmed, they begin to reveal the pattern and texture in question.
Turse repeatedly invites us to ask what sort of larger picture each story implies. For example, he writes:
“If one man and his tiny team could claim more KIAs [killed in action] than an entire battalion without raising red flags among superiors; if a brigade commander could up the body count by picking off civilians from his helicopter with impunity; if a top general could institutionalize atrocities through the profligate use of heavy firepower in areas packed with civilians -- then what could be expected down the line, especially among heavily armed young infantrymen operating in the field for weeks, angry, tired, and scared, often unable to locate the enemy and yet relentlessly pressed for kills?”
Like a tightening net, the web of stories and reports drawn from myriad sources coalesces into a convincing, inescapable portrait of this war -- a portrait that, as an American, you do not wish to see; that, having seen, you wish you could forget, but that you should not forget; and that the facts force you to see and remember and take into account when you ask yourself what the United States has done and been in the last half century, and what it still is doing and still is.
Scorched Earth in I Corps
My angle of vision on these matters is a highly particular one. In early August 1967, I arrived in I Corps, the northernmost district of American military operations in what was then South Vietnam. I was there to report for the New Yorker on the “air war.” The phrase was a misnomer. The Vietnamese foe, of course, had no assets in the air in the South, and so there was no “war” of that description.
There was only the unilateral bombardment of the land and people by the fantastic array of aircraft assembled by the United States in Vietnam. These ranged from the B-52, which laid down a pattern of destruction a mile long and several football fields wide; to fighter bombers capable of dropping, along with much else, 500-pound bombs and canisters of napalm; to the reconfigured DC-3 equipped with a cannon capable of firing 100 rounds per second; to the ubiquitous fleets of helicopters, large and small, that crowded the skies. All this was abetted by continuous artillery fire into “free-fire” zones and naval bombardment from ships just off the coast.
By the time I arrived, the destruction of the villages in the region and the removal of their people to squalid refugee camps was approaching completion. (However, they often returned to their blasted villages, now subject to indiscriminate artillery fire.) Only a few pockets of villages survived. I witnessed the destruction of many of these in Quang Ngai and Quang Tinh provinces from the back seat of small Cessnas called Forward Air Control planes.
As we floated overhead day after day, I would watch long lines of houses burst into flames one after another as troops moved through the area of operation. In the meantime, the Forward Air Controllers were calling in air strikes as requested by radio from troops on the ground. In past operations, the villagers had been herded out of the area into the camps. But this time, no evacuation had been ordered, and the population was being subjected to the full fury of a ground and air assault. A rural society was being torn to pieces before my eyes.
The broad results of American actions in I Corps were thus visible and measurable from the air. No scorched earth policy had been announced but scorched earth had been the result. Still, a huge piece was missing from the puzzle. I was not able to witness most of the significant operations on the ground firsthand. I sought to interview some soldiers but they would not talk, though one did hint at dark deeds. “You wouldn’t believe it so I’m not going to tell you,” he said to me. “No one’s ever going to find out about some things, and after this war is over, and we’ve all gone home, no one is ever going to know.”
In other words, like so many reporters in Vietnam, I saw mainly one aspect of one corner of the war. What I had seen was ghastly, but it was not enough to serve as a basis for generalizations about the conduct of the war as a whole. Just a few years later, in 1969, thanks to the determined efforts of a courageous soldier, Ron Ridenhour, and the persistence of a reporter, Seymour Hersh, one piece of the hidden truth about ground operations in I Corp came to light.
It was the My Lai massacre, in which more than 500 civilians were murdered in cold blood by Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, of the Americal Division. In subsequent years, news of other atrocities in the area filtered into the press, often many years after the fact. For example, in 2003 the Toledo Blade disclosed a campaign of torture and murder over a period of months, including the summary execution of two blind men by a “reconnaissance” squad called Tiger Force. Still, no comprehensive picture of the generality of ground operations in the area emerged.
anythingturse.jpegIt has not been until the publication of Turse’s book that the everyday reality of which these atrocities were a part has been brought so fully to light. Almost immediately after the American troops arrived in I Corps, a pattern of savagery was established. My Lai, it turns out, was exceptional only in the numbers killed.
Turse offers a massacre at a village called Trieu Ai in October 1967 as a paradigm. A marine company suffered the loss of a man to a booby trap near the village, which had in fact had been mostly burned down by other American forces a few days earlier. Some villagers had, however, returned for their belongings. Now, the Marine company, enraged by its loss but unable to find the enemy, entered the village firing their M-16s, setting fire to any intact houses, and tossing grenades into bomb shelters.
A Marine marched a woman into a field and shot her. Another reported that there were children in the shelters that were being blown up. His superior replied, “Tough xxxx, they grow up to be VC [Vietcong].” Five or ten people rushed out of a shelter when a grenade was thrown into it. They were cut down in a hail of fire. Turse comments:
“In the story of Trieu Ai one can see virtually the entire war writ small. Here was the repeated aerial bombing and artillery fire… Here was the deliberate burning of peasant homes and the relocation of villagers to refugee camps... Angry troops primed to lash out, often following losses within the unit; civilians trapped in their paths; and officers in the field issuing ambiguous or illegal orders to young men conditioned to obey -- that was the basic recipe for many of the mass killings carried out by army soldiers and marines over the years.”
The savagery often extended to the utmost depravity: gratuitous torture, killing for target practice, slaughter of children and babies, gang rape. Consider the following all-too-typical actions of Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th infantry beginning in October 1967:
“The company stumbled upon an unarmed young boy. 'Someone caught him up on a hill, and they brought him down and the lieutenant asked who wanted to kill him...' medic Jamie Henry later told army investigators. A radioman and another medic volunteered for the job. The radioman... ’kicked the boy in the stomach and the medic took him around behind a rock and I heard one magazine go off complete on automatic...’

“A few days after this incident, members of that same unit brutalized an elderly man to the point of collapse and then threw him off a cliff without even knowing whether he was dead or alive...

“A couple of days after that, they used an unarmed man for target practice...

“And less than two weeks later, members of Company B reportedly killed five unarmed women...

