Bipartisan group in US Congress promotes drone killings
... the New York Times reported that drone strikes ordered by President Obama have killed more than 2,500 people over the past four years, and that the Obama administration was moving ahead to codify and formalize the procedure for targeting individuals and groups for deadly violence by CIA and Pentagon drone operators.
The report by the Center for Responsive Politics and Hearst newspapers examined the flow of campaign contributions from corporations engaged in building and arming drones to Democratic and Republican congressmen and senators.
More than $8 million in campaign contributions from drone manufacturers and operators has flowed into the coffers of the 60 members of the House Unmanned Systems Caucus. The majority of the House members are from California, Texas, Virginia and New York, including the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard “Buck” McKeown, a California Republican, and Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat who lost a primary election and leaves Congress at the end of the year.
The Senate group of drone promoters comprises eight members, including liberal Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and is co-chaired by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The very existence of what the CRP/Hearst report calls the “drone caucus” is an indication of the profound degeneration of American democracy. It was not so long ago, in the 1970s, that leading Democrat Henry Jackson became notorious as the “senator from Boeing.” Now an entire caucus has been formed of promoters of weapons of mass murder. What is next: The napalm caucus? The poison gas caucus?
According to the CRP/Hearst report, the principal activity of the “drone” caucus has been to promote the use of these weapons within the United States, including passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law by President Obama on February 14, which requires the FAA to complete the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the national airspace by September 2015.
Drones have become big business for US police agencies, beginning with the federal Department of Homeland Security, which recently signed a $443 million deal with General Atomics to increase its fleet of Predator drones—capable of firing missiles as well as surveillance—from 10 to 24.
The FAA projects that 30,000 drones could be flying in US airspace within 20 years, operated by local, state and national police and security agencies, as well as private corporations.
The US buildup has sparked a global arms race in drone building and deployment. More than 50 countries operate surveillance drones, and many of these are beginning to fit their drones with weapons.
One Month Since Hurricane Sandy
The class divide that has been growing for decades and has deepened during the so-called “recovery” from the financial crash of 2008 was on full display. While little or nothing was done to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of storm victims, the New York Stock Exchange was up and running two days after the storm. Meanwhile, residents of city housing projects in flooded areas remained without power for weeks and were forced to walk up many flights to their apartments in the dark.
The headquarters of Goldman Sachs was protected from flooding, while residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook section, Staten Island and other areas were left to fend for themselves. Evacuation centers were crowded and unprepared to deal with the many families that needed assistance, while the wealthy stayed in high-priced hotels or one of their multiple residences.
Both the electrical utilities and the politicians charged with their regulation are guilty of criminal negligence. Scientists and planners have warned for more than a decade of exactly the sort of calamity that Sandy wrought. Numerous studies have proposed measures to prepare for such a storm, but nothing has been done.
The utility companies have placed profits over the needs of the population—cutting their work forces and imposing concessions in pay and benefits, while failing to make the necessary investments in maintaining, let alone upgrading, their antiquated facilities to deal with increasingly frequent and violent storms.
In the wake of the storm, politicians and the media have focused criticism on the utilities for the long delays in restoring power. But the political representatives of big business ignore their own responsibility. They have done absolutely nothing to call attention to climate change and develop a comprehensive plan—including flood protection and infrastructure improvements—to prepare for weather events whose frequency and destructive force have been increased by past indifference and neglect.
The hurricane was not only a natural disaster. It exposed the rottenness of the capitalist system, which cannot ensure a stable and secure environment, much less decent jobs and living standards for the vast majority of the population. Trillions of dollars have been spent to bail out the banks and finance imperialist wars, while the social crisis grows ever more desperate, with millions facing long-term unemployment and millions more losing their homes to foreclosure as well as their medical insurance and pensions.
In the wake of the elections, the ruling class, under the pretext of the “fiscal cliff,” is preparing even more brutal attacks on the working class. Both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need for sweeping cuts in social spending that will leave even fewer resources to deal with future storms
The repeated claim that “there is no money” to meet social needs is a lie. The abundant resources of society must be taken out of the hands of the financial-corporate parasites and administered democratically for the benefit of all.
Israel to expand settlements after UN vote on Palestine
The right-wing Zionist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued the go-ahead for the construction of 3,000 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and is putting 1,000 more on a fast track for permits. These moves are in retaliation for the United Nations General Assembly vote late Thursday night recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as a nonmember state.
