"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Counter-insurgency’

U.S. “Signature Strikes” Ramdomly Kill Thousands Of Unidentified “Suspicious” Muslims: The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Oldspeak: “My Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world. -President Barack Obama, Feburary, 2013. “While four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period. The focus on American citizens overshadows a far more common, and less understood, type of strike: those that do not target American citizens, Al Qaeda leaders, or, in fact, any other specific individual. In these attacks, known as “signature strikes,” drone operators fire on people whose identities they do not know based on evidence of suspicious behavior or other “signatures.” According to anonymously sourced media reports, such attacks on unidentified targets account for many, or even most, drone strikes. Despite that, the administration has never publicly spoken about signature strikes. Basic questions remain unanswered. The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.” -Cora Currier and Justin Elliott. One of these things is not like the other.

Related Stories:

Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes

How Does the U.S. Mark Unidentified Men in Pakistan and Yemen as Drone Targets?

By Cora Currier and Justin Elliott @ Pro Publica:

The nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director has prompted intense debate on Capitol Hill and in the media about U.S. drone killings abroad. But the focus has been on the targeting of American citizens – a narrow issue that accounts for a miniscule proportion of the hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen in recent years.

Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.

The focus on American citizens overshadows a far more common, and less understood, type of strike: those that do not target American citizens, Al Qaeda leaders, or, in fact, any other specific individual.

In these attacks, known as “signature strikes,” drone operators fire on people whose identities they do not know based on evidence of suspicious behavior or other “signatures.” According to anonymously sourced media reports, such attacks on unidentified targets account for many, or even most, drone strikes.

Despite that, the administration has never publicly spoken about signature strikes. Basic questions remain unanswered.

What is the legal justification for signature strikes? What qualifies as a “signature” that would prompt a deadly strike? Do those being targeted have to pose a threat to the United States? And how many civilians have been killed in such strikes?

The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.

“How, for example, does the Administration ensure that the targets are legitimate terrorist targets and not insurgents who have no dispute with the United States?” asked three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to Attorney General Holder last May.

The legislators sent a second letter in December. Republicans on the committee joined in sending another letter this month. All have gone unanswered, according to committee staff.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently sent his own letter to Brennan asking several pointed questions on signature strikes.

“How do ‘signature strikes’ square with your statement that targeted killing operations are only approved when a targeted individual poses a ‘significant threat to U.S. interests?’” McCain asked, quoting a speech Brennan gave on drone strikes last April.

“How can the Administration be certain it is not killing civilians in areas, like many parts of Yemen and Pakistan, where virtually all men, including civilians, carry weapons?” the letter continued.

A McCain spokesman said the senator had not received a response. The White House declined to comment for this story.

When Obama administration officials publicly address drone strikes, they focus on thwarting imminent threats and targeting Al Qaeda leaders, including U.S. citizens.

Brennan, for example, said at his confirmation hearing that a lethal strike only occurs when “the intelligence base is so strong and the nature of the threat is so grave and serious, as well as imminent, that we have no recourse.” He was talking only about strikes targeting U.S. citizens, not signature strikes.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is now threatening to filibuster Brennan’s nomination until he answers questions on the U.S. citizen issue. And the Justice Department “white paper” leaked to NBC this month outlines the legal rationale for drone strikes, but only in cases when they target U.S. citizens who are also Al Qaeda leaders.

“What about the people who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t on a list?” asks Naureen Shah, a human rights and counterterrorism expert at Columbia Law School. Of the few thousand people killed, Shah notes, “it’s hard to believe all of these people are senior operational leaders of Al Qaeda.”

The hazy history of ‘signature strikes’

The first public reference to a signature strike appears to have been in February 2008, when the New York Times reported a change in drone strike policy, negotiated between the U.S. and Pakistan.

“Instead of having to confirm the identity of a suspected militant leader before attacking, this shift allowed American operators to strike convoys of vehicles that bear the characteristics of Qaeda or Taliban leaders on the run, for instance, so long as the risk of civilian casualties is judged to be low,” the Times reported.

Over the next few years, they became the majority of strikes conducted in Pakistan, according to media reports citing unnamed officials.

The new policy contributed to an increase in strikes in Pakistan – up to a high of about 120 in 2010 – and also to an increase in the number of low-level militants or foot soldiers killed, according to a New America Foundation analysis.

It’s not clear how much evidence is needed to justify a strike. In media reports, U.S. officials have offered scenarios of signature strikes hitting training camps or fighters who might cross the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The CIA reportedly uses drone surveillance and other intelligence to try to ensure those targeted are in fact militants.

Other officials, however, have described the policy more loosely – one calling it a “‘reasonable man’ standard.”

Asked what the standard is for who could be hit, former Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter recently told an interviewer: “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40. My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s – well, a chump who went to a meeting.”

