Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New SWAT Documents Detail the Brutal Reality of U.S. Police Militarization

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Massachusetts SWAT teams made headlines last year when they refused to grant a public information request to the ACLU, claiming they were “private companies” and, therefore, exempt from such inquiry. The ACLU subsequently sued, and last month, it received access to the documents it requested. The documents confirm that broad overreach, unnecessary and overblown tactics, and an eagerness to attack are increasingly present in law enforcement establishments around the country.
The NEMLEC, or Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, encompasses multiple SWAT teams across that region of the state. According to the documents it tried to suppress, NEMLEC conducted 79 SWAT raids from August 2012 to June 2014. Though the NEMLEC (along with SWAT teams around the country) claims SWAT teams are only used for “active shooters, armed barricaded subjects, hostage takers, and terrorists,” the data reveals a different story.
Though the NEMLEC touts its operations as reserved for “critical” situations, only one of the 79 incidents actually involved a terrorist attack: SWAT teams were deployed to assist in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In that same 2012 to 2014 time period, there were noactive shooter situations, no hostage situations, and only 10 cases of barricaded subjects.
According to The Intercept, half of the remaining cases were for everyday policing activities, including “executing warrants, dealing with expected rioting after a 2013 Red Sox World Series game, and providing security for a Dalai Lama lecture.
That leaves 37 of 79 raids that were either drug-related, initiated by local police, or responses to suicidal individuals. The use of SWAT teams for drug raids has been widely criticized as superfluous and outside the duties of SWAT. Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, who specializes in police militarization, told The Intercept that
It is really significant to remember that SWAT teams prior to the 1980s drug war were confined strictly to reactive, dangerous situations,…But in our research today we find that over 80 percent of the time police departments are using SWAT teams for proactive cases. These deployments are generally targeted at low-level drug dealers … and usually they’re just doing it for collecting evidence — not necessarily to even arrest a well-known, armed, dangerous drug dealer.
Of the 21 drug raids conducted, only 5 yielded actual contraband, according to the NEMLEC reports. They averaged 36 officers and more than half were conducted in the middle of the night, while 14 were granted judicial authorization for “no knock” entry—meaning SWAT agents were allowed to break the door open to enter. These methods are exceptionally controversial and have resulted in countless cases of needless violence, injury, and death—for both subjects of raids and the officers themselves.
Further, other uses of SWAT teams are unwise at best and dangerous at worst. Associate Professor of Criminology at Merrimack College, Tom Nolan, said, “It’s certainly counter-productive to have a fully-armed militarized SWAT team respond to potentially suicidal suspects who are looking for ways out like suicide-by-cop situations…I don’t know why you couldn’t just have someone respond who knows negotiation strategy techniques, without the tanks and the body armor.” Nolan is also a former lieutenant with the Boston Police Department.
Additionally, while SWAT teams often stress the extreme dangers of their jobs, of the 33 search or arrest warrant raids conducted from 2012-2014, only four encountered firearms—calling into question the  justification for such massive police operations.
In one case, a disabled man in a wheelchair was accused of shooting at a woman’s car over a parking space dispute. A 28-person SWAT team was called to his home, bringing along with it a Bearcat (armored vehicle) as well as “tasers, long arms, a shotgun, 40mm less-lethal rounds, shields and battering rams.” When they were let into the man’s home by someone he knew, they found him struggling to get out of bed and gave him “the opportunity to get dressed and remove his catheter.”
The ACLU report confirms past analyses that indicate police militarization and SWAT teams are too heavily armed, too easily enabled, and all but exempt from accountability.

The Anglo-American empire is preparing for resource war

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Last week, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff released the new National Military Strategy of the United States of America, 2015.
The report’s main theme is that “globalisation” and “demographics” are pushing forward trends that are undermining US military superiority, including its capability to sustain “international order”. It sets out how the US military intends to keep ahead of those trends.
Although imbued with flowery technocratic language, when read closely in the context of recent history, the document is ultimately a blueprint to shore-up a dying empire, and reveals much about the reigning ideology of US military supremacism.

