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The Subversion of International Law (William Pfaff on drone warfare)

9:16 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

It occurred to me that because of his age and theirs, many readers at FDL may not know one of the best commentators on international affairs in the English language: William Pfaff.

To correct this possible misfortune, I post some snippets from his latest piece and invite you to read the whole thing:

(…) Washington’s adamant hostility to the creation or recognition of international war crimes courts, widely supported in the international community, has amounted to acknowledgement that such American practices would be likely to expose troops and officials to international war crimes indictments, or civil actions similar to Italy’s indictment and recent trial in absentia of CIA officers charged with the illegal apprehension and rendition for torture of an Italian resident. Now we have the case of the president of the United States himself implicated in drone-conducted assassinations of persons in foreign countries who are adjudged by American military and civilian operators, under authority of the Defense Department, CIA, and the Executive office itself, to be unfit to live.(…) Since the late nineteenth century the United States has probably been the nation which has done most to promote international law. This effort went from American mediation in the Russo-Japanese war to the American proposal and decisive contribution to creating international parliamentary institutions – the League of Nations and the United Nations, as well as the Bretton Woods system of international economic agreements following world war two. It now has become the nation in the world which is doing the most to destroy the international law in matters of war, peace, UN authority and unilateral military intervention into the affairs of other countries. This usually is given an ideological justification that is a transparent rationale for American national interest. Behind this lies the American sentiment of national exception. The country considers itself unique in history by virtue of its constitutional origins, its Bill of Rights , its governing system of balanced executive, legislative, and judicial powers (a system currently displaying immense and conceivably fatal difficulties). (…) It is worth recalling that it has been less than a quarter century since the end of that terrible era in Western civilization when ideological governments in Germany and Russia claimed that an elite of leaders, possessing special knowledge about the meaning and evolution of history, or about the destiny of human races, had the right and responsibility to attack the accepted norms of Western civilization in order to execute their “exceptional” missions. That ended badly.

All I can add is, Guru Jai, Jai, Guru Maharaj!

Read the whole article at:

Droned if we do, etc.

9:05 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

It’s insane how vulnerable we’ve made ourselves, like drunks failing to look around as they walk into traffic. Hackers could shut down the way we live, and if they hacked into drones or nuclear codes, determine the way we die. If you think it through, which most of us avoid, the prospect of Techmaggedon is terrifying. On Thursday, at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing to be C.I.A. director, some senators took a stab at thinking it through on the smart, sleek, robotic machine that dominates our political debate. (Drones, not Obama.) Maureen Dowd – New York Times

What a can of worms! Drone killings are one of those, “it seemed like such a good idea at the time”, deals that comes back to haunt the people that dream them up…. like getting the Saudis to finance the war against the USSR in Afghanistan, for example.

Parking all moral considerations and constitutional guarantees for a minute, another major downside is that the technology involved isn’t rocket science…. radio controlled airplanes and helicopters are even on sale in toy stores in developed countries.

Stop and think how easy it would be to use a toy helicopter, with an incendiary grenade attached to it, in as “target rich” an environment as the Isle of Manhattan. Then just think how disruptive it would be for normal life there if they had to jam all the junk-band radio frequencies used to operate RC models (and so many other devices) in order to prevent such an attack.

For a country as potentially vulnerable as the USA to use this technology as a primary weapon system is like telling children not to put beans up their noses: it is putting ideas in the heads of people without much technology or money to spend.

It is really time for a wide ranging discussion about how we got here and how to go in another direction, as difficult as that might be.

What bothers me a lot too, is that Obama is doing all this. With Bush, what you saw was what you got… But Obama is so opaque, so ambiguous, so mysterious… After four whole years I still don’t feel I know who he is… Better than Romney would have been for sure, but having said that… What a can of worms!

Cross posted from:

More on crazy killers

10:23 pm in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Somebody sent this to me. It is fantastic agitprop, if I tried to post it over at Kos I’d get kicked out for the umpteenth time as a mega-troll. I think it is the best thing I’ve seen yet against Obama’s use of drones… Nixon with a groovy suntan?