It is also next to impossible to say which attacks are signature strikes.

The names of militant leaders killed in strikes are often confirmed by officials in news reports. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. knew who was there ahead of the strike. One unnamed former military official claimed last year that the CIA “killed most of their ‘list people’ when they didn’t know they were there.”

Conversely, strikes in which little information emerges on who was killed could be failed attempts to hit specific individuals. (According to the New Yorker, it took as many as 16 strikes to kill Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in 2009.)

The outcomes of strikes are often disputed. In one apparent signature strike two years ago, unnamed U.S. officials told the Associated Press that they had targeted a group that “was heavily armed, some of its members were connected to Al Qaeda, and all ‘acted in a manner consistent with AQ (Al Qaeda)-linked militants.’” The U.S. said about 20 militants were killed. But Pakistani officials said it had been a meeting of tribesmen and villagers provided evidence to the AP that 38 civilians were killed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the attack prompted a debate in the White House about whether signature strikes and strikes on low-level fighters were worth the diplomatic risks.

The pace of strikes in Pakistan has tapered off since 2010, in large part because of deteriorating diplomatic relations with Pakistan, according to Bill Roggio, who tracks strikes for the Long War Journal.

Last spring the U.S. reportedly expanded signature strikes to Yemen, though administration officials said there were stricter standards than in Pakistan and evidence of a threat to the U.S. or U.S. interests was required. Officials referred to the attacks with a new phrase, “Terror Attack Disruption Strikes.”

That tighter standard is reportedly also part of the Obama administration’s new guidelines for the targeted killing program. (The CIA’s strikes in Pakistan will be exempt from any new rules for at least another year, according to the Washington Post.)

The legal debate

Brennan was asked about signature strikes last April but sidestepped the question. He replied: “You make reference to signature strikes that are frequently reported in the press. I was speaking here specifically about targeted strikes against individuals who are involved.”

He continued that “everything we do, though, that is carried out against Al Qaeda is carried out consistent with the rule of law, the authorization on the use of military force, and domestic law… that’s the whole purpose of whatever action we use, the tool we use, it’s to prevent attack [sic] and to save lives.”

The idea of killing members of an enemy force without knowing their identities isn’t itself controversial.

“In a traditional conflict, there is no requirement that you know every single person’s identity before you strike, so long as there are reasonable grounds for determining that the target is part of the enemy force,” said Jennifer Daskal, a professor at Georgetown Law School and a former attorney in the Justice Department during the first Obama administration.

But legal observers hotly debate the bounds of the drone war, and who qualifies as a member of the enemy force. “In the conflict with a clandestine enemy like Al Qaeda, that determination is much harder,” said Daskal.

While President Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to be more transparent about drone policy, the administration appears to maneuvering to avoid sharing additional information with Congress.

According to the New York Times, the administration may opt to share information on last year’s Benghazi attack with Republican senators to avoid revealing any more legal memos on the drone war to Democratic senators.

Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has said that her committee reviews videos of strikes.But she also recently said that the committee has long sought all of the legal opinions on drone strikes – and that the administration has withheld most of the opinions.

America’s Secret Empire Of Drone Bases: Its Full Extent Revealed For The First Time

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Oldspeak:“Behold! The future of war in America! Remote-controlled, automated, outsourced and cheaply produced for your viewing pleasure! Hey! The Libyan intervention/regime change only cost 2 Billion Dollars! Sooo much cheaper than the Iraq War! Drones are awesome, they’re cheaper and save American lives! It’s come to this. Cheering the fact that Humanity is slowly and surely being phased out of the war making business. A terribly slippery slope to tread. When wars begin to be defined in terms of dollars and cents instead of the untold millions of lives negatively affected and outright lost because of them; it becomes crystal clear what war is all about. Money. Arms Sales. Business. Repeat Business. Industry. Cost-Effectiveness. The Bottom Line. “The U.S. Government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world todayDr Martin Luther King. Business is BOOMING. Soon robots will fight our wars for us.  When humans are phased out of war-making, the costs of war seem smaller, even if in reality they’re growing larger with each remote-controlled vehicle and robot built, each unnamed woman or child or bride or husband killed  largely out of public view. Perpetual War becomes routine. War becomes entertainment. War Is glamorized. War is commercialized. Was is a drug. “Even if the Pentagon budget were to begin to shrink in the coming years, expansion of America’s empire of drone bases is a sure thing in the years to come.  Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and — with counterinsurgency out of favor — the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.” -Nick Turse. No significant discussion of  the conditions created to facilitate waging war, or policies which could be employed to minimize the outbreak and sustenance of war. “War Is Peace”.

