The Common Good

Blog Posts By Duane Shank

Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Over the past several weeks, the U.S. has been expanding its military presence in the Persian Gulf, increasing its capability to act if hostilities begin with Iran. Minesweepers are intended to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, and additional fighter jets increase the ability to launch strikes into Iran.The latest development, reported by the Los Angeles Times, sea drones.“The Navy is rushing tiny underwater drones to the Persian Gulf to help find and destroy sea mines as part of an American military buildup aimed at stopping Iran from closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the event of a crisis, U.S. officials said.Only 88 pounds and 4 feet long, the unmanned, remotely guided submersibles carry a TV camera, homing sonar and an explosive charge for what amounts to a kamikaze mission: When it detects a mine, the undersea craft obliterates itself as well as the mine.The Navy bought dozens of the little-known German-made devices, known as the SeaFox, in February after an urgent request by Marine Gen. James Mattis, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, for more minesweeping capabilities in the region.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "I get to stay at home. I get to pitch in front of my mom and dad and friends and family. And I live in Southern California, where the weather is beautiful. Come on, is that so bad? You can't put a dollar figure on happiness." Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels pitcher, explaining why he signed a contract extension with the Angels rather than becoming a free agent to get a much larger contract. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Unpiloted drone aircraft are already being used for some purposes in the United States, and plans are being made for greatly expanded use. Alongside these plans, efforts to control and regulate this use are also growing, bringing together libertarians and civil liberties organizations.One of the most conservative state legislators in Virginia, Delegate Todd Gilbert,  and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), are working together to pass legislation that would regulate the use of drones. The Associated Press reported:"The increasing use of drones as a surveillance tool by police and government agencies has prompted privacy concerns nationwide. A trade group for drone manufacturers recently unveiled its first code of conduct to reassure a public leery of the possibility of drones monitoring them in their homes.However, Gilbert said he and the ACLU believe drones should be strictly regulated to protect Virginians’ privacy and civil rights. … Gilbert said his bill would require police to get a warrant before using drones. It also would impose public monitoring and accountability standards and require the destruction of any pictures acquired by drones unless they are part of an authorized investigation."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "The whole thing's ridiculous, isn't it, having to do all this to put (the Olympics) on. It's supposed to be Games. And we ain't got no money. How can we pay for it?" - Peter Keeney, a London vendor near an apartment building that will have missiles mounted on it as part of extensive security measures for the Olympics. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Any side involved in a conflict like this has decided to fight for power. If they fall short of achieving national power, they have to settle for functioning as an organized party within the country." - “Mawlvi,” a senior Taliban commander, in an interview with The New Statesman. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
The Washington Post reports:“The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield.”If the medals are approved, that makes killing people from a computer in the U.S., thousands of miles from a combat zone, “distinguished warfare.”  Will hazardous duty pay come next?
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "What''s happening here is that the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the Alberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water, and eliminate any barriers that stand in their way."  Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, explaining why Canadian scientists are protesting cuts to government research labs and broadly pro-industry policies. (Guardian) 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reports that in an interview with CNN, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman said her government has not approved continuing drone strikes.“There’s no question of it. We also consider it, the drone program, we consider it counterproductive to all our goals in the sense that it radicalizes for the, it radicalizes foot soldiers, tribes and entire villages in our region. And what we see, really, is that increasingly Pakistan is feared as a predatory footprint. The concerns over drones can’t just be brushed aside.” She said that the government considered the strikes to be a violation of international law, and that the damage done by the strikes outweighed the claimed benefits.“It is something that is not only radicalizing large swaths of the population and it is also seen as predatory. It’s seen as against the law. And it continues to challenge a relationship that can actually accomplish a lot more on the ground than we are doing today in eliminating terrorism.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
 Quote of the day. “Companies want to be able to quietly push for their political agendas without being held accountable for it by their customers.” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, on large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating money to tax-exempt organizations not subject to disclosure requirements. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
