Monday, October 31, 2011

Security--Imperial and Homeland--Swallowing Our Wealth

The costs of homeland security

How much does all that post-9/11 security cost?

Sep 8th 2011, 21:15 by N.B. | WASHINGTON, D.C.
IN APRIL, I wrote about a paper [PDF] from John Mueller (of Ohio State University) and Mark Stewart (of the University of Newcastle in Australia) that tried to judge whether the return on America's investment in homeland security after 9/11 justified its huge expenditures. Now Messrs Mueller and Stewart have turned their paper into a book, Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security. On Wednesday, they published an excerpt in Slate. Here's the money quote, or, rather, chart:
costs of homeland security
That's a lot of dough! Messrs Mueller and Stewart note that the 9/11 commission asked the government to apply standard cost-benefit accounting measures to its decision-making on security measures. Unfortunately, they write, "it appears that this simply has not been done." The problem is that terrorist attacks don't just have economic costs. They also (usually) kill people, and even those that don't cause deaths or massive damage can have far-reaching political consequences. Politicians are understandably reluctant to risk being blamed for a successful terrorist attack, and many people stand to make money from government security spending. That means that all but the most stupid and useless security measures (and some of those, too) are approved.
The researchers, to their credit, understand all this. They also don't think it matters:
Political and emotional conditions do supply an understandable excuse for expending money, but not a valid one, and they do not relieve officials of the responsibility of seeking to expend public funds wisely. It is particularly important to do so with homeland security expenditures. They deal not with bridges to nowhere or with crop subsidies, but with public safety—or domestic tranquillity—the central, fundamental reason for the existence of government in the first place. It is imperative that decisions be made sensibly and responsibly in this area. To be irrational with your own money may be to be foolhardy, to give in to guilty pleasure, or to wallow in caprice. But to be irrational with other people's money, particularly where public safety is the issue, is to be irresponsible, to betray an essential trust. In the end, it becomes a dereliction of duty that cannot be justified by political pressure, bureaucratic constraints, or emotional drives.
This is a good point, and I hope it gains traction. Bloggers Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum have more on this and related issues.

U.S. War Crimes and Atrocities During Vietnam War

September 21st, 2010

This dissertation, blocked since 2005, is now available from ProQuest, a

dissertation database that many or most college and university libraries
subscribe to:
“Kill anything that moves”: United States war crimes and atrocities in
Vietnam, 1965–1973
by Turse, Nicholas, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2005, 1025 pages; AAT
Turse is turning this into a book, to be published Summer 2012.
Turse also wrote the article “A My Lai a Month: How the US Fought the
Vietnam War”, The Asia-Pacific Journa, November 2008, at
This same article was also published in The Nation on December 1, 2008, at
Grover Furr
Montclair SU

Friday, October 28, 2011

To Super-Committee: Slash Military Spending

Send an Easy Letter-to-the-Editor Urging the Super-Committee to Slash Military Spending  WRL protesting the bloated military budget (Times Sq,NYC 10/25/11 Global Day of Action)
Thanks to our friends at Peace Action for preparing this action
The Occupy movement, with exciting street actions and activities in over 1,500 cities worldwide, has opened up a new opportunity in our nation's conversation on debt, crisis, and capitalism.
Meanwhile, time is running out for the so-called "Super Committee" to deliver its recommendations to cut over $1 trillion from federal spending over the next ten years. Very soon, they will finalize their report. With all eyes on the 99%, we have an opportunity to make the news again before it's too late.
Use our simple form with easy talking points or write your own.
Write to your local paper urging the Super-Committee to slash military spending and not our vitally needed social programs.
Show the Super Committee they can't ignore us!
Congress members tells us they track each and every newspaper article that mentions their name. By publishing a letter to the editor in your local paper, you can be sure that your members of Congress will hear about it!
Shocking facts about the Super-Commitee (by Public Citzen)
   12: Number of members of the supercommittee charged with reducing the debt
    $41 million: The amount the supercommittee lawmakers have received from the finance, insurance and real estate sector while they have been in Congress
    $900,000: The amount given by JPMorgan Chase (big war profiteer), Bank of America and Wells Fargo alone to these members
Write to your local paper using our talking points or your own to emphasize the need to bring war dollars home!   mailto:home!

Pentagon Watch Newsletter #2

Pentagon Watch Newsletter #2

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Iraq: After Troops Leave Much Remains to Do

"It's Finally Over -- and It Was Wrong by Jim Wallis"
 Get a free issue of Sojourners    Donate to support Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis

My son Jack was born just days before the war in Iraq began. So, for these last eight and a half years, it’s been very easy for me to remember how long this horrible conflict has been going on.
Finally, as President Obama has announced, this American war will soon be over, with most of the 44,000 American troops still in Iraq coming home in time to be with their families for Christmas.
The initial feelings that rushed over me after hearing the White House announcement were of deep relief. But then they turned to deep sadness over the terrible cost of a war that was, from the beginning, wrong: intellectually, politically, strategically and, above all, morally.
The war in Iraq was fundamentally a war of choice, and it was the wrong choice.
From the outset, this war was fought on false pretenses, with false information, and for false purposes. And the official decisions to argue for this war and then carry it out were made at the height of political and moral irresponsibility -- especially when we see the failed results and consider both the human and financial costs.
This week, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a nine-term Republican from eastern North Carolina and long-time member of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke to the students of my class at Georgetown University. He called his decision to give President George W. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq “a sin.”
Even then, he didn’t believe or trust “the intelligence” being used to support a war with Iraq, but confesses he feared the response of a “no vote” among his constituency in a district that includes Camp Lejeune and 60,000 retired members of the military.
Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, as was falsely implied, and had no weapons of mass destruction, as was falsely claimed and endlessly repeated.
The full story of Jones' transformation by having personal encounters with families who lost their precious loved ones, and by the convictions of his own Christian faith, is detailed in the September/October issue of Sojourners.
In what he calls his “penance,” the congressman has now written 10,000 letters to the families of fallen servicemen and women.
“We were lied to,” Jones told my Georgetown students, and went on to describe his journey to find the truth. Because, for people of faith, “truth matters,” he said.
Jones learned how the intelligence on Iraq was “manipulated” and “distorted” to justify going to war, and that this was a completely unnecessary war. Outside Jones’ office on Capitol Hill is a wall of “the faces,” as he puts it, of those who paid the ultimate price for the manipulation of the truth. And when Jones talks about these young soldiers, you can see how deeply their loss has affected him.   [Dick:  "I feel their pain."  Yes he is better than all the Congress people who still support the war.   But he waited 8 years to speak out only to retain his position.  What is he doing and will do to prevent future wars?   What legislation is he sponsoring?   Thre's a smell of cant in much of this.] 
We were “misled” into war by the “previous administration,” Jones said, and, so far, nobody has been held accountable for it. The names he mentioned when speaking about accountability were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.   [Dick:   Did he support empeachment?   Does he support prosecution now?]
I think people should be held accountable for leading a country to war, if it can be demonstrated that officials manipulated intelligence and the truth,” Jones said. There are wars that could be considered “just,” he said, but this war was not.
Here are some of the costs of an unjust war:
* 4,499 U.S. military killed
* 32,200 wounded
* 110,000 estimated Iraqi civilian deaths   [D:    According to several sources, this is an strong underestimate.]
* 2.5 million internally displaced Iraqis   [D: And 2 to 3 million externally.]
* $800 billion in federal funding for the Iraq War through FY2011
* An estimated $3-5 trillion total economic cost to the United States of the war in Iraq.
* As many as 300,000 U.S. troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder.
* 320,000 troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with traumatic brain injuries
* The number of suicide attempts by veterans could exceed an earlier official estimate of 1,000 a month.
Such a list takes my breath away and should drive each of us to pray for lives that have been so painfully and irreparably changed.
The war literally was sold to the American public with the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Many believed it at the time, and an invasion was mounted on what turned out to be false information. A decade of sanctions and United Nations inspections had already undermined the allegations. And in the almost nine years of war, not a single WMD has been found in Iraq.
The invasion began with triumphal claims that it would be a “cakewalk,” and that U.S. forces would be welcomed as “liberators.” That proved to be initially true with the unexpectedly easy removal of Saddam Hussein from power, which led to the famous claim of a flight-jacket-clad George W. Bush on a U.S. aircraft carrier six weeks after the invasion began: “Mission Accomplished!”
But then everything fell apart. Hussein’s fighters had not surrendered, but simply melted into the cities, lying in wait to fight again. Al Qaeda, which had existed largely only in Afghanistan, formed an Iraqi branch. An invasion turned into an occupation and nearly five years [8!]of vicious and deadly street warfare, sectarian violence, and constant terrorist bombings.
By the time the heaviest fighting had died down, the Iraqi people were bitterly divided, huge parts of their country had been devastated, and corruption and fraud were rampant.
As U.S. combat troops return home, they leave behind a badly damaged nation that will require years, if not decades, of assistance and humanitarian development. Our responsibility does not end simply because our military presence in Iraq has.
Clearly, religious communities must reach out now more than ever to returning veterans to make sure they have the physical, emotional, and spiritual support they need.
One of the most unjust aspects of an unjust war is that a small minority of Americans have borne the brunt of the impact and cost of this war -- and in our volunteer army, those were disproportionately lower-income families.
Despite this tragically mistaken war, the sacrifices made by many servicemen and women have been extraordinary. And, even in the midst of war's brutalities, there have been many acts of real heroism -- soldiers risking and giving their own lives for their fellow soldiers and for the lives of Iraqis who also paid a heavy price.
No matter what our view of the war, it is our collective responsibility to be healers for those who are coming home – and for those left behind in post-war Iraq.
We must learn from this horrible and costly mistake.
We must conclude unequivocally that terrorism is not defeated by wars of mass occupation.
And we must strive to re-establish the fundamental principle that truth matters.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis

Peter Van Buren's We Meant Well (on Iraq War Development Funds Waste)

Fobbit Humor

By davidswanson - Posted on 22 September 2011  [A different version of this review of Van Buren's book was published in The Humanist Nov.-Dec. 2011.  D]
"How many PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team] staff members does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to hire a contractor who fails to complete the job and two to write the press release in the dark."
A FOB is a Forward Operating Base, and the Fobbits who live in them have their own brand of sad SNAFU humor, enough to fill many volumes and constituting, in my opinion, the silver lining of our wars. The above bit is taken from Peter Van Buren's new book "We Meant Well." The author has been in the U.S. Foreign Service for 23 years, working in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the U.K., Hong Kong, and -- from 2009 to 2010 -- in Iraq. The book is about Iraq.
"The reconstruction of Iraq was the largest nation-building program in history," Van Buren writes, optimistically using the past tense, "dwarfing in cost, size, and complexity even those undertaken after World War II to rebuild Germany and Japan." Van Buren describes this mission as lunacy wrapped in fraud, and yet he volunteered to be part of it several years after the population of war supporters had been reduced to Fox News viewers who'd been abandoned as children. Why? Perhaps Van Buren's explanation provides some perspective on the health of our society:
"I had never served in the Middle East and knew nothing about rebuilding past the Home Depot guides, but people like me were what the [State] Department had been dealt to play this game. The new rules boxed me into serving or seeing my career flatline. Less cynically, despite my reservations about the war, I still believed in the idea of service (love the warrior, hate the war) and wanted to test myself. I also needed the money, and so the nexus of duty, honor, terrorism, and my oldest daughter's college tuition (hopefully there'll be another war when my youngest is college age) led another FSO [Foreign Service Officer] into semivoluntarily joining the Cause."
As one who considers war to be worse than slavery or rape, please forgive me if I find this revolting. He couldn't test himself as a volunteer fireman? He couldn't teach his daughter through the example of noncooperation with evil? He wants another million corpses to pay for his other daughter's education? Nobody ever says "love the rapist, hate the rape," or "despite my concerns about the slave plantation, I believed in the idea of service."
For $63 billion, by Van Buren's count, give or take a giant stack of bills or two, the "reconstruction" of Iraq in which he "served" amounted to a giant exercise in reckless insincere waste and futility. Van Buren may grasp that this fact stems from the status of civilian efforts in Iraq as a minor appendage to a military occupation. Yet, it's not clear he wouldn't "serve" in another war if you paid him enough. On the other hand, his book, "We Meant Well," might persuade millions never to set foot in an "Overseas Contingency Operation," and if millions bought the book perhaps Van Buren could stay home too. Plus, as Michael Moore always says when trying to promote a meaningful film to disengaged audiences: It's comedy!
Van Buren's introduction to Fobbit procedures, upon his arrival in the cradle of bureaucracy, didn't go well:
"The team claimed they had never been held accountable for money spent. They explained that previous leaders would sign everything without question, like a high school substitute teacher. I wouldn't sign, and it looked like things were at a stalemate. As I wondered how to get out of the room and maybe grab a taxi to, say, Paris, Ms. Sharon, our Iraqi-American adviser, broke the silence by announcing that I did not trust her. I'd never met her before and ten minutes into the relationship was too early to not trust her, or trust her. She began crying and ran out of the room. I asked Mel if he had drafted the project and, if so, why he did not seek multiple prices and resolve some of the issues. He said Ms. Sharon had done all of the work. Did Ms. Sharon have an agricultural background? Mel mumbled no, her only previous work experience was doing office work in Chicago."
But it was Van Buren who was behaving inappropriately, the result of his lack of familiarity with missions that involved limitless funding:
"We lacked a lot of things in Iraq: flush toilets, fresh vegetables, the comfort of family members nearby, and of course adult supervision, strategic guidance, and common sense. Like Guns N' Roses' budget for meth after a new hit, the one thing we did not lack was money. There was money everywhere. A soldier recalled unloading pallets of new U.S. hundred-dollar bills, millions of dollars flushing out of the belly of a C-130 cargo aircraft to be picked up off the runway by forklifts. . . . You couldn't walk around a corner without stumbling over bales of money; the place was lousy with it. In my twenty-three years working for the State Department, we had never had enough money. . . . Now there was literally more money than we could spend. It was weird. We'd be watching the news from home about foreclosures, and I'd be reading e-mails from my sister about school cutbacks, while signing off on tens of thousands of dollars for stuff in Iraq."
"Stuff" or no stuff, as the case might be, and usually was:
"At one point, we were tasked to give out micro-grants, $5,000 in actual cash handed to an Iraqi to 'open a business,' no strings attached. If he took the money and in front of us spent it on dope and pinball, it was no matter."
After six years in Iraq, communications, at least, had improved dramatically:
"Though Iraqis will shout their opinions at you in the street and wave their hands like a crack-crazed aerobics teacher to make a point, it was hard to sort out what they said from what they meant from what they thought you wanted to hear. Add in a bad translator who reduced three minutes of rapid speech to 'He disagrees but loves all Americans and Obama president' and you often had no idea what was going on."
Endless projects were developed for Iraqis at incredible expense, without involving or even meaningfully consulting Iraqis. Farmers who sold milk locally just fine were expected to send it to new processing plants. Same deal with chickens. None of these schemes panned out -- except of course for the profiteers:
"There was no evidence of chicken killing as we walked past a line of refrigerated coolers. When we opened one fridge door, expecting to see chickens chilling, we found instead old buckets of paint. Our guide quickly noted that the plant had purchased twenty-five chickens that morning specifically to kill for us."
Read that light bulb joke above again. The important part was the press release:
"It turns out most journalists are not as inquisitive as TV and movies would have you believe. Most are interested only in a story, not the story. Therefore, it was easy not to tell the journalist about the chicken plant problems. Instead, we had some chickens killed so the plant looked busy. We had lunch at the slaughter plant -- fresh roasted chicken bought at the market."
Then there's the tale of how the Green Zone got green grass:
"Gardeners brought in tons of dirt and planted grass seed. A nearly endless amount of water was used, but despite clear orders to do so the grass would not grow. . . . The Ambassador would not admit defeat. He ordered sod be imported into Kuwait and then brought by armored convoy to the Embassy. No one confessed to what it cost to import, but estimates varied between two and five million dollars."
There are 1,001 of these tales in "We Meant Well," and eventually Van Buren reveals a two-step process required to handle them:
"Task one: Suspend disbelief, rewire your brain, accept [what] people at the Embassy who never stray outside the Green Zone tell you about Iraq. . . . Task Two: Convince yourself of the overall premise of U.S. efforts, that Iraqis want to be like us."
I humbly offer a third step: if you expect to have any trouble with task one or task two, stay home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