By Nick Turse @ Alter Net:

 

They increasingly dot the planet.  There’s a facility outside Las Vegas where “pilots” work in climate-controlled trailers, another at a dusty camp in Africa formerly used by the French Foreign Legion, a third at a big air base in Afghanistan where Air Force personnel sit in front of multiple computer screens, and a fourth that almost no one talks about at an air base in the United Arab Emirates.

And that leaves at least 56 more such facilities to mention in an expanding American empire of unmanned drone bases being set up worldwide.  Despite frequent news reports on the drone assassination campaign launched in support of America’s ever-widening undeclared wars and a spate of stories on drone bases in Africa and the Middle East, most of these facilities have remained unnoted, uncounted, and remarkably anonymous — until now.

Run by the military, the Central Intelligence Agency, and their proxies, these bases — some little more than desolate airstrips, others sophisticated command and control centers filled with computer screens and high-tech electronic equipment — are the backbone of a new American robotic way of war.  They are also the latest development in a long-evolving saga of American power projection abroad — in this case, remote-controlled strikes anywhere on the planet with a minimal foreign “footprint” and little accountability.

Using military documents, press accounts and other open source information, an in-depth analysis by AlterNet has identified at least 60 bases integral to U.S. military and CIA drone operations.  There may, however, be more, since a cloak of secrecy about drone warfare leaves the full size and scope of these bases distinctly in the shadows.

A Galaxy of Bases

Over the last decade, the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has expanded exponentially as has media coverage of their use.  On September 21st, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military has deployed missile-armed MQ-9 Reaper drones on the “island nation of Seychelles to intensify attacks on al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Somalia.” A day earlier, a Washington Post piece also mentioned the same base on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, as well as one in the African nation of Djibouti, another under construction in Ethiopia, and a secret CIA airstrip being built for drones in an unnamed Middle Eastern country (suspected of being Saudi Arabia).

Post journalists Greg Miller and Craig Whitlock reported that the “Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.”  Within days, the Post also reported that a drone from the new CIA base in that unidentified Middle Eastern country had carried out the assassination of radical al-Qaeda preacher and American citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen.

With the killing of al-Aulaqi, the Obama Administration has expanded its armed drone campaign to no fewer than six countries, though the CIA, which killed al-Aulaqi, refuses to officially acknowledge its drone assassination program.  The Air Force is less coy about its drone operations, yet there are many aspects of those, too, that remain in the shadows.  Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes recently told AlterNet that, “for operational security reasons, we do not discuss worldwide operating locations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, to include numbers of locations around the world.”

Still, those 60 military and CIA bases around the world, directly connected to the drone program, tell us a lot about America’s war-making future.  From command and control and piloting to maintenance and arming, these facilities perform key functions that allow drone campaigns to continued expanding as they have for more than a decade.  Other bases are already under construction or in the planning stages.  When presented with our list of Air Force sites within America’s galaxy of drone bases, Lieutenant Colonel Haynes responded, “I have nothing further to add to what I’ve already said.”

Even in the face of government secrecy, however, much can be discovered .  Here, then, for the record is a AlterNet accounting of America’s drone bases in the United States and around the world.

The Near Abroad

News reports have frequently focused on Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas as ground zero in America’s military drone campaign. Sitting in darkened, air conditioned rooms, 7,500 miles from Afghanistan, drone pilots dressed in flight suits remotely control MQ-9 Reapers and their progenitors, the less heavily-armed MQ-1 Predators. Beside them, sensor operators manipulate the TV camera, infrared camera, and other high-tech sensors on board.  Their faces lit up by digital displays showing video feeds from the battle zone, by squeezing a trigger on a joystick one of these Air Force “pilots” can loose a Hellfire missile on a person half a world away.

While Creech gets the lion’s share of attention — it even has its own drones on site — numerous other bases on U.S. soil have played critical roles in America’s drone wars.  The same video-game-style warfare is carried out by U.S and British pilots not far away at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the home of the Air Force’s 2nd Special Operations Squadron (SOS).  According to a factsheet provided to AlterNet by the Air Force, the 2nd SOS and its drone operators are scheduled to be relocated to the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida in the coming months.

Reapers or Predators are also being flown from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, March Air Reserve Base in California, Springfield Air National Guard Base in Ohio, Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Ellington Airport in Houston, Texas, the Air National Guard base in Fargo, North Dakota, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York.  Recently, it was announced that Reapers, flown by Hancock’s pilots, would begin taking off on training missions from the Army’s Fort Drum, also in New York State.  While at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, according to a report by the New York Times earlier this year, teams of camouflage-clad Air Force analysts sit in a secret intelligence and surveillance installation monitoring cell phone intercepts, high altitude photographs, and most notably, multiple screens of streaming live video from drones in Afghanistan — what they call “Death TV” — while instant-messaging and talking to commanders on the ground in order to supply them with real-time intelligence on enemy troop movements.

