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Expendables of a waning empire

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A plethora of articles have been written highlighting the Obama Administrations expanding drone war, the United States’ unchecked militarism, and the laundry-list of deaths Obama’s ‘because we can‘ remote-controlled imperial policy has caused:

A little Pakistani girl named Shakira who was burned beyond recognition by a U.S. drone and left for dead in a trashcan, the children of Dande Darpa Khel village, in North Waziristan, who were surrounded by their parents’ charred bodies, not knowing they were dead, after a U.S. drone attacked their mud house; killing not only their mother and father but their 7 year-old brother Syed Wali Shah. In the district of Datta Khel an airstrike killed four people who were living in one large room including Naeemullah, a boy of 10 or 11, “his body burned and wounded by missile pieces and burns.“ In November a U.S. drone killed a 16-Year-Old Pakistani boy named Tariq Aziz, and his 12 year-old cousin, days after he attended anti-drone organizing meeting; Aziz had been documenting U.S. drone strikes near his home and had lost his cousin 18 months earlier.

Obama’s covert drone war has reached even Somalia, with deadly results; in September the southern Somali port city of Kismayo was attacked by US drones, killing at least nine civilians, including women and children.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented at least 306 strikes from remotely piloted drones that have killed, until now, 2,959 people, 175 of them children. Over 85% of these strikes have been launched by the administration of US President Barack Obama.

Stephen M. Walt of Foreign Policy writes that just “the last two decades, less than ten percent of U.S. history, account for more than 25 percent of the nation’s total wartime.” Yet still, many Americans look at Obama’s extensive, far-reaching, drone apparatus with child-like awe, this ability to strike an alleged ‘enemy’ from a distance, much like a video game.

Greg Miller for the Washington Post writes:

“In the space of three years, the [Obama] administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force­ ­cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents.”

And lest we forget the highly publicized, and quickly forgotten, extra-judicial killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki and his son – Glenn Greenwald writes for Salon:

“Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people.”

And yet still we see that outright war-crimes are being dismissed by the mainstream media as simply “adventurism” – liberal pundits see Obama’s covert drone-war as simply reckless foreign policy instead of what they are: crimes against humanity. Because the Commander-in-Chief is now of the Democratic flavor we see that those who once denounced the former Bush Administration for abusing human rights are now singing Obama’s praises, despite irrefutable evidence that the Obama Administration has not only continued Bush policies but furthered them.

Just as they were for the Bush Administration, the people of the “third world” are expendable; the children that are found burned, charred, left for dead in trash-bins and rubble heaps in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia are a necessary sacrifice, in order to carry out the Obama Administrations military and imperialist objective – the objective in this case being to tighten the United States’ grip on the Middle East and North Africa.

A member of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki’s memorial page writes, profoundly:
“What line is left [for Obama] to cross? The answer is: one line – numbers.”

(Crossposted on Roqayah Chamseddine’s blog The Cynical Arab)

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer based in Sydney. She writes the Sharp Edges column at Shadowproof and politics at Paste Magazine. She tweets at @roqchams.

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29 Responses

  1. Keith on December 30, 2011, 1:29 pm

    I think that describing the empire as “waning” is incorrect. It would be more accurate to describe it as metamorphosing into a Corporate/Financial matrix of control employing full spectrum dominance.

    • American on December 30, 2011, 11:49 pm

      It’s worse than that.
      It’s the most banal of all the ‘banalities of evil’.
      Our government isn’t fixable, our politicians are oblivious to and self satisfied in their mindless evilness.
      This government has to be destroyed…it’s a killer.

  2. Cliff on December 30, 2011, 1:48 pm

    I remember this stuff when I hear petulant Zionist whining about antisemitism or how the Palestinians are a ‘murderous’ society (the idiot eee).

  3. pabelmont on December 30, 2011, 2:06 pm

    And to think that many MW readers voted for Obama with such misguided (and possibly also unreasonable) hope, and will vote for him again, even in NYS, a democratic state, “to keep out far worse”.

    In a country where the Congress and maybe also the administration is “for sale” (with great big obvious “for sale” signs; it is not an embarrassment any more), perhaps our mistake is to believe that we are electing a man rather than a middle-man.

    • on December 30, 2011, 2:25 pm

      Obama was the least bad option.

      would be helpful if Americans got over seeing a president as a messiah. It’s just an office. When we give it so much power, it assumes that power.

      Ron Paul is very far from perfect but appears to be the least bad option, with the added advantage that Paul seems to disdain the position of messiah, preferring to cede power to individuals.