World Moving to a Culture of Peace

FROM WAR TO PEACE by Kent Shifferd (Franciscan Associate)

“The book is my little attempt to live up to Francis’ prayer; O Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
This is how Kent Shifferd describes his new book from War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years. Divided into two parts, the book first outlines the ways in which war is deeply embedded in our culture, the second part illuminates a quiet and often overlooked revolution that has been going on for over a hundred years leading us toward a culture of peace. Kent concludes that while war is still around, it is no longer the only story and that we have a real chance of outlawing it just as we outlawed another ancient institution-slavery. The final chapter, “The Wellsprings of Peace,” summarizes our spiritual traditions of peace.
Available now from McFarland Publisher Co., Inc. ( and
Introduction: The Tragedy of War and the Expectation of Peace
Section I: War

Chapter 1: Describing and Analyzing War
Chapter 2: The Psychology of Killing
Chapter 3: The War System, Part I
Chapter 4: The War System, Part 2

Section II: Peace
Chapter 5: Defining Peace
Chapter 6: The History of Peace in Ancient and Medieval Times
Chapter 7: The History of Peace, 1800 to the Present
Chapter 8: The Successes of Nonviolent Struggle
Chapter 9: Abolishing War and Building a Comprehensive
Peace System
Chapter 10:  The Wellsprings of Peace

Twenty-two Trends of the Last Hundred Years Leading to the
Evolution of a Peace System
Some Common Terms to Research for Further Information
and Websites
A Sampling of Peace Organizations on the World Wide Web

Sunday, October 23, 2011

US Empire and Drones

America’s Secret Empire of Drone Bases
Its Full Extent Revealed for the First Time

By Nick Turse
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 at an air base in the United Arab Emirates that almost no one talks about.
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 TomDispatch 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. (Some suspect it's 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-Awlaki in Yemen.
With the killing of al-Awlaki, the Obama Administration has expanded its armed drone campaign to no fewer than six countries, though the CIA, which killed al-Awlaki, 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 TomDispatch 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 worldwide, directly connected to the drone program, tell us much 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 continue 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 TomDispatch 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 the plane.  Their faces are lit up by digital displays showing video feeds from the battle zone.  By squeezing a trigger on a joystick, one of those Air Force “pilots” can loose a Hellfire missile on a person half a world away.
While Creech gets the lion’s share of media 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 TomDispatch 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.
Meanwhile, at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, according to a report by the New York Times, 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.  They call it “Death TV” and are constantly instant-messaging with and talking to commanders on the ground in order to supply them with real-time intelligence on enemy troop movements.  Air Force analysts also closely monitor the battlefield from Air Force Special Operations Command in Florida and a facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.
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 “the world’s largest UAV training center,” according to a report by National Defense magazine.  There, hundreds of employees of defense giant General Dynamics train military personnel to fly smaller tactical drones like the Hunter and the 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, wrote the Washington Post, is considered 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 and Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, as well as 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.  It is now based there and at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State.
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 about a site in the Middle East.  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 like the Raven-B 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 the United 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 the Emirates as well.  In the past, 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-Awlaki, may or may not be the airstrip in Saudi 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 misconception 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, overseeing 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 the 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 Pakistani bases for its drones, 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 the Washington 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 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’ militaries.
New and Old Empires
Even if the Pentagon budget were to begin to shrink, 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 Yemen, Pakistan, 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 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… [T]he time a drone can stay aloft depends on how heavily armed it is.”  According to a drone operator training document obtained by TomDispatch, 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 Post reporter, 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 determined that there are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases scattered across the globe -- a shadowy base-world providing 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 a likelihood.  
What are the Air Force’s plans in this regard?  Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes was typically circumspect, saying, “We are constantly evaluating potential operating locations based on evolving mission needs.”  If the last decade is any indication, those “needs” will only continue to grow.
Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. The associate editor of and a senior editor at, his latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).  This article marks another of Turse’s joint Alternet/TomDispatch investigative reports on U.S. national security policy and the American empire.
Copyright 2011 Nick Turse

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cindy Sheehan, Leaving Iraq?

Justice for Casey and the Rest
|Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox via to jbennet
cindy@cindysheehanssoapbox.comTo view as a Webpage, click here

Cindy Sheehan's Statement about the Withdrawal of "all" US Troops from Iraq
Justice for Casey Sheehan and hundreds of thousands of others

It was with great sorrow and fear that my family watched the insane and inexplicable rush of our nation to invade two countries that had absolutely nothing to do with the events on September 11.2001.

It was with greater sorrow and fear that my family watched one of our indispensable members, Casey, march off to one of those immoral occupations in Iraq.

Our lives were shattered when he came home in a cardboard box, shortly after he was killed there on April 04, 2004. We picked Casey's body up from the airport in San Francisco for the final time at a United Airlines loading dock, where his cardboard box was unceremoniously loaded into the hearse for his last ride home.(And the longest ride of my life).
Andy Sheehan kisses the coffin of his brother

Along with the rest of our family, Casey was opposed to these wars of aggression and before he left for Iraq, Casey, a Humvee mechanic, told everyone that he wouldn’t be able to “kill anyone.”

Well, one president, thousands of American deaths, over a million Iraqi deaths, and almost nine years later, Barack Obama has announced that all US troops would be leaving Iraq by the end of this year. I'd like to remind everyone that Barack Obama stated that ending the war in Iraq would be the "first thing" he did as President--and we could even "take it to the bank," (probably one of the failed ones) and that this withdrawal is something Bush-Maliki scheduled back at the end of 2008.

I would like to send my deepest apologies to the
Injured Iraqi Girls--our children, too!
people of Iraq for what my country has done there, but also my congratulations (no matter how reserved) because this is something that the people of Iraq have been fighting for and I am happy for them that US troops finally will be vacating their country.