Challenges

“The United States is the world’s strongest nation, enjoying unique advantages in technology, energy, alliances and partnerships, and demographics,” the document observes. “However, these advantages are being challenged.”
The report notes that globalisation is catalysing “economic development” while simultaneously “increasing societal tensions, competition for resources, and political instability”.
Of course, the strategy document does not mention that since 1980, under the age of neoliberal globalisation, even as GDP per head has risen, the “vast majority of countries” have experienced a “sharp increase in income inequality,” as documented by a flagship 2014 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In the wake of the new era of slow growth and brutal austerity ushered in after the 2008 global banking collapse, the risk of the dire economic climate sparking civil and political unrest is increasing. But what the document also misses is that growing risk is itself a symptom of the uneven “economic development” that constitutes GDP “growth”.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff document goes on to highlight the danger of “shifting demographics”. In the Middle East and Africa, the document warns that “Youth populations are rapidly growing” amidst an environment of “resource shortages, struggling economies, and deep social fissures”.
In Europe and north Asia, the demographic challenge comes in the form of aging populations, set against a declining labour force that some see as a potential economic time-bomb.
More generally, the document flags the general risk of immigration from rural to urban areas, and “across borders and seas,” which is fuelling “cultural differences, alienation and disease” and “placing strain on nations that receive them”.
Unsurprisingly, the document fails to grasp that much of these problems are entirely symptomatic of the current structure of global capitalism, dominated by a tiny minority of transnational banks and corporations which are dependent on fossil fuels to prop-up debt-creation as an instrument of profiteering for the few.
Relatedly, while recognising the persistence of “resource shortages” and “competition for resources,” the document does not once recognise the role of climate change in accelerating these problems.
To some extent, that is to be expected given that this is a military strategy document, but it highlights the problem of applying military thinking to address challenges that are not, in reality, military in origin.

Universal values

The age of empire did not end with the collapse of the old colonial order, but continued in a new form. Since the end of the Second World War, the most powerful nations have used their overwhelming military and economic superiority against former colonies to forcibly absorb them into the orbit of a US-dominated economic order.
A hint of the imperial contours of the document emerge in its reference to US national interests, defined as follows:
“… the security of the United States, its citizens, and US allies and partners; a strong, innovative, and growing US economy in an open international economic
system that promotes opportunity and prosperity; respect for universal values at home and around the world; and a rules-based international order advanced
by US leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges”.
At first glance, this all sounds great, until we take a glimpse at the nature of the “open international economic system” that the US seeks to protect, and the “allies and partners” that are integral to this “rules-based international order” subordinate to “US leadership”.
Across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, US allies and partners consist almost entirely of brutal dictatorships, monarchies, and corrupt regimes engaged in systematic human rights abuses against their own populations.
“In the Middle East, we remain fully committed to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge. We also are helping other vital partners in that region increase their defences, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, and Pakistan.”
The US, in other words, is committed to supporting Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories in violation of international law and countless UN resolutions – such as the latest UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning  Israeli war crimes against innocent civilians during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza - which is perhaps why 41 nations supported the resolution and the US, alone, was against it.
“The lack of support by the United States - the only state to vote against shows a disappointing unwillingness to challenge impunity for serious crimes during the Gaza conflict and to stand up for the victims of war crimes during the conflict,” noted Human Rights Watch.
As for Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Pakistan, senior US military and government officials themselves concede that these states are complicit in financing the very “violent extremist organisations (VEO)” the US now claims it is intent on destroying.
Egypt and Bahrain are also engaged in egregious abuses of their own populations, all in the name of fighting “terrorism”.
Yet this is packaged as supporting “respect for universal values at home and abroad”.
In this context, international norms are used to beat others over the head – not to regulate the conduct of the US itself, or its allies.

Empire of networks

Military power is seen throughout the document as integral to US leadership of the international order, sanitised by claiming its objective is to maintain “international security and stability” - which should be read as security and stability for predatory US-dominated global finance capitalism.
“We will preserve our alliances, expand partnerships, maintain a global stabilising presence, and conduct training, exercises, security cooperation activities, and military-to-military engagement,” the US Joint Chiefs promise. “The presence of US military forces in key locations around the world underpins the international order and provides opportunities to engage with other countries while positioning forces to respond to crises.”
There is a by-product to this strategy not mentioned in the document, but obvious nonetheless from examples like Egypt - popular revolutions that overthrow existing regimes allied to the US, no matter how dictatorial or abusive, are largely seen as a threat to the US-dominated order.
The overarching goal, then, of maintaining this network of allies and partners, supported by US military forces, is to protect not “universal values” of democracy and human rights, but very simply, the transnational flows of global capital:
“The presence of US military forces in key locations around the world underpins the security of our allies and partners, provides stability to enhance economic growth and regional integration, and positions the Joint Force to execute emergency actions in response to a crisis.”

