Friday, October 28, 2016

The U.S. National Bird Is Now a Drone -- David Swanson

Officially, of course, the national bird of the United States is that half-a-peace-sign that Philadelphia sports fans like to hold up at opposing teams. But unofficially, the film National Bird has it right: the national bird is a killer drone.
Finally, finally, finally, somebody allowed me to see this movie. And finally somebody made this movie. There have been several drone moviesworth seeing, most of them fictional drama, and one very much worth avoiding (Eye in the Sky). But National Bird is raw truth, not entirely unlike what you might fantasize media news reports would be in a magical world in which media outlets gave a damn about human life.
The first half of National Bird is the stories of three participants in the U.S. military's drone murder program, as told by them. And then, just as you're starting to think you'll have to write that old familiar review that praises how well the stories of the victims among the aggressors were told but asks in exasperation whether any of the victims of the actual missiles have any stories, National Bird expands to include just what is so often missing, and even to combine the two narratives in a powerful way.
Heather Linebaugh wanted to protect people, benefit the world, travel, see the world, and use super cool technology. Apparently our society did not explain to her in time what it means to join the military. Now she suffers guilt, anxiety, moral injury, PTSD, sleep disorder, despair, and a sense of responsibility to speak out on behalf of friends, other veterans, who have killed themselves or become too alcoholic to speak for themselves. Linebaugh helped murder people with missiles from drones, and watched them die, and identified body parts or watched loved ones gather up body parts.
Even while still in the Air Force, Linebaugh was on a suicide watch list and had a psychologist recommend moving her to a different sort of job, but the Air Force refused. She has episodes. She sees things. She hears things. But she's forbidden to discuss her work with friends or even with a therapist who doesn't have the proper "security clearance."
We let Daniel down even more than Heather. He says he actually opposed militarism but was homeless and desperate, so he joined the military. We could have given him a house for much less than we paid him to help murder people at Fort Meade.
Lisa Ling worked on a database filled by drone surveillance that compiled information on 121,000 "targets" in two years. Multiply that by a dozen years. With 90% of victims not among the targets, add up how many people would die in the targeting of the whole list. That'd be over 7 million. But it's not numbers that have poisoned the souls of these three veterans; it's children and mothers and brothers and uncles lying in pieces on the ground.
Ling travels to Afghanistan to see the place at ground level and to meet with drone victims. She meets a little boy who lost his leg and his 4-year-old brother and his sister and his father. On February 2, 2010, drone "pilots" at Creech Air Base murdered 23 innocent members of one family.
The filmmakers have voices read the written transcript of what the drone operators said to each other before, during, and after sending in the missiles that did the damage. This is worse than Collateral Murder. The people whose job it is to identify children and others who should not be murdered have identified children among the group of people being targeted. The "pilots" at Creech are eager to reject this information and to get onto killing as many people as they can. Their lust for blood drives the decision process. Only after they've killed 23 people do they recognize children among the survivors, and the lack of guns.
We see the bodies brought home to bury. Those injured describe their suffering, physical as well as mental. We see people being fitted with artificial legs. We hear Afghans describe their perception of drones. They imagine, just as many Americans may imagine, and just as viewers of Eye in the Sky would imagine, that drone operators have a clear, high resolution view of everything. In fact, they have a view of fuzzy little blobs on a computer screen that looks like it was created in the 1980s.
Linebaugh says there is no way to distinguish the little "civilian" blobs from little "militant" blobs. When Daniel hears President Obama claim that there is always near certainty that no civilians will be killed, Daniel explains that such knowledge is simply not possible. Linebaugh says she was often on the side of the conversation telling the "pilots" at Creech not to murder innocents, but that they always pushed for permission to kill.
Jesselyn Radack, attorney for whistleblowers, says in the film that the FBI told two whistleblowers that a terrorist group had put them on a kill list. She said that the FBI has also contacted Linebaugh's family and warned her that "terrorists" have been searching for her name online, suggesting that she fix this problem by shutting up. (She had written an op-ed in the Guardian).
The FBI also raids Daniel's house, arriving with 30 to 50 agents, badges, guns, cameras, and search warrants. They take away his papers, electronics, and phone. They tell him he is under investigation for a possible indictment under the Espionage Act. This is the World War I-era law for targeting foreign enemies that President Obama has made a routine of using to target domestic whistleblowers. While Obama has prosecuted more people under this law than did all previous presidents combined, we probably have no way of knowing how many people have been explicitly threatened with the possibility.
While we should be apologizing to, comforting, and aiding these young people rather than denying them the right to speak to anybody and threatening them with decades in prison, Lisa Ling did manage to find some kindness. Victims of drone strikes in Afghanistan told her that they forgave her. As the film ends, she's planning another trip to Afghanistan. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#LetFlowersDebate--Sham Debate at Univ. of Baltimore/CBS Excludes Viable Senate Candidate Dr. Margaret Flowers

Both other candidates agreed to have Margaret join them in the debate but moderator wouldn't allow it.