CIA drone operators also reportedly pilot their aircraft from the Agency’s nearby Langley, Virginia headquarters.  It was from here that analysts apparently watched footage of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, for example, thanks to video sent back by the RQ-170 Sentinel, an advanced drone nicknamed the “Beast of Kandahar.”  According to Air Force documents, the Sentinel is flown from both Creech Air Force Base and Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Predators, Reapers, and Sentinels are just part of the story.  At Beale Air Force Base in California, Air Force personnel pilot the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned drone used for long-range, high-altitude surveillance missions, some of them originating from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam (a staging ground for drone flights over Asia).  Other Global Hawks are stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, while the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio manages the Global Hawk as well as the Predator and Reaper programs for the Air Force.

Other bases have been intimately involved in training drone operators, including Randolph Air Force Base in Texas and New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base, as is the Army’s Fort Huachuca in Arizona which is home to, according to a report by National Defense magazine, “the world’s largest UAV training center.”  There, hundreds of employees of defense giant General Dynamics train military personnel to fly smaller tactical drones like the Hunter and Shadow.  The physical testing of drones goes on at adjoining Libby Army Airfield and “two UAV runways located approximately four miles west of Libby,” according to Global Security, an on-line clearinghouse for military information.

Additionally, small drone training for the Army is carried out at Fort Benning in Georgia while at Fort Rucker, Alabama — “the home of Army aviation” — the Unmanned Aircraft Systems program coordinates doctrine, strategy, and concepts pertaining to UAVs.  Recently, Fort Benning also saw the early testing of true robotic drones – which fly without human guidance or a hand on any joystick.  This is considered, wrote the Washington Post, the next step toward a future in which drones will “hunt, identify, and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans.”

The Army has also carried out UAV training exercises at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and, earlier this year, the Navy launched its X-47B, a next-generation semi-autonomous stealth drone, on its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  That flying robot — designed to operate from the decks of aircraft carriers — has since been sent on to Maryland’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River for further testing.  At nearby Webster Field, the Navy worked out kinks in its Fire Scout pilotless helicopter, which has also been tested at Fort Rucker, Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, and Florida’s Mayport Naval Station and Jacksonville Naval Air Station.  The latter base was also where the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial system was developed and is now, along with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State, based.

Foreign Jewels in the Crown

The Navy is actively looking for a suitable site in the Western Pacific for a BAMS base, and is currently in talks with several Persian Gulf states for one in that region, as well.  It already has Global Hawks perched at its base in Sigonella, Italy.

The Air Force is now negotiating with Turkey to relocate some of the Predator drones still operating in Iraq to the giant air base at Incirlik next year.  Many different UAVs have been based in Iraq since the American invasion of that country, including small tactical models likeRaven-B’s  that troops launched by hand from Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Shadow UAVs that flew from Forward Operating Base Normandy in Baqubah Province, Predators operating out of Balad Airbase, miniature Desert Hawk drones launched from Tallil Air Base, and Scan Eagles based at Al Asad Air Base.

Elsewhere in the Greater Middle East, according to Aviation Week, the military is launching Global Hawks from Al Dhafra Air Base in theUnited Arab Emirates, piloted by personnel stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to track “shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Arabian Sea.”  There are unconfirmed reports that the CIA may be operating drones from that country as well.  In the past, at least, other UAVs have apparently been flown from Kuwait’s Ali Al Salem Air Base and Al Jaber Air Base, as well as Seeb Air Base in Oman.

At Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the Air Force runs an air operations command and control facility, critical to the drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The new secret CIA base on the Arabian peninsula, used to assassinate Anwar al-Aulaqi, may or may not be an airstrip inSaudi Arabia whose existence a senior U.S. military official recently confirmed to FOX News.  In the past, the CIA has also operated UAVs out of Tuzel, Uzbekistan.

In neighboring Afghanistan, drones fly from many bases including Jalalabad Air Base, Kandahar Air Field, the air base at Bagram, Camp Leatherneck, Camp Dwyer, Combat Outpost Payne, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Edinburgh and FOB Delaram II, to name a few. Afghan bases are, however, more than just locations where drones take off and land.

It is a common misperception that U.S.-based operators are the only ones who “fly” America’s armed drones.  In fact, in and around America’s war zones, UAVs begin and end their flights under the control of local “pilots.”  Take Afghanistan’s massive Bagram Air Base. After performing preflight checks alongside a technician who focuses on the drone’s sensors, a local airman sits in front of a Dell computer tower and multiple monitors, two keyboards, a joystick, a throttle, a rollerball, a mouse, and various switches and oversees the plane’s takeoff before handing it over to a stateside counterpart with a similar electronics set-up.  After the mission is complete, the controls are transferred back to the local operators for the landing.  Additionally, crews in Afghanistan perform general maintenance and repairs on the drones.