However, did Obama just forget about the heavily fortified 104 acre US Embassy in Baghdad that employs 3000, or the enormous US consulates in Basra and Erbil, that will eventually employ about another 3000 people--or the thousands of paid mercenaries that will remain after the end of this year?

I didn’t hear Obama talk about the destruction of infrastructure and lives for the people of Iraq—or the high increases in cancer rates and birth defects from the usage of depleted uranium coated munitions.

The two most important things, though, that I did not hear Obama say are these: prosecuting members of the Bush regime for the hundreds of lies it told about Iraq, and paying reparations to the people of Iraq.
I can only hope that when US troops do pull out that the US puppet government pulls out of there, too, and the people of Iraq can finally and completely have their country back and with full and unfettered access to the natural resources that belong to the people. Unfortunately, with thousands of Americans, mercenary troops and foreign oil companies, I don’t think the struggle is over.

Also, which war will Obama send these troops that are leaving Iraq to? Pakistan? Afghanistan? Uganda? Iran? Or somewhere else that we can only imagine?

These wars have cost my family dearly and have sucked at least three trillion dollars out of our economy.

We will never get Casey back and no amount of death/destruction will make his “sacrifice” “worth it”—the only thing that could bring comfort to our family now is accountability and an end to war as the first go-to tool in the box of US foreign policy.

RIP, Casey Austin Sheehan and so many others who are dead for absolutely no reason other than profit for the few.
Casey, 2 years old

U.S. Troops Leaving Iraq, But U.S. Presence There Just Ramping Up

Dennis Kucinich Speech on Strength Through Peace Oct. 7, 2011

Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s speech at Ground Zero Center for
Nonviolent Action on Sunday, August 7, 2011
(Note: audio starts here)…
been there for Hiroshima to Hope, and that was a very important occasion. Given the
importance of this organization and your dedication to nuclear abolition, I’ve decided to prepare
some remarks especially for this occasion that would reflect the potential that we have to take a
new direction
The human heart is Ground Zero. It’s in the human heart where blind fear hides in dark
chambers. It’s there where murderous intensity is unleashed against our brothers and sisters
and the world. It is there where nuclear explosions first take place. It’s there where the world
The world also begins in the human heart. It’s where courage creates new possibilities. It’s
where nuclear weapons can be abolished, and where war itself can be no more. The human
heart is where the impulse for life resounds with such a powerful pulsation that one person,
indeed all of humanity, experiences love through the energy of the heart, the rhythms of the
heart, the luminosity of the heart. We draw from our hearts our own transformational potential
and the ability to re-create the world.
Here we are free of the death wish. Here we summon the strength to wrest the nuclear Sword of
Damocles from the hands of fates we ourselves have fashioned from the projection of our fears.
Three score and six years ago that nuclear Sword of Damocles was dropped not once but twice
upon the people of Japan. Today we require ourselves to lay our ears on the heart of the world
and to listen to the cries of the souls of our Japanese brothers and sisters who perished in two
flashes or who were poisoned by radiation, and to be mindful of the suffering of the Hibakusha
who live to testify to the nullification of our own humanity through the use of the ultimate
We gather here not only to assert that doctrines of unilateralism, pre-emption and first strike
must be set aside as profoundly dangerous relics. But we come together in recognition that
nuclear weapons represent the ultimate escalation of war, and that it is our responsibility to
make war itself obsolete through direct actions and through concrete steps that can take is in the
direction of peace. For we cannot hope to abolish nuclear weapons unless we change the
thinking that created those weapons and unless we change dramatically the U.S. role in the
We need a new doctrine of strength through peace, which relies on diplomacy the size of human
relations addressing the needs of people everywhere for sustainability, for housing, for
education, clean water, clean air and freedom from fear. A new doctrine of strength through
peace will provide for a strong defense with a powerful basic fighting force of Army, Navy,
Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard that will re-establish America’s role in the world mindful
of the cost and consequences of the US’ current global presence and the benefits of international
cooperation for security through the United Nations.
The doctrine of strength through peace rejects counterinsurgency through recognition that every
insurgency is precipitated and fueled by occupation. Provisions of a doctrine of strength
through peace will call for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq by the end
of 2011. Call upon the US to participate in a negotiated settlement to end the war in Libya. Call
upon the US to stop the use of drone missile strikes. Call upon the US to lead a negotiated
settlement in the Middle East which protects Israel’s survival and the Palestinians’ absolute
right to self-determination while working to strengthen democratic principles, nonviolence,
human rights and non-sectarianism in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia.
A doctrine of strength through peace calls upon the United States to renounce all policies of
assassination. It forbids the Central Intelligence Agency from having any command and control
over weapons systems. It calls upon the Air Force to drop its pursuit of Vision 20/20, which is a
plan for the US to try to achieve superiority over space through putting weapons in outer space.
The doctrine of strength through peace sees that the US will fully comply with all international
treaties and insist that our allies and partners do the same, including full compliance with the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons
Convention, the Small Arms Treaty, the Land Mine Treaty, and it calls on the United States to
join the International Criminal Court, and that US officials would have to be accountable to that
criminal court.
A doctrine of strength of strength through peace sees the US in support of the Ground Zero
movement, and that will lead us to nuclear abolition by taking the following steps:
1. to revise and repeal the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which calls for sustaining nuclear
2. to cancel the order for 12 new ICBM-capable subs,
3. to cancel the $29.4 billion in R&D in connection with that program,
4. to cancel the Air Force’s R&D for ICBM follow-ons,
5. to eliminate $600 million in funding under the National Nuclear Security Administration
fiscal year 2012,
6. to eliminate $4.1 billion in funding for nuclear weapons modernization over the next five
7. to eliminate plans to spend an additional $85 billion for the National Nuclear Security
Administration’s weapons activities over the next decade,
8. to focus the CIA on identifying and if necessary interdicting and seizing nuclear
materials from non-state actors.
Now consistent with that, the most valuable provision in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review calls
for, and I quote, “enhancing national and international capabilities to disrupt illicit proliferation
networks and interdict smuggled nuclear materials and continue to expand our nuclear forensics
efforts to improve the capabilities to identify the source of nuclear material used or intended for
use in a terrorist nuclear explosive device.
The 2010 NPR declares, quote, “The US will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against
any non-nuclear weapons state that are in compliance with this nation’s non-proliferation
obligations.” This is a telling loophole though in the NPT, which opens the door to the threat of
a nuclear attack upon Iran or North Korea, and as such this provision must be changed to forego
the use of nuclear weapons against any nation.
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review declares the US is not prepared to adopt a universal policy
deterring a nuclear attack, declaring that a nuclear attack is the sole purpose of nuclear
weapons, and would “only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to
defend the vital interests of the US, its allies or partners.” Here again the door is left open to
interpreting circumstances, which would allow for the use of nuclear weapons. This provision
must be deleted from future Nuclear Posture Reviews and deleted from the policy of the United
States today.
It is time for us to challenge the doctrine of deterrence, and reveal it for what it is – a corollary
to mutually assured destruction, which is the opposite of survival. The US must ratify the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty once and for all, and we must stop subsidizing the nuclear
power industry and its concomitant use of uranium where the byproduct creates material, which
can be used for nuclear terrorism.
We can prevent nuclear terrorism by not ourselves threatening it against other nations. We can
prevent nuclear proliferation by not participating in it, and thereby become a model for all
nations. It’s time for us to deepen our partnership with Russia, and to expedite the arms
reduction promise in the Moscow Treaty and START II. It’s time for a new partnership with
China, for nuclear abolition and a new defense partnership with China to stop a new arms race
from occurring and to stop the disagreements of the present from becoming the conflicts of the
Today as we gather in this beautiful setting we have to remember that our destiny and the fate of
the planet is not outside our reach. It is within our grasp if it is within our hearts to abolish all
weapons and to abolish war itself. On this great day when we reflect upon the great human
tragedy of war and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki let us resolve
that we shall become as architects of a new world free of fear, free of nuclear weapons, and free
of war.
Thank you very much. [sustained applause] Thank you. Great to be here with you.
last night, and I see one of my brothers here. Some of you might have
Leonard Eiger, Media & Outreach Coordinator, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
Congressman Kucinich’s speech was videotaped by Todd Boyle, and is posted at YouTube at
This transcript from the audio recording of Congressman Kucinich’s speech was made by
Founded in 1977, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore
the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection,
providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We
seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming
power of love through nonviolent direct action. Learn more at

