VFP Gainesville Chapter 14

Veterans For Peace

I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong? -A Soldiers Perspective on War

One reason we do our Vets Speak Out sessions. To educate the public and to give our volunteer army a chance to speak about thier experiences on thier own terms.

When I tell people I’m a Marine, the next question many ask is: “Did you kill anyone?” To my ears, this sounds like: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” They don’t realize they’re asking about an intensely private matter.

Many veterans I know are incensed by this question. It reinforces the isolation they feel in a society that doesn’t seem to care about Iraq or Afghanistan. But to me, it speaks to the fact that civilians’ curiosity about war overwhelms their understanding of it. Most Americans have little idea what war means. Our battles are fought with volunteers, making an intimate knowledge of war voluntary as well — and therefore avoidable.

via I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong? – The Washington Post.

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How Torture Misled the US into an Illegal War: What Zero Dark Thirty Really Leaves Out

My long held view that torture under the Bush Administration was largely used to produce propaganda so they could go to war for other reasons (greed, power and personal vanity are what I see as the reasons for invading Iraq) is confirmed by the history Juan Cole describes here.  The question today is what does torture under our present administration bring us?  The idea that it has “gone away” when the system has become so non-transparent as civil liberties are further eroded is highly unlikely. Even if Dick Cheney no longer sits at his desk in the White House bunker waiting for the next graphic report to come in, we still are funding torture with our tax dollars (60% of them in fact go to support our military misadventures).

Al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was captured trying to escape from Afghanistan in late 2001. He was sent to Egypt to be tortured, and under duress alleged that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda agents in chemical weapons techniques. It was a total crock, and alleged solely to escape further pain. Al-Libi disavowed the allegation when he was returned to CIA custody. But Cheney and Condi Rice ran with the single-source, torture-induced assertion and it was inserted by Scooter Libby in Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations.

If torture can mislead you into launching a war that results in hundreds of thousands of deaths, then it should be avoided, quite apart from the fact that it is illegal and that the United States is signatory to binding treaties specifying its illegality. (It is coming out that Bush-Cheney’s own CIA Inspector-General expressed the view that the Bush-era torture was medically unsound, did not produce the desired results, and contravened the UN Convention against torture.

Here is what Condi Rice told the Lehrer News Hour in 2002, based on the torture-induced statements of the late al-Libi:

‘ “We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time,” Rice said. “We know too that several of the [Al Qaeda] detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.” ‘

via How Torture Misled the US into an Illegal War: What Zero Dark Thirty Really Leaves Out | Informed Comment.

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Paying For Torture – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

Paying For Torture – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

We will all be paying the costs directly and indirectly for a long time but Andrew is right – our government needs to acknowledge that wrong was done or it will continue as I am sure it is today.

All I can say is how remarkable it is that a contractor is forced to pay damages for torture, while the US government refuses even to acknowledge that it authorized and implemented it, that it tortured at least a score of prisoners to death, that no one – no one – involved in the authorization of these war crimes has faced any legal or professional consequences and that war criminals, like Stanley McChrystal, who presided over one of the worst torture camps in Iraq, Camp Nama, (“Nasty-Ass Military Area”), can go on the Daily Show as if he is just another general. No he isn’t. Under his command some of the worst incidents of torture took place. Why did Jon Stewart not ask him about that? When will these people be publicly challenged to defend their history of crimes against humanity?

If we can hold contractors accountable, why not the public sector which paid them?