      Compare Paul to the options — Santorum points to Obama’s assassination of al Alawaki as precedent-setting to hunt down and kill Iranians or anyone who aids Iran in its (legal) efforts in nuclear technology.

      And the guy who introduced Santorum at the Jewish Republican Council revealed that Santorum has been on the Board of Directors of a for-profit hospital conglomerate that has been sued, and paid fines, numerous times, for defrauding the government of insurance payments.

      But Santorum loves him those foetuses and hates him those Mooslims, so that makes his hunky dorey with whack jobs who have recognized that Bachman is too far from Normal on any given psychological metric.

      • Chaos4700 on December 31, 2011, 2:35 pm

        Ron Paul is very far from perfect but appears to be the least bad option, with the added advantage that Paul seems to disdain the position of messiah, preferring to cede power to individuals.

        You nailed it right there in that sentence.

  4. HarryLaw on December 30, 2011, 2:50 pm

    Most military historians make the claim that air power has never been a decisive factor in a military conflict. I would go further and suggest that the drone campaign is counterproductive especially in a war like Afghanistan, the burning hatred of the US these strikes engender in the local population can only be imagined. But I bet they are creating far more enemies than they are killing.

    • on December 30, 2011, 7:04 pm

      I just wrote a comment on another article — the one about Joker not playing Tel Aviv — arguing that cracks are appearing in the zionist wall, among Israelis, Jews in US, and Americans in US. All are coming to the realization that they have been lied to.

      Lies have a way of working their way to the surface of common knowledge. Jeremy Ben-Ami acknowledged this. When lies become known, there is hell to pay.

      The other day, Sheldon Adelson told Birthright people that they should “study history — Ottoman Empire, first world war. . . . then teach others and be proud of Israel.” or something like that.

      Bring it on.

      Churchill lied through his teeth to keep Great Britain in war with Germany — it could have ended in 1939, in 1940. Churchill deliberately provoked Blitzkrieg — Allies bombed German civilians deliberately and first and with many multiples times the tonnage of bombs that Germany retaliated with. Allies killed ten times as many German civilians as Germans killed British civilians, in retaliatory air raids.
      Churchill. Wanted. War.
      Churchill NEEDED war, for his own psychological reasons; to redeem himself after his disaster at Dardanelles; because he needed the money that a group of zionist oil men, financiers, and corporate tycoons in London paid him.
      The British people were lied to.
      According to Carroll Quigley in “Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time,” between 1935 and 1940, questioning members of Parliament was an exercise in futility; whereas as it had been

      “one of the guarantees of free government in Britain . . .in practice, it has become a guarantee of little value. The government can refuse to answer any question on the grounds of “public interest.” To this decision there is no appeal. In addition, when questions are not refused, they are frequently answered in an evasive fashion which provides no enlightenment whatever. This was the regular procedure in answering questions on foreign policy in the period 1935-1940. In that period, questions were even answered by outright falsehoods without any possible redress available to the questioners.”

      In other words, in Britain in the run-up to the most important act a government can take, going to war, the system broke down, it broke down systemically, and the people were not involved in life-or-death decisions. Similar to the situation in the US today, and ten years ago.

      The men who fought that war are mostly dead — my father was 19 when he was wounded in WWII; he would have been 90 this year. But I am still alive, and some of us seek to ‘redeem’ the memory and sacrifice of that ‘greatest generation’ — of men who were lied into a war of choice.

      Bring it on, Sheldon Adelson; let’s get the truth out about how Britain and the US got pulled into a European war that, according to Edwin Black, ended “in triumph for zionists.”

    • RoHa on December 30, 2011, 8:15 pm

      But they hate us for our freedoms. ©

    • Hostage on December 30, 2011, 11:08 pm

      Most military historians make the claim that air power has never been a decisive factor in a military conflict.

      Traditionally historians have claimed that a) air power alone has never been a decisive factor in a military conflict; and b) no modern Army has ever surrendered air superiority over a battlefield and won.

      There are of course exceptions to both of those rules, e.g. the NATO air campaign against Serbia & etc.

      • Keith on December 31, 2011, 12:52 pm

        HOSTAGE- I think people are making a big mistake in trying to apply traditional military concepts to current hostilities. When the object of hostilities is simply to destroy a country, not occupy it, what does “winning” mean? Did we really lose in Vietnam when the primary objective was to destroy a threat to imperial hegemony? The empire is currently in the process of attacking any and all POTENTIAL threats to future hegemony. High risk confrontation and brinkmanship are the order of the day. Additionally, the global financial sector is currently destroying economies in order to institute a form of debt servitude. Under these circumstances, economic disruptions caused by an interruption to the oil supply could well facilitate the complete financialization of the world economy. We have entered an extraordinarily dangerous period.

