The Common Good

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A DREAM Economy

Two words are dominating our current political dialogue: jobs and economy. Everyone seems to want more of the former and a quicker revival of the latter. Logically then, our nation should take any and all sensible and easy steps towards achieving those goals. If those actions also had positive humanitarian and moral outcomes, even better, right?

Sadly, Washington seems to be devoid of logic these days. The Center for American Progress has released a study showing that passage of the DREAM Act would create an economic boom of over $300 billion dollars and create nearly 1.5 million jobs — not to mention, it is just the right thing to do.

The politics needs to stop. The DREAM Act needs to pass. Read more about the economic difference it could make if Washington would take action by clicking HERE.

Knox Robinson is a semester intern at Sojourners. He’s currently a senior at LaGrange College, where he’s majoring in Sociology and Political Science.

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A Resurgent Anti-nuclear Weapons Movement

Ken Butigan writes on Waging Nonviolence about the emergence of a new anti-nuclear weapons movement.  The Washington Post recently reported that the U.S. government is planning to refurbish its nuclear weapons complex over the next 10 years at a cost of $352 million. In response, writes Butigan:

“So we are in the midst of the next phase of the movement for nuclear disarmament, where a series of campaigns across the U.S. are pumping life into the seven-decade struggle. … For those of us who first came to political activism by tackling the nuclear arms race in the early 1980s, the announcement that the U.S. is online to refurbish and reassert its nuclear might far into the future has a glumly déjà vu feel. At the same time, we know the power of people power movements to change history. Together we can build on this emerging next phase to take action, to stoke alternatives and to prompt a powerful nationwide debate…”

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DRONE WATCH: Yemen President Approves Drone Strikes

In a speech last week at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadiexpressed his support for U.S. drone strikes in that country.  According to the New York Times,

“They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” said Mr. Hadi, a former army officer and the successor to Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after protests against his three-decade rule.

The United States “helped with their drones because the Yemeni Air Force cannot carry out missions at night,” he said. “The electronic brain’s precision is unmatched by the human brain.”

In an interview with reporters and editors from the Washington Post, Hadi said that he personally approves all drone strikes in Yemen. According to the piece:

“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post in his hotel suite in the District. …

“Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft targeting an al-Qaeda franchise that is seen as the most potent terrorist threat to the United States.”

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DRONE WATCH: Living Under Drones

Researchers at Stanford University and New York University law schools released a major study on the U.S. use of drones in Pakistan, commissioned by a London-based human rights group Reprieve. The study, Living Under Drones,” took nine months to complete, including two trips to Pakistan and more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses and experts. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is cited in the report for “the best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes.”

The four major conclusions of the study, highlighted in its executive summary, are:

“First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.

“Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.

“Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%

“Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US.”

You can read the entire report, along with data, victim’s stories, and resources.

News stories on the study include BBC,Guardian,Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times, and CNN

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DRONE WATCH: Five Dead in Pakistan Attack

In the second attack in three days, a drone attack late Monday in northwest Pakistan killed five militants, including two linked to al Qaeda. DAWN reports

“Two key al Qaeda linked operatives, including an operational commander have been killed in Monday’s US drone strike in North Wazirsitan Agency, official sources said.

“The al Qaeda linked militants killed in the drone strike have been identified as Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi and Saleh Al-Turki, an intelligence source told Dawn.Com.

“Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi, hailing from Iraq, had arrived in North Waziristan Agency in 2001 and had since been one of the key operational commanders of the al Qaeda in North Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said.”

The Associated Press and Agence France Presse carried earlier reports of the story, before the identifications were made.

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DRONE WATCH: Attack Kills 3 in Pakistan.

Al Jazeera reports:

“At least three people have been killed in a suspected US drone attack in Pakistan's northwestern region along the Afghan border, according to a Pakistani security official.

“The target of Saturday’s attack was a vehicle in Dattakhel area in North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts and hotbed of al-Qaeda-linked fighters. All three people travelling in the car were killed and the vehicle completely destroyed, the security official said on condition of anonymity.”

The attack was also reported in Pakistani newspapers DAWN and The Nation.