The first news stories Friday afternoon (from AP and AFP) wrote of 4 suspected militants killed by two missiles fired from a drone in northwest Pakistan. It was soon updated to 9 dead, which is what we reported at the end of the day.This morning, I checked my Reader and found 30-some new stories overnight (many just repeats of updated wire stories.) But the stories and death totals were all over the map. Some still echoed the earlier AP story; there were also reports of 12 deaths, or 15, or 21, and a few 24.  The most comprehensive stories told of three drones. According to the Pakistani newspaper The Nation:"The initial strike on a house killed 13 militants, five more were killed in a second attack when they drove to the site to recover dead bodies, and a third drone killed six more five minutes later, a senior security official in Peshawar said."Other stories also recounted the 3 drone strikes, but gave varying numbers of deaths in each of the three.Here is a more detailed version from DAWN, another Pakistani newspaper, which tells of multiple drones and 20 deaths:"According to sources, six missiles hit the fortress-like residence of tribesman Muhammad in Zoi Nari locality of tehsil Dattakhel at around 8:45pm.Local people rushed to the site of the attack and started rescue work while drones continued to hover over the area. They retrieved 17 bodies and two injured persons from the rubble of the house.At about 10:30pm, the drones fired another two missiles on the compound, some 35km from the agency’s headquarters of Miramshah, when tribesmen were still carrying out rescue work. Three people died and two others were injured in the attack.Local tribesmen feared the number of the people killed or injured might go up because they had to stop work due to the hovering drones. They said most of the bodies retrieved were mutilated beyond recognition."These details raise two questions:First, will we ever know how many deaths there were on Friday? And if they were militants, civilians, or both?Second, even if  one accepts the U.S. rationale for targeting militants (which I don’t), if it is true that after the initial strike, a second strike was launched some time later against rescue and recovery efforts, experts consider that a violation of international law – a war crime.Perhaps in another day or so we will get the complete story, with timeline and casualty totals.  But what is already clear is that these attacks must stop. 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
The Associated Press and Agence France Press  (via The Nation in Lahore, Pakistan) are reporting this afternoon that a drone strike killed at least nine suspected militants in a small village near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district. At least three others were injured.AP reports “The militants were believed to be fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a militant commander whose forces frequently target U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. A similar drone attack on Sunday killed eight of Bahadur's fighters.”As always, the necessary disclaimer is that we may never know whether all or only some of these “suspected militants” were in fact militants. Remember that the U.S. definition is that anyone in a strike area is assumed a militant unless there is clear evidence after the fact. And after a direct hit from a Hellfire missile, there may not be any evidence left to examine. 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "It''s been clear since the 1870s that the government needs a warrant to read postal mail. There''s no good reason email should be treated differently." Catherine Crump, ACLU staff attorney, who has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies, asking about their policies and legal processes for reading Internet users'' emails. (MSNBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Talks between the U.S. and Pakistan that concluded with a U.S. apology for a mistaken airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers resulted in the reopening of supply routes into Afghanistan. Talks on the expanded U.S. use of drones to attack militants inside Pakistan are continuing. While the public line of the Pakistani government is to demand a halt to the strikes, The Express Tribune reports a different picture behind the scenes."Pakistani authorities are not pushing the US to halt drone strikes inside its tribal regions and are instead seeking control of human intelligence on the ground for target specification of their choice.“This is the maximum they have been seeking. Nothing more,” said an official privy to talks held this week between civilian and military leaders from Pakistan and the US that culminated in breaking a seven-month deadlock on the resumption of Nato supplies.… Control on human intelligence, or Humint as it is technically called, would give Pakistani secret outfits a chance to select targets of their choice to be hit by drones."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent, writes in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about the training of drone operators at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico."Stationing pilots in the United States has saved the Air Force money, and pilots at Holloman who have flown drone combat missions speak glowingly about a lifestyle that allows them to fight a war without going to war. Craig, an Air Force captain who is a trainer at the base, volunteered to fly Predators while in flight school. He calls his job “the perfect balance of mission and family.” And yet this balance comes at a cost. Pilots have flown missions over Afghanistan in the morning, stopped for lunch, fought the Iraq war in the afternoon and then driven home in time for dinner. Lt. Col Matt Martin, formerly a trainer at Holloman, wrote about the disorienting experience of toggling among different war zones in a memoir, “Predator,” calling the experience 'enough to make a Predator pilot schizophrenic.'"