“Unit members rattled off a litany of other brutal acts committed by the company... [including] a living woman who had an ear cut off while her baby was thrown to the ground and stomped on...”
Pumping Up the Body Count
Turse’s findings completed the picture of the war in I Corps for me. Whatever the policymight have been in theory, the reality, on the ground as in the air, was the scorched earth I had witnessed from the Forward Air Control planes. Whatever the United States thoughtit was doing in I Corps, it was actuallywaging systematic war against the people of the region.
And so it was, as Turse voluminously documents, throughout the country. Details differed from area to area but the broad picture was the same as the one in I Corps. A case in point is the war in the Mekong Delta, home to some five to six million people in an area of less than 15,000 square miles laced with rivers and canals. In February 1968, General Julian Ewell, soon to be known by Vietnamese and Americans alike as “the Butcher of the Delta,” was placed in charge of the 9th Infantry Division.
In December 1968, he launched Operation Speedy Express. His specialty, amounting to obsession, was increasing “the body count,” ordained by the high command as the key measure of progress in defeating the enemy. Theoretically, only slain soldiers were to be included in that count but -- as anyone, soldier or reporter, who spent a half-hour in the field quickly learned -- virtually all slain Vietnamese, most of them clearly civilians, were included in the total. The higher an officer’s body count, the more likely his promotion. Privates who turned in high counts were rewarded with mini-vacations. Ewell set out to increase the ratio of supposed enemy soldiers killed to American soldiers killed. Pressure to do so was ratcheted up at all levels in the 9th Division. One of his chiefs of staff “went berserk,” in the words of a later chief of staff.
The means were simple: immensely increase the already staggering firepower being used and loosen the already highly permissive “rules of engagement” by, for example, ordering more night raids. In a typical night episode, Cobra gunships strafed a herd of water buffalo and seven children tending them. All died, and the children were reported as enemy soldiers killed in action.
The kill ratios duly rose from an already suspiciously high 24 “Vietcong” for every dead American to a completely surreal 134 Vietcong per American. The unreality, however, did not simply lie in the inflated kill numbers but in the identities of the corpses. Overwhelmingly, they were not enemy soldiers but civilians. A “Concerned Sergeant” who protested the operation in an anonymous letter to the high command at the time described the results as he witnessed them:
“A battalion would kill maybe 15 to 20 a day. With 4 battalions in the Brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 a month 1500, easy. (One battalion claimed almost 1000 body counts one month!) If I am only 10% right, and believe me its lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lay [My Lai] each month for over a year.”
This range of estimates was confirmed in later analyses. Operations in I Corp perhaps depended more on infantry attacks supported by air strikes, while Speedy Express depended more on helicopter raids and demands for high body counts, but the results were the same: indiscriminate warfare, unrestrained by calculation or humanity, on the population of South Vietnam.
Turse reminds us that off the battlefield, too, casual violence -- such as the use of military trucks to run over Vietnamese on the roads, seemingly for entertainment -- was widespread. The commonest terms for Vietnamese were the racist epithets “gooks,” “dinks,” and “slopes.” And the U.S. military machine was supplemented by an equally brutal American-South Vietnamese prison system in which torture was standard procedure and extrajudicial executions common.
How did it happen? How did a country that believes itself to be guided by principles of decency permit such savagery to break out and then allow it to continue for more than a decade?
Why, when the first Marines arrived in I Corps in early 1965, did so many of them almost immediately cast aside the rules of war as well as all ordinary scruples and sink to the lowest levels of barbarism? What chains of cause and effect linked “the best and the brightest” of America’s top universities and corporations who were running the war with the murder of those buffalo boys in the Mekong Delta?
How did the gates of hell open? This is a different question from the often-asked one of how the United States got into the war. I cannot pretend to begin to do it justice here. The moral and cognitive seasickness that has attended the Vietnam War from the beginning afflicts us still. Yet Kill Anything that Moves permits us, finally, to at least formulate the question in light of the actual facts of the case.
Reflections would certainly seem in order for a country that, since Vietnam, has done its best to unlearn even such lessons as were learned from that debacle in preparation for other misbegotten wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, however, are a few thoughts, offered in a spirit of thinking aloud.
The Fictitious War and the Real One
Roughly since the massacre at My Lai was revealed, people have debated whether the atrocities of the war were the product of decisions by troops on the ground or of high policy, of orders issued from above -- whether they were “aberrations” or “operations.” The first school obviously lends itself to bad-apple-in-a-healthy-barrel thinking, blaming individual units for unacceptable behavior while exonerating the higher ups; the second tends to exonerate the troops while pinning the blame on their superiors.
Turse’s book shows that the barrel was rotten through and through. It discredits the “aberration” school once and for all. Yet it does not exactly offer support for the orders-from-the-top school either. Perhaps the problem always was that these alternatives framed the situation inaccurately. The relationship between policy and practice in Vietnam was, it turns out, far more peculiar than the two choices suggest.
It’s often said that truth is the first casualty of war. In Vietnam, however, it was not just that the United States was doing one thing while saying another (for example, destroying villages while claiming to protect them), true as that was. Rather, from its inception the war’s structure was shaped by an attempt to superimpose a false official narrative on a reality of a wholly different character.
In the official war, the people of South Vietnam were resisting the attempts of the North Vietnamese to conquer them in the name of world communism. The United States was simply assisting them in their patriotic resistance. In reality, most people in South Vietnam, insofar as they were politically minded, were nationalists who sought to push out foreign conquerors: first, the French, then the Japanese, and next the Americans, along with their client state, the South Vietnamese government which was never able to develop any independent strength in a land supposedly its own. This fictitious official narrative was not added on later to disguise unpalatable facts; it was baked into the enterprise from the outset.
Accordingly, the collision of policy and reality first took place on the ground in Trieu Ai village and its like. The American forces, including their local commanders, were confronted with a reality that the policymakers had not faced and would not face for many long years. Expecting to be welcomed as saviors, the troops found themselves in a sea of nearly universal hostility.
No manual was handed out in Washington to deal with the unexpected situation. It was left to the soldiers to decide what to do. Throughout the country, they started to improvise. To this extent, policy was indeed being made in the field. Yet it was not within the troops’ power to reverse basic policy; they could not, for instance, have withdrawn themselves from the whole misconceived exercise. They could only respond to the unexpected circumstances in which they found themselves.
The result would combine an incomprehensible and impossible mission dictated from above (to win the “hearts and minds” of a population already overwhelmingly hostile, while pulverizing their society) and locally conceived illegal but sometimes vague orders that left plenty of room for spontaneous, rage-driven improvisation on the ground. In this gap between the fiction of high policy and the actuality of the real war was born the futile, abhorrent assault on the people of Vietnam.
The improvisatory character of all this, as Turse emphasizes, can be seen in the fact that while the abuses of civilians were pervasive they were not consistent. As he summarizes what a villager in one brutalized area told him decades later, “Sometimes U.S. troops handed out candies. Sometimes they shot at people. Sometimes they passed through a village hardly touching a thing. Sometimes they burned all the homes. ‘We didn’t understand the reasons why the acted in the way they did.’”
Alongside the imaginary official war, then, there grew up the real war on the ground, the one that Turse has, for the first time, adequately described. It is no defense of what happened to point out that, for the troops, it was not so much their orders from on high as their circumstances -- what Robert J. Lifton has called “atrocity-producing situations” -- that generated their degraded behavior. Neither does such an account provide escape from accountability for the war’s architects without whose blind and misguided policies these infernal situations never would have arisen.
In one further bitter irony, this real war came at a certain point to be partially codified at ever higher levels of command into policies that did translate into orders from the top. In effect, the generals gradually -- if absurdly, in light of the supposed goals of the war -- sanctioned and promoted the de facto war on the population. Enter General Ewell and his body counts.
In other words, the improvising moved up the chain of command until the soldiers were following orders when they killed civilians, though, as in the case of Ewell, those orders rarely took exactly that form. Nonetheless, the generals sometimes went quite far in formulating these new rules, even when they flagrantly contradicted official policies.
To give one example supplied by Turse, in 1965, General William Westmoreland, who was made commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1964, implicitly declared war on the peasantry of South Vietnam. He said:
“Until now the war has been characterized by a substantial majority of the population remaining neutral. In the past year we have seen an escalation to a higher intensity in the war. This will bring about a moment of decision for the peasant farmer. He will have to choose if he stays alive.”
Like his underlings, Westmoreland, was improvising. This new policy of, in effect, terrorizing the peasantry into submission was utterly inconsistent with the Washington narrative of winning hearts and minds, but it was fully consistent with everything his forces were actually doing and about to do in I Corps and throughout the country.
A Skyscraper of Lies
One more level of the conflict needs to be mentioned in this context. Documents show that, as early as the mid-1960s, the key mistaken assumptions of the war -- that the Vietnamese foe was a tentacle of world communism, that the war was a front in the Cold War rather than an episode in the long decolonization movement of the twentieth century, that the South Vietnamese were eager for rescue by the United States -- were widely suspected to be mistaken in official Washington. But one other assumption was not found to be mistaken: that whichever administration “lost” Vietnam would likely lose the next election.
Rightly or wrongly, presidents lived in terror of losing the war and so being politically destroyed by a movement of the kind Senator Joe McCarthy launched after the American “loss” of China in 1949. Later, McGeorge Bundy, Lyndon Johnson’s national security advisor, would describe his understanding of the president’s frame of mind at the time this way:
"LBJ isn't deeply concerned about who governs Laos, or who governs South Vietnam -- he's deeply concerned with what the average American voter is going to think about how he did in the ball game of the Cold War. The great Cold War championship gets played in the largest stadium in the United States and he, Lyndon Johnson, is the quarterback, and if he loses, how does he do in the next election? So don't lose. Now that's too simple, but it's where he is. He's living with his own political survival every time he looks at these questions.”
In this context, domestic political considerations trumped the substantive reasoning that, once the futility and horror of the enterprise had been revealed, might have led to an end to the war. More and more it was understood to be a murderous farce, but politics dictated that it must continue. As long as this remained the case, no news from Vietnam could lead to a reversal of the war policies.
This was the top floor of the skyscraper of lies that was the Vietnam War. Domestic politics was the largest and most fact-proof of the atrocity-producing situations. Do we imagine that this has changed?
Jonathan Schell is a Fellow at The Nation Institute, and the peace and disarmament correspondent for the Nation magazine. Among many other works, he is the author of The Real War, a collection of his New Yorker reportage on the Vietnam War.

