Homeland Stupidity http://www.homelandstupidity.us Government is stupid. Discover a better way to organize society. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Why Are We At War in Yemen? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/11/why-are-we-at-war-in-yemen/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/11/why-are-we-at-war-in-yemen/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 22:25:37 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=894 Most Americans are probably unaware that over the past two weeks the US has launched at least eight drone attacks in Yemen, in which dozens have been killed. It is the largest US escalation of attacks on Yemen in more than a decade. The US claims that everyone killed was a “suspected militant,” but Yemeni citizens have for a long time been outraged over the number of civilians killed in such strikes. The media has reported that of all those killed in these recent US strikes, only one of the dead was on the terrorist “most wanted” list.

This significant escalation of US attacks on Yemen coincides with Yemeni President Hadi’s meeting with President Obama in Washington earlier this month. Hadi was installed into power with the help of the US government after a 2011 coup against its long-time ruler, President Saleh. It is in his interest to have the US behind him, as his popularity is very low in Yemen and he faces the constant threat of another coup.

In Washington, President Obama praised the cooperation of President Hadi in fighting the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This was just before the US Administration announced that a huge unspecified threat was forcing the closure of nearly two dozen embassies in the area, including in Yemen. According to the Administration, the embassy closings were prompted by an NSA-intercepted conference call at which some 20 al-Qaeda leaders discussed attacking the West. Many remain skeptical about this dramatic claim, which was made just as some in Congress were urging greater scrutiny of NSA domestic spying programs.

The US has been involved in Yemen for some time, and the US presence in Yemen is much greater than we are led to believe. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week:

“At the heart of the U.S.-Yemeni cooperation is a joint command center in Yemen, where officials from the two countries evaluate intelligence gathered by America and other allies, such as Saudi Arabia, say U.S. and Yemeni officials. There, they decide when and how to launch missile strikes against the highly secretive list of alleged al Qaeda operatives approved by the White House for targeted killing, these people say.”

Far from solving the problem of extremists in Yemen, however, this US presence in the country seems to be creating more extremism. According to professor Gregory Johnson of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, the civilian “collateral damage” from US drone strikes on al-Qaeda members actually attracts more al-Qaeda recruits:

“There are strikes that kill civilians. There are strikes that kill women and children. And when you kill people in Yemen, these are people who have families. They have clans. And they have tribes. And what we’re seeing is that the United States might target a particular individual because they see him as a member of al-Qaeda. But what’s happening on the ground is that he’s being defended as a tribesman.”

The US government is clearly at war in Yemen. It is claimed they are fighting al-Qaeda, but the drone strikes are creating as many or more al-Qaeda members as they are eliminating. Resentment over civilian casualties is building up the danger of blowback, which is a legitimate threat to us that is unfortunately largely ignored. Also, the US is sending mixed signals by attacking al-Qaeda in Yemen while supporting al-Qaeda linked rebels fighting in Syria.

This cycle of intervention producing problems that require more intervention to “solve” impoverishes us and makes us more, not less, vulnerable. Can anyone claim this old approach is successful? Has it produced one bit of stability in the region? Does it have one success story? There is an alternative. It is called non-interventionism. We should try it. First step would be pulling out of Yemen.

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Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/04/why-wont-they-tell-us-the-truth-about-nsa-spying/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/04/why-wont-they-tell-us-the-truth-about-nsa-spying/#comments Sun, 04 Aug 2013 20:53:22 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=891 In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.

This complacency has suddenly shifted given recent revelations of the extent of government spying on Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats are faced with serious backlash from Americans outraged that their most personal communications are intercepted and stored. They had been told that only the terrorists would be monitored. In response to this anger, defenders of the program have time and again resorted to spreading lies and distortions. But these untruths are now being exposed very quickly.

