Peter Van Buren Reviews National Bird: Looking Deeply into the Drone War’s Abyss

National Bird, a documentary film about America’s drone wars by filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck, airs May 1 at 10 pm on most local PBS stations as part of the Independent Lens series (check local listings, some stations have different schedules).

I had a chance to see the film in advance, and here’s why you should watch it: it is terrifying even in the quiet moments; it is most terrifying in the quietest moments.

National Bird is a deep, multilayered, look into America’s drone wars, a tactic which became a strategy which became a post-9/11 policy. To many in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world, America’s new national symbol is not the bald eagle, but a gray shadow overhead armed with Hellfire missiles.

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Flashback! Questions From the Last Time America Was Supposed To ‘Take Out’ Assad

History is a funny thing, because we forget it so easily, and so quickly. That forgetting is usually based on the political needs of the moment, and politicians and the media count on us being that way so they can manipulate us. Works nearly every time, too.

One of the latest versions of this is the media meme that the Syrian quagmire is kinda new-ish, and that the most recent American spurt of 59 cruise missiles into that country represents something, maybe an escalation, maybe a change of policy, maybe some domestic political thingie. To help disprove all that, here’s an article I wrote about a year ago.

Let’s see how that holds up in hindsight.

Quick Summary:

Despite over 400,000 dead and ongoing ground and air campaigns inside the country by the U.S., Russia and several others, 51 US diplomats in 2016 publicly demanded the Obama administration launch strikes directly against Bashir Assad in Syria.

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Tell Us Why We’re At War, President Trump

People speak of Afghanistan as “our generation’s” Vietnam, a quagmire, a war that goes on simply because it has been going on.

The Afghan war is dragging into being our generation’s, and soon the next generation’s Vietnam as well, over a decade and a half old. There are troops deploying now that were two years old when the conflict started. There are fathers and sons deploying together. Bin Laden’s been dead for years.

With a slight break, the current war in Iraq has been ongoing for some 14 years. If you want to think of it in a longer view, Trump is now the fifth consecutive president to make war on that country. Saddam’s been dead for years.

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Peter Van Buren: Sorry, No War in North Korea

I’m so sorry to disappoint so many people, but there is not going to be a war with North Korea.

No, no, Trump is not going to start a war there. And, no, Kim Jong Un is not going to start a war there. It is not going to happen, despite a cottage industry of pundits who seem to really believe war is only moments away.

Let’s start with the obvious. A war on the Korean peninsula benefits no one and is really, really bad for everyone (we’ll get to the irrational madman theory in a moment.)

Any conflict means the end of North Korea, and the end of the Kim dynasty. The U.S. will win any fight, nuclear or not, and Kim and everyone with any power or money in the North knows that. North Korea has no reason to start a war that will end in its own destruction. The people there with power and money do not want to give those things up.

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Iraqis Making Freelance Bomb Disposal Into a Lucrative New Business

When someone gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

And so it goes in Freedom Land of Iraq, where for many, now out from under the heels of Islamic State, the Iraqi people have only to clear out all the bombs, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance left everywhere they want to live by all sides in this ongoing clusterf*ck of foreign policy adventurism.

Despite the gazillions of dollars in U.S. aid, Iraq claims not to have the personnel to defuse all the explosives left behind once freedom reigns in places like Fallujah. So, concerned local citizens, who have been making defusing bombs for decades (handling explosives is an Olympic event in Iraq), smelled a business opportunity.

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Hopeless But Optimistic: Journeying Through America’s Endless War in Afghanistan

Here’s an excerpt from a new book, Hopeless but Optimistic: Journeying through America’s Endless War in Afghanistan, by Douglas Wissing. The passage deals with the unnecessary death of State Department diplomat Anne Smedinghoff at age 25. Anne gave her life for a needless PR stunt as part of America’s failed reconstruction project in Afghanistan. It could have been any of us.

Anne Smedinghoff is a rising 25-year-old diplomat, an assistant information officer in the Kabul embassy. She’s my minder, assigned to escort me to an interview with a Justice Department official who is heading up the Afghan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC) that is charged with finding and disrupting sources of Taliban funding.

In many ways, Smedinghoff is representative of many young American women working in Afghanistan, where they can combine adventure with a career-enhancing posting and hefty paychecks plumped with danger pay. As we walk to the meeting room, Smedinghoff quizzes me about life outside the embassy compound, as the staff is trapped inside.

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