There were pieces of my family all over the road. I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.
Do the American people want to spend their money this way, on drones that kill our women and children?
Miya Jan, an Afghan man who recounts the events after a drone strike pummeled his village and killed his brother, along with his sister-in-law and 18 month old nephew.
American reports claimed 11 people died that day, the overwhelming majority being Taliban militants, while the inhabitants of the village refute saying 14 people died and they were innocent civilians.
Also more from the article, a 19 year old man named Abdul Ghafar, who lost his mother, brother, sister-in-law and nephew in drone strikes, which fly over his home several times a day states:
“The Americans say they are here to protect us. No — they’re here to kill us and terrorize our women and children. These be-pilots fly over our village almost every day. They spy on people and steal their lives. Children are afraid to go to school. People are afraid to stand in a group because they fear these planes will shoot a missile at them.”
"The biggest problem with the Army Values is how they are sloganeered. By simply saying them, we soldiers frequently delude ourselves into thinking they make us more ethical, like they are a talisman. Indeed, they can actually set the stage for unethical action by inspiring moral complacency and allowing us to justify nearly any action that appears legal."
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one
international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the
losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of
the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit
of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new
millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That
many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war
millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench?
How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of
them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun
bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were
wounded or killed in battle?
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This
newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung
dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies.
Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its
attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.
For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I
retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering,
as they are today, I must face it and speak out.
”My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”
In many ways, Nguyen Thi Ly is just like any other 12-year-old girl. She has a lovely smile and is quick to laugh. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She enjoys skipping rope when she plays.
But Ly is also very different from other children. Her head is severely misshapen. Her eyes are unnaturally far apart and permanently askew. She’s been hospitalized with numerous ailments since her birth.
Her mother, 43-year-old Le Thi Thu, has similar deformities and health disorders. Neither of them has ever set foot on a battlefield, but they’re both casualties of war.
Le and her daughter are second- and third-generation victims of dioxin exposure, the result of the U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, when the U.S. Air Force sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over parts of southern Vietnam and along the borders of neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The herbicides were contaminated with dioxin, a deadly compound that remains toxic for decades and causes birth defects, cancer and other illnesses.
To this day, dioxin continues to poison the land and the people. The United States has never accepted responsibility for these victims – it denies that Agent Orange is responsible for diseases among Vietnamese that are accepted as Agent Orange-caused among American veterans – and it’s unclear when this chain of misery will end.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama will meet with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang at the White House, only the third meeting between chief executives of the two countries since Vietnam and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1995.
The two countries share many contemporary concerns. The White House says Obama plans to discuss cooperation on regional issues and trade, plus other U.S. priorities such as climate change and human rights. The two countries share a strong common interest in countering China, which has become increasingly assertive over potentially oil-rich areas of the South China Sea.
Many Vietnamese say it’s time for the United States to do more to address the issue of Agent Orange and its victims, so that the last tragic chapter of the Vietnam War finally can be closed.
LTMC: Images like this largely inform my politics when it comes to foreign policy. When one is forced to bear witness to the awful wages of U.S. foreign policy, it is difficult to maintain the sense that America’s influence in the world is, on the whole, benevolent.
My political crucible was forged during the Bush II presidency. My opposition to the War in Iraq was galvanized when I saw a picture of Ali Ismail Abbas with both of his arms blown off by an American missile. I saw the grimace of unimaginable pain on his face, and the horrible, black, skin-charring burns covering most of his torso. My life was changed the day I saw the terrible seeds of destruction that American military intervention in Iraq had sewn.
And it was all for a lie. Ali Ismail Abbas lost his arms and had his skin melted off his body for a lie.
Whatever good our invasion of the Iraq may have done, it unquestionably destroyed the life of that boy. An American bomb killed his entire family, blew off both of his arms, and melted his body with jet fuel bought and paid for with tax dollars that came from the American public. I cannot look on that image of Ali Ismail Abbas without saying to myself, over and over, “my government did these things.”
And that is the thought that runs through my head whenever I read these stories. My government did these things.
This—this is the country I’m supposed to be proud of. The one that killed Ali Ismail Abbas’s family and blew off both of his arms. The one that rendered generations of Vietnamese wretched from Agent Orange. The one that dropped two hydrogen bombs on Japan. A simple google search will reveal countless other atrocities committed in the name of the U.S. national interest. To list them all here seems almost inane.
This is why I do not believe that America is “#1,” or “the best country on earth.” That is not to say that I take the freedom and relative security with which I am able to live my life for granted. I understand that there are countless other places on earth I could have been born where my life would have been Hobbesian at best.
But it is precisely because my government has a penchant for making the lives of residents of other countries worse who are already living a Hobbesian existence that I cannot feel the unflagging pride towards the U.S. that others feel. So I absolutely appreciate the freedoms I can take advantage of. And there’s much about America that I do love. But virtues do not excuse sins: they co-inhabit with them. And when atrocities are committed in my name, I have a responsibility to bear witness to them and oppose them. Furthermore, I have a responsibility not to blindly praise the abstract idea of a nation whose political narcissism has resulted in an empathy deficit towards other cultures so large that it has resulted in untold damage to human communities around the globe who have been negatively impacted by the U.S. government’s hubris and carelessness.
