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Archive for May, 2012

Posted by DownWithTyranny on May 20th, 2012

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

For those who keep track of this sort of detail, Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced an amendment yesterday to end the occupation of Afghanistan. Cosponsored by John Conyers (D-MI), Walter Jones (R-NC), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Lee’s amendment would have ended the war in Afghanistan “by limiting funding to the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.” It failed 113-303. Most Democrats– 101 of them– voted YES, to end the pointless occupation. They were joined by 12 Republicans. But 79 Democrats crossed the aisle to voted with Boehner and Cantor. Any interest in knowing which side your congresscritter was on? All the names are listed on the link above. A few highlights though: generally speaking Blue Dogs were pro-war and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were anti-war. And the Democratic House leaders… mostly pro-war. Let’s look at some names worth remembering– first candidates for higher office:

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are running for Senate and they voted to end the occupation. New Dems Shelley Berkley (NV) and Martin Heinrich (NM) and Blue Dog Joe Donnelly (IN) voted for more war.

Karen Bass (D-CA), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), John Larson (D-CT) and Jared Polis (D-CO) are either being groomed for Democratic leadership or are already junior leaders and they all voted to end the occupation. The top House leaders though, Clyburn, Hoyer, Israel, and even Pelosi, all voted for more war, as did wannabes Ron Kind (WI), Allyson Schwartz (PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) “wisely” avoided voting at all.

In contested up-coming primaries pitting Democrats against each other, Berman and Sherman, both vicious warmongers, each voted for more war. But in Michigan, progressive Hansen Clarke voted to end the war and conservative Gary Peters voted to extend it. Worth taking note. Also worth remembering, conservative pro-war Blue Dog Adam Schiff who was recently imposed on the uber-progressive areas of West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Hollywood, Atwater and Silverlake voted to continue the war and occupation. A notorious neo-con, he’s FAR too conservative for the district and needs to be replaced in 2014. Perfect district for Dennis Kucinich.

UPDATE: One More Failed Amendment

Nancy reminded me of this one with this tweet:

As you can see, an equal number of Republicans and Democrats (19 from each team) crossed the aisle– the Republicans to join Nancy and 163 Democrats in standing up for the Constitution, the mostly Blue Dog Dems to join Boehner and Cantor in shitting on the same document. The Democrats who showed once again that they haven’t earned the right to represent the party of working families are:

John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)
Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
feisty, principled contrarian Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC)
Sandy Levin (D-MI)
Lipinski Jr. (Blue Dog-lite-IL)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)
Bill Owens (Blue Dog-lite-NY)
Colin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)
Dutch Ruppersberger (Blue Dog-lite-MD)
Terri Sewell (Blue Dog-lite-AL)

And, keep in mind, when the DCCC solicits money from you, basically all of it that doesn’t go for feathering the nests of the employees and their cronies goes to support corrupt, conservatives like the kewl dudes on the list above– and the putrid recruits who are even worse than these who have been dug up by “ex”-Blue Dog Steve Israel. Every time you get a plea from the DCCC, just give a contribution directly to a candidate you already know can be trusted– like Alan Grayson or Carol Shea-Porter… or anyone on this list.

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Posted by Peace Action West on May 19th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

With the vast majority of Americans, including people of all political persuasions, supporting a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, it’s high time for Congress to catch up. A bipartisan group of representatives joined forces to put together an amendment to the defense authorization bill voted on this week that would have put the House of Representatives on the record supporting accelerated withdrawal. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee), Ron Paul (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Chris Gibson (R-NY) did the painstaking legislative work of finding language everyone could agree on and getting the Democratic leadership on board.

The Republican leadership, however, refused to give the American people’s concerns a hearing on the House floor. They had put language in the NDAA that endorses keeping 68,000 troops on the ground until the end of 2014 (meaning no more withdrawals after this summer), and a “credible force” on the ground after that. They were determined to keep that language, and knew that the McGovern et al amendment would pass.