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Bloomberg reports:"The Pentagon is seeking congressional approval to shift as much as $641 million in funding for intelligence and surveillance to priorities such as expanding Afghanistan operations of a Boeing Co. (BA) drone for Navy commandos. The request for the 'reprogramming' of previously approved military intelligence funds was submitted [Monday] to the four congressional defense committees in a 20-page document." Specific funding requests include:“The $94.2 million sought for the ScanEagle drones made by Chicago-based Boeing would provide more ground stations. Six sites operated by contractors in Iraq would be moved to Afghanistan and ground stations operated by Navy SEALs would be doubled to eight from four.”  Also requested is “"$2.6 million to purchase hardware and software for an intelligence-gathering and dissemination system the U.S. Africa Command can use to share data with partner nations."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
Quote of the day."We decided as solidarity that the Muslim youth will provide a vigilante service to the churches not only in Garissa but in any other places that the Christians may deem fit."Adan Wachu, head of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, which has agreed to form self-defence groups to protect churches following a deadly attack on Sunday.(BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 24 weeks ago
The Methodist Church in Britain has agreed to ask that the U.K. government urge the U.S. to stop using drones in killing suspected terrorists. One concern expressed by church leaders was that increased reliance on unmanned weapons could make military interventions easier. On other concerns,"A working group of policy experts submitted a report to the Methodist Conference highlighting moral concerns surrounding the use of drones, recognising that armed unmanned aircraft has the potential to transform the use of air power in conflict and counter-insurgency. Steve Hucklesby, a Methodist policy adviser and member of the working group, said: "If there is a legitimate use for this technology we need a much clearer idea of the boundaries for its use.  Terrorists function outside the law. It is vitally important that the UK and its allies do not do so as well. The targeted killings carried out by the CIA in northern Pakistan demonstrate only too clearly the ethical challenges that will face us as this technology proliferates more widely."Following the Methodist action, The United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain voiced their support for the Conference's decision.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
The Associated Press reports a drone strike in Yemen earlier today: "A Yemeni official says a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed two al-Qaida militants in a car in Yemen's south. Tribal officials there said four militants were killed."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and the Pentagon budget cuts likely, U.S. weapons manufacturers are looking for ways to keep their profits up. The Los Angeles Times reports that exporting drones might be the next step."Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare. Companies such as Northrop Grumman Corp. and other arms makers are eager to tap a growing foreign appetite for high-tech — and relatively cheap — drones, already being sold on the world market by countries such as Israel and China."If changes are made in export regulations, expect to see drones becoming common weapons in areas of conflict around the world. It’s a dangerous possibility, but … it’s all about the money.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “I’m not hoping for the job of my dreams. I just want to be gainfully employed.”  Malcolm Byrd, a Marine Corps veteran, on the difficulty he and other vets have in finding jobs. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
One of the most respected sources of investigative reporting on drones is The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization based in London. As part of its research, TBIJ tracks drone strikes and other US military and paramilitary actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yesterday, TBIJ released its summary for June. The major conclusions:As relations between Washington and Islamabad continue to falter, Bureau data shows fewer civilians are being killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan than at any time in the Obama presidency.US military action in Yemen is at its bloodiest ever, with the strike rate and reported casualties the highest yet recorded.The true extent of US action in Somalia remain unclear, despite many claims of attacks.The report also provides a comparison of the first six months of this year with 2011.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
