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Our Government Kills Us With Drones & Impunity

Today, May 22, 2013, the Justice Department confessed to killing 4 Americans with drones.

Four dead Americans.

Not one court date.  Not one arrest warrant.  Not one lawyer.  Not one  Judge.

Four dead.

They were just incinerated on the side of the road.

I am used to complete indifference in our politicians, our media and our culture to the deaths of little brown people.  Nothing new there.  That’s simply business as usual.  The US doesn’t even count collateral damage.

Instead, they adopt the policy that all military-aged men are enemy combatants.  The policy makes things easy…they are all guilty.  No muss, no fuss.

The Policy is as follows (on page 3 of 8):

“…Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent…This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths.

You will note, as a great indication of how servile our major media is, they continue to report the deaths of unknown and unidentified people as “militants”, despite our government’s having been busted calling ALL slain military aged males “militants”.

Just look at the headlines this week…they STILL use the word “militants” for unknown people, without a whisper about the true definition of “militant”:

USA TODAY

Fox News

The Boston Herald

…just some more dead little  brown people, who will never be named again.

But enough talk of these unknown and unidentified dead little brown people…

The particular batch of corpses Justice is confessing to today are Americans.  You know, real humans.

The NYT has coverage of the Department of Justice confession here.

At least our Justice Department still feels compelled to report, years after the fact, that it has killed Americans.  I suppose this counts as a due process win these days.

The government actually meant to kill one of the Americans, without a shred of due process.  Awlaki’s killing was reported around the world, since 2011 at least, as the work of American predator drones, but our government hid their act.  Until today.

The letter from Department of Justice, in a quaint nod to checks & balances of the past, informs some in congress of the fact that while bombing overseas, without specific approval, they happened to kill 4 citizens.  In the letter, completely bald assertions of fact are given about Awlaki, the one citizen of the four our government meant to kill.  Not one piece of evidence is mentioned…we are just supposed to take it on faith the President protected us by killing a real bad guy.

Maybe he was a bad guy.  We certainly will never know, and the government’s bald, unsupported accusations will never be tested in a court of law.

The confession from Justice today, literally, contains no notion that the government is “sorry” for killing three people who were completely innocent.  None whatsoever.

The fruits of Empire I suppose.

Read the letter.  It is one of those uber-chilling letters like the torture memo.  Nothing is scarier than your own government’s prose coldly rationalizing brutality.

We have always had bad guys as a nation.  Terrorism is older than our Nation.  We have actually been attacked by Japanese bombers and fighters.

Never before did our government find it necessary to kill its own citizens without any due process.

Why now is it so critical?

In a “post 9/11” world, we are told, everything is different.

This is a lie.  We can fight terrorism, or any other foe, without losing our way and our rights.  We are just chosing to allow our government to act with impunity.

When the government killed four at Kent State, “…four dead in Ohio…“, it set the nation into motion.

Protest and civil disobedience were the order of the day.

How many are we going to let them stack up before we’re roused from our nintendos, our reality shows, and our happy meals?

This is outrageous.

It is outrageous that we have seen such widespread complacency in the face of our government’s having seized the power to kill us without due process.

It is time to organize around these issues.  We need to speak out about this constitutionally-carcinogenic drone war.

Update – Our Government is Devouring our First Amendment

UPDATE

The New York Times ran what was called a “scathing” Op Ed yesterday, May 21, 2013, condemning the Obama administration’s assault on our First Amendment rights.  See my post of May 15th on the same subject.

History will show that President Obama has been the most destructive President to our civil liberties since Woodrow Wilson.

Intimidating, infiltrating, and emasculating press is what totalitarian governments do.

We should all be concerned about what is being done to our rights. The war against Wikileaks and the whistleblowers has naturally spilled over into our mainstream media.  Predictable to any child with a history book, this infringement-creep was not noticed at first by the mainstream journalist who cheered Assange’s persecution and waved flags at the attacks on Wikileaks.

Now that the wolves have come for the mainstream press, and, more importantly, their sources, we may see the President’s assault on civil liberties called what it is.

Without the free flow of information, it is impossible to have a democracy.

Speak out against this assault on our Freedom of Press.

Police State Warning – military given sweeping powers to act domestically

On the thirteenth day of May in 2013, in almost complete secrecy, the Department of Defense added a new set of regulations that allow the military to be deployed domestically to defend property.

Since 1898, the US military has been forbidden by the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.Section 1385 “PCA“) from intervening domestically because of the obvious threat to democracy.  In pertinent part, the PCA states:

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

The PCA protects dissident groups from being targeted by the US military and removes the military from domestic law enforcement.