Rep. McGovern fought passionately against their refusal to allow a vote, holding up the Rules Committee proceedings for an hour in the face of harassment from Republican colleagues.

“Mr. Chairman I think we’ve gotten this, that Mr. McGovern is not happy. I think this is also behavior, that I wonder if people have been out drinking tonight, or whether they are mad or angry or incapable of controlling themselves, and I would question that tonight,” Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the GOP’s campaign committee, said of Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) at a late-night meeting of the House Rules Committee.

“I take offense to that,” McGovern said, according to a transcript of the exchange. “I have an amendment to the rule Mr. Chairman and I would say to the gentleman that you know, there are some issues worth fighting over and for me, ending this war is one of them. And I’m sorry the gentleman doesn’t think that —- take that very seriously.”

Sessions shot back: “Simply asked a question. If the shoe fits.”

Representatives slammed Republican intransigence on this issue on the House floor Thursday morning, including Democratic leaders Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Republican Armed Services Committee member Walter Jones. Rep. McGovern made a last-ditch effort on Thursday to use procedural rules to squeeze in a vote on the amendment, but ultimately Republicans succeeded in squelching the debate on what Rep. Smith rightly called the most important issue in the bill.

We knew there was no good reason for Republicans to block the vote and it came down to fear of letting the American people’s opposition to the war get a vote. CNN spoke to some Republican sources and confirmed as much:

Republicans were concerned the amendment could pass, according to two GOP congressional sources…

…One of the Republican sources stressed that there were a combination of factors for not allowing a vote on the timetable proposal, including “a lack of White House engagement.” GOP leaders expected a bloc of their own members to support the measure and they couldn’t rely on the White House to lobby Democrats against it.

The source stressed Republicans didn’t want to “roll the dice” and have a vote setting firm dates for the administration’s war policy, which would expose significant reservations about the president’s plan, which GOP leaders have largely supported.

Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who pushed for the vote on the timetable amendment with North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, decried the decision to deny a vote on his proposal on Thursday. “What is the Republican leadership afraid of? Are they afraid a bipartisan majority of this House will vote to follow the will of the American people and change our Afghanistan policy?” he said.

The Republican leaders pulled a sneaky move by allowing a twenty-minute debate and vote on Rep. Barbara Lee’s Afghanistan amendment so they could claim to be giving the issue its due. However, they picked the amendment (which we strongly supported), which limits funding to safe and orderly withdrawal, because they knew its strong position would not have the same level of support. The amendment ultimately failed, 113-303, though it gained more votes than in previous years, including from a number of Republicans. See the roll call here.

While it’s disappointing after all of our grassroots and lobbying work to be denied a vote on the Afghanistan withdrawal amendment, it is a testament to the power of the organizing work the peace movement has done that we have pro-war Republicans running scared. Now we have to let them know this fight isn’t over.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 18th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Washington | May 19

AFP – France’s President Francois Hollande used his White House debut on Friday to restate his intention to get French combat troops home from Afghanistan this year – breaking with NATO’s 2014 schedule.

Hollande met President Barack Obama for the first time since taking office three days ago, ahead of a testing weekend of international summits, with G8 leaders at Camp David and NATO chiefs at a 61-nation gathering in Chicago.

“I recalled to President Obama that I had made a promise to withdraw our combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2012,” Hollande said, as the two leaders spoke to reporters in the Oval Office.

“I also stipulated that there would still be support in another form,” Hollande said, adding that the French withdrawal would be done in consultation with French allies in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Obama did not dispute Hollande’s position, but stressed that NATO states must sustain their commitment to help “Afghans build security and continue down the path of development.”

Washington is currently soliciting funding from its allies to ensure training and financing for Afghan armed forces after NATO combat troops leave – which it estimates could cost around $4 billion a year.

Apart from Afghanistan, both sides sought common ground, with Obama styling the partners as complimentary as cheeseburgers and French fries, though alarm over the euro zone tempered Hollande’s visit.

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Posted by Peace Action West on May 18th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Yesterday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) held a press conference with a bipartisan group of representatives to call on President Obama to accelerate the end to the war in Afghanistan.