In the wake of a devastating suicide attack by an al-Qaeda double agent that killed CIA officers and contractors at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost in 2009, it came to light that the facility was heavily involved in target selection for drone strikes across the border in Pakistan.  The drones themselves, as the Washington Post noted at the time, were “flown from separate bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Both the Air Force and CIA have conducted operations in Pakistani air space, with some missions originating in Afghanistan and others from inside Pakistan.  In 2006, images of what appear to be Predator drones stationed at Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province were found on Google Earth and later published.  In 2009, the New York Times reported that operatives from Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, had taken over the task of arming Predator drones at the CIA’s “hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Following the May Navy SEAL raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, that country’s leaders reportedly ordered the United States to leave Shamsi.  The Obama administration evidently refused and word leaked out, according to the Washington Post, that the base was actually owned and sublet to the U.S. by the United Arab Emirates, which had built the airfield “as an arrival point for falconry and other hunting expeditions in Pakistan.”

The U.S. and Pakistani governments have since claimed that Shamsi is no longer being used for drone strikes.  True or not, the U.S. evidently also uses other drone bases in Pakistan, including possibly PAF Base Shahbaz, located near the city of Jacocobad, and another base located near Ghazi.

The New Scramble for Africa

Recently, the headline story, when it comes to the expansion of the empire of drone bases, has been Africa.  For the last decade, the U.S. military has been operating out of Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign Legion base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti.  Not long after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it became a base for Predator drones and has since been used to conduct missions over neighboring Somalia.

For some time, rumors have also been circulating about a secret American base in Ethiopia.  Recently, a U.S. official revealed to theWashington Post that discussions about a drone base there had been underway for up to four years, “but that plan was delayed because ‘the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.’” Now construction is evidently underway, if not complete.

Then, of course, there is that drone base on the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.  A small fleet of Navy and Air Force drones began operating openly there in 2009 to track pirates in the region’s waters.  Classified diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks, however, reveal that those drones have also secretly been used to carry out missions in Somalia.  “Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport,” the Post reports, the base consists of three or four “Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.”

The U.S. has also recently sent four smaller tactical drones to the African nations of Uganda and Burundi for use by those countries’ own militaries.

New and Old Empires

Even if the Pentagon budget were to begin to shrink in the coming years, expansion of America’s empire of drone bases is a sure thing in the years to come.  Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and — with counterinsurgency out of favor — the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.

During the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, as the U.S. was building up its drone fleets, the country launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and carried out limited strikes in YemenPakistan, and Somalia, using drones in at least four of those countries.  In less than three years under President Obama, the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.  It maintains that it has carte blanche to kill suspected enemies in any nation (or at least any nation in the global south).

According to a report by the Congressional Budget office published earlier this year, “the Department of Defense (DoD) plans to purchase about 730 new medium-sized and large unmanned aircraft systems” over the next decade.  In practical terms, this means more drones like the Reaper.

Military officials told the Wall Street Journal that the Reaper “can fly 1,150 miles from base, conduct missions and return home… the time a drone can stay aloft depends on how heavily armed it is.”  According to a drone operator training document obtained by AlterNet, at maximum payload, meaning with 3,750 pounds worth of Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 or GBU-30 bombs on board, the Reaper can remain aloft for 16 to 20 hours.  Even a glance at a world map tells you that, if the U.S. is to carry out ever more drone strikes across the developing world, it will need more bases for its future UAVs.  As an unnamed senior military official pointed out to a Washington Postreporter, speaking of all those new drone bases clustered around the Somali and Yemeni war zones, “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

Earlier this year, an analysis by TomDispatch.com determined that there are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases scattered across the globe — a shadowy base-world that provides plenty of existing sites that can, and no doubt will, host drones.  But facilities selected for a pre-drone world may not always prove optimal locations for America’s current and future undeclared wars and assassination campaigns. So further expansion in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is likely.

What are the Air Force’s plans in this regard?  Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes was typically circumspect.  “We are constantly evaluating potential operating locations based on evolving mission needs,” he said.  If the last decade is any indication, those “needs” will only continue to grow.

 

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and a senior editor at AlterNet. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso). You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook

This article marks another of Turse’s joint Alternet/TomDispatch investigative reports on U.S. national security policy and American empire.

 

© 2011 AlterNet and TomDispatch All rights reserved.