This week, new Department of Defense regulations, while paying lip service to the PCA, would allow a military commander, of unspecified rank, to use the military domestically against US citizens, even in the case of merely protecting property.

The regulations state in extremely buried but pertinent part:

Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances because:

1)  Such activities are necessary to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and are necessary to restore governmental function and public order;

As the comments to the regulations point out, and as casual examination reveals, there are numerous problems with the language in this sweeping set of regulations.

Extraordinary emergency circumstances” are not defined.

Why would the President be unable to provide authorization to send troops into our own country?

Which military commanders have this authority?  All of them?  Down to Sergeant?

Who decides whether “...duly constituted local authorities...” (local law enforcement)  are unable to handle a situation?

What does “large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” mean?

“Wanton destruction of property” could include a single rock thrown through a single window.

I know it is hard to stay interested in something like DOD regulations…the language is pretty cryptic.  However, this is a massive change in the way the US has, for over 100 years, viewed the military and law enforcement.

This mission creep by our military, of course, has its roots in the “war on terror”.  Concern has been expressed in the past.  As Amy Goodman, (one of my heroes) reported on October 7, 2008:

“The Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Team is back from Iraq, now training for domestic operations under the control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The unit will serve as an on-call federal response for large-scale emergencies and disasters. It’s being called the Consequence Management Response Force, CCMRF, or “sea-smurf” for short. It’s the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to USNORTHCOM, which was itself formed in October 2002 to “provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts.”

The unit was not placed here only for emergencies and disasters.

Read here what the Army itself said the brigade was to be used for in their September 15, 2008 official homepage :

“U.S. Army North is the Army component of U.S. Northern Command,” said Vogler, “and we’re charged with coordinating the federal military response in the land domain for domestic operations or disasters, to include CBRNE.” [my emphasis]

The National Governors’ Association, composed of all 50 governors, expressed serious concerns about this.  Oddly enough, the letter that was drafted by them is not easily found online now.  If you can find it, please post the link in the “reply” section for this article.

In a 2009 New York Times Op Ed warning against the dangers of this unprecedented and dangerous expansion of the police state, they expressed the following hope:

After the lack of respect for posse comitatus at the highest ranks of the previous administration, the Obama White House and Congress must ensure that the lines between military and law enforcement have been restored, clearly, and that they are respected.

Well, we saw how that turned out.

The ACLU discussed it of course.

Incoming Subliminal Message…jointheACLUjointheACLUjointheACLU

Why is the Department of Defense unilaterally granting itself this power?

What is on the horizon now that might compel the use of our own military against us?

Why in the last 200 + years, up to the “war on terror” has this power, the power to order federal troops to be deployed domestically, to be used potentially against citizens, been unnecessary and even unconstitutional?

Could it be that our planners expect riots here, like we see in Spain, Greece, France… as economic inequality escalates, as it will continue to do on our current trajectory?

Could it be that our planners expect civil unrest as desperate people have the last rungs of support ripped from their hands as they try to climb out of this man-made, pirate-rewarding economic hell hole?

Austerity is a weapon.

Could it be that climate change is expected to produce civil unrest?

Could it be the fact that we have lost millions of jobs that are…never…coming…back is guaranteed to end up in civil unrest?

Who knows, but the military has seized the power, and we have read NOTHING about this in the major media.  I have emailed my Senators and Representative to demand hearings.  I suggest you do the same.  This sea-change in the relationship between citizens and our military needs explaining and public debate.

Mysterious but Welcome Epiphanies

Yesterday, many Senators seemed surprised that our executive branch had claimed the power to strike anywhere in the world, with boots on the ground, without congressional approval.

The law granting such power is known as “AUMF“, or Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

The Senators’ surprise was, well, surprising to me.  Many of us have been braying in the wilderness about this Constitutional assault in the name of the “war on terror”.  The authority granted in the AUMF legislation contained no temporal or geographical limits…hence drone strikes in several countries with absolutely no democratic input or oversight whatsoever.

Senators in the hearing seemed upset at the near-dictatorial powers Obama has claimed, but they, as a body, voted to give the executive branch this authority and even renewed & broadened it.

The AUMF was criticized immediately for exactly what seems revelatory now.  Congresswoman Barbara Lee tried to repeal it in 2001 for exactly the same reasons now being raised as novel concerns.  Read her letter to her colleagues on the issue here.  Her resolution to repeal the granting of military force to one man, without geographical or temporal limits was killed in committee.  It has since been reintroduced and waits in committee again.  Our “patriotism” at the time of the AUMF’s passage was so feverish.  The idea that Congress should not give its Constitutional war powers to one man, for an indefinite time was not powerful enough even to make it to the floor for a vote.