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dennis Kucinich speaks at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action


The weekend commemorating the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is over.  For all of us at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action it was a particularly poignant weekend.  We had just lost a longtime member and one of the great peace activists of our time, Jackie Hudson, who died last Wednesday.  Earlier in the planning for this weekend we arranged for Dennis Kucinich to visit and speak.  However, it was contingent on Congress adjourning on time, which I assumed would never happen.  It did however, and Dennis showed up.  It was almost as if it was a gift to Jackie, whose spirit was with us throughout the weekend, lifting our spirits and urging us on in our work.

Congressman Kucinich got right to the heart of it as he began his speech:

"The human heart is Ground Zero. It’s in the human heart where blind fear hides in dark chambers. It’s there where murderous intensity is unleashed against our brothers and sisters and the world. It is there where nuclear explosions first take place. It’s there where the world ends.  The world also begins in the human heart. It’s where courage creates new possibilities..."

Todd Boyle captured the entire speech with crisp, clear audio so you won't miss a word of this important speech in which Kucinich states in very clear terms his vision of a world free of fear, free of nuclear weapons and free of war. 



The second video is the question and answer period following the speech.

Read about Congressman Kucinich's visit to Ground Zero at the Kitsap Sun: Kucinich clear on nukes, mum on political plans

Torture Newsletter #4

OMNI NEWSLETTER # 4 ON TORTURE, WAR CRIMES, October 21, 2011  (#1 October 5, 2007; #2 May 9, 2011; #3 June 26, 2011)( For OMNI’s newsletters go to:  Compiled by Dick Bennett, Building a Culture of Peace


Contents of #2
 No Exceptions
Bad Science and Medical Ethics
Bush Admin. War Crimes, Psychology, and Accountability
Prosecuting Bush Officials
Cheney Admits to War Crimes
CIA Waterboarding Legal Shield
Solitary Confinement
Justice Denied to Guantanamo Dead
President Obama and Faisal Shahzad

Contents of #3
UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
Editorial from Manila Celebrating June 26
Torture Tolerated by US Public
Newsweek, Arab Dictators, and US
Books on US Torture

Contents of #4
Prosecute Bush et al.
Hunsinger, Book, People of Faith Speak
Marjorie Cohn, Book, US Torture Since 1950s
Danner.   Book:  US History
Report, US Torture in Afghanistan and Iraq Wars
UN Torture Report
Oppose Torture:  Leahy
Former Contractor Suing Donald Rumsfeld
Physicians, Report:  Medical Evidence for Torture
Film: Taxi to the Dark Side
Film: Five Fingers, CIA Torture
Olbermann on Gen. Petraeus and Torture
Prosecutors Drop Case Against CIA “Advanced Interrogators”
Torture in California Prisons
War, Torture, Execution: Displays of Sovereign Power

“Calls Mount to Investigate Bush-Era Officials for Torture “
 Naseema Noor, Inter Press Service
"Senior officials under the former George W. Bush administration knowingly authorised the torture of terrorism suspects held under United States custody, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released here Tuesday revealed. Titled 'Getting Away with Torture,' the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others."
[Dick:   US leaders hold other national leaders accountable for human rights violations, but follow a different standard for the US.  This double standard is inseparable from the imperialism that arises from the concept of US “exceptionalism.”   See John LaForge, “Prosecute Bush for Torture?  ‘Damn Right.,’”  Nukewatch Quarterly (Winter 2010-11).  ]

George Hunsinger, ed.   Torture Is a Moral Issue: Christians, Jews, Muslims and People of Conscience Speak Out.   Erdmans, 2008.
Twenty-one scholars, activists, military officers, and religious leaders have come together here to underscore that torture is a moral issue, beyond all partisan politics, but also to help religious communities mobilize against it, so that all loopholes permitting torture by any U.S. agencies, whether military or intelligence, might be eliminated.
Torture Is a Moral Issue begins with background material, including accounts from a torture survivor and a former U.S. interrogator in Iraq. Parts two, three, and four encompass the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim responses respectively. Part five offers solutions to this horrific problem and considers what would need to be achieved for specifically U.S. torture to be brought to an end.

The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse by Marjorie Cohn ,  NYU P, 2011. 

Waterboarding. Sleep deprivation. Sensory manipulation. Stress positions. Over the last several years, these and other methods of torture have become garden variety words for practically anyone who reads about current events in a newspaper or blog. We know exactly what they are, how to administer them, and, disturbingly, that they were secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in its efforts to extract information from people detained in its war on terror. What we lack, however, is a larger lens through which to view America's policy of torture — one that dissects America's long relationship with interrogation and torture, which roots back to the 1950s and has been applied, mostly in secret, to “enemies,” ever since. How did America come to embrace this practice so fully, and how was it justified from a moral, legal, and psychological perspective?
The United States and Torture opens with a compelling preface by Sister Dianna Ortiz, who describes the unimaginable treatment she endured in Guatemala in 1987 at the hands of the the Guatemalan government, which was supported by the United States. Then a psychologist, a historian, a political scientist, a philosopher, a sociologist, two journalists, and eight lawyers offer one of the most comprehensive examinations of torture to date, beginning with the CIA during the Cold War era and ending with today's debate over accountability for torture.
Ultimately, this gripping, interdisciplinary work details the complicity of the United States government in the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners both at home and abroad and discusses what can be done to hold those who set the torture policy accountable.
Contributors: Marjorie Cohn, Richard Falk, Marc D. Falkoff, Terry Lynn Karl, John W. Lango, Jane Mayer, Alfred W. McCoy, Jeanne Mirer, Sister Dianna Ortiz, Jordan J. Paust, Bill Quigley, Michael Ratner, Thomas Ehrlich Reifer, Philippe Sands, Stephen Soldz, and Lance Tapley.

Library Journal

In light of recent headlines regarding the torture of detainees in U.S. custody, Cohn's (law, Thomas Jefferson Sch. of Law) important book is certainly relevant. This gripping collection of essays explores how the United States has used torture both domestically and abroad since the 1950s. A diverse roster of contributors examine torture from all angles—the historical to the philosophical, the...

--Danner, Mark.   Torture and the Forever War.  MIT, 2011.   Examines how US became a country that tortures and what might set us on a new course.  