On the anniversary of 9/11, we should recommit ourselves to ensuring that we don’t allow fear to determine our public policy choices. We should learn the unmistakable lesson of the past 12 years: that trading liberty for more security is a false choice that leads us down a dark path. As Justice Brennan said in 1988:
For as adamant as my country has been about civil liberties during peacetime, it has a long history of failing to preserve civil liberties when it perceived its national security threatened. This series of failures is particularly frustrating in that it appears to result not from informed and rational decisions that protecting civil liberties would expose the United States to unacceptable security risks, but rather from the episodic nature of our security crises. After each perceived security crises ended, the United States has remorsefully realized that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. but it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis came along.
Let us recommit ourselves to not making this error again. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
It appears that Russia and the Syrian regime have made an agreement to allow Syria to transfer possession of all its chemical weapons to a third party in order to avoid American military intervention. The agreement was based on remarks made by John Kerry at a recent press conference:
Speaking in London next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that perhaps the military strike around which the administration has been painfully circling for weeks could be avoided if Bashar al-Assad can “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that.”
The fact that Kerry immediately followed with, “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously,” didn’t seem to bother anyone. (Probably because they were focusing on his other slip-up: calling the promised strikes “unbelievably small.”)
The Russians immediately jumped on the impromptu proposal, calling Kerry to check if he was serious before going live with their proposal to lean on Syria. An hour later, they trotted out Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Mouallem, who said he too was down with the proposal, which was a strange way to get the Syrians to finally admit they even had chemical weapons to begin with. Before long, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the English, and the French were all on board, too.
While the Obama administration claims that it is taking the proposal “very seriously,” it still plans to seek Congressional authorization for a military strike in Syria, despite the fact that Russia and Syria just agreed to do precisely that which the U.S. Secretary of State said would vitiate U.S. grounds for military intervention. Granted, it’s looking like Congress really wants to endorse the Russian deal.
So here’s a question: if the Obama administration scoffs at this deal, wouldn’t that damage U.S. credibility more than enforcing the so-called “Red line?” The top diplomat of the United States has publicly stated conditions that would halt the need for U.S. military intervention, and the Assad regime appears poised to meet those conditions with support from several other countries and U.N. officials. How is a failure to hold up this inadvertent bargain less damaging to U.S. than making sure we follow through on our threat to bomb the country?
Is it a perfect solution? Of course not:
[The] handful of chemical weapons storage and mixing facilities [in Syria] are just the ones we know about, and, now that the U.S. has been loudly beating the war drum for weeks, Assad has been moving his troops and weapons around. If we thought getting to “beyond a reasonable doubt” with the intelligence on the August 21 chemical attack was hard, imagine us getting to “every single bit.”
Few people expect that the Assad regime is going to willingly hand over all of its chemical weapons—which is why the process should be carried out with a multi-national inspection team (like maybe the U.N.?). But as the article mentions, the international community already did this with Gadaffi in Libya with his “WMD” stockpile. Of course, there are additional factors that make disarmament in Syria more problematic (like an on-going civil war).
But the question here is not whether this diplomatic solution is flawless. The question is whether it is a more effective—and less damaging—solution to the use of chemical weapons in Syria than military intervention. And there is little reason to believe that firing a few cruise missiles into Damascus is going to deprive the Assad regime of its chemical weapons stores anymore so than a third-party transfer agreement. With a military strike, there are no guarantees that we’re going to deprive the regime of chemical weapons. With Russia’s diplomatic solution, we know that we will at least deprive the regime of some of its chemical weapons, meaning we know with 100% certainty that those weapons will never be used on Syrians by the regime—or anyone else who gets their hands on them, for that matter.
If the Obama administration really cares about saving lives in Syria, it should agree to this diplomatic solution. It will remove at least some of the chemical weapons from Syria, and prevent those weapons from ever being used on civilian populations. To press forward on a military intervention in spite of this agreement is to reject this opportunity to remove chemical weapons from the battlefield in Syria, and save a few prospective lives that probably won’t be saved by military intervention.
The White House has shown a select group of senators graphic video footage of victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, presumably in an attempt to convince them that U.S. military intervention is needed.
First, these images are irrelevant to the policy question being debated. Literally nobody is contesting that atrocities which shock the conscience of ordinary people have been committed in Syria. The question is whether these atrocities will be made better or worse by U.S. military intervention. All this video contributes to that debate is to incite the passions of the senators, so that their desire for retribution overwhelms their sense of reason, and distorts their ability to discern whether the type of retribution being considered by the White House is an effective answer to these atrocities.
Second, the selective use of these images is pretty shameless. Are the videos of these chemical weapons victims really worse than this?(Warning: Linked video footage is extremely graphic). Chemical weapons are horrible, but ammo is also cheap. I personally think that an image of a child with half their face blown off by a machine gun to be equally revolting as the image of a child convulsing to death from exposure to deadly chemical agents. Your mileage may vary.
But none of these concerns are present in the White House’s selectively exhibited video. Which makes sense, because the video is a red herring. It literally adds nothing to the debate except to hammer home how awful the atrocities are. Yes, absolutely f***ing awful things are happening in Syria. The question is whether military intervention will make conditions better or worse, for both current and future generations of Syrians. This video does nothing to answer that question. It merely distracts policy makers by inflaming their passions and encouraging them to make the decision to go to war based on their emotional reaction to a video, rather than prudence and careful consideration.