Posts Tagged drones

On the Father of the Muslim-American War Hero

Khizr Khan speaks during the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

Khizr Khan, whose son, Humayun S. M. Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving in the U.S. Army in the 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, offers to loan his copy of the Constitution to Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, as he speaks while a relative looks on during the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016.

At the Democratic National Convention last week Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party pulled at the stops in order to gain traction and win points with nearly all segments of American society, which is a diverse bunch. One way of doing so was to bring in the father of a Muslim American “war hero” who brought the Democratic National Convention to its feet on Thursday night with his impassioned rebuke of Donald Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Pakistan-born Khan, 65, appeared on stage at Wells Fargo Arena, the site of the Democratic convention, with his wife, Ghazala, at his side. He spoke of the heroism of his son, Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004 by an advancing vehicle loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosives. The 27-year-old soldier, who was born in the UAE, ordered his unit to halt while he walked toward the vehicle, saving the lives of his fellow soldiers from the ensuing explosion.

While I stand in full solidarity with Mr. Khan and feel deeply saddened by the loss of his son at the hands of our war mongering politicians, including Hillary Clinton whom he, ironically, supports, I ask myself: what about the parents and loved ones of all those Muslims who died at the hands of President Obama’s as well as Hillary Clinton’s  actions and policies in the Middle East?

Am I supposed to be impressed and touched that these self proclaimed men and women of honor bring in a token Muslim to their convention to show their solidarity with Muslim-Americans while at the same time, and behind closed doors and as we speak, they have ordered another round of drone attacks to those very parts?

I understand that this was Clinton’s way to put a human face onto the people who are the target of Trump’s vitriol and hateful rhetoric, but why does no one talk about all the Muslims Clinton and Obama got killed with their actions, including drone strikes?

Their lives matter, too. They loved their children, too. Who is listening to their pain? Who is lowering the flags for them? Who is inviting them to talk and giving them a chance to be heard?

I am bothered by how gullible and easily fooled people are. How superficially they look at issues, how a bit of fanfare, smiles and hugs and a few words of select wisdom are enough to win them over and embrace a candidate who has not only voted for the very fraudulent Iraq war Mr. Khan’s son died in (for nothing, if I may add) but who beats the drums to war as we speak and has no intention to stop US meddling and killing in the Middle East.

Clinton believes that this (token) Muslim she paid off to support her campaign was her being the epitome of decency and inclusion, when in reality  what she is doing is just using Muslims becasue it is politically expedient.

The truth is, each year thousands of Muslims, you know, the very brethren in faith of Mr. Khan,  die at the hands of our troops whose missions have been signed off and approved by the likes of President Obama and, later to be, Hillary Clinton. Each year dozens, if not hundreds, of families are torn apart, killed, separated and rendered destitute  due to the military actions our leaders sign off on. The current refugee crisis in Europe did not just take place in a vacuum or was brought on by itself. We had a lot to do with it.

To see no one talk about or mention that and instead celebrate Hillary Clinton as if she wasn’t a war monger who has voted for every military action in the Middle East she could vote on and who has called Palestinians in Gaza, terrorists, is disturbing and appalling.

Furthermore, by inviting these Muslim parents and using their tragedy for political gain (which, in and of itself is a pretty deplorable)  both Clinton and Obama just reinforce the binary of choice forced on Muslims: pacifism or violence. Most may not realize but by consistently putting onus on Muslims to ‘solve’ ISIS, our leaders  absolve any part US government policies have played and continue to play in the growth, cultivation and influence of ISIS.

Words are important, showing solidarity to the battered Muslim community is important – but don’t expect me to be grateful when you show up and tell me you support Muslims while you surveil, imprison and kill their kin.

Seeing so many American Muslims just eat up the words by Khan and, by extension, giving their support to Clinton and sing praise to her whilst ignoring this government’s policies (you know, the stuff that has actual impact on actual lives) is disappointing, albeit expected.