Bob Sheak

Monday, May 2, 2011

Continuities of Torture in US wars

All wars are savage, barbaric, immoral, as well as often illegal with respect to international law. They are also often in recent times asymmetric, in the sense that one side has enormous supplies of modern weapons and resources, while the other side is bereft of tanks, cannons, fighter aircraft, navies, predatory drones, advanced electronic communications, and the other deadly accoutrements that accompany such warfare. Certainly all this is true in the US/Allied wars on and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Richard Falk refers to such warfare as “one-sided” in one of the articles in a recently published collection titled The United States and Tortures: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse, edited by Marjorie Cohn. Here is some relevant text from Falk’s article.
“The United States and some of its allies, rely on and seek to sustain and enhance a posture of military dominance enabling the pursuit of political goals throughout the world. And this dominance basically relies upon American technological superiority in warfare that enables it to inflict limitless devastation on a foreign country anywhere on earth without fearing retaliation at home. It is an accepted idea in national defense planning in all countries to develop the most effective weaponry that is technologically and financially feasible. The disposition is reinforced by strategic thinking about how to inflict maximal damage in battlefield situations and as an instrument of coercive diplomacy. The US government, without any serious domestic challenge, has carried this image of national security to absurd limits, currently with an annual military budget about equal to that of the entire rest of the world” (p. 122).
US and its allies have devastated or compounded the devastation of the infrastructures, economies, medical and educational systems of Afghanistan and Iraq, killed tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians, created the conditions that facilitated such carnage, and wounded many others, physically and/or psychologically. These foreign interventionists have created refugee populations, produced homeless families, intensified and expanded already impoverished populations, and imprisoned tens of thousands of people arbitrarily, with an absence of due process and often with no or scant credible evidence of guilt.
In the process, the waste of American lives and resources in particular has been mind-boggling and -nauseating. The steep expenditures on the wars have helped to drive the US more deeply into debt, to leave other pressing national needs under-supported or ignored, and to create a heart rending situation in which the medical needs of hundreds of thousands of wounded or psychologically impaired veterans, not mentioning their families and communities, will often remain in need of health care for many years.
Torture – the continuities
I focus in this essay on just one aspect of the US-dominated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. My principal argument is that the US has been itself the perpetrator of torture in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These are well documented claims and accepted by informed people throughout the world.
The issue here is that torture does not go away when US or allied troops turn over prisons and prisoners to Iraqi or Afghan military authorities. It continues, though the US distances itself from the consequences. The culpability in now indirect rather than direct, but there is still culpability.
For some years now, the US military has been in the process of turning over US-controlled prisons and/or the prisoners to their Afghan and Iraqi military and police forces, trained and armed by the US. This process is not new. It is a process that was employed by the US in the Philippines at the turn of the century, as documented by Alfred W. McCoy in his book Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State and in many instances since then.
The example of Iraq – three sources
Tens of thousands of Iraqi men spent years in American prisons in Iraq. The prisons or detention centers and prisoners have been transferred to Iraqi officials, who are known for the brutal treatment of prisoners. The last detention center was handed over the Iraq’s justice minister in July of 2010. From torture to torture.

>#1 - Leila Fadel reports on this event and provides background information in an article for the Washington Post Foreign Service, “Some worry about abuse as US hands over final detention center to Iraq, published on July 16, 2010. Here are excerpts from the article.
“That moment closed a controversial chapter of the U.S.-led occupation, after seven years in which tens of thousands of Iraqis have passed through American detention centers. Often they were never charged with a crime. At Abu Ghraib, some were infamously abused and humiliated.
“Now human rights groups and Iraqis worry that detainees will be subjected to abuse in Iraq's crowded prison system. Torture was rampant during the reign of Saddam Hussein, deposed in the U.S.-led invasion. In the past two years, hundreds of torture cases in Iraqi facilities were confirmed by the country's Human Rights Ministry. This year, a secret prison was uncovered where inmates had been beaten and sodomized.
“’Unfortunately, Iraq is prone to detention and torture abuses, whether it's the former regime, the occupying powers or now the Iraqi government,’ said Samer Muscati, an Iraq expert at Human Rights Watch. ‘Under international law, you're not supposed to transfer detainees if they will get tortured. But how long can the Americans hold on to them? There is no ideal solution, but the Americans have a responsibility.’”
#2 Amy Goodman interviewed Malcolm Smart, the Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North African Programs, on Democracy Now, September 20, 2010.
AMY GOODMAN: Amnesty International has released a new report that finds more than 30,000 prisoners are being held in Iraq without charge, including 10,000 prisoners who were recently transferred from US custody. Amnesty’s report is called "New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq." [….]
MALCOLM SMART: Well, I think part of the problem is really a problem of impunity. This has been going on for all too long, and there’s a culture of abuse that has taken root. It was certainly there during the days of Saddam Hussein, but what we wanted to see from 2003 was a turning of the page, and that hasn’t happened. So we see secret prisons, people being tortured and ill-treated, being forced to make confessions. And the courts, although routinely detainees claim that they were made to sign false confessions, the courts are really not investigating those and coming to grips with them. And the perpetrators are not being held to account. They’re not being identified. On a number of occasions, the government has reacted by saying it will appoint inquiries after secret prisons have been disclosed and their locations have been found and prisoners in them have been found to be in a very severely ill-treated position. But the outcomes of those investigations have not been made known. [….]
MALCOLM SMART: Likewise with deaths in custody. We have in our report details of several cases where deaths are alleged to have occurred as a result of torture or ill treatment. Now, the standard practice of any authority in that situation, required by national law and required by international law, is to carry out an independent investigation. What were the causes, what was the circumstances, of the death? Now, this hasn’t happened. And again, we’re calling attention to the need for the government to show the political will to take measures against the torturers.
AMY GOODMAN: Malcolm, there were 10,000 prisoners, in your Amnesty report, transferred from US custody in Iraq to Iraqi custody—US basically transferring prisoners to a system that tortures them, unclear what happened to them in US custody.
MALCOLM SMART: [….] Since the beginning of 2009, under what’s called the Status of Forces Agreement, the two governments agreed to transfer custody of the prisons and prisoners to the Iraqi forces. Now, many of those detainees held by the US forces had been held without charge or trial for years without any means to challenge their detention. We’ve not made the claim that all those people are innocent of crimes….And here, we saw this Status of Forces Agreement at the end of 2008 making the way for the transfer, with no human rights safeguards written into that, although, quite clearly, US forces know that the record of Iraqi forces is a very grim one.
AMY GOODMAN: And the US is pouring millions, if not billions, into Iraq. The US forces are still there. They could do something.
MALCOLM SMART: Well, you know, I’m being told that the US forces now see it as an Iraqi issue, and the last of the prisoners, except for 200 who remain in US custody, have been handed over. In some cases, as we describe in our report, actually, the US recommended some of the people they had detained be released. But, in fact, the Iraqi authorities have continued to detain them.