      • Hostage on December 31, 2011, 6:11 pm

        HOSTAGE- I think people are making a big mistake in trying to apply traditional military concepts to current hostilities. When the object of hostilities is simply to destroy a country, not occupy it, what does “winning” mean? Did we really lose in Vietnam when the primary objective was to destroy a threat to imperial hegemony?

        Please let us know when you get to the nontraditional stuff;-) The US armed forces have been employed for those missions ever since the founding days of the Republic. Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Smedley Butler were famously employed respectively to destroy the Confederate countryside and to protect imperial hegemony in the Far East and the Banana republics. General Curtis LeMay and Lt. Col McNamara carried out massive incendiary bombing of Japan in conjunction with dropping two atomic weapons. That was all calculated to devastate the country and kill a large segment of the population. The NATO air campaigns against Yugoslavia and the US Central Command air campaign against Iraq during the first Gulf War weren’t conducted with the objective of occupying the countries afterward either.

  5. annie on December 30, 2011, 8:21 pm

    i hope technological advances allow the people in those countries to learn how to intercept our drones and bring them down. they are evil.

    great report Roqayah, thank you

    • annie on December 30, 2011, 8:24 pm

      oh, here is another drone post i read recently about retaliatory attacks and assassinations.

      • john h on December 31, 2011, 2:54 am

        Where, annie?

      • annie on December 31, 2011, 3:43 pm

        whoops! here it is

        Obama’s Drone Strikes Set An Example

        Yesterday the Washington Post published a must-read story about the much increased drone strikes used by the Obama administration for target killing of alleged terrorists.

        The military Special Forces as well as the CIA are involved in these strikes and their various kill lists seem to be quite long. The case of the non-operative propagandist Awlaki and his son, both U.S. citizens, are only two of them:

        more at the link

      • john h on December 31, 2011, 7:26 pm

        Thanks annie.

        This link of annie’s points out that:

        Top U.S. military leaders who oversaw missile strikes last year against al Qaeda targets in Yemen suspect they were fed misleading intelligence by the country’s government and were duped into killing a local political leader whose relationship with the president’s family had soured.

        These people say they believe the information from the Yemenis may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death. “We think we got played,” said one participant in high-level administration discussions.

        Something similar happened in Pakistan…

        “Signature strikes” are even worse:

        Essentially, bombs are dropped on the heads of people who aren’t known to be terrorists, or militants, but who act like them.

        How does one “act like a terrorist” or asked differently, how does one not act like a terrorist? Does one eat, walk, talk and sleep? What is a terrorist, except in the moment of his dead, doing that differentiates him from other humans?

        Signature strikes violate both traditions of just wars, and are indefensible except by recourse to arguments of pure power.

        Obama’s drone campaign outside of any open legal framework makes drone killings a plausible and presumably legitimate tool to settle grievances. It sets an example. It’s not a question of “if” but “when” this example will be used by others against U.S. citizens and interests.

        For more

      • annie on December 31, 2011, 7:44 pm

        yeah non, they use them for ‘favors’ to build alliance or wft i don’t completely get it. but it sounds like more old boys club antics than making democracy..with lots of blood and gore on the side.

  6. john h on December 30, 2011, 9:20 pm

    America’s Chickens are coming home to roost

    “Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant (Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck). Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised…” — (Jeremiah Wright, September 16, 2001)

    Prophets fare poorly in their own country, yet countries would do well to hearken to their prophets. Scorn, ridicule, and innuendo attend their pronouncements as the righteous defend their actions as logical, existential and necessary.

    Perhaps our President might hearken back to a time when principles mattered, when truth mattered, when might did not make right, when the souls and hearts of people mattered, when justice and equality mattered, not deceit and dominance over all.

    When did America become a dictatorial empire manipulated by an elite few using the Presidency like some houseboy to do their bidding? When did the founding documents get trashed, mocked and ridiculed as weak, worthless, and obsolete? When did the American people vote to become the dominant empire in the world?

    This is the President that rejected the Reverend Wright’s prophecy, that capitulated to his new masters who demanded that he repudiate him.

    Our savagery knows no bounds: we decimate people wantonly throughout the world, as Dresden, the fire-bombing of Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, the sanctions against Iraq, the illegal invasion of Iraq, the unqualified military support we provide to the Zionist government in Israel against a defenceless people, the abominable use of drones against the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the continuing development of weapons of mass savagery and our willingness to develop further atomic weapons, graphically illustrates.

