Thursday, February 02, 2012

The drones

Al Mada reports Iraqi government sources report US drones are not the only US aircraft occupying the Iraqi skies currently. In addition there are the US helicopters (such as the one that went down in Baghdad recently) and F-16 aircraft. Al Mannarah adds that while the US claims to respect the sovereignity of all countries even as it sends drones across borders. Felicity Arbuthnot weighs in with "War Or No War In Iraq? Drones Over Iraq: When is a Pullout not a Pullout?" (Centre for Research on Globalalization):

First the world was sold imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, General Colin Powell, at the United Nations in February 2003, asserting: “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”
Now it seems the world is sold a withdrawal from Iraq which was not quite what it seemed, as presented by the Panetta-Obama-fest in the Baghdad, Fort Bragg speeches of just six weeks ago. At Fort Bragg: "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history …” said the President.
Well, not quite.
In an interesting sleight of hand, the State Department, rather than the Pentagon, is operating a fleet of surveillance drones over Iraq.
In: “ … the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over the functions in Iraq that the military used to perform.”(i)
Further, the near Vatican City sized US Embassy in Baghdad is protected by five thousand mercenaries and has a further staff of eleven thousand, a large number, seemingly in a “military advice” capacity, training Iraqi forces – a nation that, ironically, nine years ago the US and UK cited as having a military capability not alone a threat “to the entire region”, but to the West.

Nicole Goebel (Deutsche Welle) quotes Barack insisting Monday, "It is important for everybody to understand that this is kept on a very tight leash." But as Patt Morrison noted on her self-titled program (KPCC) yesterday, more than 200 strikes in Pakistan alone since 2009, "it's the CIA that runs the drone program not the air force [. . .] and the drone question has never really come up before Congress in all the years of its use." The broadcast was a debate on the issues between the Heritage Foundation's James Jay Carafano and the University of Notre Dame's law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell. Excerpt.

Mary Ellen O'Connell: Patt, I've got very serious concerns. It is true that if a drone is used on the battlefield -- and today the United States is involved in armed conflict hostilities in one place only, that is Afghanistan, that is the only place where we can use the current generation of drones lawfully because those drones fire missiles and drop bombs. If we want to do covert operations today, the United States moved to the point before 9/11 where we were not having the CIA involved in lethal operations. After the 1980s, the dirty wars in Central America, we got the CIA out of killing. That also followed, of course, the tragic years of Vietnam in which the CIA was doing a large amount of killing and we didn't think the way that Vietnam turned out was right for our country or right for the world. And then after the compounded problems of the CIA involved in lethal, covert operations, the Congress stopped it. Now what we're seeing today is not only a replay of that failure -- moral and legal -- to have the CIA involved in those kinds of operations but it is exacerbated by the this type of weaponry kills so many people in addition to the target.

O'Connell stated that a conservative estimate for the number of people killed in US drone attacks so far would be 2200 people. Robert Wright (The Atlantic) notes the skill with which Barack navigated, controlled and circumvented the topic:

At one point in his Google Plus conversation, Obama did a masterful job of describing the function of the drone strikes in a way that did allude to their battlefield function, but still appealed to "war on terror" psychology. The people targeted by the drones, he said, "are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on." When you're at war, is it really "terrorism" for the enemy to kill your soldiers? If so, why isn't it terrorism for your soldiers to kill the enemy (especially when you sometimes, as with drone strikes, kill civilians)? But of course, the virtue of the word "terrorism" is that it makes us think of al Qaeda, whether or not al Qaeda is in fact involved.
If drone strikes are indeed increasing America's vulnerability to terrorism in the long run--and if in the short term they're a price paid for Obama's 2008 political calculation--then it's no wonder the president is using these sorts of verbal smokescreens.

Again, thus far, no armed drones are being used by the US on Iraq -- as far as we know. However, the US is in talks with Turkey to provide them with armed drones to patrol northern Iraq. (That should be a done deal since Turkey's already given over land for a CIA base on the border.) And let me amend that to just the US State Dept in Iraq. In fact, the CIA is operating within Iraq. Whether or not they're using armed drones? I would imagine they were. Considering that they an US Special Ops continue to operate in Iraq, it's very likely that the CIA is operating armed drones in Iraq. (And possibly using the State Dept's unarmed drones as a cover.) RT notes, "Aside from the fleet of drones flying overhead, the tally of American-aligned personnel in Iraq totals close to 15,000. The US Embassy in Baghdad is the largest of its kind, and holds around 11,000 staffers. Military contractors on assignment to protect the embassy account for around another 4,000. If that presence on the ground wasn't enough, now the US is putting its planes overhead." M. Dennis Paul ( observes, "Obama went on to lie directly to the Nation in stating no Americans remained in combat in Iraq and that a favor had been done to that nation and the world. This writer happens to know several Americans who are still in Iraq and are still fighting there. It is doubtful they represent a small number as there are literally hundreds of thousands of hired guns who have replaced the uniformed GI in Iraq. They protect embassies, government officials, corporate big wigs, and every manner of $$ making operation in that nation that so benefited from our incursions it looks like a scene from one of so many futuristic films about global war and destruction. Ask any Iraqi on the street if he appreciates the American invasion. A constant and sad refrain is that Iraq was better off before... not after. Death, displacement, destruction of over 80% of infrastructure, toxic air, land and water, deformed children, hundreds of thousands of innocents struggling to obtain care for themselves and their families.. many struggling just to find their families, constant sniper fire, bombings, threats, crime of all sorts... Yes, Obama can sell it like his predecessors."

