Hi, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve written — partly because I’ve seen nothing new politically to get excited about, and partly because I’ve been “doing my homework” on other fronts. This morning, however, I saw an editorial by William Pfaff in the local paper that caught my attention. It seemed pretty revolutionary to me, sitting there as it did in the middle of the usual ho-hummery. I wonder if it’ll arouse discussion/make a difference.
Take a look, if you have the time (my thoughts in brackets, and more comments below).
Drone Warfare Makes U.S. an Outlaw State by William Pfaff, 6-20-12
The disclosure that current American drone warfare operations are directed from the presidential office in the White House, with the president himself selecting persons to be assassinated by unmanned American drone aircraft in Muslim countries, has ignited protests on moral, legal, political and strategic grounds. The protests concern the nature of these attacks, which disregard national sovereignties, the laws of war and the principles of American and international law, and are justified by saying that terrorists don’t obey the law either. The attacks must be described as assassinations: Because no state of war has been declared to exist between the United States and these persons or their states, they are unlawful killings.
As John Fabian Witt of the Yale Law School has recently written, “the categories of war and peace, which the modern world thought it had carefully separated, are collapsing into each other.” We are engaged in what in previous times would certainly have been considered unjust acts, in the course of unjust, because they are undeclared, wars. President Obama’s acts consciously undermine the civilized order of modern society. The United States has quite deliberately made itself an outlaw state.
The explanation offered in Washington is that drone attacks are economical and expedient methods for defending against, and if possible putting an end to, Islamic (or other) terrorism. This is a campaign of extravagant ambition and has virtually no possibility of success, since the campaign itself inspires resistance and retaliation.
The drone campaign is another product of modern America’s widespread disregard of legal norms, begun under the George W. Bush administration, which includes CIA and special operations kidnap, torture and assassination teams, operating in friendly or neutral as well as hostile countries.
How has the United States put itself into this situation, and why does its government display no apparent effort to end it? There is no clear answer. These measures derive from moral ruthlessness in the service of simple political and intelligence errors and prejudices, interacting with two special interests concerning the Muslim world, the main U.S. preoccupation since the end of the Cold War.
The first of these is the interest of the American government, pressed by the American oil industry, to exercise sufficient control over the Middle East and Central Asia as to prevent the nationalization of foreign or domestic energy industries, or the organization of resource boycotts. The second [related] issue is the aim of preventing an Arab challenge to Israel’s regional military domination.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were conceived and carried out by a small group of anti-Western Saudi Arabian religious extremists hostile to mounting U.S. regional influence, and specifically outraged by the post-Gulf War stationing – over Saudi protest – of U.S. forces in proximity to Islamic holy places. This was part of a Pentagon project for establishing a global U.S. base system, never (at the time) given congressional hearings or public and press discussion. The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was meant to damage al-Qaeda. The 2003 invasion and wrecking of Iraq was an exploitation of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., two years earlier, plus “war of civilization” hysteria, for Israel’s strategic benefit [and following ongoing US policies of dominating the world’s oil supply and global economy in general and creating profits for the “defense” industry and companies like Halliburton]. President Obama’s renewed and reinforced war in Afghanistan, in 2008 and 2009, followed by increasing and extensive American interventions in Pakistan, Yemen, and the Gulf states, was justified by the same hysteria, which by this time amounted to political paranoia in American domestic politics (saving homeland America from “jihad rule, sharia law, and conquest by a new global caliphate”). Lack of success in Afghanistan (and Iraq) is now producing discouragement in the U.S., but the Pentagon is opening new theaters of American intervention elsewhere and expanding military activity in the Far East, with China identified as a permanent threat to the United States.
The war is to be extended, presumably using the same means. The June 8th issue of Army Times announces a new program in which Army brigades will next year be rotated throughout the world according to a “regionally aligned force concept.” Brigades of 3,000 soldiers will be sent to Africa, which until now has been relatively neglected by the United States, but “where terrorist groups have become an increasing threat to U.S. and regional security.”
I don’t know how long Pfaff has been writing this kind of thing, because I only recently started getting the paper again, but I feel like saying, “Wow, buddy! You’re catching on!” My only criticism would be that, as is often the case with these kinds of pieces, the implication is that U.S. foreign policy was squeaky clean ’til just recently. It wasn’t; it’s been bullying, racist, and ruthlessly serving US corporate interests since the 1890s when “we” fought a Vietnamese-Iraqi-Afghan-type war in the Philippines and made Cuba, which had just gained independence from Spain, into a puppet state.
How do we change it? Not with protests, peace marches, and letters, that’s clear. And not with voting under the current system, which only offers corporate-sanctioned candidates. No — we’re gonna have to have a revolution (nonviolent and including a spiritual component, hopefully). We need to scrap this failed and failing system before it takes us all, and the earth, down with it, and create real economic and political democracy (the two go hand in hand). Critical economic and political decisions need to be made locally, and local resources managed for the benefit of everyone in each area. Each locality can then send representatives to higher and higher decision-making bodies for bioregional, global, and planetary planning and conflict resolution. Nation-states are unnecessary, do more harm than good.
Getting from here to there could take a long time, or if crises develop that are severe enough, could happen quickly. The point is to understand what’s happening now and to have a vision of something better, a way of life that benefits everyone, that serves life. That’s why I believe this work is spiritual, and needs to be motivated by love and compassion. A viable and equitable society needs to welcome everyone — the materially and spiritually poor, and everyone in between — or it won’t work. We have to love each other enough to respect each others’ differences, to share, and to offer help and hugs, corny as it sounds in this cynical time. What helps you helps me. We’re all one family.
This kind of love begins with self-love, compassion for our own foibles and weaknesses. But it has to go farther than that. It has to reach out. Not in any one certain, specific way, but in some way.
I recently watched a great movie: “Entertaining Angels,” about Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and seeing “the light” (or Christ) in everyone, no matter his or her “distressing disguise.” Day couldn’t always do it, but she tried. She despaired once because she couldn’t “change the world.” “No,” said a friend, “but you made it better for a lot of people.” If enough of us do things that, won’t the world (the system) change?
Bringing out the truth about and stopping the wars “our” government is waging in our name with our tax dollars is what calls to me. Imagine declaring an endless war on whatever and whomever you want, using the greatest military machine the world has ever known. It’s as insane and as evil as any scheme or action of Hitler’s. Listen to Buffy St. Marie’s “The Universal Soldier.” It can’t continue without our participation. We can do better, starting with honoring our veterans, the living and the dead, not by saying they died (or were maimed) for our freedom — a propagandistic lie that ensures more unnecessary deaths, more maimings, but by refusing to vote for anyone who isn’t for bringing our troops home now, and not sending out any more. Our soldiers can defend our country (from real attack) right here.
P.S. The same newspaper with Pfaff’s column on drones also included a story about spy drones that may soon be looking into our activities at home — ’cause we’re the enemy, too, if we interfere with the few individuals deluded enough to think they need this much wealth and power.