“I believe that it is time for Members of Congress to stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “There is no military solution in Afghanistan, which is why I am pushing Republican leadership to allow me to offer an amendment to the NDAA that would bring about a responsible and immediate end to the war in Afghanistan.  The amendment would end combat operations while protecting our troops by ensuring that any dollar directed to Afghanistan can only be spent for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors.”

Congresswoman Lee was joined by Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC), Ron Paul (R-TX), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-NY), and James McGovern (D-MA).  Congresswoman Lee thanked her colleagues for joining her at the press conference, noting that “the silence on Capitol Hill on this issue has been deafening.”

Ninety representatives joined Rep. Lee in sending a letter to President Obama calling on him to announce an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan at next week’s NATO summit. Read the letter and see the list of signers here.

On the heels of the announcement of a plan that leaves the door open to a large military presence in Afghanistan for another twelve years, this is an important time for Congress to make a statement.

Rep. Lee has an amendment that will be voted on TODAY that limits Afghanistan war funding to use for a safe and responsible withdrawal of our troops. Call the congressional switchboard today at 202-224-3121, ask for your representative, and ask him or her to vote YES on the Lee amendment to end the war.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 17th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

(Title corrected – mb)

Props to McClatchy Newspapers & special correspondent Jon Stephenson for doing what should have been done weeks ago by a major US news outlet: interviewing survivors of US Army Staff Sgt Robert Bales’ notorious massacre in Afghanistan earlier this year:

“I told the women inside our room: ‘Let’s run! Let’s get out of here,’ ” recalled Rafiullah, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. In the next compound, a short distance from the house where Rafiullah had been sleeping, Haji Mohammad Naim awoke to the sound of dogs barking wildly in the street.

“Then there was shooting, and the dogs stopped barking,” said Naim, who’s in his 50s.Shortly afterward, there was pandemonium at Naim’s front door as Rafiullah and a handful of terrified women and children poured into his yard, seeking shelter. Minutes later, another woman and a young girl emerged from the darkness.

“She was screaming and crying,” Naim said of the woman. “She said, ‘My husband has been martyred,’ ” meaning that he’d been killed.

Suddenly a silhouette appeared, moving rapidly behind a bright light. Naim thought that U.S. forces were raiding his village, and he expected a squad of soldiers to arrive. Instead, he saw just one man.

“He got closer, and then he started shooting at me,” Naim said.

The story that Rafiullah and Naim recently told a McClatchy reporter is the first public account by survivors in their village of the events of March 11, when a man whom U.S. officials have identified as Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly shot and killed 17 people in two Afghan villages.

Oh, and just to add a salt-mine of insult to rub into still-open wounds:

Zardana, Rafiullah’s sister, is the victim most in need of specialized care. Shot in the head, she remains partially paralyzed in the U.S. base hospital. Her uncle, Juma Khan, said U.S. officials had yet to follow through on a pledge to get her more sophisticated care in the United States.

Yeah, why indeed, huh, Steve?

(infographic courtesy McClatchy)

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Posted by The Agonist on May 16th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Islamabad | May 17

AFP – Several Western embassies here on Wednesday received letters containing suspicious powder and threats to poison Nato soldiers in Afghanistan, Pakistan officials said.

Islamabad police chief Bani Amin said that embassies had received small packets containing black powder, which had been sent for laboratory analysis.

The letters said “poison” would be hidden in the Nato supplies should Pakistan decide to lift a nearly six-month blockade on supplies for American and Nato troops fighting the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Senior Pakistani security officials said that the French embassy, and the Australian and British High Commissions had received suspicious packages.

“Embassies have received one sachet each. The problem is that it is in a meagre quantity and difficult even to test. It seems somebody has committed some mischief. We are sending it to a laboratory,” Amin said.

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Posted by Peace Action West on May 16th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Congress will vote on the Afghanistan war as soon as tomorrow. This will likely be our biggest chance to push for the war’s end this year. These votes come on the heels of President Obama’s announcement of a plan that could keep troops on the ground for the next twelve years. Congress needs to hear from you now.