[Under review in this essay: Nick Turse, Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Metropolitan Books, 2013). Jonathan Schell’s classic Vietnam books, The Village of Ben Suc and The Military Half, are now collected in The Real War (Da Capo Press).]
The Vietnam War Memorial in Vietnam Would Be 20 to 50 Times Larger Than Ours

By Global Research News
Global Research, February 04, 2013

Imagine if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them.

When I was on active duty in the Air Force, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. I was moved to tears as I encountered the names of more than 58,000 of my fellow Americans etched in stone. What a waste, I thought, but at least they died for their country, and at least we didn’t forget their sacrifice.
To be honest, I don’t recall thinking about the Vietnamese dead. The memorial, famously designed by Maya Lin, captures an American tragedy, not a Vietnamese one. But imagine, for a moment, if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them. How might their suffering compare to ours?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Christian Carollo
America first sent ground combat units to Vietnam in March of 1965. If we count the Linebacker II air offensive against North Vietnam in December of 1972 (the infamous Christmas bombing) as the end of major combat operations, the U.S. military waged war in Vietnam for roughly 93 months. Now, let’s consider the number of Vietnamese killed, to include soldiers and civilians, regardless of their political allegiance or lack thereof. No one knows for sure how many Vietnamese died over this period; the “low” estimate is roughly one million Vietnamese, while the “high” estimate is in the vicinity of three million. Even using the low estimate, that’s more than ten thousand dead per month, for 93 months.
How can we bring meaning to such mind-numbing statistics? To imagine the impact of this war on the Vietnamese people, Americans have to think not of one tragic wall containing 58,000 names, but of twenty (or perhaps even fifty) tragic walls, adding up to millions of names, a high percentage of them being noncombatants, innocent men, women and children.
Difficult as that is to imagine, we must also recognize that the impact of the American war in Vietnam was not limited to killing. The U.S. military bombed and blasted and napalmed and defoliated the landscape as well. So along with twenty or more Maya Lin-type memorials to list all of the Vietnamese war dead, we’d have to imagine scores of “Super Fund” sites in Vietnam, land poisoned by Agent Orange and similar powerful chemicals, tortured terrain that is still occasionally deadly to the Vietnamese who live there.
How did so many Vietnamese come to die? How did Vietnam itself become a blasted and poisoned landscape? And how did the United States come largely to forget its complicity in the killing and blasting? The reasons are not easy to contemplate, but Nick Turse’s harrowing new study, Kill Anything that Moves, forces us to confront what he terms “the real American war in Vietnam.”
In A Rumor of War (1977), a classic memoir of the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Philip Caputo recounts how the U.S. strategy of “search and destroy” and the obsession with enemy body count led to “orgiastic violence” in which the goal, in his words, was
“to kill Communists and to kill as many of them as possible. Stack ’em like cordwood. Victory was a high body-count … war a matter of arithmetic. The pressure [from the top] on unit commanders to produce enemy corpses was intense, and they in turn communicated it to their troops. This led to such practices as counting civilians as Viet Cong. ‘If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC,’ was a rule of thumb in the bush. It is not surprising, therefore, that some men acquired a contempt for human life and a predilection for taking it.”
The horrific reality that Caputo wrote of more than 35 years ago is now fully fleshed out in Turse’s new study. The obsession with body count—starting with General William Westmoreland, the commanding general in Vietnam—led to, in Turse’s words, “the indiscriminate killing of South Vietnamese noncombatants—the endless slaughter that wiped out civilians day after day, month after month, year after year.” The enormity of the crime was “neither accidental nor unforeseeable,” but rather “the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military,” Turse concludes.
The evidence he amasses – of “murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process”—is irrefutable. Indeed, much of the evidence he relies upon was gathered secretly by the U.S. military at the time, only to be suppressed, consigned to archives, and forgotten. It’s hardly surprising that senior U.S. military officials sought to suppress evidence of atrocities on a mass-scale, since they themselves were both complicit and culpable.
A line that has always stayed with me from Caputo’s memoir came from one of his NCOs, a Sergeant Colby, who in 1965 told then-Lieutenant Caputo that, “Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.” Turse’s study plumbs the depths of such brutality, to include a racist subculture (dehumanizing the Vietnamese as “gooks” and “slopes”) within the U.S. military that facilitated it. Draft an American teenager, teach him to kill, send him to an utterly foreign land in which he can’t distinguish friend from foe, give him power over life and death against a dehumanized enemy, and reward him for generating a high body count in which “If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC,” and you have an ineluctable recipe for murderous violence.
Contrast the brutal honesty of Sergeant Colby with the patent dishonesty of an American political scene that to this day fosters a very different interpretation of the Vietnam War. For many Americans, the true victims of the war are not the millions of Vietnamese who died, or the millions who continue to suffer to this day. No—the true victims are the American veterans who were allegedly spat upon by unwashed anti-war protesters, or a U.S. military that was allegedly betrayed by back-stabbers at the home front, denying the troops the victory they had so justly earned. In this narrative, even the infamous slaughter at My Lai becomes the exception that proves the rule, the rule being that with few exceptions the American military fought honorably and cleanly.
For these Americans, the war remains a combination of the Rambo myth mixed with the “noble cause” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan—history as Hollywood fairy tale—a concerted rewriting of the historical record and a rewiring of American culture consistent with feel-good militarism and confectionary war.
To confront the truth, we must abandon the confection. The truth is that, rather than confronting our nation’s inner heart of darkness during and after Vietnam, the military and our government collectively whitewashed the past.
America’s true “Vietnam Syndrome” was not an allergy to using military power after Vietnam but an allergy to facing the destruction our nation caused there. And that allergy has only exacerbated our national predilection for military adventurism, warrior glorification, and endless war.
It’s time our nation found the courage to face those twenty (or fifty) walls of Vietnamese dead. It’s time we faced them with the same sorrow and same regret we reserve for our own wall of dead. Only after we do so can our nation stop glorifying war. Only after we do so can our nation fully heal.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), now teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. His books and articles focus primarily on military history and include Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac Press, 2005). He may be reached at wastore@pct.edu.

+ Today May 7th 2014 +

Afghanistan Apache helicopters with thermal image

Webmaster's Commentary:

The title of the video claims that the Apache opened up in a group of Taliban fighters who were preparing an ambush for an American patrol But the video does not show any activity consistent with such preparations, nor is there any American patrol seen. There are clearly tents, a water well, and farm animals, which suggest that this is just a nomadic group of civilians that got "pacified" (to use the Vietnam-era term). Note at 2:40 what is clearly a wounded man lying on the ground, who is then shot with the Apache's 30mm chain-gun.


