–Kevin Martin, Executive DirectorMy cousin David has a cool used record and bookstore in downtown Lancaster, PA (my hometown) called BohoZone, check it out if you visit Lancaster. Bought my son Max a paperback copy of Fahrenheit 451 for Xmas, which he of course forgot and left in the car. So I read it, for the first time since high school (and will now give it back to Max for him to read). Really dug it, forgot that Ray Bradbury knew how to write for popular audiences. Want to see the movie again too (directed by one of the all-time greats, Francois Truffaut, starring Oskar Werner and the inimitable Julie Christie). Gotta admit I dig the future dystopia genre, especially the ones where there is some hope or at least fightback by the people (I also like the “we’re screwed and destined to succumb to the fascist police state and there’s no hope” ones too as I hope they’ll serve as a cautionary tale and wake people up.)I especially like the one where the supposedly liberal or even “socialist” president decides who he can kill with impunity, using robots to deliver bombs, even if he doesn’t even know the person’s name, in countries with whom we are not at war, with no congressional or judicial oversight, justified by lawyers accountable only to him, with hundreds (at least) of civilians being killed.Oh wait that’s not some future dystopia, that’s called the Obama Administration.While many peace activists and human rights researchers have been protesting and educating and agitating about drone strikes and the president’s “kill list” for quite some time, this week seems to have brought something of a breakthrough, at least in media coverage and perhaps in Congressional scrutiny of these morally and legally dubious (and that’s being kind, many folks would just say “illegal”) practices by our Nobel Peace Laureate president. CIA Director-designate John Brennan took much of the heat on this in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday (with some justification, as he has been the president’s counterterrorism chief and was in the CIA under Bush/Cheney), but the president is the one accountable for these policies, and the one who could, and should, end them.Brevity prevents a full listing of all the problematic aspects of drone strikes (our colleague and former Peace Action staffer and board member Duane Shank of Sojourners had a nice rundown on his Drone Watch blog post the other day, with links to many articles), but the civilian death toll and paper-thin legal “justification” for drone strikes being authorized by the Congressional resolution right after 9/11 are enough to call this whole shebang to a halt. (Certainly Constitutional Law Professor Barack Obama would have understood this.)Those two concerns are the main reasons cited for the announcement late last month that the UN will open an investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings. Unites States’ UN Ambassador Susan Rice said the administration “has not ruled out full cooperation” with the investigation, as if we can pick and choose, as a UN member state. when to cooperate.Momentum against drones (and I haven’t even gone into the frightening spectre of the proliferation of domestic surveillance drones just on the horizon that even Bradbury couldn’t have imagined) is building fast. Nationally coordinated grassroots actions on drones are planned for April. I had a suggestion the other day that we ought to start a call-in campaign to the White House every Tuesday. Why? That is supposedly the day the president looks at the kill list and approves targets for murder.I know many liberals and progressives are loathe to criticize the president, and/or feel it’s their job to protect him from the right-wing. But it’s our Constitution that needs protecting, from this or any president who would declare himself judge, jury and executioner. Do him a favor and demand he end this madness.
Be a Patriot, Uphold the Constitution: Save Obama From His Tortured Justifications For Drone Strikes, Kill Lists and Targeted AssassinationsFebruary 8, 2013
Once again, our tax dollars are at work as Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza escalates, including a potential ground invasion. The violence on both sides must end, including the rocket launches from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians. We mourn the dead on both sides (MSNBC reports this morning 95 dead in Gaza, including 24 children, with three Israelis also dead.)
As U.S. taxpayers, we must speak out against the asymmetrical attack by Israel enabled by the annual $4 billion in U.S. military aid. As is the norm in these situations, U.S. weaponry is almost surely being used illegally by Israel (in violation of the Arms Export Control Act as well as international humanitarian law) against civilians living under a de facto blockade in Gaza.
Please take action:
Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and the State Department at 202-647-6575.
· Demand that the U.S. exert immediate pressure on Israel to end its violent aggression;
· Demand that Israel immediately lift its illegal blockade and siege of Gaza
· Demand the U.S. exert diplomatic pressure on Israel for an immediate cease-fire and initiate an investigation into Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons to commit human rights abuses of Palestinians.
If you voted for President Obama, I don’t think it would hurt to note that in your call.