So…why now?  Why are Senators now acting so surprised?

I believe that Glenn Greenwald is correct when he says that the AP scandal was a “sea change” in the war against civil liberties that has been waged by two successive administrations in the name of the “war on terror.”

It is not hyperbole to say that we have been hurtling towards a much more openly totalitarian form of government in the name of the war on terror.

When one man, without anyone else’s approval, without any oversight whatsoever, can send drones anywhere in the world to bomb as long as he likes, as viciously as he likes, you have a totalitarian system.  As recently as April 23, 2013, President Obama refused to share any details of the drone program with Congress, the sole branch in the Constitution with war powers, much less to submit to any democratic oversight whatsoever.

These powers now claimed openly by Obama and his soldiers do not protect us.  They are the threat we need to be most concerned about.

President James Madison and a father of our Constitution wrote “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

Plato wrote “This and no other, is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”

More people die in bathtub drownings in America each year than are killed by terrorists.

We should fear and fight the encroachment of this totalitarian, democracy-destroying consolidation of power that is immune to the wishes of the people and beyond the reach of even our Constitution…which, unfortunately, requires defending right now.

Organize and speak out against this obvious abuse of power.

Again, legislation calling for the repeal of AUMF is in committee now.  It is known as “H.R. 198: Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force”.  It can be found here.  Write your legislators and demand that they act on limiting the executive branch’s authority to keep us in perpetual war, without democratic input.

Heil History!

US children saluting the flag in 1941.

Known as the “Bellamy salute“, it was devised by the author of our Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy and first demonstrated in 1892  for Columbus Day, of all days.

Continuing down the historical rabbit hole, have a read from Columbus’ log about his first encounter with the indigenous tribes in the “New” world:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

Summary from Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”, pg.1.  See Columbus’ full journal entry (begin at October 11) here.

Heil History!

Happy Birthday to the Sedition Act!

Today, May 16, 2013, marks the 95th birthday of the passing of The Sedition Act.

Applause would be proper, and, of course, THEY are watching you…so start clapping.

This democracy-shredding legislation was a series of amendments to the 1917 Espionage Act, President Obama’s favorite tool for breaking whistleblowers open and chilling our free press.   Obama has used the Espionage Act twice as many times as all…other…Presidents…combined.

Interesting to note that the anniversary of the Sedition Act’s passage comes one day after our government is revealed to have wiped its feet with the freedom of the press in its breathless efforts to prosecute whistleblowers.  Rich stuff.

Dissent must not be tolerated.

Especially since we are at “war”.

Note to self:  we are always at war.

The Sedition Act made it a crime to speak out against the country or against the war.  Hundreds and hundreds of people were jailed for speaking out against the war and against forceful conscription (the draft).  Many workers of the era felt the war was a rich person’s fight and just wanted to live their lives.  This sentiment was literally criminalized in the Land of the Free by a federal prison term up to 20 years.

Eugene Debbs, socialist and presidential candidate in the photo above, was given a 10 year federal prison sentence under the Sedition Act for speaking out against the war in Canton, Ohio.  The Sedition Act took a wrecking ball to socialist dissent in America.  It was one of the bayonets in the class wars of that era used to break labor.

In honor of Debbs and the 95th birthday of the Sedition Act, I thought I would republish his speech here.

Howard Zinn, in A People’s History of the Unites States, pg. 365, relates the tale of Charles Schenck.  Schenck distributed 15,000 leaflets saying the conscription (draft) was a violation of the 13th Amendment’s prohibition against slavery.  “Do not submit to intimidation” he exhorted.  His case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, which, in their wisdom, unanimously convicted him, finding no problem with the First Amendment implications.  Since the intent of Debbs was in fact to obstruct the draft, the opinion reads, he was found guilty.  Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the Court’s opinion.

Oddly enough, I could not find images of Schenck’s leaflets.

It is critical to remember these vile historical events.  The Sedition Act is now viewed as a near-comical restraint on First Amendment protections, but at the time, all establishment figures embraced it and used it to punish dissent.

The President embraced it.

The Supreme Court embraced it.

Congress embraced it.

The Department of Justice embraced it and even sponsored the “American Protective League”, or “the League” to search out and report disloyalty among citizens.  In 1917, the membership of the League was around 100,000 and they had a presence in 600 cities and towns.  There were reports of mail tampering and actual burglary as the League went on to identify three millions cases of disloyalty.  id at 369.