    The numbers slaughtered in this review is in the millions–not all dressed in combat fatigues. The numbers of the defenceless and the innocent outstrips those trained to kill. All of those slaughtered happened outside the United States and every son and daughter, mother and father, sister and brother, aunt and uncle, grandfather and grandmother, felt the pain of loss that was to our forces a “body count.”

    “Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred, terrorism begets terrorism,” so rings the prophetic knell of the Reverend Wright to his congregation, one of whom happened to be our current President, Barack Obama.

    Would that he had listened, for if any man was ever elected to the office of President to change the world, this was the man and he has failed.

    • kalithea on January 1, 2012, 2:50 am

      Obama threw his own mother and grandmother under the bus for God’s sakes, never mind Reverend Wright! I remember those crocodile tears in Virginia and then he waited how long to hold the service for his grandmother? I suspected him right then and there! That little voice was gnawing at me and I pushed it aside. And then when he won the nomination and the charred bodies of Gaza’s children were all over the web and he just sat there and said zilch!

      What a shallow buffoon he is.

    • kalithea on January 1, 2012, 4:32 am

      “Would that he had listened, for if any man was ever elected to the office of President to change the world, this was the man and he has failed.”

      Whut? You mean you still believe that? He never was the man he pretended to be!Obama’s the best con artist that ever was. He’d give Christopher Rocancourt (the fake Rockefeller) a run for his money! That “hope and change” campaign was a Nobel-prize winning snow job. It sure fooled the Nobel Committee! He’s a phony cowardly, pompous ass, bloated with the power of his charisma. He craves and laps up adulation and is totally corrupted by political ambition. His whole campaign act and demeanor were part of a well-choreographed, despicable smoke-and-mirrors lie playing on and exploiting post-Bush depression and desperation.

      Maybe that sleazy rumor that was circulating about him at the time of the campaign was true. I believe he’s that pathetic.

      • john h on January 1, 2012, 4:20 pm

        Just a little more along this line, kalithea, from Chris Hedges:

        Obama’s Fall from Grace

        The health of a nation is measured by how it treats its prophets. When these prophets are ignored and reviled, when they become figures of ridicule, when they are labeled by the chattering classes and power elite as fools, then there is no check left on moral decay and the degeneration of the state.

        Obama, although his subservience to the war machine and Wall Street mocks the fundamental values of Dr. Martin Luther King, will preside Oct. 16 over the dedication of the King memorial on the Mall in Washington. He will lend himself to the venal cabal of the corporate and political elites who have hijacked King’s image.

        King’s vision is grotesquely deformed in Obama’s hands. To hear the voice of King we will have to turn from the choreographed and corporate-sponsored dedication ceremony to heed the words of a handful of men and women who are as reviled by the power brokers as King was in his own life, and yet who battle to keep the flame of King’s message alive.

        They have swept under the rug the radical justice message that King ended his career repeating over and over and over again, starting with the media coverage of the April 4, 1967, ‘A Time to Break Silence’ message at the Riverside Church [in New York City].

        King had a huge emphasis on capitalism, militarism and racism, the three-headed giant. There is no mention of that, no mention of that King, and absolutely no mention of the importance of his work with the poor.

        More ominously, Wright warns, the sanitizing of King has been accompanied by the primacy of a selfish, hedonistic and violent culture which has turned away from values, including self-sacrifice, that make possible harmony and the common good. This selfishness and narcissism, Wright argues, is a form of blasphemy.

        Obama, who like Judas took his 30 pieces of silver and betrayed someone who loved him, withers into moral insignificance in Wright’s presence.

        [Wright said,] “I’ll never forget one of the most powerful things he [Obama] said to me in my home, second Saturday in April 2008. He said, ‘You know what your problem is?’ I said, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘You have to tell the truth.’”

        Wright, who perhaps knows Obama better than nearly any other person in the country, sees a man who sold his principles for the chimera and illusion of power. But once Obama achieved power he became its tool, its vassal, its public face, its brand.

        Barack Obama’s politically expedient decision to betray and abandon his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, exposed his cowardice and moral bankruptcy. In that moment, playing the part of Judas, he surrendered the last shreds of his integrity. He became nothing more than a pawn of power, or as Cornel West says, “a black mascot for Wall Street.”

        Obama, once the glitter of power fades, will have to grapple with the fact that he was a traitor not only to his pastor, the man who married him and Michelle, who baptized his children and who kept him spiritually and morally grounded, but to himself. Wright retains what is most precious in life and what Obama has squandered—his soul.

      • annie on January 1, 2012, 5:42 pm

        wow, powerful. thanks john.

      • kalithea on January 1, 2012, 10:20 pm

        He describes him perfectly. Thanks for sharing this.