Risk of interstate war

The risk of a US war with another state is low “but growing”. The document sees four main countries as threatening US domination of the international order: Russia, Iran, North Korea and China.
Russia is accused of conducting a “proxy war” in Ukraine, although the US role in interfering in Ukrainian politics, propping up the breakaway state, and fostering the rise of neo-Nazi militias is conveniently ignored. So are longstanding US efforts to bring Ukraine, a major gas transshipment route, into the orbit of Euro-American power, and to access untapped regional oil and gas resources.
Iran is accused of pursuing nuclear weapons technology, contrary to the repeated findings of the US intelligence community, and of sponsoring “terrorism” in “Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen”. Israeli war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon, the US invasion of Iraq, US-backed proxy war in Syria involving support for Islamist rebels that spawned the “Islamic State” and the US-backed Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, on the other hand, are not terrorism, but part of the US-backed efforts to promote “universal values”.
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is condemned, but the backdrop to its paranoia is ignored. During the Korean War (1950-53), US bombing killed up to a third (around 3 million people) of the North Korean population. The US was also the first during the war to install nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. The ongoing US military presence in the region, including nuclear-armed submarines, and regular military exercises simulating an invasion of North Korea hardly help to ameliorate tensions.
“China’s actions are adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region,” according to the US strategy document, referring to China’s “aggressive land reclamation efforts that will allow it to position military forces astride vital international sea lanes”.
The South China Sea, which contains untapped oil and gas resources and is also significant for fisheries, is the annual route for $5 trillion of global shipping. In total, the sea contains 11 billion barrels of oil, and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proven or probable reserves. The US Geological Survey (USGS) has estimated further undiscovered resources might exist, including 12 billion barrels of oil and 160 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – about a fifth of which could be found in contested areas.
China’s territorial claims are challenged by several US allies in East Asia, namely, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan – all identified in the document as part of the US-backed “order”. US interests are, as usual, not about peace and democracy, but about rolling back China’s sphere of influence and maximising access to the resources of the South China Sea for the US and its allies.

Oil, food and water

Under the guise of promoting peace and stability, the new military strategy is in fact simply a blueprint for sustaining global US hegemony in the face of the rising geopolitical influence of its major rivals. Control of resources remains a core factor in its considerations.
The role of resources is also flagged up by the Global Strategic Trends report published last summer by the British Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Defence Concepts and Doctrines Centre (DCDC).
The report, which feeds into the recently announced UK Strategic Defence and Security Review, warned that “Demand for resources of all kinds is likely to increase out to 2045, as the world’s population rises to around nine billion.” In particular, while increasing demand for “more food and water” will increase strain on the environment “some countries are likely to experience significant declines in agricultural productivity”.
The document added that: “Water shortages are likely to be particularly acute in many areas, exacerbated by increasing demand and climate change.”
The Middle East and North Africa remain pivotal to these concerns. The report noted that: “US involvement in the Middle East is unlikely to alter significantly, as the region will almost certainly continue to have a significant bearing on global stability and security.”
Apart from sustaining longstanding commitments to regional allies “not least Israel,” the report highlighted the region’s centrality to stabilising global oil prices: “The price of oil in the Middle East affects the price of oil produced in the US, meaning that any serious disruption in the former could have a knock-on effect on the global economy.”
Climate change in the form of increasing droughts and heatwaves will exacerbate already entrenched “socio-economic factors, including disparity in wealth, gender inequality and poor education,” which are “the underlying causes of much of the unrest and sometimes violent conflict within MENA”.
Yet neither the US nor the British strategies offer any interest or recognition of the need to address those “underlying causes,” which are rooted in the very structures of the “international order” the US and Britain are committed to protecting at any cost.

Pentagon Concludes America Not Safe Unless It Conquers The World

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The Pentagon has released its “National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2015,” June 2015.http://news.usni.org/2015/07/02/document-2015-u-s-national-military-strategy [1]
The document announces a shift in focus from terrorists to “state actors” that “are challenging international norms.” It is important to understand what these words mean. Governments that challenge international norms are sovereign countries that pursue policies independently of Washington’s policies. These “revisionist states” are threats, not because they plan to attack the US, which the Pentagon admits neither Russia nor China intend, but because they are independent. In other words, the norm is dependence on Washington.
Be sure to grasp the point: The threat is the existence of sovereign states, whose independence of action makes them “revisionist states.” In other words, their independence is out of step with the neoconservative Uni-power doctrine that declares independence to be the right of Washington alone. Washington’s History-given hegemony precludes any other country being independent in its actions.