"The Song Remains The Same"

I had a dream. Crazy dream.
Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go

Hear my song. People won't you listen now? Sing along.
You don't know what you're missing now.
Any little song that you know
Everything that's small has to grow.
And it has to grow!

California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
Honolulu Starbright - the song remains the same.

Sing out Hare Hare, dance the Hoochie Koo.
City lights are oh so bright, as we go sliding... sliding... sliding through.



Edited by Steven Gaal
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‘We Kill People Based on Metadata’



20140510-cole-1_jpg_600x338_q85.jpg Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
The National Security Agency’s $1.5 billion data storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah, June 2013

Supporters of the National Security Agency inevitably defend its sweeping collection of phone and Internet records on the ground that it is only collecting so-called “metadata”—who you call, when you call, how long you talk. Since this does not include the actual content of the communications, the threat to privacy is said to be negligible. That argument is profoundly misleading.

Of course knowing the content of a call can be crucial to establishing a particular threat. But metadata alone can provide an extremely detailed picture of a person’s most intimate associations and interests, and it’s actually much easier as a technological matter to search huge amounts of metadata than to listen to millions of phone calls. As NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” When I quoted Baker at a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, my opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct,” and raised him one, asserting, “We kill people based on metadata.”

It is precisely this power to collect our metadata that has prompted one of Congress’s most bipartisan initiatives in recent years. On May 7, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 to adopt an amended form of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to rein in NSA spying on Americans, initially proposed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner. On May 8, the House Intelligence Committee, which has until now opposed any real reform of the NSA, also unanimously approved the same bill. And the Obama administration has welcomed the development.

For some, no doubt, the very fact that this bill has attracted such broad bipartisan approval will be grounds for suspicion. After all, this is the same Congress that repeatedly reauthorized the 2001 USA Patriot Act, a law that was also proposed by Sensenbrenner and on which the bulk collection of metadata was said to rest—even if many members of Congress were not aware of how the NSA was using (or abusing) it. And this is the same administration that retained the NSA’s data collection program, inherited from its predecessor, as long as it was a secret, and only called for reform when the American people learned from the disclosures of NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the government was routinely collecting phone and Internet records on all of us. So, one might well ask, if Congress and the White House, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, all now agree on reform, how meaningful can the reform be?

This is a reasonable question. This compromise bill addresses only one part of the NSA’s surveillance activities, and does not do nearly enough to address the many other privacy-invasive practices that we now know the NSA has undertaken. But it’s nonetheless an important first step, and would introduce several crucial reforms affecting all Americans.

First, and most importantly, it would significantly limit the collection of phone metadata and other “business records.” Until now, the NSA and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have aggressively interpreted a USA Patriot Act provision that authorized collection of business records “relevant” to a counterterrorism investigation. The NSA convinced the court that because it might be useful in the future to search through anyone’s calling history to see if that person had been in contact with a suspected terrorist, the agency should be able to collect everyone’s records and store them for five years.

The NSA has said it only searched its vast database of our calling records when it had reasonable suspicion that a phone number was connected to terrorism. But it did not have to demonstrate the basis for this suspicion to a judge. Moreover, it was authorized to collect data on all callers one, two, or three steps removed from the suspect number—an authority that can quickly generate more than one million phone numbers of innocent Americans from a single suspect source number. The fact that you may have called someone (say, your aunt) who in turn called someone (say, the Pizza Hut delivery guy) who was in turn once called by a suspected terrorist says nothing about whether you’ve engaged in wrongdoing. But it will land you in the NSA’s database of suspected terrorist contacts.

Under the USA Freedom Act, the NSA would be prohibited from collecting phone and Internet data en masse. Instead, such records would remain with the telephone and Internet companies, and the NSA would only be authorized to approach those companies on an individual, case-by-case basis, and only when it could first satisfy the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is reasonable suspicion that a particular person, entity, or account is linked to an international terrorist or a representative of a foreign government or political organization. This is much closer to the specific kind of suspicion that the Fourth Amendment generally requires for intrusions on privacy. At that point, the court could order phone companies to produce phone calling records of all numbers that communicated with the suspect number (the first “hop”), as well as all numbers with which those numbers in turn communicated (the second “hop”).

Further restrictions are necessary. Through these authorized searches the NSA would still be able to collect large amounts of metadata on persons whose only “sin” was that they called or were called by someone who called or was called by a suspected terrorist or foreign agent. At a minimum, “back-end” limits on how the NSA searches its storehouse of phone numbers are still needed. But the bill would at least end the practice of collecting everyone’s calling records.

Second, the new House bill imposes similar limits on other USA Patriot Act provisions that were susceptible to being used, or had been used, to authorize collection of data in bulk. These include a provision empowering the government to obtain information by “national security letters,” a kind of administrative subpoena issued without judicial oversight, and “pen registers,” which intercept Internet and phone trafficking data. All of these powers would now be limited by the same requirement that the government seek case-by-case warrants based on suspicion about a particular person or group. The point is to end bulk collection of data across the board, and return the agency to the more targeted searches and inquiries that US laws have historically deemed reasonable.

Third, the bill would establish a panel of legal experts, appointed by the presiding judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, who would participate in proceedings before the court when it addresses “a novel or significant interpretation of law,” and in any other proceedings at the court’s discretion. They would appear as amicus curiae, or “friends of the court,” but their purpose would be to add an independent assessment of the legal issues involved, ensuring that the court is not hearing only from the government. Such a panel would increase the likelihood that difficult legal issues get a full and fair consideration, and would likely shore up the public legitimacy of the secret court, which as of now is dismissed by many, rightly or wrongly, as a “rubber stamp.”

Finally, the bill contains a number of measures designed to increase transparency and oversight. It would require the attorney general to request the declassification of opinions of the FISA court, permit private Internet and telephone companies to report semiannually on the volume of records they were required to produce, and require the Inspectors General of the Justice Department and the Intelligence Community to report on the numbers of records requested and the effectiveness of the program. Had Verizon been permitted to report, for example, that it was being compelled to turn over hundreds of millions of phone records on its customers to the NSA, and had the Inspector General informed us that the program had stopped not a single terrorist act, it is likely that bulk collection would have been cut short long ago.

Even with all these reforms, however, the USA Freedom Act only skims the surface. It does not address, for example, the NSA’s guerilla-like tactics of inserting vulnerabilities into computer software and drivers, to be exploited later to surreptitiously intercept private communications. It also focuses exclusively on reining in the NSA’s direct spying on Americans. As Snowden’s disclosures have shown, the NSA collects far more private information on foreigners—including the content as well as the metadata of e-mails, online chats, social media, and phone calls—than on US citizens.

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 permits the NSA to intercept the content of communications when it can demonstrate nothing more than reason to believe that its targets are foreign nationals living abroad, and that the information might relate to “foreign intelligence.” “Foreign intelligence” is in turn defined to include any information that might inform our foreign affairs, which is no restriction at all. Under this authority, the NSA established the PRISM program, which collects both content and metadata from e-mail, Internet, and phone communications by millions of users worldwide. It is probably under this authority that, according to The Washington Post, the NSA is recording “every single” phone call from a particular, unnamed country. Documents leaked by Snowden demonstrate that the NSA also collects, again by the millions and billions, foreign nationals’ e-mail contact lists, cell phone location data, and texts. This is the very definition of dragnet surveillance.

Congress is far less motivated to do anything about the NSA’s abuse of the rights of foreign nationals. They are “them,” not “us.” They don’t vote. But they have human rights, too; the right to privacy, recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US has signed and ratified, does not limit protections to Americans. Snowden’s revelations have justifiably led to protests from many of our closest allies; they don’t want their privacy invaded by the NSA any more than we do, and they have more to complain about than we do, as they have suffered far greater intrusions.