The New York Times, that eternal bastion of what Chomsky calls “Establishment Left” (left beyond which one may not pass and still remain in the acceptable marketplace of ideas) embraced it and even said in 1917:  “It is the duty of every good citizen to communicate to proper authorities ay evidence of sedition that comes to his notice”  id at 369.

The military certainly embraced the Sedition Act and had concentration camps or re-education camps, like Camp Funston in Kansas.  There, they tortured religious and secular pacifists.  The camp was under the control of Leonard Wood (the guy who chased but failed to catch Geronimo and also the guy responsible for the Philippine Moro massacre – 600 men, women, and children killed with artillery over a day and a half.)  A People’s History of American Empire, Howard Zinn, pgs. 92-95.

Watch your government with a critical eye.  They have certainly earned it.

May 8, 1970: The Hard Hat Riot

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the Hard Hat Riot in NYC, which occurred on May 8, 1970.

On May 4th, 1970, four days prior to the Riot, 13 students had just been shot, four fatally, by national guard troops at Kent State.

The Mayor of NYC ordered the flags flown at half-mast in recognition of the murders at Kent State. An anti-war protest by mostly university students began on Wall Street at 7:30 a.m. At 5 minutes till noon, about 200 workers, wearing hard hats, entered the protest area, from 4 directions in a coordinated manner, and brutally attacked the peacefully assembled protestors.

Later, it would be claimed that the construction workers acted spontaneously. However, a New York Times article quotes Edward Shufro, of the brokerage firm of Shufro Rose & Ehrman, as he watched through binoculars from his 32nd floor office at 63 Wall Street, two men in gray suits and gray hats who, he said, seemed to be directing the workers. [Another account has the men wearing matching colored patches on their suit jackets.]

“These guys were directing the construction workers with hand motions,” Mr. Shufro said.

The mob of workers beat the demonstrators down, focusing according to witnesses on men with long hair & beards and african americans.

Many in the mob carried American flags and chanted with signs saying “America – Love it or Leave it”…and …”All the Way USA”

The mob stormed the Federal Hall National Memorial, against police orders, and planted American flags on a statue of George Washington. The mob then stormed City Hall and raised the flag that had been lowered out of respect for the Kent State dead. The Mayor himself actually got out and lowered the flag again to half-mast. Upon seeing this,

The mob reacted in fury. Workers vaulted the police barricades, surged across the tops of parked cars and past half a dozen mounted policemen. Fists flailing they stormed through the policemen guarding the barred front doors.

Uncertain whether they could contain the mob, the police asked city officials to raise the flag…

As the flag went up, the workers began singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The mob tore down a red cross flag from a church, and tried to tear down the Episcopal flag from the church until the gates of the church were shut against the mob.

This mob was a fascist mob, as a technical matter…elevating symbols of STATE, brutally silencing all opposition to THE STATE, even removing symbols like the red cross flag and church flag as threats to THE FLAG.

So, it is easy to guess the US government’s view of the mob violence, right?

I mean, the mob broke the law, destroyed private property, assaulted numerous people, INJURED FOUR POLICEMEN, intimidated the free expression of citizens…

Our government just hates this stuff, right?

Well, as it turns out, not when it helps them.

Peter J. Brennan was high-ranking Union official in New York and even the vice president of AFL-CIO. By most accounts, the hard hat riots were organized, and he would’ve been the person whose tacit approval, at a minimum, would have been required.

May 20, 1970, less than two weeks after the Hard Hat Riots, Peter Brennan organized over 20,000 workers to march in support of Nixon’s Vietnam policies.

On May 26th, 1970, Brennan met with Nixon, presenting him with a hard hat (remember, this is only 18 days after the Hard Hat Riots). Nixon liked Brennan and his potential ability to steal energy from McGovern and the Democrats and seize it for himself. Brennan, although a Democrat, pledged his support to Nixon and promised the support of other labor officials.

In 1972, AFL-CIO refused to endorse McGovern, with Brennan’s orchestration.

Nixon won in a landslide, easily carrying New York with the huge support of Brennan’s union, who had voted Democratic in the prior election.

As a result of Brennan’s fealty to Nixon, he was made Labor Secretary (after promising to block an investigation into Teamster leadership that Nixon wanted stopped).

I found the Hard Hat Riot to be an important event. You can see the importance of a social movement that spoke out against and eventually ended the Vietnam War. You also get a little peek at the fascist, blindly patriotic strain that courses through our society.

So, celebrate the Hard Hat Riot in your own way…beat a hippie down while goose-stepping & wearing a flag toga or speak out against one of our many wars.