In a Senate hearing this March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senator Ron Wyden that the NSA did not collect phone records of millions of Americans. This was just three months before the revelations of an NSA leaker made it clear that Clapper was not telling the truth. Pressed on his false testimony before Congress, Clapper apologized for giving an “erroneous” answer but claimed it was just because he “simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.” Wow.

As the story broke in June of the extent of warrantless NSA spying against Americans, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers assured us that the project was a strictly limited and not invasive. He described it as a “lockbox with only phone numbers, no names, no addresses in it, we’ve used it sparingly, it is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch, has lots of protections built in…”

But we soon discovered that also was not true either. We learned in another Guardian newspaper article last week that the top secret “X-Keyscore” program allows even low-level analysts to “search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

The keys to Rogers’ “lockbox” seem to have been handed out to everyone but the janitors! As Chairman of the Committee that is supposed to be most in the loop on these matters, it seems either the Intelligence Community misled him about their programs or he misled the rest of us. It sure would be nice to know which one it is.

Likewise, Rep. Rogers and many other defenders of the NSA spying program promised us that this dragnet scooping up the personal electronic communications of millions of Americans had already stopped “dozens” of terrorist plots against the United States. In June, NSA director General Keith Alexander claimed that the just-disclosed bulk collection of Americans’ phone and other electronic records had “foiled 50 terror plots.”

Opponents of the program were to be charged with being unconcerned with our security.

But none of it was true.

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard dramatic testimony from NSA deputy director John C. Inglis. According to the Guardian:

“The NSA has previously claimed that 54 terrorist plots had been disrupted ‘over the lifetime’ of the bulk phone records collection and the separate program collecting the internet habits and communications of people believed to be non-Americans. On Wednesday, Inglis said that at most one plot might have been disrupted by the bulk phone records collection alone.”

From dozens to “at most one”?

Supporters of these programs are now on the defensive, with several competing pieces of legislation in the House and Senate seeking to rein in an administration and intelligence apparatus that is clearly out of control. This is to be commended. What is even more important, though, is for more and more and more Americans to educate themselves about our precious liberties and to demand that their government abide by the Constitution. We do not have to accept being lied to — or spied on — by our government.

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New Egyptian War: Americans Lose, Again http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/07/new-egyptian-war-americans-lose-again/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/07/new-egyptian-war-americans-lose-again/#comments Sun, 07 Jul 2013 23:07:19 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=874 Looking at the banners in the massive Egyptian protests last week, we saw many anti-American slogans. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was deposed by the military last week was very critical of what it saw as US support for the coup. Why is it that all sides in this Egyptian civil war seem so angry with the United States? Because the United States has at one point or another supported each side, which means also that at some point the US has also opposed each side. It is the constant meddling in Egyptian affairs that has turned Egyptians against us, as we would resent foreign intervention in our own affairs.

For more than 30 years, since the US-brokered Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt, the US supported Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Over that period the US sent more than $60 billion to prop up Mubarak and, importantly, to train and seek control over the Egyptian military. Those who opposed Mubarak’s unelected reign became more and more resentful of the US, which they rightly saw as aiding and abetting a dictator and denying them their political aspirations.

Then the US began providing assistance to groups seeking to overthrow Mubarak, which they did in 2011. The US continued funding the Egyptian military at that time, arguing that US aid was more critical than ever if we are to maintain influence. The US Administration demanded an election in Egypt after Mubarak’s overthrow and an election was held. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood won a narrow victory. The US supported Morsi but kept funding the Egyptian military.

After a year of Morsi’s rule, Egyptians who did not approve of his government took to the streets to demand his removal from power. The US signaled to the Egyptian military that it would not oppose the removal of Morsi from power, and he was removed on July 3rd. With the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government came the arrest of many politicians and the closure of many media outlets sympathetic to them. Then the US government warned the same Egyptian military that undermined democracy that it needed to restore democracy! Is it any wonder why Egyptians from all walks of life are united in their irritation with the United States?