In the Internet era, it is increasingly common that everyone’s communications cross national boundaries. That makes all of us vulnerable, for when the government collects data in bulk from people it believes are foreign nationals, it is almost certain to sweep up lots of communications in which Americans are involved. The initial version of the USA Freedom Act accordingly sought to limit the NSA’s ability to conduct so-called “back door” searches of content collected from foreigners for communications with Americans citizens. But that provision was stripped in committee, leaving the back door wide open.

Defense hawks will argue that even these reforms go too far, and that we may be risking our security by tying the NSA’s hands. But as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found, there is little evidence that the metadata program has made us safer. Moreover, if we want to preserve the liberties that define us as a democratic society, we have to learn to live with risk. It is the insistence on preemptively eliminating all terrorist threats—an unattainable goal—that led the NSA to collect so much information so expansively in the first place.

The fact that the USA Freedom Act has achieved such wide-ranging support may be less an indication of its compromises than of a fundamental shift in American views. In July 2013, following the Snowden revelations, the Pew Research Center reported that for the first time since it started asking the question in 2004, more Americans expressed concern that counter-terrorism measures were infringing their civil liberties than worried that the government was not doing enough to keep them safe.

Congress is responsive to such shifts in popular opinion. The question now is whether that new attitude can be translated into more systemic reform, or whether enactment of this bill will placate enough people that the demand for further reform fizzles. If the Senate can pass or even strengthen the USA Freedom Act, as Senator Leahy has said he intends to do, it will be a significant achievement for civil liberties. But the biggest mistake any of us could make would be to conclude that this bill solves the problem.


May 10, 2014, 10:12 a.m.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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(because the 'safer' drone strikes kill so many innocent people you dont get accurate data anymore === this is coverup, GAAL)


Drones Strike: Targets Attacked by CIA Drones in Pakistan – Most are Houses


Global Research, May 30, 2014
A Pakistani tribesman sifts through the rubble of his house after an attack in January 2006 (Photo: Tariq Mahmood/AFP/Getty Images)

The Bureau is publishing, for the first time, data showing the types of targets that have been reportedly attacked by CIA drones in Pakistan.

The research is a joint project by the Bureau, Forensic Architecture, a research unit based at Goldsmiths University, London, and Situ Research in New York. The data feeds this interactive website mapping the strikes, the types of target attacked, and their relative scale.

Download the data here

This data reflects our understanding of the strikes as of May 2014. It will not be updated – so if new information emerges about the attacks, it will not be included in this dataset, although it will be included in our main drones databases.

Below is a brief methodology showing how we compiled the data and the definitions we used. There is a more detailed methodology for our broader research on drones here.

Related story – Most US drone strikes in Pakistan attack houses

How we compiled the data

We have used the index of reports the Bureau has compiled for each strike, extracting and recording data on what targets were reportedly hit. The targets were divided into domestic, public, religious, and commercial buildings, outdoor gatherings (such as meetings and funerals), and vehicles. Because of the very small number of public buildings, commercial buildings and outdoor gatherings that were hit, we have recorded these as ‘Other Buildings’.

Reporting is sometimes vague about the target, and sources sometimes directly contradict one other. The Bureau uses the minimum figure in a range for data analysis in its investigations, to reflect these uncertainties. For example, a strike on March 16 2011 killed at least three people but reportedly hit either a vehicle or a house. This has been recorded as 0-1 vehicles hit and 0-1 houses hit and is represented on the interactive map as ‘target unclear’.

This information about targets was combined with casualty estimates for the strikes. The locations were largely identified and plotted on the geo-platform using a CIA map of Waziristan, declassified in 2007. Latitudes and longitudes are based on reported locations, which are often only as specific as town or district, and so are not precise.


• Civilian

The Bureau classifies all individuals credibly reported as civilians as such. Where the dead are described as ‘tribesmen’, ‘locals’ or ‘people’, we believe this indicates possible civilian casualties and reflect this using the 0-X range.

The Bureau has recorded a number of female casualties in the drone war. It almost always classes women as civilians: in the FATA region of Pakistan, where the strikes take place, reports of female militants are exceedingly rare.

• Domestic building

Where drones attack buildings, these are often described as ‘compounds’ and sometimes even ‘militant compounds’. However, local sources confirm that these are typically domestic buildings that are often rented or commandeered by militant groups.

• Drone strike

A missile or set of missiles fired by a drone or drones at a single location. Where missiles hit more than an hour apart, we counted these as separate strikes. Where drones hit locations more than a couple of miles apart we also count these as separate strikes, even when they take place in quick succession.

• Other Buildings

A small number of strikes have targeted buildings that are neither domestic buildings nor madrassas and mosques. These include commercial buildings and disused government buildings.

• Religious (Madrassa/mosque)

A madrassa is a seminary – a religious school. These are usually residential facilities that educate children and youths. A very small proportion of all attacks have hit madrassas or mosques, but they have tended to have very high death tolls.

• Target Unclear

Reporting is sometimes vague about what was hit in a strike – and sometimes media reports contradict one another in terms of what type of target was attacked. In these cases, we have categorised the target as ‘unclear’.

• Vehicles

This category encompasses cars, pick-up trucks, four-wheel drives and motorbikes.


• Media sources

The most comprehensive public information on casualties generally lies in the thousands of press reports filed by reputable national and international media outlets. The bulk of our sources are in English, but some Urdu reporting has been used.

Further information on media sources

• Other sources

The Bureau has carried out several field investigations into possible civilian deaths. The data also incorporates the fieldwork of credible researchers (for example Stanford Law School and New York University School of Law) and evidence filed in legal cases brought in Pakistan and elsewhere on behalf of civilian drone victims. Leaked US intelligence reports, WikiLeaks diplomatic cables, sanctions lists and ‘most wanted’ lists, and jihadist forums and websites have also been used where relevant.

Further information on other sources

Additional details

In each category we aimed to note the nature and extent of the reported structural damage. We assigned a code for the degree of structural damage, where reported:

1. Minimal damage

2. Moderate damage

3. Severe damage

4. Completely destroyed

The damage was not consistently reported in each strike, and was not consistent in each report of each strike. In some cases, we have assigned more than one number to a strike. For example, when some sources reported the building was totally destroyed but others only reported severe damage the strike was assigned 3-4.

Where there are differences in reporting the number of missiles fired in a strike, we have similarly recorded these as a range.

We used the same technique to accommodate inconsistencies between sources in the number and types of targets hit in the strikes. On average one building or one vehicle were hit in each strike. However several strikes reportedly hit multiple targets. For example, drones destroyed a convoy of trucks in a strike onDecember 27 2010, killing 18-25 people. However sources reported either two or three trucks were hit. The Bureau has recorded this strike as hitting 2-3 vehicles.



Follow Alice K Ross and Jack Serle on Twitter. Subscribe to the Bureau’s drones podcast and newsletter.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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A Review of Douglas Valentine's 'The Phoenix Program'
Posted by Orangutan. on Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:02am

Posted on June 26, 2014 by Kevin Ryan

Douglas Valentine’s The Phoenix Program is vital for understanding the history of terrorism and its role in political warfare. Few other historical accounts provide as much detail on how the U.S. government and the CIA began to use programs for counterterrorism to implement political policy through secretive, coldblooded actions. Understanding such history is critical to making sense of what is happening in our world today.

PP-194x300.jpgAlthough implemented as a means of countering terrorism, Valentine shows how the Phoenix Program was in practice a CIA-controlled campaign of terror in Vietnam. Hidden behind terms like pacification and neutralization, Phoenix implemented a program of terror and psychological warfare against the civilian population. Under the guise of counterterrorism, tens of thousands of civilians were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.

Valentine explains how the purpose of Phoenix was to terrorize the people into submission, not only causing them to fear any possible association with the enemy but also as a means to crush dissent. Unfortunately for many Vietnamese peasants, they were caught in a world in which they were terrorized by both sides in the long-lasting conflict. Using psychological warfare techniques, Phoenix promised to protect the people from terrorism while simultaneously terrorizing them.