Thank you to all of you who sent emails last week. Now, I’m asking you to join groups around the country in a national call-in day.

Call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask for your representative’s office. When you’re connected, use this sample message as a guide and add your own words:

My name is [your name] and I live at [your address]. I oppose keeping US troops in Afghanistan for another 12 years. I strongly encourage [your representative's name]  to vote for amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act to speed up military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Then, click here to tell me how your call went.

Thank you for raising your voice.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 14th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Sajjad Tarakzai | Islamabad | May 14

AFP – Pakistan said Monday it was time to “move on” and repair ties with the United States and NATO, the strongest sign yet that it may reopen supply routes into Afghanistan closed for nearly six months.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar made the remarks a day before Pakistani leaders are to discuss ending the blockade, and thereby cave in to a key demand from the West in time to attend a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.

Islamabad shut its Afghan border to NATO supplies after US air strikes killed 24 soldiers on November 26, provoking a major crisis in Pakistani-US relations on top of the outcry from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden the previous May.

“It was important to make a point, Pakistan has made a point and we now need to move on and go into a positive zone and try to conduct our relations,” Pakistan’s foreign minister told a news conference.

“We are trying to put this relationship, you know, in a positive zone and I am quite sure that we will be successful in doing so.”

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Posted by Tom Engelhardt on May 14th, 2012

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

America as a Shining Drone Upon a Hill
On Staring Death in the Face and Not Noticing

By Tom Engelhardt

Here’s the essence of it: you can trust America’s crème de la crème, the most elevated, responsible people, no matter what weapons, what powers, you put in their hands. No need to constantly look over their shoulders.

Placed in the hands of evildoers, those weapons and powers could create a living nightmare; controlled by the best of people, they lead to measured, thoughtful, precise decisions in which bad things are (with rare and understandable exceptions) done only to truly terrible types. In the process, you simply couldn’t be better protected.

And in case you were wondering, there is no question who among us are the best, most lawful, moral, ethical, considerate, and judicious people: the officials of our national security state. Trust them implicitly. They will never give you a bum steer.

You may be paying a fortune to maintain their world — the 30,000 people hired to listen in on conversations and other communications in this country, the 230,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, the 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, the 4.2 million with security clearances of one sort or another, the $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center that the National Security Agency is constructing in Utah, the gigantic $1.8 billion headquarters the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency recently built for its 16,000 employees in the Washington area — but there’s a good reason. That’s what’s needed to make truly elevated, surgically precise decisions about life and death in the service of protecting American interests on this dangerous globe of ours.

And in case you wondered just how we know all this, we have it on the best authority: the people who are doing it — the only ones, given the obvious need for secrecy, capable of judging just how moral, elevated, and remarkable their own work is. They deserve our congratulations, but if we’re too distracted to give it to them, they are quite capable of high-fiving themselves.

We’re talking, in particular, about the use by the Obama administration (and the Bush administration before it) of a growing armada of remotely piloted planes, a.k.a. drones, grimly labeled Predators and Reapers, to fight a nameless, almost planet-wide war (formerly known as the Global War on Terror). Its purpose: to destroy al-Qaeda-in-wherever and all its wannabes and look-alikes, the Taliban, and anyone affiliated or associated with any of the above, or just about anyone else we believe might imminently endanger our “interests.”

In the service of this war, in the midst of a perpetual state of war and of wartime, every act committed by these leaders is, it turns out, absolutely, totally, and completely legal. We have their say-so for that, and they have the documents to prove it, largely because the best and most elevated legal minds among them have produced that documentation in secret. (Of course, they dare not show it to the rest of us, lest lives be endangered.)

By their own account, they have, in fact, been covertly exceptional, moral, and legal for more than a decade (minus, of course, the odd black site and torture chamber) — so covertly exceptional, in fact, that they haven’t quite gotten the credit they deserve. Now, they would like to make the latest version of their exceptional mission to the world known to the rest of us. It is finally in our interest, it seems, to be a good deal better informed about America’s covert wars in a year in which the widely announced “covert” killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan is a major selling point in the president’s reelection campaign.