Despite the Egyptian government being overthrown by a military coup, the Obama Administration will not utter the word “coup” because acknowledging reality would mean an end to US assistance to the Egyptian government and military. That cannot be allowed.

Instead, we see the same Obama administration that is on a worldwide manhunt for pro-transparency whistle-blower Edward Snowden demand that the Egyptian military exercise “political transparency” in its dealings with the ousted Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

So, successive US administrations over the decades have supported all sides in Egypt, from dictator to demonstrator to military. There is only one side that the US government has never supported: our side. The American side. It has never supported the side of the US taxpayers who resent being forced to fund a foreign dictatorship, a foreign military, and foreign protesters. It has never supported the side of the majority of Americans who do not wish to get involved in the confusing internal affairs of countries thousands of miles away. It has never supported the side of those of us concerned about blowback, which is the real threat to our national security. Unfortunately, US administrations continue to follow the same old failed policies and Obama is no different. More intervention, more foreign aid, more bullying, more empire.

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Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/09/government-spying-should-we-be-shocked/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/09/government-spying-should-we-be-shocked/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 00:01:32 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=870 Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance — not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records — including his own — because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us of the tremendous benefits of this Big Brother-like program. He promises us that domestic terrorism plots were thwarted, but he cannot tell us about them because they are classified. I am a bit skeptical, however. In April, the New York Times reported that most of these domestic plots were actually elaborate sting operations developed and pushed by the FBI. According to the Times report, “of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.”

Even if Chairman Rogers is right, though, and the program caught someone up to no good, we have to ask ourselves whether even such a result justifies trashing the Constitution. Here is what I said on the floor of the House when the PATRIOT Act was up for renewal back in 2011:

“If you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.”

What most undermines the claims of the Administration and its defenders about this surveillance program is the process itself. First the government listens in on all of our telephone calls without a warrant and then if it finds something it goes to a FISA court and get an illegal approval for what it has already done! This turns the rule of law and due process on its head.

The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We need to turn the cameras on the police and on the government, not the other way around. We should be thankful for writers like Glenn Greenwald, who broke last week’s story, for taking risks to let us know what the government is doing. There are calls for the persecution of Greenwald and the other whistle-blowers and reporters. They should be defended, as their work defends our freedom.

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Iraq Collapse Shows Bankruptcy of Interventionism http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/02/iraq-collapse-shows-bankruptcy-of-interventionism/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/02/iraq-collapse-shows-bankruptcy-of-interventionism/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 21:41:02 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=865 May was Iraq’s deadliest month in nearly five years, with more than 1,000 dead — both civilians and security personnel — in a rash of bombings, shootings and other violence. As we read each day of new horrors in Iraq, it becomes more obvious that the US invasion delivered none of the promised peace or stability that proponents of the attack promised.

Millions live in constant fear, refugees do not return home, and the economy is destroyed. The Christian community, some 1.2 million persons before 2003, has been nearly wiped off the Iraqi map. Other minorities have likewise disappeared. Making matters worse, US support for the Syrian rebels next door has drawn the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government into the spreading regional unrest and breathed new life into extremist elements.

The invasion of Iraq opened the door to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which did not exist beforehand, while simultaneously strengthening the hand of Iran in the region. Were the “experts” who planned for and advocated the US attack really this incompetent?

Ryan Crocker, who was US Ambassador to Iraq from 2007-2009, still speaks of the Iraqi “surge” as a great reconciliation between Sunni and Shi’ite in Iraq. He wrote recently that “[t]hough the United States has withdrawn its troops from Iraq, it retains significant leverage there. Iraqi forces were equipped and trained by Americans, and the country’s leaders need and expect our help.” He seems alarmingly out of touch with reality.

It is clear now that the “surge” and the “Iraqi Awakening” were just myths promoted by those desperate to put a positive spin on the US invasion, which the late General William Odom once called, “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.” Aircraft were loaded with $100 dollar bills to pay each side to temporarily stop killing US troops and each other, but the payoff provided a mere temporary break. Shouldn’t the measure of success of a particular policy be whether it actually produces sustained positive results?