The sad thing is that Trump’s fascism and obscene Muslimophobia have created the kind of situation where Democrats do not, in fact, have to worry about addressing the deeper issues of military action, and specifically drone strikes, in the Middle East in any meaningful way.

The majority of Democrats in both House and Senate support the use of drone strikes that have proven to result in devastating civilian losses. Yet, it appears as though all they had to do is just invite a token Muslim to the table, throw around a few words about inclusion of the Muslim community, and they are guaranteed our votes. In other words, all they have to do is NOT be a vitriol spewing hater such as Trump, and they got it made. No need to examine the larger issues of foreign policy, specifically  as pertaining to the Middle East and the use of drones to kill those Muslims they pretend to care about. Just do not be Trump and you got their vote.

And, of course, someone who questions that is dismissed and called a Republican enabler whose continued criticism of Democrats is going to cost Clinton the election.


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Today’s Quote of the Day Brought To You By Melodrama

In the days since, the world has witnessed one sure and steadfast truth: Americans refuse to be terrorized.”

– President Barak Obama during his weekly address.

Indeed. We all know what happened last time such Americans “refused” to be terrorized: we got into two fraudulent, bankrupting wars that only benefitted the oil companies, George W. Bush and his cronies, the 1% and Israel.

“Americans refuse to be terrorized”? As opposed to everyone else who doesn’t? Here we go again with the “God bless America as we are so much more important and relevant than all of humanity combined because we are American” jingoist crap.

Obama’s definition of terror is a narrow one. After all, what about the terror from the Patriot Act, and the Spying-On-Citizens-For-National-Security Act or the TSA harassing people? Or Gitmo? And drones? What about those kind of systemic terrors that are being unleashed on people everyday. What about the terror of no job security – or any kind of security at all – despite that fact that most people making under 400k have to pay nearly 40% of their income in taxes? Forty percent of an income of which 100% go towards entities who do not need it.

America refuses to be terrorized, but we gladly terrorize others and even our own when convenient.

Thanks Obama for yet another full of pomp and posturing but truly devoid-of-content statement and lofty speech. As the Iranian government stated in a response to the attacks in Boston (and I never thought i would ever quote those criminals):

barry[When] children and women are killed by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan and by U.S.-backed terrorists in Iraq and Syria [it] is not a problem but if a bombing happens in the U.S. or another Western country, the whole world should pay the cost? […] The U.S. and others claiming to support human rights remain silent towards the massacre of innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria but create global controversy when explosions occur in the U.S.

Indeed. When one or two or a handful of Americans die the world pays the price but when people in the world die at the hands of Americans or American policies  it goes unnoticed, such as the massacre of 16 villagers, over half of which were children, in Afghanistan by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales last year. Somehow that never seemed to have grabbed the President’s intention prompting him to hold an equally passionate speech about the atrocities committed by soldiers under his command as the executive in chief. 

With respect to the Boston perpetrators and all the rhetoric that is swarming around trying to dismiss their actions as atypical, as the works of some crazy, unstable people: it is easy to dismiss this act as the work of some crazy person who committed a senseless act for which there is apparently no explanation and rationale.

But remember that hate and violence don’t just happen in a void.  No one comes out of their mother’s womb with the desire to destroy. There is an entire culture that rewards violence and war, facilitates oppression and injustice, one that makes war profitable and romantic, glorifies brutality and guns,  devalues pacifism, cooperation and diplomacy, abets cruelty, inequality, injustice, and tolerates colossal amounts of bigotry under the guise of “fair play” where supposedly both sides have a valid point in a false debate that equates the devastating  consequences of marginalization, discrimination and subjugation with the discomfort of having one’s undeserved privilege challenged.