      • john h on January 2, 2012, 2:45 pm

        Yeah, Hedges is something of a prophet himself. Presume you’ve seen his video on Cast Lead.

        Two queries for you, kalithea. What or who were these posts of yours referring to?

  7. casaananda on December 30, 2011, 10:36 pm

    On the night Obama was elected, I was with family and friends, one of them John Hope Franklin, the top Black historian in the US and professor emeritus of Duke University. We were so happy to see Obama’s election. John Hope died four months later. Now, I am glad he’s no longer around to see who Obama really is: a man in over his head as POTUS, and a weak and unprincipled man at that. In many ways he’s more despicable than Bush….

  8. gracie fr on December 31, 2011, 8:25 am

    As the military tactician he was, Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) recognized the importance of strategic overview. If you really want to dominate anything, it pays to hold the
    high ground… and hang on to it. ). From a military perspective, domination boiled down to one simple thing: keeping the heights. In Chapter 17 he states, “. First, every height may be regarded as an obstacle to approach; secondly, although the range is not perceptibly greater in shooting down from a height, yet, all geometrical relations being taken into consideration, we have a better chance of hitting than in the opposite case; thirdly, an elevation gives a better command of view. How all these advantages unite themselves together in battle we are not concerned with here; we collect the sum total of the advantages which tactics derives from elevation of position and combine them in one whole which we regard as the first strategic advantage.”

    The Israelis recognized the importance of “the heights” as a means of defense early on and used to their advantage. When it came to settlement building Ariel Sharon superseded the Allon Plan with one of his own whereby new construction would be built on the tops of ridges in a double parallel. Aerial surveillance soon became an adjunct to watching over a restive Palestinian population. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Syrian missile batteries in Lebanon caused heavy damage to Israeli fighter jets. As a result, Israel developed the first modern UAV. for real-time surveillance, electronic warfare and decoys. The images and radar decoying provided by these UAVs helped Israel to completely neutralize the Syrian air defenses at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War, resulting in no pilots downed
    The earliest “extra-judicial killing” from the air were carried out by Israeli helicopter gunships firing missiles. But then on July 22, 2002, in what was referred to by Sharon as “one of our greatest successes,” Israel ascended another rung in the ladder of escalation aerial warfare , using a one-ton bomb dropped from an F-16 fighter jet to kill Salah Shihada, the leader and founder of Hamas’ military wing, killing fifteen civilians, including nine children . The IDF was exempt from combat operations on the ground.
    The United States has a long history in the development of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) dating back to WWII. Precursors of today’s models were widely used in the by the US military in Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina for surveillance purposes. The first extra judicial killing in a foreign country came in 2002, a suspected al-Qaeda operative Qaed Salim Sinanal-Harethi, who was allegedly involved in killing 17 US sailors on the USS Cole, was killed in a drone attack while traveling in a car with six other people in Yemen.

    Although astronomically expensive to produce at first, drone technology has come way down in cost. It is touted as a lifesaving innovation as the collateral damage on the ground is “contained” and Western troops spared unnecessary death and casualties. The plans for bigger more sophisticated RPAs and UAVs is ongoing at a rapid pace. Although the Gorgon Stare is reported to have serious glitches, U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (Darpa) Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) is in the pipeline. Rest assured that futures drone technology will be on the market before myriad of legal quandaries are codified into an acceptable human rights doctrine. In view of the unlawful and growing number of civilian deaths and the undeniable blowback they cause, we have no choice but to demand a freeze on drone technology.

  9. kalithea on January 1, 2012, 1:53 am

    Mr. Hopey/Changey, the Drone Lord, Obama’s ushering us into the theater of WAR AND HARD TIMES, but his 2012 campaign marquee reads: XANADU.

    Actually if it read “Zionist Xanadu” it would at least foretell what we’re about to witness.

  10. kalithea on January 1, 2012, 3:17 am

    And then individuals on this site are waiting for the perfect messiah to rescue the U.S. from the Zionist-ruled Democrat and Republican political monolith.

    Ron Paul is totally anti-war and anti-Lobby and is the only guy with the balls to admit it but neeeoooooooh, people have to dig into the writings of former associates 20 years ago and nitpick at his libertarian policies – meanwhile this savagery; this butchery continues and Obama’s proving he’s the anti-christ after all!!

    Isn’t the goal to avoid a disastrous war, SAVE LIVES, run the Lobby and rats out of town, free the Palestinians, clean up the shit left behind by the rats and then move on to the next priority on the list???

    People who are rationalizing why we should stick with Obama over Ron Paul are selfish dumb-ass mules who care nothing for the lives of others! It’s out of sight; out of mind for them!

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