Now we see radical fighters who once shot at US troops in Iraq have spilled into Syria, where they ironically find their cause supported by the US government! Some of these fighters are even greeted by visiting US senators.

The US intervention in Iraq has created ever more problems. That is clear. The foreign policy “experts” who urged the US attack on Iraq now claim that the disaster they created can only be solved with more interventionism! Imagine a medical doctor noting that a particular medication is killing his patient, but to combat the side effect he orders an increase in dosage of the same medicine. Like this doctor, the US foreign policy establishment is guilty of malpractice. And, I might add, this is just what the Fed does with monetary policy.

From Iraq to Libya to Mali to Syria to Afghanistan, US interventions have an unbroken record of making matters far worse. Yet regardless of the disasters produced, for the interventionists a more aggressive US foreign policy is the only policy they offer.

We must learn the appropriate lessons from the disaster of Iraq. We cannot continue to invade countries, install puppet governments, build new nations, create centrally-planned economies, engage in social engineering, and force democracy at the barrel of a gun. The rest of the world is tired of US interventionism and the US taxpayer is tired of footing the bill for US interventionism. It is up to all of us to make it very clear to the foreign policy establishment and the powers that be that we have had enough and will no longer tolerate empire-building. We should be more confident in ourselves and stop acting like an insecure bully.

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What No One Wants to Hear About Benghazi http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/05/13/what-no-one-wants-to-hear-about-benghazi/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/05/13/what-no-one-wants-to-hear-about-benghazi/#comments Mon, 13 May 2013 04:18:03 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=851 Congressional hearings, White House damage control, endless op-eds, accusations, and defensive denials. Controversy over the events in Benghazi last September took center stage in Washington and elsewhere last week. However, the whole discussion is again more of a sideshow. Each side seeks to score political points instead of asking the real questions about the attack on the US facility, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Republicans smell a political opportunity over evidence that the Administration heavily edited initial intelligence community talking points about the attack to remove or soften anything that might reflect badly on the president or the State Department.

Are we are supposed to be shocked by such behavior? Are we supposed to forget that this kind of whitewashing of facts is standard operating procedure when it comes to the US government?

Democrats in Congress have offered the even less convincing explanation for Benghazi, that somehow the attack occurred due to Republican sponsored cuts in the security budget at facilities overseas. With a one trillion dollar military budget, it is hard to take this seriously.

It appears that the Administration scrubbed initial intelligence reports of references to extremist Islamist involvement in the attacks, preferring to craft a lie that the demonstrations were a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic video that developed into a full-out attack on the US outpost.

Who can blame he administration for wanting to shift the focus? The Islamic radicals who attacked Benghazi were the same people let loose by the US-led attack on Libya. They were the rebels on whose behalf the US overthrew the Libyan government. Ambassador Stevens was slain by the same Islamic radicals he personally assisted just over one year earlier.

But the Republicans in Congress also want to shift the blame. They supported the Obama Administration’s policy of bombing Libya and overthrowing its government. They also repeated the same manufactured claims that Gaddafi was “killing his own people” and was about to commit mass genocide if he were not stopped. Republicans want to draw attention to the President’s editing talking points in hopes no one will notice that if the attack on Libya they supported had not taken place, Ambassador Stevens would be alive today.

Neither side wants to talk about the real lesson of Benghazi: interventionism always carries with it unintended consequences. The US attack on Libya led to the unleashing of Islamist radicals in Libya. These radicals have destroyed the country, murdered thousands, and killed the US ambassador. Some of these then turned their attention to Mali which required another intervention by the US and France.