You cannot exclusively task criminals and terrorists and those who wish to do harm with harm prevention and dismiss their acts as the acts of marginally crazy people.  We have to acknowledge, define, critique and dismantle a culture of violence and war that abets violence on a systemic level, such as US drone strikes that kill 100 civilians just to take down one or two suspected terrorist leaders – among the myriad of other things we do to create vast amounts of privilege for a few at the expense of innocent people who are just pawns in this scheme; people such as the victims of the Boston bombing and thus, once again, people who are not part of the problem.

When, as a supposedly peace loving nation that refuses to be terrorized,  you engage in such conceited, we-are-better-than-everyone-else speeches and policies, you set into motion a series of actions by people who feel that the only way they can be heard is by engaging in such acts of unimaginable violence. Again, this shit doesn’t just happen in a void populated by a lunatic fringe. Remember, alienation, disenfranchisement, poverty and lack of opportunity make it easier for people to pick up a gun. 

Does the US really think it gets to create war and havoc around the world and kill countless innocent civilians in a jihad of its own without consequences? Do people really think this kind of stuff happens in a void? 

As far as I am concerned, Obama has as much blood on his hands as these two terrorists – only that he does it within the context of his duties as the executive in chief, and thus is justified by the powers that be, while these two did it out of the context of being at the receiving end of the atrocities and systemic disruptions the US creates, and thus not from an official position and therefore not justified. But such a line of arguing is pure sophistry. Violence is violence. Terror is terror, murder of innocent people is murder – no matter who does it under what authority. The two bombers had as much right to take away peoples’ lives in such a horrific massacre as Obama and the US armed forces have at killing hundreds of innocent people with drones. 

You reap what you sow and the US has been sowing lots of bad seeds around the world.

Just as with guns post Sandy Hook where we stepped back and began examining our gun laws and culture (not really, but for argument’s sake assume we did), we must use this terrible incident to examine our culture of war and violence, and especially foreign policy. 

Thanks Obama for yet another meaningless speech. And now I am really pissed too. And you know why? Because you are making me defend Iran!!

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The Rule of Law, Obama and Drones

As mentioned in an earlier post, Obama’s administration currently takes the position that it can essentially disappear U.S. citizens, not ever being under any legal obligation to admit, even after the deed is done, that it has assassinated anyone. The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.

The Obama administration’s policy regarding drones is problematic because it makes it acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge such an act. Where the government has the power to kill us in secret and not be accountable to anyone. Where the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions.

The problem with such an approach is that once you make it known that the Rule of Law should not and cannot apply to everyone and that the government reserves the right to make such a determination at its own discretion without having to answer to anyone, you set in motion a dangerous set of events and policies.

If the Rule of Law, which is the “supremacy of regular power as opposed to arbitrary power” does not apply to everyone, then it might as well not apply to anyone.

For a free society society to be able to function as a free and just society, everyone has to be accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

The Obama administration is seeking to set a precedent for an authority no administration should ever have.

And I say that as a progressive who otherwise supports Obama.

Remember inherent in progressivism is the ability to be critical and evaluate issues based on their merits, instead of just  blindly holding on to dogmas and personalities of leaders in reverence and no questions asked.  If you are just going to side with someone regardless of the merits of the issue at hand, then you might as well just be a Republican or Conservative.

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The Human Cost of Using Unmanned Drones to Wage Wars


CIA nominee John Brennan said during Senate confirmation hearings that the U.S. had no evidence of drone strike collateral killings.

Noor Behram, a Pakistani photojournalist who lives in North Waziristan, has a different story to tell. He has been documenting the human cost of U.S. drone policy for several years stating that he “wants people to know” what the weapons have wrought. The photographer provided photos to documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald in Pakistan doing research and interviews for his forthcoming documentary, “UNMANNED: America’s Drone Wars,” in the fall 2012.

I am always stunned to see the extent to which people seriously seem to think that engaging in war does not carry with itself a real human cost – drones or not. So to be clear: war always has a human cost and that cost is, more often than not, carried by innocent people. You know, that term “collateral damage” that everyone likes to throw around to casually dismiss or minimize the real human cost associated with war; a term that trivializes the devastation wrought by war as something that just unfortunately happens and cannot be controlled, like a hiccup, and thus is not all that important. This, however, is an assertion that is deeply problematic at best, not to mention untrue.