Occupy Wall Street “Counterinsurgency” Has Infiltrated Protests; Seeks To Diffuse Message

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Oldspeak:” If a movement pretends to have no leaders, then it is the corporate media, themselves controlled by Wall Street, who will choose the leaders. A few days ago, a Wall Street protester named Kelly Heresy was anointed as principal honcho by Keith Olbermann, who used to work for the hedge fund called General Electric, and who now works for Al Gore. This is no way to select leaders. The organizers of the Wall Street action say they want to imitate recent protests in other countries. Their favorite is the Tahrir Square agitation in Egypt in February. But if you go to Cairo today, veterans of those demonstrations will tell you that these efforts accomplished relatively little, and mainly had the effect of ousting an oppressive civilian government in favor of an even more oppressive military government of weak CIA puppets which is still operating under martial law, even as benighted religious fanatics gather strength. In a severe world economic depression of the kind we have today, mere protest is not enough. Desperate populations are looking for political leadership with solutions capable of solving the life or death issues facing nations today. A movement which is incapable of specifying what it intends to fight for is an immature movement which no intelligent person will take seriously. The secret of a mass strike upsurge is that crisis conditions will propel many apolitical people into activism. This makes them vulnerable to manipulation by demagogues, including those of the extreme right. The mass strike upsurge by itself solves nothing. The question is whether any coherent group of people can intervene into the mass upsurge and push aside bankrupt and failed leaders with the kind of radical reform program that can actually get the society out of the crisis. The masses cannot discover this program on their own – they are too busy with the struggle for daily existence. College students therefore have a special responsibility to provide ideas for the benefit of the entire society. If an adequate program becomes dominant, the nation can survive. Otherwise, nothing guarantees that civilization itself will not collapse – look at the Tea Party if you don’t believe this. Soros, Koch, and the other finance capitalists have a good working understanding of how these things work, which is why they are sending in their operatives to make sure that this movement will have only the vaguest demands, or no demands at all, to fight for. Let that happen, and Wall Street will rule the day once again. Despite what Michael Moore may think, the political power of Wall Street is considerable, and an effective attack on the bankers will demand the unified efforts of key sectors of the population. This unity must be expressed in the program itself. Students must broaden the sociological scope of the movement to include all walks of life.”-Webster G. Tarpley Something to keep in mind in the nascent stages of this anti-corporate action. The gatekeepers of the status quo are always at work, sabotaging, flummoxing, co-opting, radical movements for change which pose a credible threat to continued operation of the Great Happiness Machine that is Casino Capitalism. Relentlessly grinding up individuality, critical thoughts, hopes and dreams amid gauzy and sensuous clouds of greed, consumption, self-absorption, hedonism, un-reality based entertainment, faux patriotism, faux populism, and infinite variations of pro-corporate education and propaganda.” “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Webster G. Tarpley @ Tarpley.net:

An Emergency Program for Anti-Wall Street Protestors: Don’t Let Soros Hijack the Movement

Political mass strike dynamics have been at work in the United States since the Wisconsin and Ohio mobilizations of February and March. Now, there are demonstrations in lower Manhattan and Boston specifically directed against the Wall Street banks. Another protest demonstration is scheduled for Washington, DC, starting on October 6. Good: a political challenge to Wall Street is indeed long overdue.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are skeptical in regard to Obama. There is no sizable constituency for Ron Paul, and the crackpot Austrian school of economics is hardly represented. Above all, there is a desire to break the power of Wall Street. This much is promising, but still not enough to win.

The demonstrations appear initially as leaderless groups, engaged in an organic process of discussion from which specific demands are supposed to emerge. But so far, these demonstrations have put forth no specific demands, reforms, or concrete measures whatsoever to fight Wall Street. This is a fatal political weakness. A movement that attempts to go forward with vague slogans like “Freedom” or “Abolish capitalism” is likely to become easy prey for foundation-funded operatives on the left wing of the Democratic Party.

If a movement pretends to have no leaders, then it is the corporate media, themselves controlled by Wall Street, who will choose the leaders. A few days ago, a Wall Street protester named Kelly Heresy was anointed as principal honcho by Keith Olbermann, who used to work for the hedge fund called General Electric, and who now works for Al Gore. This is no way to select leaders.

The demonstrations may appear spontaneous, but it is easy to see gatekeepers and countergangs operating in their midst, often with a frank counterinsurgency agenda. Occupy Wall Street in particular shows the heavy influence of union bureaucrats from the Service Employees International Union, as well as Acorn – both parts of the Obama machine. The goal of these operatives is to keep the focus of the protests vague and diffuse, so that no demands emerge that might be embarrassing to the Wall Street puppet Obama and his reelection campaign. Their ultimate goal is to absorb the protests as the left wing of the Obama 2012 effort. That means supporting an administration which not only refuses to fight Wall Street, but which is packed with Wall Street executives in its highest positions.

Dubious Hollywood figures like Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore are attempting to gain publicity for themselves by showing up at the demonstrations. Michael Moore, who is not very popular with the demonstrators, was instrumental in leading the antiwar and impeachment movements of the past decade back into the Democratic Party to support Obama. Journalist Matt Taibbi, another newly minted expert on the movement, is remembered for his hatchet jobs in favor of the Bush administration theory of terrorism.