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Congress Looks at STEM Visas

Congress is due to recess soon, but members are trying to pass a bill attempting to increase the availability of high-skilled visas for the tech industry before adjourning at the end of this week. While different versions of the legislation exist, the fundamental goal is to allocate more visas to foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities who have obtained a master’s or doctorate degrees in science, math, technology or engineering (STEM) fields.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has proposed eliminating the diversity visa program, which currently issues 55,000 visas through a lottery system, to increase the availability of STEM visas. Many immigration advocates are concerned Rep. Smith’s legislation would have negative consequences for other sectors and the overall diversity of immigrants entering the United States.

Other proposals, including a bill offered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) seek to protect the lottery system while also addressing the high-skilled visa issue. Instead, Sen. Schumer’s legislation would create a pilot program expanding the availability of STEM visas to graduates within these programs.

Although these approaches address a real need, legislators should also be mindful of consequences they have for broader immigration policy. The high-skilled visa program is only one of many processes needing reform.  Ideally, Congress should focus on comprehensive solutions that fix the root issue instead of taking a piecemeal approach. Such an effort would help the U.S. economy while also addressing the humanitarian and moral concerns about the current immigration system raised by Christians across the country.

Read the full article in The Hill full HERE.

Photo credit: Sergej Khakimullin/Shutterstock.

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DRONE WATCH: Spies, Marines and Drones

 

AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier reports

“WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. is sending more spies, Marines and drones to Libya, trying to speed the search for those who killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but the investigation is complicated by a chaotic security picture in the post-revolutionary country, and limited American and Libyan intelligence resources. The CIA has fewer people available to send, stretched thin from tracking conflicts across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.”

“To fill in the gaps in spies on the ground, the U.S. intelligence community has kept up surveillance over Libya with unmanned and largely unarmed Predator and Reaper drones, increasing the area they cover, and the frequency of their flights since the attack on the consulate, as well as sending more surveillance equipment to the region, one official said.”

“Largely unarmed?”  

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DRONE WATCH: Shooting at Drones Leads to Airport Closing

The Associated Press reports

“BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — U.S. drones hovered over the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday and militia forces fired toward the crafts, prompting authorities to close the airport for several hours for fear a commercial aircraft could be hit, Libyan officials said.

“Abdel-Basit Haroun, the head of the militia in charge of city security, said the drones could easily be spotted from the ground. He says men angry over perceived foreign intervention fired in the air and authorities closed the airport.

"The drones are like bees," he said, referring to the long hours the drones were seen, with their buzzing noise heard in different neighborhoods of Benghazi. Militias, known as brigades, fought regime forces during Libya's eight-month civil war that led to Moammar Gadhafi's fall last year. Since then, many have roles in keeping security, though they have not been integrated into government forces.

“An airport official confirmed the firing on the drones was the reason for the airport shutdown.”

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DRONE WATCH: Who Has Drones?

Micah Zenko, at the Council on Foreign Relations blog, points to a recently declassified report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the spread of drones. The report, Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, finds:

“Since 2005, the number of countries that acquired an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system nearly doubled from about 40 to more than 75. In addition, countries of proliferation concern developed and fielded increasingly more sophisticated systems. Recent trends in new UAV capabilities, including armed and miniature UAVs, increased the number of military applications for this technology. A number of new civilian and commercial applications, such as law enforcement and environmental monitoring, are available for UAVs, but these applications are limited by regulatory restrictions on civilian airspace.

“The United States likely faces increasing risks as countries of concern and terrorist organizations seek to acquire UAV technology. Foreign countries’ and terrorists’ acquisition of UAVs could provide them with increased abilities to gather intelligence on and conduct attacks against U.S. interests. For instance, some foreign countries likely have already used UAVs to gather information on U.S. military activities overseas. Alternatively, the U.S. government has determined that selected transfers of UAV technology support its national security interests by providing allies with key capabilities and by helping retain a strong industrial base for UAV production. For instance, the United Kingdom and Italy have used UAVs purchased from the United States to collect data on Taliban activity in Afghanistan.”

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