AFP states, "Iraq is to host an Arab summit on March 29, the first since the Arab Spring that swept away several dictators and brought Islamists to the fore, a senior Arab League official said on Wednesday." Wrong. Is scheduled to host. After all the drama of 2011, when they were supposed to host it in March 2011. They kept claiming that would happen right up until it got pushed back to May 2011 and then May came and went and no Arab Summit.

The following community sites -- plus Susan's On Edge, Chocolate City and -- updated last night and this morning:

And I'm running late this morning, juggling too many things. My apologies. We're closing with this from Workers World:


Published Feb 1, 2012 9:44 PM

Jan. 31 — These are dangerous times. The political and diplomatic maneuvering that precedes military action is growing, with the U.S. government in the forefront of trying to round up support for new imperialist interventions.

We in the United States have a special obligation to stay the hands of the war hawks, because the Pentagon, in our name and sucking up our money, is the most aggressive and destructive force in the world today.

That’s why Workers World Party is in complete solidarity with all the anti-war actions that are demanding: No war on Iran! No intervention in Syria! U.S.-NATO out of Libya! End the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq now! Bring U.S. troops and special ops home from Korea, Guantanamo, Pakistan, Somalia and everywhere else!

But taking action to oppose imperialist wars and occupations is not an issue for the anti-war movement alone. Everyone in the United States who is suffering from or just worrying about the deep economic problems affecting the millions here needs to understand that the war threats are intimately connected with imperialist plunder abroad and capitalist exploitation at home.

Moreover, it is only when the war-makers in Washington fear a massive response to their lethal decisions that we can hope to pull them back from the brink.

It is clear from the many anti-war and anti-imperialist demands of those attracted to the Occupy movement that such a consciousness is growing in this country.

So we are in a race for time. Which will come first — another war or the explosive growth of anti-war sentiment among the people, especially the working class and oppressed?

Capitalist economic crisis fuels war drive

The deepening capitalist economic crisis is fueling an increasingly belligerent foreign policy by all the imperialist powers. The “scramble for Africa” that happened toward the end of the 19th century, when the European capitalists raced each other to grab the most territory on that great continent, is being repeated today — but now it is a struggle to recolonize countries in Asia and Africa that had, by the 1960s, won some measure of independence, aided by the existence of a bloc of socialist countries.

In today’s scramble, the U.S. has blasted its way into Iraq and Afghanistan, with the British ruling class tagging along for their cut of the pie. The European imperialists and the U.S. collaborated on hammering down the Gadhafi government in Libya — like Iraq, a country that had used its oil revenues to greatly raise the standard of living of most of the people.

Now the U.S., Britain and France are hauling out their big guns — literally and figuratively — to try and get United Nations cover for an attack on Syria. As we write, the foreign ministers of all three imperialist countries are in New York putting pressure on Russia and China, which have veto power in the U.N. Security Council. These two only abstained on the Libya vote early last year. The imperialists used the resolution allowing a “no-fly zone” over Libya as cover for an intensive bombing campaign that lasted more than six months and finally brought down the government of that North African country. Obviously, to them no-fly doesn’t apply to their bomb-laden planes and drones.

China and Russia have said they don’t want to make that mistake again. It takes an outright veto to block a resolution supported by the other three permanent members of the Security Council — the U.S., Britain and France. We hope that this time these two countries will do just that and emphatically vote no.

The irony is that the imperialists, the U.S. first and foremost, are pushing military solutions because they, in fact, are growing weaker economically. The capitalist system that has fattened off super-exploitation of the developing world is now choking on the highly efficient, high-tech global economy it has created.

This crisis brings to the fore a fundamental contradiction of capitalism that Karl Marx unraveled when it was still in its early stages. Capitalist competition drives forward technological innovation, which at first makes more profits for the owners because they can shed labor. But eventually the process overwhelms the markets for their products — workers have no money to buy the greater and greater quantities of goods produced! — and a crisis occurs. The privately owned profit system is at war with the socialized character of the productive process.

Today’s crisis is worldwide and reflects the global character of the capitalist economy and the labor market. It will not yield to politicians’ promises or some tinkering with credit or taxes or currencies.

The impasse the system is in can intensify all of capitalism’s ugliest features: xenophobia, as seen in the vicious crusade against immigrants; racism, which deepens the immense suffering of the oppressed communities even if a few individuals are allowed to advance; jingoism and “America first” bombast against other countries, most notably China at this time, concealing who the real enemies of the working class are.

It is U.S. corporations, and the banks behind them, that decide to move their operations to low-wage countries in search of even greater profits, even though they already possess the greatest riches in human history. Unfortunately, some union leaders are misdirecting the anger of their members against China at this time. That only feeds into the divide-and-conquer strategy of the boss class, which has an international outlook. It is time for U.S. labor leaders to also think globally and strengthen solidarity with workers around the world.

Solidarity and unity needed to fight the capitalist system

But political reaction can also arouse the instincts of solidarity and unity of all the workers and oppressed — instincts they need to fight the system. It is beginning to happen. Black, white, Latino/a, Asian, Native and Arab together are helping each other resist evictions, walk the picket lines and occupy public spaces in protest over poverty and injustice.

People here celebrated the struggles of the Egyptians in Tahrir Square. The Egyptians in turn cheered on the Wisconsin sit-in at the Capitol building and sent pizzas, via cell phone, to Occupy Wall Street.

Class struggles are growing in Europe as workers there fight back against the austerity measures imposed by banks and bureaucrats.

Decades ago, Longshore union workers in the U.S. refused to load apartheid South African ships and cargo destined for U.S.-supported dictatorships in Central America.

This kind of solidarity is a direct challenge to the empire builders who would rip up our pensions, our jobs, our health care and other social services in their mad profit-driven attempts to control the world.

We must work to ensure that the anti-war movement deepens its roots among the people, especially the most oppressed, and becomes one with the class struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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