To be bombed in your sleep is not American, nor can such attacks be casually dismissed as “collateral damage” as if they were irrelevant or unavoidable, because they are relevant and avoidable.

Civilian casualties are central to the debate over the use of drones, because public support hinges on the false belief that the weapons kill with surgical precision. If the public were aware of the human toll of the policy, opposition would be widespread. Or would they?

Even sadder than the Obama administration lying about the human cost of drones and seeking to set a precedent for an authority no administration should ever have, is the public perception and support of drones as the following survey’s indicate:

Poll I

It is certainly interesting that George W. Bush did get the bad rep as a war criminal (which he is) when up-stand guy Obama’s administration currently takes the position that it can essentially disappear U.S. citizens, not ever being under any legal obligation to admit, even after the deed is done, that it has assassinated anyone. The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in

Poll IIthe deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.

There may be extraordinary occasions when killing a citizen is permissible, but it should never be acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge such an act. How can call ourselves a free nation and a free peoples if our government has the power to kill us in secret and not be accountable to anyone? And how can a sovereign authority be accountable to the people if the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions?

Poll III

Finally, one of the most important aspects of this issue is that when you send in drones instead of manned aircraft and machines to carry out your wars,  you  – as the entity executing  the plan and also as the public – are getting a very distorted and unrealistic picture of war and its consequences. In fact, you don’t feel the consequences.

More importantly, you do not experience the human cost of war, which is one of the biggest consequences of and deterrents to war, because you are so removed from your action.

Sending in a machine to carry out the terrible deed of murdering people for a political cause creates awful detachment to the deed. Or why else do people think the press is not allowed to photograph all the body-bags filled with the remains of soldiers being returned. After all, the visual presentation of those countless bags being delivered back to our shores was one of the reasons helping end the Vietnam war.

The government is fully aware that people putting a human face to war will most likely result in them not wanting to support the war.

Poll IV

Similarly, sending in anonymous, unmanned drones to carry out war removes the human from the equation and makes the act very mechanic, efficient and most importantly it turns those people into nothing but dots in on a game board.

When you are not having anything at stake here and the cost of war, by humans, is carried by the “enemy” only and not you, you will have no respect for the act. There will also not be anything holding you back from engaging in more of the same because hey, there is no real cost in it for you. You are not using any people, the collateral damage isn’t on your end.

There is Nothing Worse than Being Psychologically Removed From This Horrific Act of War and Killing

There is nothing worse than the act just becoming far removed from its consequences because there is, literally, no one sitting at the other end witnessing the maimed and torn bodies as a result of the fall out from an attack. The more you are removed from your actions, the more you are removed from the consequences of those actions and thus the less likely to actually care about your actions.

That is why guns in civilian hands, in the debate on gun control, are so problematic because by pulling the trigger from afar one is removed from the act of killing; from the psychological involvement associated with killing. Because remember, having to actually get hands-on with someone you are going to kill requires more psychological involvement and commitment than just standing far away and pulling the trigger.

Finally, while the war on terrorism is legitimate, collateral damage as a fall out and to this extent is not. Our actions should not match, in cruelty and inhumanity, that of terrorists – who also do not have any regard for human life and probably view those they kill as collateral damage. Just like Obama and his war criminal-in-the-making Brennan.

No matter how you look at it, the Obama administration is setting a precedent for an authority no administration should ever have, and the use of drones specifically takes the human out of the equation turning war and killing, and with it its victims, into targets on a game board rather than real human beings – innocent civilians – who are being murdered.  

Maybe war is a necessary evil but we should never get to the point of trivializing its consequences, or worse, not recognizing its consequences, while sitting in some building miles away programming our avatars to carry out the act while we quietly sit back in our offices sipping our coffees or eating our lunches.

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