The book describes the history of the program well. Phoenix and its precursor ICEX aligned the CIA-supported Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) with police and paramilitary programs to create a system for capturing or killing suspects in targeted ways. Once captured and brought in for interrogation, the suspect was as good as dead. The growing fear of this program led to further abuses including false accusations and payoffs. The contractor Pacific Architects and Engineers built interrogation centers in every province and doubled as an employment front for other CIA operatives.

The U.S. Army’s participation in Phoenix led to the military purposefully targeting civilians. In 1968, Defense Secretary Clark Clifford called for Phoenix to be “pursued more vigorously.” In March of that year 504 men, women and children were killed in My Lai. Although it was covered up, Valentine argues that My Lai was a product of Phoenix, under CIA control.

Many of the characters in Valentine’s book went on to play infamous roles in other scandals. Clark Clifford, for example, went on to lead the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), discovered to be a CIA-controlled terrorist network. Clayton McManaway, hired by William Colby as a Phoenix program manager, later became a principal advisor in the ransacking of Iraq under L. Paul Bremer in 2003. Most remarkably, control of Phoenix was transferred to Ted Shackley in 1969. Shackley would become the leader of the “CIA within the CIA,” and was implicated in events like the Iran-Contra crimes. These facts demonstrate that once something like Phoenix is created and allowed to flourish, the philosophy and machinery behind it does not go away.

This book is well written and every page holds the reader’s attention. More importantly, it provides great historical background and analysis that is crucial to understanding terrorism and how it drives government policy today.

The Phoenix Program is now part of a new series edited by Mark Crispin Miller called the Forbidden Bookshelf.

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News for afghanistan civilian deaths
How many Afghan civilians have died in 13 years of war?
The Independent - 4 days ago
However, when the civilian deaths are added to those of international and Afghan National Army soldiers, it becomes clear that the 13-year ...
Amnesty criticizes U.S. over Afghan civilian deaths - USA Today
Aug 11, 2014 ... KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. failed to properly investigate civilian
killings, including possible war crimes, which occurred during its ...
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Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria: The Dirty Consequences of Our “Clean Wars”

6 Dec 2014 23:15


Five years ago the suggestion that within a decade drone strikes would be taking place on a regular basis in multiple countries with little notice by the mainstream media or the general public seemed far-fetched to many. Today, with drone strikes being undertaken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, and no doubt Libya again too soon(and not to forget the regular sporadic bursts of Israeli strikes in Gaza) such a prediction looks a lot more likely, if not a certainty.

Continuing daily ‘precise’ airstrikes by US, UK and other nations against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria are currently almost invisible in the news media except for a few stories re-presenting carefully controlled DoD and MoD press statements. Meanwhile the US continues to increase its military forces in the areawith A-10 aircraft and further Reaper drones being deployed from Afghanistan. The UK is also likely to have deployed further Reaper drones from Afghanistan but insists that it can’t reveal such information. Iran is now also flying drones and aged aircraft over Iraq and has also undertaken airstrikes, although the US insists that it is not doing so in co-ordination with the US and its coalition. Expert commentators say however there must be some communication to enable such flights to take place or else it would be “suicidal.”

Investigative Journalist Chris Woods, who continues to monitor and detail airstrikes taking place in Iraq and Syria, wrote this week about the denial on the civilian casualties caused by airstrikes. He reports that at least 100 non-combatants may have been killed in the airstrikes since the start of the operation and writes:

Centcom’s continuing assertion that it has “no operational reporting or intelligence” confirming civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, despite more than 1,000 airstrikes to date, is therefore unlikely to be accurate. Indeed, NATO was later forced to retract similar claims at the end of the 2011 Libyan air war after investigations found that dozens of civilians had in fact died in allied airstrikes.

Woods also makes the point that with so many separate countries undertaking airstrikes, operating by different rules of engagement and refusing to give locations and times of strikes, it is almost impossible for relatives of civilians killed in such strikes to report the details or to seek compensation for their loss.

The fact that only 25% of airstrikes in Iraq and 5% of airstrikes in Syria are pre-planned, with the vast majority being undertaken by aircraft and drones ‘on the fly’ (i.e. when a ‘target of opportunity’ is spotted) will no doubt impact on the number of civilian casualties killed in this air war.

Meanwhile US drone strikes will continue in Afghanistan in 2015 after President Obama “shifted” his position and expanded the proposed US security mission in Afghanistan following the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement. Rather than just undertaking a training and support role as previously announced, US forces will now carry out direct missions against the Taliban and other militant groups. A senior American military officer told New York Times that “in light of Mr. Obama’s decision, the Air Force expects to use F-16 fighters, B-1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones to go after the Taliban in 2015.”

The Pakistan press also report that according to a ‘highly credible source’ the US intends to step up targeted drone strikes in Afghanistan against named Pakistan Taliban leaders Mullah Fazlullah, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and Mangal Bagh Afridi. Such targeted strikes have already begun according to Reuters with a strike on November 24 hitting a house where Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah had stayed the night before. Rather than killing Fazlullah it killed two lower level Taliban operatives.

Such drone targeted killings however have a devastating impact on civilians as a new document from Reprieve shows. The report, ‘You Never Die Twice’ reveals the dirty secret of just how many people – including in some cases children – are killed each time the US attempts to assassinate a ‘high value target.’ Key findings of the report include:

In Pakistan, 24 men were reported as killed or targeted multiple times. Missed strikes on these men killed 874 people, including 142 children.
In Yemen, 17 men were reported killed or targeted multiple times. Missile strikes on these men killed 273 others and accounted for almost half of all confirmed civilian casualties and 100% of all recorded child deaths.
In targeting Ayman al Zawahiri, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults. They failed twice, and Ayman al Zawahiri is reportedly still alive.
It took the US six attempts to kill Qari Hussain, a Pakistani target. During these attempts, 128 people were killed, including 13 children.
Each assassination target on the US government’s so-called Kill List ‘died’ on average more than three times before their actual death
Such shocking information highlights the need for at the very least transparency and accountability from countries using drones and other aircraft to undertake airstrikes, and indeed to thoroughly investigate reports of civilian casualties as a new report from Open Society Foundations urges.

But it should also be clear by now that we must begin to stop seeing these deaths as ‘accidents’. Such tragedies are the perfectly foreseeable consequences of undertaking military airstrikes and we only make further such deaths possible when we describe them as ‘accidents’ or ‘mistakes’.

The narrative of ‘precision strikes’ alongside the remoteness of the operations and lack of media scrutiny allows us if we do not look too closely to believe that such war is clean, surgical and even humane. The view of those on the receiving end must be very different.



Edited by Steven Gaal
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Killer Drones Are a Lethal Extension of American Exceptionalism


Sunday, 28 December 2014 00:00 By Marjorie Cohn, Olive Branch Press | Book Excerpt


2014_1226PP.jpg(Image: Olive Branch Press)​ In this anthology edited by Marjorie Cohn - law professor, Truthout contributor and human rights authority - the clarity of the case against drones used for assassinations is persuasively made. Get this book now, with an introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The following is Cohn's introduction to Drones and Targeted Killing, entitled "A Frightening New Way of War":

In his 2009 acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama declared, "Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war." By the time Obama accepted the award, one year into his presidency, he had ordered more drone strikes than George W. Bush had authorized during his two presidential terms.

The Bush administration detained and tortured suspected terrorists. The Obama administration has chosen to illegally assassinate them, often with the use of drones. The continued indefinite detention of men at Guantánamo belies Obama's pledge two days after his first inauguration to close the prison camp there. However, Obama has added only one detainee to the Guantánamo roster. "This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo] they are going to kill them," according to John Bellinger, who formulated the Bush administration's drone policy.