No one should be surprised. There was always an “overt” lurking in the “covert” of what now passes for “covert war.” The CIA’s global drone assassination campaign has long been a bragging point in Washington, even if it couldn’t officially be discussed directly before, say, Congress. The covertness of our drone wars in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere really turns out to have less to do with secrecy — just about every covert drone strike is reported, sooner or later, in the media — than assuring two administrations that they could pursue their drone wars without accountability to anyone.

A Classic of Self-Congratulation

Recently, top administration officials seem to be fanning out to offer rare peeks into what’s truly on-target and exceptional about America’s drone wars. In many ways, these days, American exceptionalism is about as unexceptional as apple pie. It has, for one thing, become the everyday language of the presidential campaign trail. And that shouldn’t surprise us either. After all, great powers and their leaders tend to think well of themselves. The French had their “mission civilisatrice,” the Chinese had the “mandate of heaven,” and like all imperial powers they inevitably thought they were doing the best for themselves and others, sadly benighted, in this best of all possible worlds.

Sometimes, though, the American version of this does seem… I hate to use the word, but exceptional. If you want to get a taste of just what this means, consider as Exhibit One a recent speech by the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” John Brennan, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. According to his own account, he was dispatched to the center by President Obama to provide greater openness when it comes to the administration’s secret drone wars, to respond to critics of the drones and their legality, and undoubtedly to put a smiley face on drone operations generally.

Ever since the Puritan minister John Winthrop first used the phrase in a sermon on shipboard on the way to North America, “a city upon a hill” has caught something of at least one American-style dream — a sense that this country’s fate was to be a blessed paragon for the rest of the world, an exception to every norm. In the last century, it became “a shining city upon a hill” and was regularly cited in presidential addresses.

Whatever that “city,” that dream, was once imagined to be, it has undergone a largely unnoticed metamorphosis in the twenty-first century. It has become — even in our dreams — an up-armored garrison encampment, just as Washington itself has become the heavily fortified bureaucratic heartland of a war state. So when Brennan spoke, what he offered was a new version of American exceptionalism: the first “shining drone upon a hill” speech, which also qualifies as an instant classic of self-congratulation.

Never, according to him, has a country with such an advanced weapon system as the drone used it quite so judiciously, quite so — if not peacefully — at least with the sagacity and skill usually reserved for the gods. American drone strikes, he assured his listeners, are “ethical and just,” “wise,” and “surgically precise” — exactly what you’d expect from a country he refers to, quoting the president, as the preeminent “standard bearer in the conduct of war.”

Those drone strikes, he assured his listeners, are based on staggeringly “rigorous standards” involving the individual identification of human targets. Even when visited on American citizens outside declared war zones, they are invariably “within the bounds of the law,” as you would expect of the preeminent “nation of laws.”

The strikes are never motivated by vengeance, always target someone known to us as the worst of the worst, and almost invariably avoid anyone who is even the most mediocre of the mediocre. (Forget the fact that, as Greg Miller of the Washington Post reported, the CIA has recently received permission from the president to launch drone strikes in Yemen based only on the observed “patterns of suspicious behavior” of groups of unidentified individuals, as was already true in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.)

Yes, in such circumstances innocents do unfortunately die, even if unbelievably rarely — and for that we couldn’t be more regretful. Such deaths, however, are in some sense salutary, since they lead to the most rigorous reviews and reassessments of, and so improvements in, our actions. “This too,” Brennan assured his audience, “is a reflection of our values as Americans.”

“I would note,” he added, “that these standards, for identifying a target and avoiding… the loss of lives of innocent civilians, exceed what is required as a matter of international law on a typical battlefield. That’s another example of the high standards to which we hold ourselves.”