 

 

 

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Why are Bob Woodward’s WH sources – or Woodward himself – not on trial next to Bradley Manning? | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

The fact that Woodward’s far more sensitive leaks have never been the subject of any investigation underscores the clear and obvious point: protection of government secrets is the pretext for these prosecutions. The actual purpose is to intimidate everyone from exposing secret government wrongdoing and to severely punish those who do.But whatever else is true, the theory now being used to depict Bradley Manning not as a whistle-blower or leaker, but as a traitor, is one that can be – and almost certainly will be – just as easily applied to the vast majority of leaks on which investigative journalism has always relied. Perhaps media outlets beyond the Guardian and independent blogs might want to take a serious interest in this fact and marshal opposition to what is being done to Bradley Manning: if not out of concern for the injustices to which he is being subjected, then out of self-interest, to ensure that their reporters and their past and future whistle-blowing sources cannot be similarly persecuted.

via Why are Bob Woodward’s WH sources – or Woodward himself – not on trial next to Bradley Manning? | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

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Vasili The Russian Vice-Admiral who Saved the World

Vasili – YouTube.
Wrtten and performed by John Rovics

Thanks to John Fullerton for posting this eloquent musical reprise of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I was in college in Central Florida and several of my friends were Cuban refugees. Where were you in 1962?  This song brings a lot of it back.

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Want to cut the deficit? How about the giant Sacred Bull in the room?

What about the giant elephant in the room? - Democratic Underground

All this clamor over raising taxes on the wealthy, and cutting spending for social security, medicare and medicaid.Yet not a word is spoken against the huge, wooley mammoth (more like a Bull here but WTF) standing in the center of the room.What about the U.S. Defense Dept that is bigger than the rest of the world combined? Seems like no member of congress wants to mention DOD spending. Is that who writes the largest political campaign checks?When it comes down to austerity and where to pare down the budget spending, WHERE’S THE BEEF?It’s where it always is, sitting in the middle of the room. Yet no member of congress dares to breathe a living thought against it.

via What about the giant elephant in the room? – Democratic Underground.

And if you are worried about the jobs lost from one of our major products nationally, ie weapons and weapon systems here is a response:

There would be some job losses in the defense industry if real cuts were made – I am talking $500bn+ of annual cuts. (Not the tiny $24bn in the fiscal cliff as it stood.)

You could cut the current Pentagon budget of $105bn a year for 7,000 “contractors” still in

Iraq.
That works out at $15 million per job.
I wouldn’t be adverse to losing those 7,000 jobs. Not if it means saving most of that $105bn. They are probably blackwater merceneries.

You could massively cut the $170bn currently spent on building and supplying foreign bases.
The building of foreign bases employs a lot of foreign native workers – not Americans.
If you brought the 138,000 military currently stationed in Germany, Japan, South Korea, UK and Italy home – your supply costs would go down significantly.

Similarly stopping the war in Afghanistan would save $88bn a year. It wouldn’t mean job losses (well a tiny amount maybe – you wouldn’t buy so many bullets).

Cuts to the US defense budget does not affect exports.

America had 79% of the global arms trade in 2011.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175592/engelhardt_monopolizing_war

The defense industry currently receive special tax breaks. They are also making record profits. You could cut the Corporate Tax break – that wouldn’t cost jobs.

Also labor costs for the arms industry are about the lowest proportionally of just about any industry and the LEAST productive economic activity.

E.G. You create three times as many jobs for every dollar you put into education compared to every dollar put into the arms industry.

If you want to create jobs – you don’t spend your money on the arms industry.

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Pain Continues after War for American Drone Pilot – SPIEGEL ONLINE

A soldier sets out to graduate at the top of his class. He succeeds, and he becomes a drone pilot working with a special unit of the United States Air Force in New Mexico. He kills dozens of people. But then, one day, he realizes that he can’t do it anymore.

via Pain Continues after War for American Drone Pilot – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

View from the cockpit of a Drone Pilot - SPIEGEL ONLINE

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Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones | Informed Comment

Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones | Informed Comment.

As we mourn the tragic deaths of American children murdered in Connecticut, let us also remember that an even larger tragedy is unfolding as our secret foreign policy rains death and destruction by Drone attack over the Middle East. According to Juan Cole:

some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime.