The Pentagon’s report defines the foremost “revisionist states” as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. The focus is primarily on Russia.Washington hopes to co-op China, despite the “tension to the Asia-Pacific region” that China’s defense of its sphere of influence, a defense “inconsistent with international law” (this from Washington, the great violator of international law), by turning over what remains of the American consumer market to China. It is not yet certain that Iran has escaped the fate that Washington imposed on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Ukraine, and by complicity Palestine.

The Pentagon report is sufficiently audacious in its hypocrisy, as all statements from Washington are, to declare that Washington and its vassals “support the established institutions and processes dedicated to preventing conflict, respecting sovereignty, and furthering human rights.” This from the military of a government that has invaded, bombed, and overthrown 11 governments since the Clinton regime and is currently working to overthrow governments in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina.

In the Pentagon document, Russia is under fire for not acting “in accordance with international norms,” which means Russia is not following Washington’s leadership.

In other words, this is a bullshit report written by neocons in order to foment war with Russia.

Nothing else can be said about the Pentagon report, which justifies war and more war. Without war and conquests, Americans are not safe.

Washington’s view toward Russia is the same as Cato the Elder’s view toward Carthage. Cato the Elder finished his every speech on any subject in the Roman Senate with the statement “Carthage must be destroyed.”

This report tells us that war with Russia is our future unless Russia agrees to become a vassal state like every country in Europe, and Canada, Australia, Ukraine, and Japan. Otherwise, the neoconservatives have decided that it is impossible for Americans to tolerate living with a country that makes decisions independently of Washington. If American cannot be The Uni-Power dictating to the world, better that we are all dead. At least that will show the Russians.

Are Big Banks Using Derivatives To Suppress Bullion Prices?

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We have explained on a number of occasions how the Federal Reserve’s agents, the bullion banks (principally JPMorganChase, HSBC, and Scotia) sell uncovered shorts (“naked shorts”) on the Comex (gold futures market) in order to drive down an otherwise rising price of gold. By dumping so many uncovered short contracts into the futures market, an artificial increase in “paper gold” is created, and this increase in supply drives down the price.

This manipulation works because the hedge funds, the main purchasers of the short contracts, do not intend to take delivery of the gold represented by the contracts, settling instead in cash. This means that the banks who sold the uncovered contracts are never at risk from their inability to cover contracts in gold. At any given time, the amount of gold represented by the paper gold contracts (“open interest’) can exceed the actual amount of physical gold available for delivery, a situation that does not occur in other futures markets.
In other words, the gold and silver futures markets are not a place where people buy and sell gold and silver. These markets are places where people speculate on price direction and where hedge funds use gold futures to hedge other bets according to the various mathematical formulas that they use. The fact that bullion prices are determined in this paper, speculative market, and not in real physical markets where people sell and acquire physical bullion, is the reason the bullion banks can drive down the price of gold and silver even though the demand for the physical metal is rising.

For example last Tuesday the US Mint announced that it was sold out of the American Eagle one ounce silver coin. It is a contradiction of the law of supply and demand that demand is high, supply is low, and the price is falling. Such an economic anomaly can only be explained by manipulation of prices in a market where supply can be created by printing paper contracts.

Obviously fraud and price manipulation are at work, but no heads roll. The Federal Reserve and US Treasury support this fraud and manipulation, because the suppression of precious metal prices protects the value and status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency and prevents gold and silver from fulfilling their role as the transmission mechanism that warns of developing financial and economic troubles. The suppression of the rising gold price suppresses the warning signal and permits the continuation of financial market bubbles and Washington’s ability to impose sanctions on other world powers that are disadvantaged by not being a reserve currency.

It has come to our attention that over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives also play a role in price suppression and simultaneously serve to provide long positions for the bullion banks that disguise their manipulation of prices in the futures market.

OTC derivatives are privately structured contracts created by the secretive large banks. They are a paper, or derivative, form of an underlying financial instrument or commodity. Little is known about them. Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation (CFTC) during the Clinton regime said, correctly, that the derivatives needed to be regulated. However, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary and Deputy Secretary Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Arthur Levitt, all de facto agents of the big banks, convinced Congress to prevent the CFTC from regulating OTC derivatives.