The organizers of the Wall Street action say they want to imitate recent protests in other countries. Their favorite is the Tahrir Square agitation in Egypt in February. But if you go to Cairo today, veterans of those demonstrations will tell you that these efforts accomplished relatively little, and mainly had the effect of ousting an oppressive civilian government in favor of an even more oppressive military government of weak CIA puppets which is still operating under martial law, even as benighted religious fanatics gather strength. In Greece, it is true that the trade unions have mounted a dozen general strikes, but all of these have failed to oust Prime Minister Papandreou, the main enforcer of austerity cuts demanded by the International Monetary Fund, and so the brutal austerity continues. The same thing applies to Spain, where the indignados became so self-absorbed in their discussion and consensus process that they never put forward a program to save Spanish society from the bankers. In Iceland too, the anti-bank movement was never able to go beyond mere protest to advance a series of concrete measures that would allow them to contend for power, take power, and hold onto it for the public good.

The lesson of all of these situations is that, in a severe world economic depression of the kind we have today, mere protest is not enough. Desperate populations are looking for political leadership with solutions capable of solving the life or death issues facing nations today. A movement which is incapable of specifying what it intends to fight for is an immature movement which no intelligent person will take seriously.

The secret of a mass strike upsurge is that crisis conditions will propel many apolitical people into activism. This makes them vulnerable to manipulation by demagogues, including those of the extreme right. The mass strike upsurge by itself solves nothing. The question is whether any coherent group of people can intervene into the mass upsurge and push aside bankrupt and failed leaders with the kind of radical reform program that can actually get the society out of the crisis. The masses cannot discover this program on their own – they are too busy with the struggle for daily existence. College students therefore have a special responsibility to provide ideas for the benefit of the entire society. If an adequate program becomes dominant, the nation can survive. Otherwise, nothing guarantees that civilization itself will not collapse – look at the Tea Party if you don’t believe this. Soros, Koch, and the other finance capitalists have a good working understanding of how these things work, which is why they are sending in their operatives to make sure that this movement will have only the vaguest demands, or no demands at all, to fight for. Let that happen, and Wall Street will rule the day once again.

Despite what Michael Moore may think, the political power of Wall Street is considerable, and an effective attack on the bankers will demand the unified efforts of key sectors of the population. This unity must be expressed in the program itself. Students must broaden the sociological scope of the movement to include all walks of life.

In order to fight Wall Street, it is necessary for the American people to understand the basic idea of shifting the cost of the world economic depression off of the backs of working people and the poor where it is now, and onto Wall Street banks and super-rich speculators. Depressions are very expensive. Who should pay for the current depression? The bankers demand that the American people must pay. We want the bankers to pay, and we must specify how. A movement that wants to defend working people against the class warfare of the bankers has the responsibility of putting forward a program to defend middle-class and other working people. In order to win, the anti-Wall Street protests must agitate for a series of demands including the following:

1. Student Loan Amnesty. The common experience of many of the protesters is that of being crushed by an outrageous burden of high interest student loans. Today it is common for graduating seniors to carry $50,000, $75,000, or even $100,000 of debt. Add the costs of an advanced degree in teaching, law, or medicine, and the debt burden becomes astronomical. The exorbitant cost of a college education reflects the increasing immiseration of the United States over the past 40 years, as the overall standard of living has declined by two thirds or more in terms of real wages and other considerations. These debts are owed to the same zombie bankers who cashed in on the Bush bailout of 2008, and the even larger loans issued by Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve over recent years. This is a system of brutal primitive accumulation against the life chances everyone who knows that they need a college degree to be employable in the 21st century. Total students loan indebtedness is now approaching $1 trillion. This grinding debt is destroying the futures, the lives, and the hopes of college students and recent graduates.
When a debtor country like Greece is unable to pay its debts, it is normal to hear talk of a haircut for the bondholders and bankers. It is time for the Wall Street zombie banks to take a haircut on student loan debt. Most of this debt cannot be paid off, but an entire generation can be ruined by a futile attempt to pay it back.

A leading demand must therefore be a total cancellation of all outstanding student loan debt, meaning a total and immediate forgiveness of all payments of principal and interest coming from this category of borrowing. Carter granted Vietnam draft resisters an amnesty. If Obama wants to keep his job, he must deliver a student loan amnesty to save not just a single generation, but the entire future of the United States and beyond. Otherwise, dump Obama in 2012! The zombie bankers have been pampered enough. It is time for them to take a bath, so that a generation might live. This is also the best stimulus program possible.