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It’s Time to Stop Killing in Secret-The Drone Wars

The idea that the president can authorize the killing of a human being far from any traditional battlefield without any publicly accessible set of constraints, conditions, or requirements is unacceptable in a country committed to the rule of law. In his first and only speech on security and our national ideals, at the National Archives in May 2009, President Obama insisted that adherence to the rule of law is essential in the fight against terror, and to that end, promised to be transparent about his actions “so that [the people] can make informed judgments and hold us accountable.” Yet after four years and hundreds of killings authorized in secret, the most the president has been able to offer us about the scope of his most awesome power is a handful of vague paragraphs in a handful of administration officials’ speeches, which experts must then parse for clues as to what the rules might actually be.

via It’s Time to Stop Killing in Secret by David Cole | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

This secrecy is causing some severe problems for our Democracy. Here are four cited by the author David Cole in Its Time to Stop Killing in Secret :

1. Critics claim that the attacks have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. The administration has suggested that these charges are exaggerated, and that the attacks are extraordinarily precise, generating only minimal collateral damage. But since the administration will not acknowledge even its decision to undertake any specific attack, it cannot give its side of the story in any credible way.

2. The administration claims it targets “imminent” threats to the United States, invoking the international law concept of self-defense. But as I have noted previously there are serious questions about how it defines “imminent.” The core idea of the imminence requirement is that a state should not attack unless there is no time left, so that lethal force is being used only as a last resort. Yet until now, we have yet to see a single report of a drone strike actually halting a truly imminent attack on the United States. Instead, the administration appears to have redefined imminence to be satisfied by the fact that an individual is a member of a group that seeks to attack the United States whenever it has the chance to do so. Thus, US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was said to pose an imminent threat even though there was no claim he was engaged in any sort of attack or preparations for an attack when we killed him in Yemen with a drone. Without public rules, we don’t know what criteria the administration is using for its decisions; and without acknowledgement of the grounds for specific attacks, we can’t assess whether those criteria are being properly applied.

3. The Times reports that the drone strikes, initially justified as focused on the senior commanders of al-Qaeda, have more recently been deployed against militants who are not part of al-Qaeda and do not directly threaten the United States at all, but who are enemies of states with which we are seeking to curry favor, such as Pakistan and Yemen. If this is correct, this would be a dramatic expansion of drone policy, one that veers far from any justification in the law of war. But again, because the policy is secret, we don’t know why the administration feels such strikes are warranted.

4. Finally, the administration apparently authorizes not only “personality strikes” to target identified and known individuals who have been placed on a “kill list” by an advance review process, but also “signature strikes,” in which drones are used to kill unidentified individuals who are acting in ways that suggest that they are combatants, that they belong to a particular militant or terrorist group. Such attacks might well have a place on a hot battlefield, where the law of war has never required soldiers to identify their enemies before shooting at them. But the president has also reportedly authorized “signature strikes” in Yemen, far from any battlefield, where we are not at war, and where it is much more difficult to assign combatant status to individuals based on patterns of activity.

The above issues illustrate why the article closes with:

The rules of the game need to be public, so that they can be debated and assessed, and so that we the people can hold our leaders accountable to the laws they claim to be following in secret.

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The ‘Red Dawn’ Case for Cutting U.S. Defense Spending – Businessweek

Despite its less-than-blockbuster performance, Red Dawn turns out to be surprisingly trenchant —though probably not in the way the film’s creators intended. In particular, the movie makes a powerful case for why the U.S. should take a sledgehammer to its military budget.

via The ‘Red Dawn’ Case for Cutting U.S. Defense Spending – Businessweek.

If you remember the original movie the US is effectively defended by a band of teenage drop outs.  So the question that comes up is why we need a roughly trillion dollar plus yearly defense budget. (I am including extras like the debt and war appropriations and other DOD expenses like the Drone program that are “off the books” black ops).

And the US public agrees:

In Harris polls since 2008 the percentage favoring defense cuts has risen from 35 percent to 42 percent. Of five areas of expenditure—Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, and defense—the military was only area where a majority (60 percent) suggested spending should be cut to reduce the deficit. In a YouGov poll, when asked if they would support a tax increase to maintain America’s current military advantage over rising powers such as China, only 30 percent of respondents suggested that they would—with 50 percent clearly stating they would not

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