As killing by drone continues, anti-drone groups organizing protests against the policy are growing. Last week, 15 people were arrested in a protest outside a New York Air National Guard base near Syracuse. According to the Syracuse Post-StandardFifteen people, including a woman in a wheelchair, were arrested for trespassing today during a protest at the New York Air National Guard base at Hancock Field.The members of the Upstate Coalition To Ground the Drones and End the Wars staged their protest for almost two and a half hours this afternoon, from 11 a.m. to about 1:40 p.m., as New York State Troopers and DeWitt Police stood by appearing to confer with members of the military. The protestors stood in front of the base’s main gate off Molloy Road, blocking vehicles that attempted to enter. “There’s war crimes here,” protestor Ellen Grady hollered at a blue Chevrolet Impala as it tried to turn in. “We have to close the base.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "The future is local." - Narendra Varma, former manager at Microsoft who invested $2 million in a 58-acre project of small plots and new-farmer training near Portland, Ore.  Four new farmers have already joined in as part of a growing trend of small-scale local farmers. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
The Associated Press reportsU.S. missiles fired from a drone in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border killed eight suspected militants early Sunday, officials said, as the controversial American strikes continue despite Islamabad's persistent demands that they stop.Unidentified Pakistani intelligence officials said that four Hellfire missiles were fired at a house in the North Waziristan tribal area used by suspected militants. The eight dead included suspected members of a Taliban faction and some suspected members of the Turkmenistan Islamic Movement.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "This is all the Holy Spirit. If it had been us doing this, we would have had cut-out felt letters on a Prius." - Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, on the “Nuns on a Bus” tour. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “This is how science works. The E.P.A. is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.” D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, and rejecting industry arguments that the EPA had improperly relied on scientific findings. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported this morning that the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF), a national NGO, has appealed to the U.S. to stop drone attacks. NRDF has been promoting polio vaccinations in the tribal area where the strikes occur. The appeal follows a Taliban decision to ban the vaccinations due to fear of their possible relation to CIA intelligence gathering for targeting drones.Tehseenullah Khan, NRDF coordinator, told DAWN that “The ban will adversely affect 318,000 children in the two agencies.”  He continued, “Stoppage of drone strikes by the US could safeguard children against host of diseases. Fata [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] is the only active hub of active polio virus transmission in the country that has contributed more than 50 per cent of the total polio cases this year.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press are reporting that a U.S. drone fired two missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan late on Tuesday, killing at least four (AP) or five (AFP) Taliban militants.  All those killed were associated with local Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a security official told AFP. A week ago, the New York Times noted Bahadur as one of those who had banned a polio vaccination campaign, citing his “fears that the C.I.A. could use the polio campaign as cover for espionage.”One wonders if today’s strike is proof of his fears?
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "We're going to get sued if we do. We're going to get sued if we don't. That's a terrible position to put law enforcement officers in." Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, Pima County, Ariz., who has long argued against his state's requirement that local law enforcement be forced to ask about the legal status of anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. (Associated Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
According to Guardian, a third Taliban leader has banned polio vaccinations in the area he controls, citing fears that health workers are gathering intelligence for use in targeting drone strikes. From the report:"Leaflets distributed in South Waziristan on behalf of Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (Fata) accused health workers who administer anti-polio drops of being US spies. "In the garb of these vaccination campaigns, the US and its allies are running their spying networks in Fata which has brought death and destruction on them in the form of drone strikes," the leaflet said."It would seem that the concerns may have some merit. Shakil Afridi, a doctor who ran a hepatitis vaccination campaign, used it as cover to provide the CIA with intelligence that assisted in locating Osama bin Laden. Is that mixing of health care with intelligence gathering continuing?