Previously secure weapons in Libya flooded the region after the US attack, with many of them going to Islamist radicals who make up the majority of those fighting to overthrow the government in Syria. The US government has intervened in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the same rebels it assisted in the Libya conflict, likely helping with the weapons transfers. With word out that these rebels are mostly affiliated with al Qaeda, the US is now intervening to persuade some factions of the Syrian rebels to kill other factions before completing the task of ousting the Syrian government. It is the dizzying cycle of interventionism.

The real lesson of Benghazi will not be learned because neither Republicans nor Democrats want to hear it. But it is our interventionist foreign policy and its unintended consequences that have created these problems, including the attack and murder of Ambassador Stevens. The disputed talking points and White House whitewashing are just a sideshow.

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Liberty Was Also Attacked in Boston http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/04/28/liberty-was-also-attacked-in-boston/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/04/28/liberty-was-also-attacked-in-boston/#comments Sun, 28 Apr 2013 21:53:14 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=842 Forced lockdown of a city. Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced to close. Transport shut down.

These were not the scenes from a military coup in a far off banana republic, but rather the scenes just over a week ago in Boston as the United States got a taste of martial law. The ostensible reason for the military-style takeover of parts of Boston was that the accused perpetrator of a horrific crime was on the loose. The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city. This unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack itself.

What has been sadly forgotten in all the celebration of the capture of one suspect and the killing of his older brother is that the police state tactics in Boston did absolutely nothing to catch them. While the media crowed that the apprehension of the suspects was a triumph of the new surveillance state — and, predictably, many talking heads and Members of Congress called for even more government cameras pointed at the rest of us — the fact is none of this caught the suspect. Actually, it very nearly gave the suspect a chance to make a getaway.

The “shelter in place” command imposed by the governor of Massachusetts was lifted before the suspect was caught. Only after this police state move was ended did the owner of the boat go outside to check on his property, and in so doing discover the suspect.

No, the suspect was not discovered by the paramilitary troops terrorizing the public. He was discovered by a private citizen, who then placed a call to the police. And he was identified not by government surveillance cameras, but by private citizens who willingly shared their photographs with the police.

As journalist Tim Carney wrote last week:

“Law enforcement in Boston used cameras to ID the bombing suspects, but not police cameras. Instead, authorities asked the public to submit all photos and videos of the finish-line area to the FBI, just in case any of them had relevant images. The surveillance videos the FBI posted online of the suspects came from private businesses that use surveillance to punish and deter crime on their property.”

Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe, but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston.

Three people were killed in Boston and that is tragic. But what of the fact that over 40 persons are killed in the United States each day, and sometimes ten persons can be killed in one city on any given weekend? These cities are not locked-down by paramilitary police riding in tanks and pointing automatic weapons at innocent citizens.

This is unprecedented and is very dangerous. We must educate ourselves and others about our precious civil liberties to ensure that we never accept demands that we give up our Constitution so that the government can pretend to protect us.

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Security and Self-Governance http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/07/23/security-and-self-governance/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/07/23/security-and-self-governance/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:59:40 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=783 ]]> The senseless and horrific killings last week at a movie theater in Colorado reminded Americans that life is fragile and beautiful, and we should not take family, friends, and loved ones for granted. Our prayers go out to the injured victims and the families of those killed. As a nation we should use this terrible event to come together with the resolve to create a society that better values life.

We should also face the sober reality that government cannot protect us from all possible harm. No matter how many laws we pass, no matter how many police or federal agents we put on the streets, no matter how routinely we monitor internet communications, a determined individual or group can still cause great harm. We as individuals are responsible for our safety and the safety of our families.

Furthermore, it is the role of civil society rather than government to build a culture of responsible, peaceful, productive individuals. Government cannot mandate morality or instill hope in troubled individuals. External controls on our behavior imposed by government through laws, police, and jails usually apply only after a terrible crime has occurred.

Internal self governance, by contrast, is a much more powerful regulator of human behavior than any law. This self-governance must be developed from birth, first by parents but later also through the positive influence of relatives and adult role models. Beyond childhood, character development can occur through religious, civic, and social institutions. Ultimately, self-governance cannot be developed without an underlying foundation of morality.