On "Terror Tuesdays," Obama and John Brennan, Obama's former counterterrorism adviser, now CIA director, go through the "kill list" to identify which individuals should be assassinated that week. The Obama administration has developed a creative method to count the civilian casualties from these assassinations. All military-age men killed in a drone strike zone are considered to be combatants "unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent." Brennan falsely claimed in 2011 that no civilians had been killed in drone strikes in nearly a year.

Obama orders two different types of drone attacks: personality strikes that target "named, high-value terrorists," and signature strikes that target training camps and "suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants." In the signature strikes, sometimes called "crowd killings," the Obama administration often doesn't even know who are they killing. "But," write Jo Becker and Scott Shane in the New York Times, "some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist 'signature' were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees 'three guys doing jumping jacks,' the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued."

Before taking the life of a person off the battlefield, the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires the government to arrest a suspect, inform him of the charges against him, and provide him with a fair trial. But like his predecessor, Obama defines virtually the entire world as a battlefield, ostensibly obviating the necessity to provide due process before execution.

. . . . .

The Bush administration took the position that neither the criminal law nor international humanitarian law – which comes from the Hague and Geneva Conventions and governs the conduct of war – protected the targets of the "War on Terror." They existed in a legal "black hole." Obama has apparently adopted the same position, although he has replaced the moniker "War on Terror" with "War on Al Qaeda." But "there is not a distinct entity called Al Qaeda that provides a sound basis for defining and delimiting an authorized use of military force," according to Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center.

Both administrations have justified their targeted killing policies with reference to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which Congress passed a week after 9/11.

. . . . .

This authorization is limited to groups and countries that supported the 9/11 attacks. Congress rejected the Bush administration's request for open-ended military authority "to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." But deterrence and preemption are exactly what Obama is trying to accomplish by sending robots to kill "suspected militants."

Obama has extended his battlefield beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen Somalia and Libya, even though the United States is not at war with those countries. U.S. drones fly from allied bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Italy, Qatar, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. Expanding into West Africa, the United States has built a major drone hub in Djibouti.

Armed drones are operated by "pilots" located thousands of miles from their targets. Before launching its payload, the drone hovers above the area. It emits a buzzing sound that terrorizes communities. "The drones were terrifying," observed New York Times journalist David Rhode, who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2008 and later escaped. "From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death. Drones fire missiles that travel faster than the speed of sound. A drone's victim never hears the missile that kills him."

After the drone drops a bomb on its target, a second strike often bombs people rescuing the wounded from the first strike. And frequently, a third strike targets mourners at funerals for those felled by the prior strikes. This is called a "double tap," although it is more accurately a "triple tap." U.S. drones have killed children, rescuers, and funeral processions "on multiple occasions," according to a report written by Micah Zenko for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Obama's administration has killed at least as many people in targeted killings as died on 9/11. But of the estimated 3,000 people killed by drones, "the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders," CFR reported. "Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots."

. . . . .

Drones are Obama's weapon of choice because, unlike piloted fighter aircraft, they don't jeopardize the lives of U.S. pilots. There are claims that the use of drones results in fewer civilian casualties than manned bombers. However, a study based on classified military data, conducted by Larry Lewis from the Center for Naval Analyses and Sarah Holewinski of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, found that the use of drones in Afghanistan has caused 10 times more civilian deaths than manned fighter aircraft.

"In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling 'targeted killing' of terrorists with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false," according to the comprehensive report Living Under Drones issued by Stanford Law School and NYU Law School. Many killed by drones are civilians, or, as the administration says, "bug splat," referring to the "collateral damage" estimate methodology the U.S. military and the CIA employ.

Targeted killing with drones is counterproductive. General Stanley McChrystal, architect of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, declared that drones are "hated on a visceral level" and contribute to a "perception of American arrogance." Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, concurs. "Drone strikes . . . do not solve our terrorist problem," he noted. "In fact, drone use may prolong it. Even though there is no immediate retaliation, in the long run the contributions to radicalization through drone use may put more American lives at risk." Mullah Zabara, a southern tribal sheikh from Yemen, told Jeremy Scahill, "The US sees al Qaeda as terrorism, and we consider the drones terrorism. The drones are flying day and night, frightening women and children, disturbing sleeping people. This is terrorism." The CFR reported a "strong correlation" in Yemen between stepped up targeted killings since December 2009 and "heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula]."

Drone strikes breed increased resentment against the United States and lead to the recruitment of more terrorists. "Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants," according to Becker and Shane. They quoted Faisal Shahzad, who, while pleading guilty to trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square, told the judge, "When the drones hit, they don't see children."

. . . . .

The Bush administration's 2002 drone strike in Yemen that killed, among others, U.S. citizen Ahmed Hijazi, also known as Kamal Derwish, was the first publicly confirmed U.S. targeted killing outside a battlefield since President Gerald Ford signed a ban on political assassinations in 1976. "It means the rules of engagement have changed," a former CIA official with knowledge about special operations told the Los Angeles Times after the strike in Yemen. "That would be the first time that they have started doing this kind of thing."

It wouldn't be the last. Scahill writes, "The secret war in Pakistan became largely a drone bombing campaign, described by CIA officers at the US Embassy in Islamabad as 'boys with toys.'" By the end of Obama's first year as president, he "and his new counterterrorism team would begin building the infrastructure for a formalized US assassination program," Scahill added, with "an aggressive embrace of assassination as a centerpiece of US national security policy."

. . . . .

In his 2013 speech to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Obama stated, "Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional – in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all." But in addition to the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of people in those countries have been killed and untold numbers wounded.

. . . . .

American exceptionalism also reared its head after the February 2013 leak of a Department of Justice (DoJ) White Paper that describes circumstances under which the President could order the targeted killing of U.S. citizens. There had been little public concern in the United States about drone strikes killing people in other countries. But when it was revealed that U.S. citizens might be targeted, Americas were outraged.

. . . . .

It is this double standard that motivated Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to pen a compelling letter to the editor of the New York Times, in which he asked, "Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours?" The Archbishop elaborates on that observation in the Foreword to this collection.

In May 2013, as international criticism targeted Obama's drone policy and the continued indefinite detention at Guantánamo where detainees were starving themselves to death and military guards were violently force-feeding them, the President delivered a speech. He explained that "the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces," without defining who those "associated forces" are. Although he defended his use of drones and targeted killing, Obama proclaimed, "America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them."

Obama referred to the killing of Osama bin Laden as exceptional because "capture, although our preference, was remote." Yet it was clear when the U.S. soldiers arrived at bin Laden's compound that the people there were unarmed and bin Laden could have been captured.

. . . . .

The month before Obama gave his speech, McClatchy reported that the administration had been misrepresenting the types of groups and individuals it was targeting with drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Citing classified U.S. intelligence reports, the McClatchy piece said that contrary to the administration's claims that it had deployed drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, it had in fact targeted and killed hundreds of suspected low-level Afghan, Pakistani and "other" militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan. At times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups." Micah Zenko, author of the CFR report cited earlier, said that McClatchy's findings indicate the administration is "misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted."

. . . . .

In this interdisciplinary collection, human rights and political activists, policy analysts, lawyers and legal scholars, a philosopher, a journalist and a sociologist examine different aspects of the U.S. policy of targeted killing with drones and other methods. These contributors explore legality, morality and geopolitical considerations, and evaluate the impact on relations between the United States and the countries affected by targeted killings.

The book includes the documentation of civilian casualties by the leading non-governmental organization in this area; stories of civilians victimized by the drones; an analysis of the first U.S. targeted killing lawsuit by the lawyer who brought the case, as well as a discussion of the targeted killing cases in Israel by the director of The Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI) which filed one of the lawsuits; the domestic use of drones; and the immorality of drones using Just War principles.