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
In 2010, Shahzad Akbar, an attorney and founder of the Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Rights, began filing lawsuits in Pakistan on behalf of drone strike victims. His work, according to MSNBC:“has raised awareness of the strikes among the general Pakistani population – at the same time anti-American sentiment from a failing alliance with the U.S. is on the rise. He said his mission is to seek justice on behalf of innocent civilians killed in the drone attacks.”When he began, little was known in Pakistan about the strikes, most of which take place in the remote, western tribal area. But now:“Today, drones have become a political touchstone, regularly decried as part of politician's campaign speeches, prominently featured in fiery protest rallies, and sitting squarely at the center of a diplomatic war of words between the U.S. and Pakistan. … Though public perception may help him to gain traction, Akbar said his cases are based on the evidence he's gathering from strike locations in coordination with communities in North Waziristan, the tribal agency in which the overwhelming majority of strikes have occurred.”What drives him to do this work?"I believe in very simple principles that were taught to us by the West," said Akbar. "That everyone is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. So anyone who is killed in drone strikes, unless and until his guilt is established in some independent forum – that person is innocent."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
In what appears to be a step in the right direction, Congress is paying more attention to drone strikes. From the LA Times:"Once a month, a group of staff members from the House and Senate intelligence committees drives across the Potomac River to CIA headquarters in Virginia, assembles in a secure room and begins the grim task of watching videos of the latest drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. …The regular review of some of the most closely held video in the CIA's possession is part of a marked increase in congressional attention paid to the agency's targeted killing program over the last three years. The oversight, which has not previously been detailed, began largely at the instigation of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, ... In addition to watching video, the legislative aides review intelligence that was used to justify each drone strike. They also sometimes examine telephone intercepts and after-the-fact evidence, such as the CIA's assessment of who was hit."One of the major criticisms of drone attacks is the lack of transparency and accountability. So, on the one hand, more Congressional oversight is good. On the other hand:"Members of the oversight committees are limited in their ability to challenge the CIA's conclusions, a senior staff member cautioned. "I can watch video all day long — I'm not an imagery analyst," he said. "I can only look to see if the description reasonably concurs with what my untrained eyes are seeing."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “If the Affordable Care Act is overturned, the rest of the country should take a good look at the situation in Texas, because this is what happens when you keep Medicaid enrollment as low as possible and don’t undertake insurance reforms.” Elena M. Marks, a health policy scholar at Rice University’s James Baker Institute for Public Policy and a former city health official, speaking of the Houston metropolitan area which has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in America, and a health safety net that’s imploding under the demands of too many people and too few resources. (McClatchy Newspapers)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
The Los Angeles Times reports:"After quietly testing Predator drones over the Bahamas for more than 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security plans to expand the unmanned surveillance flights into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to fight drug smuggling, according to U.S. officials.The move would dramatically increase U.S. drone flights in the Western Hemisphere, more than doubling the number of square miles now covered by the department's fleet of nine surveillance drones, which are used primarily on the northern and southwestern U.S. borders."Is the next step armed drones that will sink ships suspected of carrying drugs?
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Former President Jimmy Carter writes in the New York Times this morning of how far the U.S. has gone in abandoning human rights:"Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
 Quote of the day. "I believe that if we don''t memorialize the people we lost, we may forget to continue to fight." Cindi Love, of Abilene, Texas, whose brother died of AIDS, on the AIDS Memorial Quilt which will be displayed in Washington, D.C. during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. (USA Today) 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
The Obama administration filed its response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the New York Times seeking documents on the legal justification for the drone program. To no one’s great surprise, the administration refused, claiming a release of the documents would damage national security. In its refusal:"The administration said the information requested is "highly classified," even though details of such operations have been leaked to the media."For example, whether or not the United States government conducted the particular operations that led to the deaths of Anwar al-Awlaki and the other individuals named in the FOIA requests remains classified," the government wrote. The U.S.-born al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September."Likewise, whether or not the CIA has the authority to be, or is in fact, directly involved in targeted lethal operations remains classified." President Obama has publicly spoken about the use of drones. Secretary of Defense Panetta has publicly spoken about the use of drones.  Counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan delivered an entire speech about the use of drones. But whether or not the CIA is involved in “targeted lethal operations” is a secret?  It’s not, the only secret is how the administration justifies it.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Several days after urging the U.S. to clarify its policies to ensure that targeted drone killings comply with international law, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, went further at a conference in Geneva. Suggesting that some strikes may constitute war crimes:"[Christof] Heyns, a South African law professor, told the meeting: "Are we to accept major changes to the international legal system which has been in existence since world war two and survived nuclear threats?"Some states, he added, "find targeted killings immensely attractive. Others may do so in future … Current targeting practices weaken the rule of law. Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict [such as Afghanistan] but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it's recognised as being an armed conflict.If it is true, he said, that "there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