And that’s just a taste of the tone and substance of the speech given by the president’s leading counterterrorism expert, and in it he’s no outlier. It catches something about an American sense of self at this moment. Yes, Americans may be ever more down on the Afghan war, but like their leaders, they are high on drones. In a February Washington Post/ABC News poll, 83% of respondents supported the administration’s use of drones. Perhaps that’s not surprising either, since the drones are generally presented here as the coolest of machines, as well as cheap alternatives (in money and lives) to sending more armies onto the Eurasian mainland.

Predator Nation

In these last years, this country has pioneered the development of the most advanced killing machines on the planet for which the national security state has plans decades into the future. Conceptually speaking, our leaders have also established their “right” to send these robot assassins into any airspace, no matter the local claims of national sovereignty, to take out those we define as evil or simply to protect American interests. On this, Brennan couldn’t be clearer. In the process, we have turned much of the rest of the planet into what can only be considered an American free-fire zone.

We have, in short, established a remarkably expansive set of drone-war rules for the global future. Naturally, we trust ourselves with such rules, but there is a fly in the ointment, even as the droniacs see it. Others far less sagacious, kindly, lawful, and good than we are do exist on this planet and they may soon have their own fleets of drones. About 50 countries are today buying or developing such robotic aircraft, including Russia, China, and Iran, not to speak of Hezbollah in Lebanon. And who knows what terror groups are looking into suicide drones?

As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius put it in a column about Brennan’s speech: “What if the Chinese deployed drones to protect their workers in southern Sudan against rebels who have killed them in past attacks? What if Iran used them against Kurdish separatists they regard as terrorists? What if Russia used them over Chechnya? What position would the United States take, and wouldn’t it be hypocritical if it opposed drone attacks by other nations that face ‘imminent’ or ‘significant’ threats?”

This is Washington’s global drone conundrum as seen from inside the Beltway. These are the nightmarish scenarios even our leaders can imagine others producing with their own drones and our rules. A deeply embedded sense of American exceptionalism, a powerful belief in their own special, self-evident goodness, however, conveniently blinds them to what they are doing right now. Looking in the mirror, they are incapable of seeing a mask of death. And yet our proudest export at present, other than Hollywood superhero films, may be a stone-cold robotic killer with a name straight out of a horror movie.

Consider this as well: those “shining drones” launched on campaigns of assassination and slaughter are increasingly the “face” that we choose to present to the world. And yet it’s beyond us why it might not shine for others.

In reality, it’s not so hard to imagine what we increasingly look like to those others: a Predator nation. And not just to the parents and relatives of the more than 160 children the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented as having died in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. After all, war is now the only game in town. Peace? For the managers of our national security state, it’s neither a word worth mentioning, nor an imaginable condition.

In truth, our leaders should be in mourning for whatever peaceful dreams we ever had. But mention drones and they light up. They’re having a love affair with those machines. They just can’t get enough of them or imagine their world or ours without them.

What they can’t see in the haze of exceptional self-congratulation is this: they are transforming the promise of America into a promise of death. And death, visited from the skies, isn’t precise. It isn’t glorious. It isn’t judicious. It certainly isn’t a shining vision. It’s hell. And it’s a global future for which, someday, no one will thank us.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s His latest book is The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt

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Posted by The Agonist on May 13th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Kabul | May 13

BBC – A senior Afghan peace negotiator has been shot dead in Kabul, officials say.

Arsala Rahmani was a former Taliban minister and a key member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which leads Afghan efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban.

Correspondents say his death is a major blow to President Hamid Karzai as Mr Rahmani was a key figure in reaching out to Taliban commanders.

Last year the chief of the peace council was killed in a suicide attack.


Police say that Mr Rahmani was shot dead on Sunday morning by an unidentified gunman while on his way to work in western Kabul, in what was described as a carefully planned attack.

Gunmen driving a white Toyota Corolla fired a single bullet using a silencer, the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul reports.

“Mr Rahmani was shot in his heart and died instantly. His nephew, who was also his driver, didn’t even realise he had been shot,” Kabul police chief Gen Ayub Salangi told the BBC.

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