Loosened Rules on Drone Strikes Recall Vietnam ‘Body Counts’ (video)

From Responsible Statecraft:

Investigative journalist, author, and Iraq veteran Jack Murphy sat down with the Quincy Institute’s Adam Weinstein to talk about U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, and how loosened rules of engagement led to an accelerated number of strikes, unacknowledged civilian deaths, and moral injury among soldiers and veterans.

Murphy, who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group, recalled to Weinstein, an Afghanistan War veteran, how by 2018 the rules of engagement were loosened to the point where anyone on the ground who fit the “criteria” were vulnerable to a strike. Watch here:

The Taliban had been dismantling cell phone towers for years, so insurgents and civilians used walkie-talkies to communicate, he noted. “The ROE (rules of engagement) could be met by seeing someone speaking on a radio, carrying a radio, just touching a radio at some point.” There was no human intelligence or friendly forces on the ground, everything was communicated by surveillance drones monitoring potential targets via cameras. Once these “eagle scans” identified targets, they would call in the armed drones for the strike itself.

At this point in 2018 “you’re going back to Vietnam-era body counts…the metric for success is the number of strikes you’re doing, the number of people you are killing every day. And if commanders on the ground know that, they’re going to do things to make themselves look as good as possible. That means, at least in this case, striking people whether they are armed combatants or not.”

“It’s a very Orwellian, dystopian kind of way to think about it,” he continues. “You have this sort of unblinking eye, this surveillance eye hovering over population in Afghanistan, waiting for them to ‘fuck up.’ I think that a lot of the animosity that the people had for us.”

He and Weinstein talk about the trauma among drone operators. Following targets on the ground, close enough to see whether they are wearing eyeglasses, for hours and days on time, then striking them, watching their bodies get picked up, and the family grieving — it takes a toll. “There’s a significant moral injury that these people incur, especially when they are part of lethal strikes that they feel are immoral or unethical,” Murphy contends.

A lot of these feelings, he said, have been resurrected with the withdrawal and the war in Afghanistan now in the rearview mirror. Many veterans are now asking “what did it all mean? What was it for?”

Conflicts of Interest: Max Boot’s Ethnically Planned State

On COI #179, Kyle Anzalone refutes Max Boot’s recent Washington Post op-ed arguing against boycotting Israel. In the article, Boot admits that the reason we must reject BDS is that the movement calls for a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. He admits that Palestinians cannot live in their homeland because that would make Israel a majority Palestinian state. Boot concludes his article by cowardly suggesting that people who oppose Israel only do so because they harbor a hatred for Jews. 

Kyle breaks down Joe Biden’s gaffe at his town hall with Anderson Cooper. Biden said the US was committed to militarily defending Taiwan. However, the decades-long US policy – and US law – says that the US takes a position of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan’s defense. The White House then walked back Biden’s blunder saying US policy towards Taiwan remains unchanged. While the Biden statement was undiplomatic, it is representative of the increasing US aggression towards China.

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Dressing Up Unprovoked Aggression as ‘Plan B’

Michael Singh wants the Biden administration to threaten Iran with preventive war:

But the Biden administration should also prepare for the eventuality that diplomatic and economic pressure will not be enough to deter Iran’s leadership from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Officials in Tehran have already demonstrated that they are willing to permit their country to endure severe economic hardship for the sake of nuclear advancement. As a result, the United States will need to send a clear message that it is willing to go beyond sanctions and conduct a military strike as a last resort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

A military attack to “prevent” Iran from acquiring something they are not seeking is many things, but it is not a last resort. Attacking Iran to “prevent” a possible future threat is obviously not defensive. It is unprovoked aggression against another country based on an unproven assumption that the targeted government intends to build these weapons. It is worth adding that it would still be an act of aggression even if the Iranian government were actually trying to acquire those weapons, so it would be even more egregious if they were not. This is the same demented logic that led to the invasion of Iraq, which was an illegal war of aggression.

The U.S. has no right to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. There is no international authorization for such an action, and barring some very strange developments Russia and China would never approve of such an attack. A military strike (or, more realistically, a major air campaign) against Iran’s facilities would be the act of a rogue superpower in violation of the U.N. Charter. When pundits and analysts urge Biden to pursue a “Plan B” that includes military action, they are urging him to commit a massive international crime.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Conflicts of Interest: Fiction or Fact? Havana Syndrome & Energy Weapons guest Alan MacLeod

On COI #178, Alan MacLeod – writer at FAIR and Mint Press News – joins Kyle Anzalone to discuss the facts and fictions of direct energy weapons and Havana Syndrome. Starting in 2016, Americans at the US Embassy in Cuba reported feeling headaches, nausea and brain fog. The Trump administration encouraged everyone at the embassy to report when they were not generally feeling well. A rash of cases of various symptoms were then lumped into a novel ailment, the so-called ‘Havana Syndrome.’ However, the “illness” still has no identified cause and its alleged symptoms vary wildly from person-to-person. 

Nonetheless, the lack of any scientific or medical evidence has not stopped the US government and media from claiming the ‘syndrome’ is a result of attacks directed by China, Russia or another American ‘adversary.’ Now, the number of Havana Syndrome cases has topped 200, with some patients even retiring due to the supposedly debilitating effects of the illness. The corporate press has rolled this narrative into Russiagate as well, claiming Trump’s CIA downplayed the Havana Syndrome simply to maintain relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Alan points out that while the Havana Syndrome is a fiction, the US government is, in fact, working to develop directed energy weapons. Alan explains how they are currently used on the battlefield, and how the tech might evolve in the future. 

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Daniel Ellsberg on the Most Dangerous Missiles

From DavidSwanson.com:

Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation who precipitated a national uproar in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. military’s account of activities during the Vietnam War, to The New York Times. Ellsberg has continued as a political activist, giving lecture tours and speaking out about current events, and as an author of critically important books, and as a guest on this program and many others. Dan Ellsberg has recently published with Norman Solomon an article in The Nation magazine titled “To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles—Eliminate Them.”

Shut the Door on NATO Expansion

The Washington Times reports rather melodramatically about Lloyd Austin’s scheduled visits to Ukraine and Georgia this week:

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will stress this week that there is an “open door to NATO” for Ukraine and Georgia, the two nations on the front lines of Russian aggression, Pentagon officials said over the weekend.

Mr. Austin will visit those two countries and Romania in the coming days before traveling to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers. Pentagon officials cast the trip as a clear signal to Moscow that the U.S. and its NATO allies stand firmly behind Ukrainian and Georgian sovereignty in the face of Russian provocations and military expansion over the past decade.

Encouraging Ukraine and Georgia to believe that NATO membership is still in the cards for them is a serious mistake. It is not surprising that the Biden administration is maintaining the status quo on this issue, but it is a missed opportunity to reverse some of the damage that was done back in 2008 when this dangerous promise was first made to these aspirant states. Keeping the “door” open to NATO expansion antagonizes Russia, and it strings Ukraine and Georgia along for no good reason. Many European allies will not support bringing these states into the alliance, and there is no compelling reason to add them. Both countries would be extremely difficult if not impossible to defend in the event of a conflict, and they already have Russian or Russian-backed forces on their territory. Even if they were model democracies, which they most certainly are not, they would be poor candidates for the alliance.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.