>#3 - David Leigh and Maggie O’Kan, “Iraq war logs: US turned over captives to Iraqi torture squads, Guardian, Oct. 24, 2010 – Here are excerpts that capture another aspect of the torture reality in Iraq.
“Fresh evidence that US soldiers handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad has emerged in army logs published by WikiLeaks.
“The 400,000 field reports published by the whistle blowing website at the weekend contain an official account of deliberate threats by a military interrogator to turn his captive over to the Iraqi ‘Wolf Brigade’.
“The interrogator told the prisoner in explicit terms that: ‘He would be subject to all the pain and agony that the Wolf battalion is known to exact upon its detainees.’
“Within the huge leaked archive is contained a batch of secret field reports from the town of Samarra. They corroborate previous allegations that the US military turned over many prisoners to the Wolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry's special commandos.
“The field reports chime with allegations made by New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time. He told Guardian Films : ‘US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing,’ while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.
“An interview conducted by Maass in 2005 at the improvised prison, accompanied by the Wolf Brigade's US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.
“The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.” [….]
The example of Afghanistan
Gareth Porter provides background information on the situation of the transfer of prisoners from US and NATO forces to Afghanistan military/police forces and the perpetuation of torture. Porter’s article, “The Torture Mill,” appeared in Counter Punch on April 27, 2011.
“Starting in late 2005, U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan began turning detainees over to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), despite its well-known reputation for torture.
“Interviews with former U.S. and NATO diplomats and other evidence now available show that United States and other NATO governments become complicit in NDS torture of detainees for two distinctly different reasons. [….]
“The transfers to the NDS were a direct violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which forbids the transfer of any person by a State Party to "another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." [….]
“….the detainees were turned over the NDS, which had long had a reputation for torturing suspected enemies of the state, starting when it was the secret police and intelligence agency during the Soviet occupation. That reputation had continued under the government of President Hamid Karzai. [….]
“By the time U.S. and Canadian military commanders began large-unit sweeps in areas where the Taliban had been operating in 2004-2005, the George W. Bush administration had already decided to consider all Afghans in detention as "unlawful combatants".
“But most of the Afghans picked up in those sweeps were not Taliban fighters. After U.S. and NATO forces began turning over detainees to the NDS, the intelligence agency's chief Amrullah Saleh told NATO officials that the agency had to release two-thirds of the detainees who had been transferred to it, according to the NATO diplomat. [….]
“In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen published May 16, 2007, Canadian Brig. Gen. Jim Ferron, then the intelligence chief for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command in Afghanistan, referred to the intelligence motive for both detention and transferring detainees to NDF. [….]
" much of the information provided by detainees was "not truthful and is aimed at deceiving military forces". Ferron explained that detainees went through "basic questioning" by NATO interrogators about "why they joined the insurgency" and the information was then turned over to NDS. [….]
“Ferron said senior NDS officials had assured him that "detainees are treated humanely." But only three weeks earlier, the Toronto Globe and Mail had published a series of investigative articles based on interviews with detainees turned over by the Canadians who had been tortured by NDS. [….]
“The British and Dutch also joined with U.S. officials in trying to get the Afghan government to shift responsibility for detainees from NDS to the Afghan Ministry of Defence, the NATO diplomat recalled.
“But there were two problems: under Afghan law, there was no provision for long-term legal internment, and a 1987 Afghan law gave NDS the responsibility for handling security cases through its own "security courts".
“The U.S. and its two European NATO allies wanted President Hamid Karzai to remove those legal obstacles to long-term detention by the Defence Ministry. "The idea was that Karzai would declare a state of emergency, so the government could hold people for the length of the conflict," the diplomat said. [….]
“But Karzai refused to declare a state of emergency, according to the NATO diplomat, because he didn't want to make concessions to the Afghan parliament to get it. Meanwhile, Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak "wanted nothing to do with detainee policy", said the NATO diplomat. [….]
“During 2009, ISAF transferred a total of 350 detainees to NDS, according to official data provided to IPS by a knowledgeable U.S. source. An even more detainees were transferred to NDS by U.S. troops operating separately from the NATO command, according to the source.”
State authorities and a compliant media can create an atmosphere of lawlessness and inhumanity by demonizing “enemies of America” and creating a climate of fear in the American population. But also the US government can break the law when the population is kept ignorant of relevant information because “national security” is said to be at stake.
We may think that the scandals that brought to light the terrible treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are now behind us or in the process of being fixed. Then we learn they go on, sometimes under the authority of those who US forces have trained and for whom they have set examples. Through it all, though, the brutish and callous treatment toward the “enemy” is perpetuated by the darker, but essential, aspects of war.
Bob Sheak

“The UN Torture Report
Stirring Pressure for Congressional Response”
Ten years after promising that human rights would be protected in Afghanistan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has verified "systemic torture" by Afghan security forces trained and funded by the United States.
The UN report, described in a lead New York Times story on October 10, is triggering calls once again for enforcement of the so-called Leahy Law, passed in the 1990s, which prohibits any US funding, weapons or training to security force units in other countries committing gross human rights violations. A loophole in the Leahy Law, however, allows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to waive the ban by issuing a finding that the Afghan government is taking remedial measures, including bringing responsible members of the torture units "to justice," and that "all necessary corrective steps have been taken."
 Continue reading...
Sign the petition against torture in Afghanistan...
(See: Tom Hayden, Peace Exchange Bulletin, October 21, 2011

Prevent Afghan Torture:  Enforce the Leahy Law
A recent United Nations report suggests that the United States and NATO allies are outsourcing torture and human rights violations in Afghanistan. The report concludes that there is a continuing pattern and practice of "systematic" torture in spite of repeated efforts at reform. (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, October 2011)

Current US policy violates the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Appropriations Act and Defense Appropriations Act (Sec. 563, P.L. 106-429 and Sec. 8092, P.L. 106-259, 2001).
To Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Patrick Leahy:
We, the undersigned, call on you to immediately invoke the Leahy Amendment to end funding or training for units of the Afghanistan National Security Directorate, armed forces, and police engaged in torture or gross violations of human rights until all necessary corrective steps have been taken, including steps to bring those responsible to justice.
Sign the petition against torture in Afghanistan...
From Tom Hayden, The Peace Exchange Bulletin, Oct. 21, 2011

“UN Finds 'Systematic' Torture in Afghanistan
Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times October 10, 2011   RSN
Alissa J. Rubin reports: "Detainees are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, and in some cases their genitals are twisted until the prisoners lose consciousness at sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police, according to a United Nations report released here on Monday."

Keith Olbermann | Donald Vance on Torture
Video Interview: Keith Olbermann talks with Donald Vance, a Navy veteran and former contractor in Iraq, who's suing Donald Rumsfeld. Vance says he was tortured by the U.S. military for 97 days at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. He is suing on grounds that he was tortured and his rights of habeas corpus were violated. READ  |  DISCUSS  |  SHARE
Holding Rumsfeld Accountable
The New York Times,  Editorial , August 14, 2011
Intro: "In a courageous decision last week, a federal appellate court ruled that two Americans who say they were tortured by American military forces in Iraq in 2006 can sue former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others for violating their constitutional rights."

Physicians for Human Rights.  Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by the US

Broken Laws, Broken Lives:  Medical Evidence of Torture by the US

Read the Report

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
Maj. General Antonio M. Taguba (USA-Ret.), preface to Broken Laws, Broken Lives
In PHR’s new report, Broken Laws, Broken Lives, we have for the first time medical evidence to confirm first-hand accounts of men who endured torture by US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. These men were never charged with any crime.
Download either the Executive Summary or the full text of the free report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact.
  Broken Laws, Broken Lives - Executive Summary (862.1 KiB)
  Broken Laws, Broken Lives - Full Report (1.9 MiB)

Dir. Alex Gibney, 2007.   106 mins.    2007 Academy Award Winner, Best Documentary Feature.   Investigates the torture and killing of an innocent Afghan taxi driver and a general probe into the reckless abuses by the US military in its “Global War on Terror” from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.  This one man’s life and death demonstrates how severely US civil rights have eroded.