Government, however, is not a moral actor. The state should protect our rights, but it cannot develop our character. Whenever terrible crimes occur, many Americans understandably demand that government “do something” to prevent similar crimes in the future. But this reflexive impulse almost always leads to bad laws and the loss of liberty.

Do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, and metal detectors? Do we really believe government can provide total security? Do we want to involuntarily commit every disaffected, disturbed, or alienated person who fantasizes about violence? Or can we accept that liberty is more important than the illusion of state-provided security?

Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a false government security blanket beckons.

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Unconstitutional Uses of Drones Must Stop http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/06/18/unconstitutional-uses-of-drones-must-stop/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/06/18/unconstitutional-uses-of-drones-must-stop/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2012 01:53:26 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=666 ]]> Last week I joined several of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama requesting clarification of his criteria for the lethal use of drones overseas. Administration officials assure us that a “high degree of confidence” is required that the person targeted by a drone is a terrorist. However, press reports have suggested that mere “patterns of behavior” and other vague criteria are actually being used to decide who to target in a drone strike. I am concerned that an already troublingly low threshold for execution on foreign soil may be even lower than we imagined.

The use of drones overseas may have become so convenient, operated as they are from a great distance, that far more “collateral damage” has become acceptable. Collateral damage is a polite way of saying killing innocent civilians. Is the ease of drone use a slippery slope to disregard for justice, and if so what might that mean for us as they become more widely used on American soil against American citizens?

This dramatic increase in the use of drones and the lowered threshold for their use to kill foreigners has tremendous implications for our national security. At home, some claim the use of drones reduces risk to American service members. But this can be true only in the most shortsighted sense. Internationally the expanded use of drones is wildly unpopular and in fact creates more enemies than it eliminates.

Earlier this month a former top terrorism official at the CIA warned that President Barack Obama’s expanded use of drones may actually be creating terrorist “safe havens.” Robert Grenier, who headed the CIA’s counter-terrorism center from 2004 to 2006, told a British newspaper that, “[the drone program] needs to be targeted much more finely. We have been seduced by them and the unintended consequences of our actions are going to outweigh the intended consequences.”

After a drone strike in Yemen last month once again killed more civilians than suspected al-Qaeda members, a Yemeni lawyer sent a message to President Obama stating “Dear Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda.” These are the unseen victims of the president’s expanded use of drones, but we should pay attention and we should ask ourselves how we would feel if the tables were turned and a foreign power was killing innocent American children from thousands of miles away. Would we not feel the same?

The expanded use of drones overseas has been matched with the expanded use of drones in the United States, which should alarm every American who values the Constitution and its protections against government interference in our private lives. Recently, the governor of Virginia welcomed the expanded use of drones in his state because they “make law enforcement more productive.” I find that attitude chilling and am sure I am not alone.

Do we want to live in a country where our government constantly flies aircraft overhead to make sure we are not doing anything it disapproves of? Already the Environmental Protection Agency uses drone surveillance to spy on farmers and ranchers to see if they are in compliance with regulations. Local law enforcement agencies are eyeing drone use with great anticipation. Do we really want to live under the watchful eye of “Big Brother”? It is terrifying enough to see how drones are being misused abroad. We must curtail the government’s ability use drones right away lest the massacres in Yemen and Pakistan turn out to be crude training exercises for what the administration has in mind on our own soil.

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Do Americans Approve Mass Murder? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/06/14/do-americans-approve-mass-murder/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/06/14/do-americans-approve-mass-murder/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 23:03:32 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=658 A majority of Americans, it seems, approve of drone strikes against terrorists, even if they kill innocent bystanders.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project poll found that while most people worldwide disapprove of the tactic, 62 percent of Americans approved of the drone strikes, while 28 percent disapproved. While 74 percent of Republicans approved, surprisingly, 60 percent of independents and 58 percent of Democrats also approved.

