On Wisconsin! Another Op-Ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, This One on Drones

March 28, 2013

Peace Action Wisconsin has been doing some slammin’ media work lately, here’s another op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this one on drones, by PA WI board member Conor McMullen.

After years of slumber, Congress is finally starting to wake up to its responsibilities to question the legality, the wisdom and the morality of the administration’s officially and absurdly “secret war” using drone strikes to try to kill alleged members of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, far from any legally recognizable battlefield.

When President Barack Obama nominated John Brennan to head the CIA, which has been carrying out the officially “secret” drone strike policy, a bipartisan group of 11 senators wrote to the administration and said: You need to hand over to Congress the secret memos written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that purport to justify the legality of the drone strike policy, which we have been seeking for more than a year. If you don’t hand over the memos, they said, Brennan’s nomination could be in trouble.

As a result of the threat, the administration finally shared some of the memos with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which are supposed to oversee the CIA. The administration still has not shared the memos with the Judiciary Committees, which are supposed to oversee the Justice Department, which produced the memos, even though Attorney General Eric Holder admitted in Senate testimony that access to the memos was necessary to understand the policy.

Some members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have threatened to issue subpoenas for the drone strike memos if the administration doesn’t hand them over, but they have not yet followed through. Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is a member of the House Judiciary Committee; he could be doing more to press the administration to release the memos to the committee.

When the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Brennan if the administration was claiming that it had the legal authority to conduct drone strikes in the United States, Brennan answered: “This administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.” That was clearly a dodge of the question.

The question wasn’t about what the administration intended to do. The question was about what legal authority the administration was claiming. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has claimed that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks, legalized a global war without borders in every corner of Earth. This claim logically begs the question: If the war is legal everywhere on Earth, does that include the U.S.? If not, why not? If it does not include the U.S., what exactly does it include?

Brennan’s subsequent confirmation shouldn’t mean the end of congressional scrutiny of this policy, and it won’t. On April 16, the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding its first ever public hearing on the drone strike policy. This subcommittee is chaired by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, and the hearing is expected to include witnesses who can testify to the reality of who is being targeted by drone strikes and who is being killed.

Until now, the administration has publicly claimed that only top terrorist leaders are being targeted and that civilian casualties have been extremely rare. But the record of independent reporting suggests that the standards for targeting have been extremely loose – something along the lines of “military age male in an area controlled by insurgents who looks like a terrorist” – and that civilian casualties have been quite common, with around 20% of the killings from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 being civilians.

Progressive Students of Milwaukee and Peace Action Wisconsin are sponsoring a public forum Thursday on the drone strike policy. We’ll be discussing what is known about the policy from independent reporting and what the public can do to help bring this policy into transparent compliance with U.S. and international law.

Conor McMullen is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a member of Progressive Students of Milwaukee.


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

Segment (2:02):

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.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/414703/may-31-2012/barack-obama-s-righteous-drone-strikes

Segment (3:32):

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

Quotes:

“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!


Peace Group Warns Obama to Reconsider His Plan in Afghanistan

March 27, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3/27/09

CONTACT: Barbra Bearden

Ph: 301.565.4050 ext. 330 Cell: 617.240.7253
bbearden@peace-action.org

Or

Paul Kawika Martin

Ph: 301.565.4050 ext. 316 Cell: 951.217.7285

pmartin@peace-action.org

(Washington, DC) Today President Obama announced his plan to send upwards of 20,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Peace Action began organizing grassroots activists and lobbying against the escalation in late February.

Peace Action organized 19 other national organizations to petition Congressional Representatives to sign a letter to the President asking him to reconsider the escalation. The bipartisan letter signed by six Republicans and eight Democrats states in part, “The 2001 authorization to use military force in Afghanistan allowed military action ‘to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.’ Continuing to fight a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan does not appear to us to be in keeping with these directives and an escalation may actually harm U.S. security.”

This poorly conceived strategy continues failed Middle East policies where military engagement serves as the primary diplomatic tool. The war weary American public does not support an escalation of the U.S. presence and neither should the otherwise popular U.S. President.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported on Peace Action protests across the country March 20th, “Marge Manke, 72, of Louisville, said she is a Quaker and member of the Peace Action Community and has been against the Iraq war since before it started. She also opposes the war in Afghanistan and held a sign saying: “Dear President Obama, Don’t let Afghanistan be your Vietnam.”

Dozens of national organizations are joining Peace Action in a call for local protests in reaction to Obama’s statement between April 6th-9th and a coordinated call-in day to the White House scheduled for Tuesday, March 31st.

“It’s a shame President Obama believes he can pursue the same militaristic strategy as his predecessors and produce a different result,” said Kevin Martin, Executive Director of Peace Action. He continued, “While President Obama has made some good statements on increasing diplomacy and economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the emphasis is clearly on military operations. John F. Kennedy was in a comparable situation when he was elected. He chose to escalate then as well, and the consequences of his decision left our country mired in an unwinnable war.”

The President should de-escalate our military presence in Afghanistan keeping regional stability and human rights at the forefront of any diplomatic talks. There is a political solution to instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan; but, that solution cannot be reached while the U.S. and NATO impose military dominance. According to a RAND Corporation report, since 1968, only seven percent of all terrorist groups that have ended were taken down by military force. In contrast, 43 percent gave up terrorism as they were integrated into the political process.

The U.S. and international community should increase funding for Afghan-led humanitarian aid, development work, and landmine clean up. An ABC news poll at the end of 2008 found that only 18 percent of Afghans support an increase in military presence. Much of the strife among the Afghan people stems from the use of controversial Predator drone and air strikes as well as nightly raids in private homes.