According to Israeli officials cited Friday by the Jerusalem Post, the government’s action will give a green light to the long-planned expansion of construction in the area known as E-1, forming a contiguous block of Israeli construction stretching from Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumin, the third-largest Israeli settlement inside the occupied West Bank.
The Obama administration’s reaction to Israel’s provocative and illegal action in the occupied West Bank was considerably more restrained than its condemnation the day before of the largely symbolic vote granting Palestine observer status at the UN.
Washington voted with Israel and just seven other countries—including Canada, Czechoslovakia, Panama and four South Pacific mini-states, three of them US semi-colonies—against the UN resolution, while 138 countries voted for it and 41 others abstained.
The vote came 65 years to the day after the passage by the United Nations, at Washington’s instigation, of a 1947 resolution partitioning Palestine, then a British mandate. Under this plan, the territory, which was then 65 percent Arab and 35 percent Jewish, was split in two, with 56 percent of the land designated as a Jewish state and 43 percent as an Arab one.
Subsequent wars reduced the size of the Arab territory to just 22 percent of the original mandate, comprised of the divided territories of the West Bank and Gaza, which were themselves occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.
The visceral hostility of the US and Israel to granting the Palestinian Authority upgraded status at the UN stems in large part from concern that this would allow it, or indeed any successor Palestinian government, to bring war crimes charges against Israel and its leaders at the International Criminal Court.
What is universally recognized by the US and its allies in Western Europe is that the Israeli occupation, the Zionist settlements and the continuous military attacks on the Palestinian are all war crimes, which these powers support. They want to insure that the Israeli state can continue to act with impunity. Israel would inevitably brand any attempt to prosecute its war crimes as an act of “terrorism.”
The turn by Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to the UN is symptomatic of the dead end reached by the Palestinian national project and a tacit admission that the US-sponsored “peace process” represents a two-decade-long fraud perpetrated upon the Palestinian people.
MANNINGBradley Manning speaks on abuse
Manning was arrested May 26, 2010, accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military and government documents while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Thousands of the documents revealed war crimes, corruption and diplomatic double-dealing on the part of the US government. These files were subsequently published by whistleblower organization WikiLeaks.
Manning’s testimony, the first public statements he has made in more than two years, provides insight into the brutality of the US military prisons. Moreover, testimony of his guards and doctors makes clear that his mistreatment was intimately directed by the Pentagon with an eye toward destroying him psychologically. The Obama administration intends to use the Manning case as a precedent in its offensive against government whistleblowers, as well as a wedge to pursue the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
For two months, he was held in atrocious conditions in a tiny cage within a tent at Camp Arifjan, an Army base in Kuwait. He was subjected to isolation, denied access to a phone to contact his family in America, and other privations. Guards woke him at 10:00 at night and ordered lights out at 2:00 in the afternoon, a pattern intended to leave him sleep-deprived and disoriented. ...
After a month of such torment, he suffered a breakdown, talking to himself, bashing his head against his cell, and fashioning a noose out of bedding. “I didn’t want to die but I wanted to get out of the cage,” Manning said he told a psychiatrist.
He was put on suicide watch during an “indoctrination period,” and was classified as a “maximum custody” detainee. By any measure, the treatment he received constituted torture. Amnesty International, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, and US legal scholars condemned the conditions.
Manning’s cell was a 6-by-8 foot rectangle containing a toilet, a sink and a cot.
Brig officers checked on him every five minutes of the day, asking him if he was “O.K.” Manning was required to respond in the affirmative. His toilet was in full view of the guard’s observation booth. He was not allowed to have toilet paper. At night he slept with a guard’s light shining in his face. If he rolled over, he was ordered awake.
Manning was denied visits by relatives and friends and kept segregated from other prisoners. For only 20 minutes a day, he was permitted to leave his cell for “sunshine call,” wearing leg restraints and shackles. Even in his cell, he was not permitted to lean against the walls, or sit with his legs crossed. At no point between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. was he allowed to lie down. At one point, guards took away his glasses, without which he was unable to read or even see the guards clearly.
In March 2011, after eight months of isolation, he appealed to one staff member to help him be removed from prevention of injury watch. ...
This argument was immediately turned inside out by the brig commanders, who overrode at least 16 recommendations by staff psychiatrists to lessen Manning’s restrictions. That night, guards ordered him to strip naked. The next morning he was made to stand at parade rest, still naked, before guards for inspection. After ordering the confiscation of his underwear, officers on staff mocked him.