Around the rest of the world, nearly everyone registered disapproval of the drone strikes, not only in Muslim countries but in most of Europe as well.

What’s the difference?

The drone strikes, started by George W. Bush and greatly expanded by Barack Obama, are ostensibly meant to target terrorists in surgical strikes. The reality, widely reported worldwide but rarely in U.S. media, is that all too often these strikes kill innocent civilians in addition to, or even instead of, the intended targets.

Obama, it was revealed May 29 in the New York Times, takes it upon himself to personally review and approve every drone strike because he wants to take moral responsibility for them.

Yet the method by which the CIA counts civilian casualties is so flawed as to be completely unbelievable, except perhaps by a president who desperately needs to soothe his own conscience over the hundreds of innocent men, women and children who have died at his orders, and of course by a credulous American press who long ago lost the skepticism required of journalists when dealing with government and accept at face value anything in a government press release, no matter how ludicrous.

Worse, some of the drone strikes are so-called “signature” strikes, targeted not at any particular individual, but at unknown people who are doing things that indicate they might be terrorists, such as loading fertilizer into a truck. These strikes carry a high risk of killing innocent people, as anyone who has walked through airport security can understand. But under the CIA’s methodology, any adult male gets counted as a militant, even if it was just a farmer who was preparing to plant his crops.

To be fair, there are still some skeptical journalists out there. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism maintains its own data on civilian deaths from drone strikes; it shows the number of civilian deaths to be at least 551, and possibly much higher.

Government officials have a hard time admitting to any civilian deaths, of course. Update: Or even to the existence of the program.

There are certainly terrorists and other enemies of the U.S. being killed in these strikes. But by killing the innocent, the strikes themselves are manufacturing more enemies.

Haykal Bafana, a lawyer in Yemen, writes on Twitter, “Dear Obama, when a US drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda.”

This is not just some guy’s rant.

Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, echoed the warning last month. “One wonders how many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them.”

“We’re setting a standard for all other nations that when they’re ready if they want to, they can send drones at the United States,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said on CNN’s State of the Nation Sunday. “What goes around comes around, and those drones are going to come right back at us.”

It’s even questionable whether the drone strikes are even legal, since the administration has claimed the so-called Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks as the legal basis for the strikes.

On Wednesday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich sent a letter to the White House, cosigned by 25 other members of Congress including two Republicans, demanding “the process by which ‘signature’ strikes are authorized and executed (drone strikes where the identity of the person killed is unknown); mechanisms used by the CIA and JSOC to ensure that such killings are legal; the nature of the follow-up that is conducted when civilians are killed or injured; and the mechanisms that ensure civilian casualty numbers are collected, tracked and analyzed.

“We are concerned that the use of such ‘signature’ strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States,” write Kucinich et al. “Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned about the legal grounds for such strikes under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

“The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound. They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”

So we come full circle. Only a minority of people show any concern over Obama’s killing of innocent people abroad in the name of the war on terror (oops, we aren’t supposed to say that anymore). Perhaps the people who approve of the drone strikes simply don’t know. Or perhaps, like Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), they don’t care. “I am not concerned,” he said.

Am I completely wrong in thinking that most Republicans only care about the innocent if they happen to be unborn? And that most Democrats don’t care about the innocent, so long as it’s their guy killing them?

Let’s be perfectly clear. Killing an innocent person is wrong, whether you’re the lowest criminal or the highest .. excuse me, president of the United States.

What should worry you even more than that, though, is that in a few years, those drones and their missiles are coming home, and they will be used here in the U.S. against Americans. Police chiefs all over the country are drooling at the prospect of getting hold of their own drones — to be used only for aerial surveillance, of course, and not to kill people by remote control. At least not right away. That part comes later, after you all are accustomed to seeing the things flying around.

As for me, I think it’s time to move to a place near an airport flight path, where it hopefully won’t be safe to operate a drone…

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