The Common Good

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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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DRONE WATCH: Human Rights Violations

In a lecture Thursday evening at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, former President Jimmy Carter included drone killings in a list of human rights violations. The Muscatine Journal reported:

“Former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that America is engaging in — and its citizens are accepting — human rights violations that “would never have been dreamed of” before the terrorist attacks that occurred in this country 11 years ago.

“The nation’s 39th president said the U.S. government under both Republican and Democratic administrations has violated 10 of 30 provisions set out in a universal declaration of human rights that was forged after World War II, including perpetually detaining people in prison without informing them of any charges, providing them access to legal counsel or bringing them to trial and, more recently, by killing people via the use of unmanned drones.

“We have now decided as a nation that it’s OK to kill people without a trial with our drones, and this includes former American citizens who are looked upon as dangerous to us,” Carter told a group of Drake University students involved in a social-justice learning program.”

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Justice by Drone?

During the Libyan revolution, U.S. drones were a significant part of the NATO forces involved, carrying out nearly 150 attacks. But when the conflict ended, the drones stayed. CNN reported in June:

“A senior Libyan official told CNN that the U.S. is flying surveillance missions with drones over suspected jihadist training camps in eastern Libya because of concerns over rising activity by al Qaeda and like-minded groups in the region but said that to the best of his knowledge, they had not been used to fire missiles at militant tra

Following yesterday’s attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, President Obama declared that the killers would be found and that “justice will be done.”

CNN reported today on the military role in that "justice:"

The Pentagon dispatched a contingent of Marines to Libya, moved warships toward its coast, and planned to use drones in a stepped up search for those responsible for an attack on a U.S. consulate that killed the American ambassador and three others.”

A “senior military official” provided more details on the planned use of drones

“American drones also were expected to join the hunt for potential targets. They would be part of "a stepped-up, more focused search" for a particular insurgent cell that may have been behind the attack, the official said. The unmanned surveillance aircraft are expected to fly over Benghazi and other areas of eastern Libya to look for militant encampments.”

And, while the reports now are only of surveillance, an educated guess would suggest that the drones are (or soon will be) armed, and that missiles will likely be fired.

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Love, Friendship, and Solidarity

A posthumous book of Christopher Hitchens’ essays was published this week with the title Mortality. Seven chapters are previously published essays, and the eighth is a series of notes he wrote in his last days in the hospital. In a review, Christopher Buckley writes that Hitchens’

“… greatest gift of all may have been the gift of friendship. At his memorial service in New York City, 31 people, virtually all of them boldface names, rose to speak in his memory. One selection was from the introduction Christopher wrote for the paperback reissue of “Hitch-22” while gravely ill:”

‘Another element of my memoir — the stupendous importance of love, friendship and solidarity — has been made immensely more vivid to me by recent experience. I can’t hope to convey the full effect of the embraces and avowals, but I can perhaps offer a crumb of counsel. If there is anybody known to you who might benefit from a letter or a visit, do not on any account postpone the writing or the making of it. The difference made will almost certainly be more than you have calculated.’”

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From Particular to General

When and how one may draw general conclusions from particular evidence is a frequently debated question. One example is museums – do historical museums exist to preserve the evidence and artifacts of a particular experience, or should they attempt to draw generalized lessons from that experience? A thoughtful piece by Edward Rothstein in the New York Times examines how Holocaust museums in Israel are being retooled to educate on what are seen as the “universal lessons.” 

Rothstein takes issue, arguing that this

“leaves Holocaust museums intellectually orphaned. What “lessons” are we supposed to take away? The impulse has been to generalize, to say that a Holocaust museum can’t be “just” about the murder of Jews during World War II.

“Why? Is there a problem, say, with an American slavery museum being “just” about American slavery? Why should Holocaust museums deal with notions of tolerance or racism in general, or even genocide in general? Why do we think that the proper lesson comes from generalizing rather than comprehending the particular? The moment we generalize, we strip away details: we lose information and create equivalences that may be fallacious.”

I’m inclined to agree. Some events in history deserve to be remembered and pondered in their own right, not simply as things from which to draw general lessons.

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