Freedom Rider: Organizing in the Age of Hillary -- Margaret Kimberley

Original at:

The Hillary Clinton administration, Slick Willie part II, will bring catastrophe unless there is constant agitation waged against it. The same woman who bragged that her party platform was progressive now brags that Republicans endorse her. The situation is urgent but there is no need to despair or to reinvent the wheel. There are groups across the country engaging in protest and they show a clear path for a liberation movement.
This columnist joined with 200 activists in Chicago for the Right to Exist, Right to Resistconference organized by the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS USA). The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Police Oppression, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, Peoples Organization for Progress, Bayan USA, Chicago Teachers Union, US Palestinian Community Network, Committee to Stop FBI Repression and others met to strategize the fight against police violence, neoliberalism and imperialism.
If it is true that no person is an island then no struggle should be waged in isolation. The people of Ferguson, Missouri received support from Palestine during their rebellion against police occupation. The neoliberal onslaught that privatizes education and closes schools also deprives Flint, Michigan of clean water and its democratic rights. American imperialism threatens all life on this planet with its constant provocations against Russia and China which risk world war.
“The black “misleaders” are silenced yet again by a prospective Democratic presidency.”
This presidential election repeated the sleight of hand which presents the Democrats as the party which defends us from the barbarians. Donald Trump is the foil used to fool millions of people into believing that the errand boys and girls of neoliberalism can also be the guarantors of human rights.
Hillary Clinton’s administration will be disastrous for black Americans in particular. The black “misleaders” are silenced yet again by a prospective Democratic presidency. They will not speak up against Hillary Clinton any more than they did against her husband or Barack Obama. They said nothing when Bill Clinton ended the 60-year long entitlement to government benefits. They said nothing when he used the war on drugs as an excuse to lock up thousands of black people with draconian prison sentences. They said nothing when Obama wouldn’t allow those people to request their freedom or when he declined to prosecute even one killer cop. They say nothing when American presidents wage wars of aggression all over the world. We can expect more going along to get along when “two for the price of one” becomes a reality.
Not only must activists do their utmost to fight back against the real life Lady MacBeth but they must call out those who falsely claim to be in their camp. The liars who said they would hold Obama’s feet to the fire are repeating their empty words and hoping no one pays attention. They must be exposed right now and again after election day because they will surely make good on their history of appeasement.
The Right to Exist, Right to Resist conference took place on the second anniversary of Laquan McDonald’s murder at the hands of Chicago police. McDonald was only 17 years of age, a child according to American law. His death, the existence of the Homan Square secret prison and other instances of torture and brutality resulted in demands for community control of the police.
“She may bring the mothers of police murder victims on to the stage but she has said nothing about ending the death toll.”
Chicagoans are struggling to establish an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council(CPAC). Black community control of the police is a mobilizing issue all across the country. The demands began under Obama and must continue after Hillary Clinton takes office. She may bring the mothers of police murder victims on to the stage but she has said nothing about ending the death toll. That task is left for activists who know better than to expect any justice from her.
Millions of Americans struggle financially and are displaced by gentrification or fear the police or want to keep their public schools open. But in 2016 they have been led astray by one of the most cynical presidential campaigns of all time. Hillary Clinton preferred Donald Trump as her rival because she was likely to lose to any other Republican. She then used the man she wanted to run against to rally otherwise skeptical voters to her side. The ego maniacal Trump performed as expected and is driving all but dead-ender right wingers to Hillary’s side.
There must be no celebrating when her victory is announced. That is the moment when the fights must begin in earnest. All forms of mass action must be used to deprive her of support or claim of a mandate. The champion of the ruling classes cannot be allowed to claim the progressive mantle. That title belongs to the people who met in Chicago and marched in memory of Laquan McDonald. Frederick Douglass’ advice to “Agitate, agitate, agitate,” must still be followed. If not Hillary Clinton will privatize Social Security and find a rationale to start one last disastrous war. She will be stopped only if we assert our right to exist and right to resist.

Monday, October 17, 2016