Our current presence in Afghanistan costs the American tax payer more than $2 billion per month. The proposed plan for Afghanistan would increase that figure by 60 percent this year. When asked about the increased costs Martin said, “Here in the U.S., Obama’s escalation, and the continuing occupation of Iraq, threatens the president’s, and our country’s, urgent economic and domestic agenda.”

It is clear that U.S. troops cannot sustain any more extended deployments. According to CNN the suicide rate for U.S. troops has surpassed that of the general population for the first time since Vietnam. The occurrence of suicide is highly correlated with more than three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Martin concluded, “Nothing indicates a military strategy will provide stability in Afghanistan. There is only one thing certain about the impact of this escalation more death, destruction, and misery.”

###

Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and affiliates and chapters in 28 states. Dating to the founding of the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy in 1957, Peace Action works for the abolition of nuclear weapons, cuts in military spending in order to fund human and environmental needs, and a new U.S. foreign policy based on international cooperation and human rights. http://www.peace-action.org/

Editors Notes:

Congressional Letter to President Obama: http://www.peace-action.org/Afghanistan/sign_on_letter.html#endorsing

Louisville Courier-Journal: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20090320/NEWS01/903200340/1008/rss01

RAND Report: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9351/index1.html

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/26/AR2009032602135.html?referrer=emailarticle

ABC Poll: http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/story?id=6787686&page=1

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/09/09/army.suicides/index.html

Carnegie Report: http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=22619&prog=zgp&proj=zsa


Bipartisan Effort to Stop the Surge in Afghanistan

March 9, 2009

UPDATE:  THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO FRIDAY MARCH 13th.  CALL YOUR CONGRESS PERSON TODAY!

Today our leaders are under tremendous pressure to make major changes in Washington. They are moving quickly to correct the mistakes of previous administrations in the economy, in Iraq, and in government transparency. The Obama administration, however, seems content to change very little about our foreign policy in .

Republican Representatives Republican Representatives Ron E. Paul (R-TX 14th) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC 3rd) initiated a bipartisan letter to the President expressing concerns about his decision to surge in Afghanistan. The 2001 authorization to use military force in Afghanistan allowed military action ‘to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.’ Continuing to fight a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan does not appear, to us, to be in keeping with these directives and an escalation may actually harm US security… We are also concerned that any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan.”

Please call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (they can tell you who your Representative is) and ask for the Foreign Affairs Legislative Aid. Explain to them that you are a constituent and would like your Representative to sign Rep. Walter Jones letter asking the President to reconsider troop escalation in Afghanistan. Call now as the deadline for congressional signatures is Noon Eastern this Wednesday, March 11th. Comment here to tell us how your call went.

Democratic leaders Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA 6th) and
Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH 10th) also signed on with the encouragement of Peace Action and our coalition of non-governmental organizations. Paul Kawika Martin our Organizing, Policy, and PAC Director organized 17 groups to put pressure on Congress including: September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Pax Christi USA, Win Without War, American Conservative Defense Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, New Internationalism project, Institute for Policy Studies, and NETWORK a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

These partners have lobbied hard to prevent increased violence in Afghanistan. Whether opposing nighttime drone strikes in Afghani and Pakistani villages or speaking out in support of diplomatic and humanitarian aid, they are the most vocal opponents to the continuation of failed policies in the Middle East. While other groups have been criticized by the Progressive community for not taking a stand against a troop surge in Afghanistan, Peace Action has emerged as a leader on the issue.

Support our efforts to promote new solutions for Afghanistan. Call your Representatives today and tell them to sign on to this letter to the President before Wednesday March 11th. We’ll send you updates on this, and much more, as America struggles to find a proper path in Afghanistan.

P.S. Have you signed our petition to stop the surge into Afghanistan? If not, please take this important action. If you’ve already signed, don’t forget to tell your friends.


Iraqis Protest SOFA

November 24, 2008

No Soldier Left Behind is a campaign promoting a comprehensive plan to end the war in Iraq and improve the security and well being of Iraqis and Americans. This means making truly effective investments in political, economic and diplomatic strategies. But our first step must be to bring every soldier home, and end the failed occupation of Iraq.

SIGN NOW

Our Vision

More than five years into the war, Iraqis still lack basic services like electricity and running water, and the fractured government has made little progress toward political reconciliation. Meanwhile, Americans are investing billions of dollars in a failed policy while facing our own economic downturn. The war in Iraq has not delivered on promises of increased security and stability for Iraqis or Americans.

We call for a strategic overhaul of the American approach in Iraq, and urge the US government to invest wisely in a truly comprehensive plan for stability. That plan includes regional diplomacy, funding for reconstruction and humanitarian aid, as well as international peacekeeping — if the Iraqi people want it. But the first critical step towards stability is to bring every soldier home, as well as private US contractors.

This year offers key opportunities. The presidential elections have energized new voters and activists. The Iraq war promises to be a central issue in congressional and presidential elections, and support in the American public for a withdrawal of US troops remains high.

We are working to ensure that everywhere members of Congress and candidates turn, they are getting our message loud and clear from the very voters they need to court. We aim to make sure the men and women who represent us in DC understand that changing course in Iraq is their job #1.


Oil Addiction

July 30, 2008

An informational video from Good Magazine about America’s dependency on oil.


Journeyman Pictures: The New Great Game – Afghanistan

July 21, 2008

A documentary about the current (but often forgotten) war in Afghanistan. Troops on the ground now call the conflict, “The New Great Game” because of the constant struggle for power over the region, which traces its history back to the Cold War.

Not only are American troops attacked by the Taliban on a daily basis, but Pakistan is unable to shut down terrorist operations coming from the edges of their borders. Because of the continued violence, many are calling for a increase in troops, or at least a redeployment from Iraq to Afghanistan.


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