2. Stop Foreclosures. Since students alone will never be enough to make a revolution, it is necessary to put forward additional measures to defend other parts of the population from the depredations of Wall Street. In the area of home foreclosures, the bankers have trampled on the law to seize millions of homes, some of which never had a mortgage, and many of which were current in their payments. The banks have used corrupt robo-signers, robo-cops, and robo-judges to carry out these fraudclosure thefts. The answer is to make foreclosure a federal crime, so that anyone who throws an American family out on the street will end up in Leavenworth. Again, the zombie bankers can eat the losses, which are unavoidable in any case. This is not an impossible demand: under the New Deal, the Frazier-Lemke Act stopped all foreclosures on homes, provided only that the owners could get a minimal payment plan approved by any judge in any court. With the help of popular pressure and public opinion, foreclosures virtually came to a halt. This is what we need to be demanding today.

3. Defend and fully fund the social safety net. Wall Street and Washington elites agree that the American people ought to be subjected to genocidal austerity – cuts so draconian that they will kill people. The goal is obviously to fund bigger and better bailouts of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase when they go bankrupt the next time around. Real unemployment in the United States is now about 25%, meaning that 30 million people cannot find work, and many have been looking for years. Therefore, we need to extend jobless benefits to all unemployed, including those who have been out of a job for 99 weeks and more. 46 million Americans are now surviving thanks to Food Stamps, but the reactionary Republicans are demanding savage cuts, and Obama is more than likely to cave. We also need to defend programs that specifically help children and young. These include S-CHIP, which gives health care to poor children; Head Start, which provides breakfast and preschool for poor kids; and WIC, which provides high-protein meals for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and infants. Older people have special problems, including that Wall Street speculators have destroyed the value of their 401(k) and IRA retirement plans. This means that Social Security pensions should be increased, and not cut, as the Republicans and Obama both want. Obama has already cut $500 billion out of Medicare, but he wants to cut it even more, and the Tea Party is eager to help him. The best healthcare would be to open Medicare to all Americans, while making the investments needed to maintain quality. Medicaid gives healthcare to poor people of any age, and these payments must be maintained.

4. Pay for healthcare and social services with a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax. When they hear demands like these, Fox news commentators will demand to know how these programs can be paid for. The answer is simple: the Tobin tax or Wall Street sales tax. Today the total financial turnover of the banksters in terms of buying, selling, and other trading comes to well over three quadrillion dollars yearly – that’s more than 3,000 trillion dollars. The rest of us pay sales tax on most purchases, often including the groceries, but Wall Street zombie bankers and hedge fund hyenas pay absolutely zero on that colossal sum. The most unfair aspect of the entire US tax system is that Wall Street pays virtually no taxes. It is time for the bankers to cough up 1% of every stock, bond, and derivatives transaction, be it program trading, high frequency trading, or computerized flash trading at the rate of one million transactions per second. The total revenue could be split between the federal government and the states, and would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps even trillions – depending on how determined the speculators are to keep up their dirty deals. There is nothing impossible about this demand: the federal government had a financial transaction tax from the time of World War I in 1967. And even today, the largely right wing governments of the European Union are about to enact their own Tobin tax. Why can’t it be done here as well?

These are immediate agitational demands that can be readily understood by any person. They can form the leading edge of a struggle to break the political power of Wall Street. In addition, a full recovery from depression and the attainment of full employment for the first time since 1945 will require the nationalization of the Federal Reserve, and the issuing of successive tranches of $1 trillion of 0%, very long-term Federal credit for the building of infrastructure, with a goal of creating 30 million new productive jobs with adequate capital investment per job.

Another essential point is that Wall Street is the biggest nest of warmongers anywhere in the world. Anyone seeking to gain influence over the anti-Wall Street movement should be willing to condemn and denounce Obama’s wanton aggression against Libya, as well as to call for an immediate pullout of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Anyone who refuses to do this should be regarded with grave suspicion.

The alternative to such concrete demands is, whether we like it or not, to remain in the orbit of Obama’s Democratic Party. Earlier this year, students, workers, and others occupied the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin in response to attacks on working people coming from the fascist governor, Walker. The resistance against Walker was betrayed first of all by the Democratic Party, which announced that it would not fight for wages and benefits, but only for trade union rights in the abstract. That is a good program for trade union bureaucrats, but not so good for working people, who bore the brunt of Walker’s austerity. A president who was on the side of the people would have gone immediately to Madison, Wisconsin to hold a town hall on the occupied grounds of the state capitol, an event that would have looked much different than the canned, pre-screened teleprompter town halls Obama likes to address. A real president would have taken Attorney General Holder and Labor Secretary Solis along to investigate the denial of civil rights and labor violations by Walker. Obama did none of these things. Rather, he damned the movement with a few words of faint praise, and cut it loose. The lesson is that the Democratic Party is more than willing to sell out mass struggles anytime it can. And it is only by having your own program of anti-Wall Street demands that you can become independent of the rotten two-party system.

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