The absence of regulation means that information is not available that would indicate the purposes for which the banks use these derivatives. When JPMorgan was investigated for its short silver position on Comex, the bank convinced the CFTC that its short position on Comex was a hedge against a long position via OTC derivatives. In other words, JPMorgan used its OTC derivatives to shield its attack on the silver price in the futures market.

During 2015 the attack on bullion prices has intensified, driving the prices lower than they have been for years. During the first quarter of this year there was a huge upward spike in the quantity of precious metal derivatives.

If these were long positions hedging the banks’ Comex shorts, why did the price of gold and silver decline?
More evidence of manipulation comes from the continuing fall in the prices of gold and silver as set in paper future markets, although demand for the physical metals continues to rise even to the point that the US Mint has run out of silver coins to sell. Uncertainties arising from the Greek No vote increase systemic uncertainty. The normal response would be rising, not falling, bullion prices.

The circumstantial evidence is that the unregulated OTC derivatives in gold and silver are not really hedges to short positions in Comex but are themselves structured as an additional attack on precious metal prices.

If this supposition is correct, it indicates that seven years of bailing out the big banks that control the Federal Reserve and US Treasury at the expense of the US economy has threatened the US dollar to the extent that the dollar must be protected at all cost, including US regulatory tolerance of illegal activity to suppress gold and silver prices.

America’s Endless Air Wars. Extensive US and Allied Aerial Bombardments across the Middle East