International legal scholar Richard Falk explains in Chapter Two why weaponized drones pose a greater threat than nuclear weapons to international law and world order. He notes that nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945 except for deterrence and coercive diplomacy as the countries of the world have established regimes of constraint on their use through arms control agreements and nonproliferation. Drones, however, are unconstrained by any system of regulation. They will likely remain unregulated as "the logic of dirty wars" continues to drive U.S. national security policy.

In Chapter Three, policy analyst Phyllis Bennis describes assassination as central to U.S. war strategy due to the militarization of our foreign policy. She traces the program of assassination to the post-Vietnam era "Salvador option," in which CIA and Special Forces developed assassination teams and death squads to avoid American casualties. Moving into the modern era, Bennis details how the war strategy shifted from counter-insurgency, with large numbers of U.S. troops, to counter-terrorism and targeted killing, using drones as the preferred weapon.

Chapter Four is an article published by journalist Jane Mayer in The New Yorker in 2009. This article was the first comprehensive exposé about the Obama administration's escalation of drone use for targeted killing. It is also one of the earliest efforts at documenting civilian casualties from the use of drones. Mayer raises the legal, political, and tactical ramifications of drone warfare and asks troubling questions about possible unintended consequences of this new weapon.

In Chapter Five, sociology professor Tom Reifer examines America's embrace of a global assassination program using the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, which he calls "a paramilitary arm of the President." He focuses on the effects of drone strikes on persons and targeted communities, as well as the drone pilots themselves.

Political activist Medea Benjamin, in Chapter Six, humanizes the victims of lethal drone strikes, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen. She includes personal stories about some of the victims and their family members. Benjamin describes how the drones, in addition to killing many innocent people, terrorize entire populations and destroy the fabric of local communities.

Chapter Seven is a comprehensive report by Alice K. Ross, of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, documenting civilian casualties of the drone strikes. She underlines the critical importance of publishing contemporaneous information on all casualties, civilian or militant, in a transparent, incident-by-incident manner - even where the information might be limited due to ongoing hostilities. Without such detail, Ross writes, it is impossible to effectively challenge casualty claims by officials and for victims of drone strikes to claim compensation.

The United States' targeted killing through the use of drones and other methods violates international and U.S. law, human rights attorney Jeanne Mirer explains in Chapter Eight. Extrajudicial killing is not illegal in the context of a legally declared war on a battlefield. However, the United States wrongfully claims that "self-defense" gives it the right to execute anyone in any country, regardless of citizenship and regardless of the existence of a legal war. Mirer analyses how the United States is violating International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

In Chapter Nine, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriaei discusses the first legal challenge to the U.S. targeted killing program in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama. That case involved the Obama administration's authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen in Yemen. She cites the imperative for accountability, including through judicial review, and discusses the obstacles constructed by the Obama administration that have effectively precluded judicial review thus far.

PCATI executive director Ishai Menuchin, in Chapter Ten, contrasts the discourse in Israel about the elimination of terrorists and preemptive action with the Palestinian discourse of "day-to-day acts of Israeli state-terror and repression." He wonders how extrajudicial execution became official Israeli policy since Israel does not have the death penalty. Menuchin examines assassination petitions filed in the Israeli High Court of Justice, including the "Targeted Killing" case, PCATI v. Government of Israel, and he laments Israel's lack of accountability.

In Chapter Eleven, philosopher John Kaag explains how drone warfare poses a serious challenge to Just War tradition and moral theory. He highlights the impact of drone use on the Just War requirements of proportionality and distinction, as well as on the definition of "collateral damage." Kaag notes that the use of drone technology cannot be regulated by merely prudential concerns, but rather will turn on issues of legality and ethicality.

Legal scholar John Quigley analyzes in Chapter Twelve the impact of the policy of using lethal pilotless aircraft on relations between the United States and the countries in which the affected populations are located, in the context of a history of resentment against U.S. interventions and interference. He suggests that the policy redounds to the detriment of the United States by engendering resentment and the use of violence against the United States and its personnel. The chapter suggests that the Obama Administration is aware of these risks but continues its policy in spite of them.

In Chapter Thirteen, ACLU attorney Jay Stanley discusses policy issues surrounding the imminent arrival of domestic drones in U.S. airspace. The main concern is privacy. Stanley asks how the technology is likely to evolve, and how the First Amendment "right to photography" interacts with serious privacy issues implicated by drones. The national discourse about drone deployment has opened up a space for privacy activists and others to create a genuine public discussion of the issue before it is widely deployed.

Finally, in Chapter Fourteen, political activist Tom Hayden places the advent of the Drone Age into a historical context of U.S. military invasions and occupations. He discusses political and strategic considerations that animate the evolution of the military policies of President Obama, who is "in grave danger of leaving a new Imperial Presidency as his legacy." Hayden advocates a transparent set of policies to rein in the use of drones and cyberwarfare, while protecting democracy.

Drones and targeted killing will not solve the problem of terrorism. "If you use the drone and the selected killings, and do nothing else on the other side, then you get rid of individuals. But the root causes are still there," former Somali foreign minister, Ismail Mahmoud 'Buubaa' Hurre, told Scahill. "The root causes are not security. The root causes are political and economic."

A Pentagon study conducted during the Bush administration concluded, "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies." It identified "America, we ignore this admonition at our peril. Until we stop invading countries with Muslim populations, occupying their lands, torturing their people, and killing them with drones, we will never be safe from terrorism."

It is my hope that this volume will provide information that can be marshalled to halt the illegal, immoral, unwise U.S. policy of assassination.

Full footnotes to the above excerpt can be found in Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.


posted in fair use

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The greatest trick Obama ever pulled was convincing the world America isn’t still at war (CLICK LINK)

The holiday headlines blared without a hint of distrust: “End of War” and “Mission Ends” and “U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan,” as the U.S. government and Nato celebrated the alleged end of the longest war in American history. Great news! Except, that is, when you read past the first paragraph: “the fighting is as intense as it has ever been since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001,” according to the Wall Street Journal . And about 10,000 troops will remain there for the foreseeable future (more than we had a year after the Afghan war started ). Oh, and they’ll continue to engage in combat regularly . But other than that, yeah, the war is definitely over.

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‘We didn’t even really know who we were firing at’ – former US drone operator

“There was no oversight. I just know that the inside of the entire program was diseased and people need to know what happens to those that were on the inside,” he told RT’s Anissa Naouai. “People need to know the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability that happen.”

Bryant decried the “black hole putrid system that is either going to crush you or you’re going to conform to it,” and apologized to families of victims whose deaths he was responsible for. By his estimation, he helped kill some 1626 people. “I couldn’t stand myself for doing it” he added.

“I’m sorry that the mistake happened. I’m doing everything that I can to prevent further mistakes from happening.”

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By Glenn Greenwald
The U.S. Media And The 13-Year-old Yemeni Boy Burned To Death Last Month By A U.S. Drone


If it were American teenagers rather than Yemeni ones regularly being burned to death -- on American soil rather than Yemeni soil -- does it take any effort to understand why there'd be widespread calls for violence against the perpetrators in response? Consider how much American rage and violence was unleashed by a single-day attack on American soil 13 years ago.
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If you have not ...please read post # 1 this thread ,thank you Steven Gaal


UN Reveals 'Credible and Reliable' Evidence of US Military Torture in Afghanistan (link)

According to the report, prevalent torture methods used by Afghan forces include, "prolonged and severe beating with cables, pipes, hoses or wooden sticks (including on the soles of the feet), punching, hitting and kicking all over the body including jumping on the detainee’s body, twisting of genitals including with a wrench-like device, and threats of execution and/or sexual assault."


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