Sen. John McCain has called for former President Bill Clinton to be appointed as a peace envoy to help end this conflict, which is not a bad idea in terms of bringing someone with prestige into the picture (former President Jimmy Carter might even be better but we won’t quibble).
This is surely a terrible humanitarian crisis, but also perhaps an opportunity to seek not just a cease fire, but an end to the blockade of Gaza and a way forward toward a just and lasting peace for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
Other resources from colleagues of Peace Action:
Statement by American Friends Service Committee (Quakers)http://afsc.org/story/afsc-calls-immediate-end-violence-gaza-and-israel
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Commiteehttp://www.adc.org/media/press-releases/2012/november-2012/take-action-help-gaza/
U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupationhttp://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=2948
Jewish Voice for Peacehttp://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/campaigns/take-action-for-gaza
Humbly for Peace,
Last week, we shared (on the Peace Action FaceBook page, not here on the Peace Blog) the devastating Living Under Drones report on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, written by researchers from Stanford and New York University. If you didn’t read it or watch the accompanying video by Brave New Foundation (available at the same link as above and also on our FB page), you ought to. It is a clear indictment of a policy that is earning our government (deserved, I believe) enmity in Pakistan and around the world for the wanton use of armed drones to kill from afar.
CIVIC and the Columbia Law School also have a report posing hard questions for Congress and the Obama Administration titled The Civilian Impact of Drones: Unexamined Costs, Unanswered Questions. The recommendations to policymakers are worth a read.
Colleagues from many U.S. peace groups are in Pakistan right now on a nonviolent solidarity mission to call attention to and demand an end to U.S. drone strikes, which are killing many civilians in the Waziristan region. Follow the delegation at http://droneswatch.org/
Bob Naiman of Just Foreign Policy is on the delegation, and he explains why, as well as analyzes U.S. drone policy, with an article on Huffington Post.
Last but far from least, our good friend Phyllis Bennis was on Democracy Now! yesterday talking about Afghanistan, our country’s longest war (October 7th will mark eleven years since the start of our war there).
I’m guessing this new aspect of U.S. war-making (drone strikes) will not come up in the Presidential debate tonight, especially as the focus will be on domestic issues, but we will need to raise our concerns about U.S. drone policy in every conceivable way going forward.
Stephen Colbert Skewers President Obama Over Drone Strikes and Kill List (and he richly deserves it); Do Not Kill List Urged on White House Website!June 1, 2012
Whatever one thinks of President Obama, his foreign and military policy, and how much worse a Romney presidency might be, the president is in very bad territory with his actions regarding “signature” drone strikes and kill lists. If there aren’t laws against presidents being judge, jury and executioner, there ought to be (I’m no constitutional law professor, like, oh, the president, but I’m pretty sure there are such laws). Congress needs to step in here and do its job. Thanks to Erik Sperling for this.
The Colbert Report did two consecutive segments focusing on the Obama administration’s drone policy last night (a frequent topic for him).
They are definitely worth watching and sharing. The links are below, along with a few quotes. -Erik
Thursday May 31, 2012
Barack Obama’s Righteous Drone Strikes
The government takes out Al Qaeda’s “number two,” and Barack Obama finds an alternative to shutting down Guantanamo Bay.
The Word – Two Birds With One Drone
The Obama administration reasons that anyone in a strike zone is likely Al Qaeda, so no one has to feel guilty about civilian casualties. (03:32) http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/414704/may-31-2012/the-word—two-birds-with-one-drone
“Obama has carried out more than five times as many covert drone strike as George Bush. So what’s behind the president’s righteous kill spree? Could it be that he’s just gunning for another Nobel Peace Prize?”
“Rather than sending prisoners to Gitmo, he is taking the high road by sending them to their maker. As the New York Times put it, Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding to take no prisoners alive. It’s brilliant — he doesn’t have to worry about habeas corpus because after a drone strike, sometimes you can’t even find the corpus.”
“The administration has developed a brilliant system of ensuring that those building engulfing explosions don’t kill non-combatants: they just count all military age males in a strike zone as combatants.”
“This isn’t just the president executing innocent people around the world by fiat, there is an appeals process. The men are considered terrorists unless ‘there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,’ in which case, I assume, there is a legal process that un-kills them.”
Meanwhile, progressive talk show host David Sirota has created a “Do Not Kill List” petition drive on the White House website! Also brilliant! Hopefully Colbert will help publicize it too!