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Like his predecessors, President Obama is relying heavily on aerial bombardment to wage war across the Mideast, but the vague notions of who is the enemy and the horrific civilian casualties have continued to generate an endless supply of new enemies, writes Nicolas J S Davies.
U.S. Central Command’s latest figures on its aerial bombardment of Iraq and Syria reveal that this is the heaviest U.S. bombing campaign since President George W. Bush’s “Shock and Awe” campaign against Iraq in 2003. In the campaign’s first ten months from August 2014 to May 2015, the U.S. and its allies conducted 15,245 air strikes, or an average of 51 air strikes per day.
This is only the latest campaign in a 15-year global air war, largely ignored by U.S. media, in which the United States and its allies have conducted at least 118,000 air strikes against other countries since 2000. The 47,000 air strikes conducted in the 6 ½ years since President Barack Obama took office are only a small reduction from the 70,000 in eight years of the Bush administration, and the current campaign will easily make up that deficit if it continues at this intensity until Obama leaves office.
Afghanistan has been the most heavily bombed country, with at least 61,000 air strikes since 2001. That includes 24,000 bombs and missiles in the first year of the war and a relentless bombing campaign that struck Afghanistan with another 29,000 bombs and missiles between 2007 and 2012, a slow motion version of “Shock and Awe.” That was an average of 13 air strikes per day for six full years, two years under Bush and four under Obama. The heaviest bombardment was in October 2010, with 1,043 air strikes that month, but that total is now eclipsed every month by the new campaign in Iraq and Syria.
Iraq had already suffered about 34,000 air strikes since 2000 before the latest campaign began. There were at least 800 air strikes in the “No Fly Zone” bombing campaign to destroy Iraq’s air defenses between 2000 and 2002; 29,200 air strikes in “Shock and Awe” in 2003, a campaign whose planners compared it to a nuclear attack; and another 3,900 during the U.S. occupation, peaking with 400 strikes in January 2008 as remaining centers of armed resistance were obliterated by air strikes, Spectre gunships and heavy artillery in the climax of the “Surge.”
But until the new campaign in Iraq and Syria, the seven-month NATO-Gulf Cooperation Council bombing of Libya was the heaviest bombardment since “Shock and Awe”, with 7,700 air strikesin seven months, or 36 air strikes per day. NATO and its Arab monarchist allies plunged Libya into intractable chaos and violence, exposing “regime change” as a euphemism for “regime destruction.”
NATO’s destruction of Libya spurred Russia to finally draw the line on its 20-year acquiescence to Western aggression and military expansion. Since then, the U.S. and its allies have persisted in their “regime destruction” policy in Syria and Ukraine, threatening strategically important Russian naval bases in Tartus and Sevastopol, what has evolved from an asymmetric war on a series of relatively defenseless countries into full-blown 1950s-era nuclear brinksmanship.
Drones have played a growing role in the U.S. air war, but they still account for only a fraction of total U.S. and allied air strikes, several thousand out of 118,000 air strikes in 15 years.
None of these figures include Israeli air strikes against Palestine, the current Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, or French operations in West Africa, as I haven’t found comparable figures for those campaigns, but they must add many thousand more air strikes to the real total.
Keeping the People in the Dark
In a recent article, Gareth Porter reported that the Pentagon is seriously opposed to putting more “boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria, but that the generals and admirals are prepared to keep bombing them more or less indefinitely as the political path of least resistance for themselves and the White House.  This may indeed be the “safe” course for a politically-driven administration and a Pentagon that is always thinking of its public image and its future funding.
But it depends on keeping the public in the dark about several critical aspects of this policy. First, there is little public resistance to this policy mainly because few Americans know that it’s happening, let alone understand the full scale of the bloodshed and devastation perpetrated in our names for the past 15 years.
The second thing the Pentagon doesn’t want you to think about is the deceptive role of “precision” weapons in U.S. propaganda. Considering how accurate these weapons really are in relation to the huge numbers of them raining down on country after country, it is not surprising that they have killed or wounded millions of civilians and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and civilian infrastructure, as we see in photographs and video of the ruins of Fallujah, Sirte or Kobani.
A direct hit with a single 500- or 1,000-pound bomb will cause death, injury and destruction up to hundreds of feet from its point of impact, so even accurate air strikes inevitably kill and maim civilians and destroy their homes. But whatever proportion of these 118,000 bombs and missiles have actually missed their targets have wreaked completely indiscriminate death, injury and destruction.
Rob Hewson, the editor of Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, estimated that 20 to 25 percent of the “precision” weapons used in “Shock and Awe” in 2003 missed their targets. Another one third of the bombs and missiles used in “Shock and Awe” were not “precision” weapons to begin with.
Even the Pentagon has not claimed a quantum leap in its “precision” weapons technology since 2003, so it is likely that at least 15 percent are still missing their targets, adding daily to a massive and mounting toll on innocent civilians.
As Hewson told the Associated Press in 2003, “In a war that’s being fought for the benefit of the Iraqi people, you can’t afford to kill any of them. But you can’t drop bombs and not kill people. There’s a real dichotomy in all of this.”
Body Count, a recent report published by Physicians for Social Responsibility, confirmed previous estimates of well over a million people killed in America’s wars since 2000. This and previous studies document the horrific results of what Hewson and other experts understand only too well, that “you can’t drop (100,000) bombs and not kill (hundreds of thousands of) people.”
Another element in the Pentagon’s shaky propaganda house of cards is its effort to obscure what bombs and missiles actually do to their victims. Americans watch the Islamic State beheading videos on TV or YouTube but we never see videos of people decapitated or children dismembered by the bombs our taxes are paying for. But our bombs behead people too.
Apologists claim that U.S. bombing is morally superior to the “terrorism” of America’s enemies, because the U.S. killing and beheading of civilians is “unintentional” rather than “deliberate.” The late Howard Zinn, a former U.S. Air Force bombardier and later a history professor, responded to this claim in a letter to the New York Times in 2007:
“These words are misleading because they assume that an action is either ‘deliberate’ or ‘’unintentional.’ There is something in between, for which the word is ‘inevitable.’ If you engage in an action, like aerial bombing, in which you cannot possibly distinguish between combatants and civilians (as a former Air Force bombardier, I will attest to that), the deaths of civilians are inevitable, even if not ‘intentional.’
“Does that difference exonerate you morally? The terrorism of the suicide bomber and the terrorism of aerial bombardment are indeed morally equivalent. To say otherwise (as either side might) is to give one moral superiority over the other, and thus serve to perpetuate the horrors of our time.”
Millions of ‘Enemies’
In fact, U.S. armed forces are waging war on millions of people for whom becoming combatants in a war would be the last thing they would ever consider if we had not brought our war to their doorsteps. The Center for Civilians in Conflict recently interviewed hundreds of local people who have participated as combatants in conflicts in Bosnia, Libya, Gaza or Somalia. It found that their motivations were almost entirely defensive, to protect themselves, their families, their communities or their countries.
When military forces attack or invade a country, many ordinary people feel compelled to take up arms to defend themselves and their homes. When the forces that put them in this unbearable predicament in the first place treat their efforts to defend themselves as a legal “green light” to target them with force and call them “terrorists,” they are driven to join better organized armed resistance movements that offer them protection in numbers and an effective way to fight back.
The essential first step to breaking the escalating spiral of violence is to force the aggressors, in this case the United States and its allies, to cease their aggression, including their state sponsorship of armed groups or “terrorists” in the affected countries. Then legitimate diplomatic initiatives can begin the difficult work of resolving the complex political and humanitarian problems caused by U.S.-led aggression and beginning to restore peace and security.
In his 1994 masterpiece, Century of War, the late Gabriel Kolko documented that war was the catalyst for all the major political revolutions of the Twentieth Century. While the working people of the world have otherwise failed to “rise up” as Marx predicted, the one thing that has reliably driven them to do so is the horror of war.
The war that the United States is waging today is proving no different. Armed resistance is spreading throughout the affected countries, spawning new ideologies and movements that defy the conceptual frameworks and limited imagination of the U.S. officials whose actions gave birth to them.
U.S. leaders of all stripes, military or civilian, Democrat or Republican, still fail to grasp whatRichard Barnet concluded in 1973 as he studied the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, “at the very moment the number one nation has perfected the science of killing, it has become an impractical instrument of political domination.”
The last 15 years of war have served to confirm Barnet’s conclusion. After 118,000 air strikes, millions of casualties, trillions of dollars squandered, and country after country plunged into chaos, the U.S. has failed to gain political control over any of them.
But our complacent leaders and their self-satisfied advisers blunder on, debating who to threaten or attack next: Russia? China? Iran? Which “threat” provides the best pretext for further U.S. military expansion?
As Gabriel Kolko observed, because of “inherent, even unavoidable institutional myopia, … options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”
But U.S. war-making is not just dangerous and irrational. It is also a crime. The judges at Nuremberg defined aggression, attacking or invading other countries, as the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” The UN Charter goes one step further and prohibits the threat as well as the use of force.
Benjamin Ferencz, the only surviving member of the prosecution team at Nuremberg, is a fierce critic of illegal U.S. war-making. In response to U.S. war crimes in Vietnam, he dedicated the rest of his life to establishing an International Criminal Court (ICC) that could prosecute senior officials of any government who commit aggression and other war crimes.
Ferencz is hailed as the founding father of the ICC, but his vision of “Law Not War” remains unfulfilled as long as his own country, the United States, refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of either the ICC or the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
By rejecting the jurisdiction of international courts, the U.S. has carved out what Amnesty International has called an “accountability-free zone,” from which it can threaten, attack and invade other countries, torture prisoners, kill civilians and commit other war crimes with impunity.
Nuremberg ‘Exemption’?
U.S. government lawyers enjoy the privilege, unique in their profession, of issuing legally indefensible but politically creative legal cover for war crimes, secure in the knowledge that they will never be forced to defend their opinions before an impartial court.
Ben Ferencz very graciously wrote a preface to my book, Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, and he spoke at an event with me and David Swanson in 2011, just before his 91st birthday. Ben talked about Nuremberg and the ICC, and he compared U.S. justifications for its “preemptive” illegal war-making to the defense offered by SS Gruppenfuhrer Otto Ohlendorf at Nuremberg.
As Ben explained, “That Ohlendorf argument was considered by three American judges at Nuremberg, and they sentenced him and twelve others to death by hanging. So it’s very disappointing to find that my government today is prepared to do something for which we hanged Germans as war criminals.”
If we do not hold American war criminals accountable for their crimes, and accept the jurisdiction of international courts to do so if we do not, how else can we serve notice on those who come after them that they must never do this again?
ArgentinaGuatemala and other countries in Latin America are prosecuting and jailing mass murderers like Videla and Rios Montt who once took for granted that they could kill with impunity. America’s masters of war should not assume that we will fail to bring them to justice.
As for the collective responsibility we all share for the crimes committed by our country and our armed forces, we must be prepared to pay substantial war reparations to our millions of victims and the countries we have destroyed. We could start by paying the reparations ordered by the International Court of Justice when it convicted the United States of aggression against Nicaragua in 1986, and the $3.3 billion promised by President Nixon to repair at least some of the U.S. bomb damage in Vietnam.
These would be concrete steps to tell the rest of the world that the United States was finally ready to abandon its failed experiment in “the science of killing,” to be bound by the rule of law, and to start cooperating in good faith with the rest of humanity to solve our common problems.