CIA TORTURE: “FIVE FINGERS” FILM, 2 REVIEWS - CachedSimilar - Add to iGoogle
May 2, 2006 – (CBS) Showbuzz's Judy Faber reviews the feature film "Five Fingers," which is screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. ... - CachedSimilar
As you can tell from the plot summary above, Five Fingers isn't a pleasant movie . Films about torture rarely are. However, at the same time, the film isn't ...

Keith Olbermann, “Petraeus Is Wrong (and Stupid) on Torture”
 Countdown With Keith Olbermann/Current TV
Keith Olbermann begins: "Now as promised, a Special Comment on what General Petraeus has said in defense of torture. He has, in short, declared himself unfit to serve as head of Central Intelligence. You don't even have to get to the morality question to understand that torture serves no purpose but to satiate sadism or revenge fantasies. As an interrogation tool it is useless for the simple and unanswerable reason that people will tell you anything - true or not - to get you to stop. A civilian who does not understand this is merely foolish, uninformed, or stupid. A military man - or a government official - who does not understand this, is a positive menace to the endurance of the nation."

Torture: CIA Has a Lot to Answer For
Los Angeles Times | Editorial July 6, 2011
The Los Angeles Times: "A prosecutor assigned to investigate the CIA's use of torture has decided not to recommend further investigation of as many as 100 CIA interrogations of detainees over the last decade. That judgment ensures that there will not be a full accounting of how, when and by whom 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were employed to extract information. That is a loss to the nation."

Warfare as Torture
Ideologies of War Newsletter to jbennet
oanderson@ideologiesofwar.comWARFARE AS TORTURE
Review Essay by Richard A. Koenigsberg
SACRED VIOLENCE: Torture, Terror and Sovereignty by Paul Kohn
(University of Michigan Press, 2011)

In Sacred Violence, the distinguished political and legal theorist Paul W. Kahn investigates the reasons for the resort to violence characteristic of nation states. In a startling argument, he contends that law will never offer an adequate account of political violence. Instead, we must turn to political theology, which reveals that torture and terror are, essentially, forms of sacrifice. Kahn forces us to acknowledge what we don't want to see: that we remain deeply committed to a violent politics beyond law.
Paul W. Kahn is Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities at Yale Law School and Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights.
This is one of the most significant books our time on warfare, terror and torture—we urge you to obtain your personal copy of this essential book.

Read at no charge:
Chapter 2 from SACRED VIOLENCE.

I’ve been researching and writing for many years on the First World War: an astonishing episode of mass destruction that constituted the starting point and foundation for the politics of the Twentieth Century. This war—lasting from August 1914 to November 1918—produced an estimated 9 million dead with over 37 million casualties.
Historians are able to outline in meticulous detail the events that led to this war, but are unable to comprehend why it occurred. For four years, men were asked to get out of trenches and to run toward the opposing line—where they were mowed down (in “No Man’s Land”) by machine-gun fire and artillery shells. Why did this carnage persist?
Modris Eksteins observes that belligerents on the Western Front “hammered at each other in battles that cost millions of men their lives but that moved the front line at most a mile or so in either direction.” In short, after four years and hundreds of battles, nothing had been accomplished from a military or political standpoint, apart from the fact that now millions of young men were dead or maimed.
Writing about this war, Jean Elshtain notes that we “still have trouble accounting for modern state worship,” the mounds of combatants and noncombatants alike “sacrificed to the conflicts of nation-states.”
Ronald Aronson reflects:
In contemplating history as the slaughter-bench at which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of States, and the virtue of the individual have been sacrificed, a question necessarily arises: To what principle, to what purpose, have these monstrous sacrifices been made?
In Sacred Violence, Paul Kahn provides a theory that allows us to account for the devastation produced by the First World War—and other wars.
In Nations Have the Right to Kill, I pose the question of how best to conceptualize the killing and dying that occurred in the First World War. If French generals asked their soldiers to get out of trenches and run into German machine-gun fire, should we say that France or Germany was responsible for their deaths? When German generals asked their soldiers to get out of their trenches—to be mowed down by French machine gun fire—should we say that Germany or France caused the death of German soldiers?
To comment on Koenigsberg’s review essay, please click here.

Kahn steps back from the sound and fury. Viewing the battlefield from “a certain distance,” he notes that it often is not clear who the object of sacrifice is. Is it the conscript on “our side” or the “enemy” soldier? Each suffers the “same threat and burden of physical destruction.” Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg (November 1863) spoke of the battlefield as “consecrated ground.” The mangled bodies of both Union and Confederate troops testified to the reality of the truth that Lincoln held to be “self-evident.”
Kahn hypothesizes that warfare—the field of battle—functions as a testament or testimonial to the idea of “sovereign power.” The battlefield is strewn with the “disemboweled and beheaded, with severed limbs and broken bodies.” All have died a horrible death in the “display of sovereign power.”
A battlefield is the space within which the “sacrificial character of modern politics shows itself.” It is an arena of “reciprocal self-sacrifice” in which “enemies offer each other the occasion for displaying sovereign power.” So the question becomes: What is the nature and meaning of this “sovereign” in whose name such havoc may be wrought?
We turn to Kahn’s explication of the relationship between torture, public executions and warfare. Embedded in the practice of the sacred, Kahn says, the battlefield exists in the “same imaginative framework of the scaffold”—a space for bringing forth the “creative-destructive power of the sovereign.” What is the relationship between the battlefield and the scaffold?
Tomas Santos describes the scaffold as the place where the power of the King was brought about through “vengeance being wrought over the criminal.” Foucault observes that the public execution should be understood “not only as a judicial but also as a political ritual.” The execution was carried out, Santos says, to show “both the power of the King and the truth of the crime.”
Torture was meant for all to see: a grand spectacle to show the power of the King over not just the criminal, but over all those under the King’s rule. Criminals were considered enemies of the State. Torture functioned to defeat the King’s enemies. By making torture a public spectacle, the King or sovereign make it clear that “he and he alone rules the land.”
Might warfare—the battlefield—function similarly as a place where bodies are destroyed in order to demonstrate the power of the sovereign? Kahn suggests that the destruction of bodies in modern warfare “moves toward a generalized practice of torture.” Just as the scaffold provides a demonstration of the power of the King, so does the battlefield bear witness to the “awesome power of the sovereign to occupy and destroy the finite body.”
We have not so much abandoned the practice of torture, but have “shifted the locus of an act of violent sacrifice.” Battle, like torture, results in the “degradation and humiliation of the human body.” Degradation and humiliation (and death) function to demonstrate the power of the sovereign. The battlefield, Kahn says, is the “modern, democratic equivalent of the spectacle of the scaffold.” The battlefield is another place in which bodies are mangled and destroyed as human beings submit to—sacrifice for—the sovereign. Warfare thus may be understood as a massive, collective form of torture.
To comment on Koenigsberg’s review essay, please click here.

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“Anti-Torture Strike in California Prisons”
Marjorie Cohn, Consortium News, July 19, 2011
Intro: "Many Americans were shocked by how the Bush administration treated 'war on terror' detainees and others were startled when the Obama administration abused suspected WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning in a military brig. But the larger scandal may be how common such prison cruelty is in the United States, as Marjorie Cohn explains."


Dick's Wars and Warming KPSQ Radio Editorials (#1-48)

Dick's Wars and Warming KPSQ Radio Editorials (#1-48)