A series of recent news stories, largely based on anonymous sources, reveals an emerging new U.S. military strategy. After more than 10 years of long, bloody ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration is turning to what one report called “shadow wars.”  Rather than large numbers of troops on the ground, these wars involve covert intelligence and action, special forces units, cyberwar against computers, and a greatly expanded use of unmanned drones. They are undeclared, still largely secret and unaccountable.Beginning under President George W. Bush and dramatically escalating under President Barack Obama, the U. S. is now using drones in four countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia), and has used them in two others (Iraq and Libya). Going by the names Reaper and Predator, firing missiles named Hellfire, the drones are responsible for thousands of deaths, including hundreds of women and children.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Since then, progress has been too slow - we have not gone far enough down the road. We are now in sight of a historic agreement - the world is waiting to see if words will translate into action, as we know they must." Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General, speaking to the Rio+20 sustainable development summit with a reference to the first Earth Summit. (BBC) 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 26 weeks ago
Breaking news this afternoon –"A House panel voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for failing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into Operation “Fast and Furious,” hours after President Obama asserted executive privilege over related documents. On a party-line decision, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23 to 17 to hold Holder in contempt for failing to share documents related to the operation run out of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011, with the backing of the U.S. attorney in Phoenix. The move makes Holder the first member of Obama’s Cabinet held in contempt by a congressional committee."Columnist Al Kamen wonders why Holder should be concerned about the vote"While he would be the first Obama administration official to undergo such a vote, he would be joining a long list of well-known officials from prior administrations who lost committee — or even full House or Senate — contempt votes, including two former attorneys general, according to a list compiled by the Congressional Research Service last month."It’s also not the first time a President has invoked executive privilege to prevent Congress from getting internal administration information, just another round in the perpetual White House vs. Congress struggle.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “I lived behind a steel door that had two small slits in it, the space replaced with iron and wire, which was dirty and filthy. I had no television, no telephone and most importantly, I had no physical contact with another human being.” Anthony Graves, who spent a decade in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned, in a Senate hearing on whether that form of imprisonment violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.” (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
Several years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents from the administration related to the drone program. The request seeks any memos that explain the legal justification, the basis for strikes against American citizens, and an explanation of the process for targeting individuals.The deadline for the administration to respond – either by turning over the documents or an explanation as to why they are not being turned over – is today. Now that several high-level officials, including President Obama, have spoken publicly about the program, it is hardly plausible for the administration to deny its existence.Jameel Jaffer, the director of ACLU's Centre for Democracy said:"They may not release anything at all, they might continue to say it's a secret. It's possible but it's absurd. On the one hand there's extraordinary public interest in the drone program. On the other hand they recently filed a legal brief claiming it's too secret even to acknowledge. It surprised me that they were willing to say that to the appeals court in DC.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Over the years we have seen more and more folks elected that come in with a default ideological position, and any facts that come up, they try to find a way to fit them into their ideological box." Terrance Carroll, former speaker of the Colorado House, on a report that roughly half of the nation's state legislators could have two years or less of experience after the 2012 elections. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
More than four years ago, the U.K. Ministry of Defence bought 6 Reaper drones from the U.S.  The Guardian  reports."The British military is increasingly relying on unmanned drones to wage war against the Taliban, and has fired more than 280 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs at suspected insurgents, new figures reveal. … The Ministry of Defence says only four Afghan civilians have been killed in its drone strikes since 2008. However, it also says it has no idea how many insurgents have died, because of the "immense difficulty and risks" of verifying who has been hit."Chris Cole, founder of the website Drone Wars UK, responds that it is:“Kafkaesque of the MoD to repeatedly claim that only four civilians have been killed in UK drone strikes while at the very same time insisting they do not know how many people have been killed."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged Washington to clarify the basis under international law of its policy:"The (U.S.) government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations."The Special Rapporteur again requests the Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings ... (and) reiterates his predecessor's recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture 'human targets' and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent,"
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 27 weeks ago
U.S. military strategy is changing. From Associated Press:"After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile.Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm's way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint. It's war in the shadows, with the U.S. public largely in the dark."In Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Iran:"The high-tech warfare allows Obama to target what the administration sees as the greatest threats to U.S. security, without the cost and liabilities of sending a swarm of ground troops to capture territory; some of them almost certainly would come home maimed or dead.But it also raises questions about accountability and the implications for international norms regarding the use of force outside of traditional armed conflict."