Don’t Confirm Brennan, Torture AND Drone Assassinations Are Illegal

Senator Rand Paul is not the only one with serious questions about the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director! Many people are rightly concerned that the CIA Nominee failed to provide a clear answer to Paul’s question: “Do you believe that the president has the authority to order lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without a trial?”

This coming Wednesday, Feb. 27, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Drones and the War On Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?” Unfortunately, besides being framed in a completely leading way, the only witnesses that will testify — all four — were drawn from the same Lawfare blog. Lawfare co-founder Benjamin Wittes (who doesn’t even possess a law degree himself) gloats about it. Have you ever heard of a congressional hearing that calls all of its “experts” from one certain pro-war agenda-driven blog?! (Note how the Lawfare blog byline, “Hard National Security Choices”, masks how these blogging lawyers tend to come up with the very easy answer that the law of force is the answer instead of the rule of law. Clearly the aim of this “Judiciary Hearing” should be questioned as it does not appear it is to fairly consider the range of views about the illegality of drone assassination without judicial process.)

Additionally, we here in Minnesota have initiated meetings and letters signed now by over 200 members of different peace groups asking our Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, given their important Judiciary Committee assignments, to use their influence to seek answers. We’ve asked several other serious questions about Brennan’s background with CIA torture black sites as well as his role in drone assassinations (in this latest full letter to Sen. Klobuchar.)

Finally, our Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) group sent a letter Senator Feinstein warning her about endorsing Brennan, who cooperated with former CIA Director George Tenet as he helped fix the Bush administration’s case for war on Iraq. It would be her next-to-worst mistake of her tenure on the Senate Intelligence Committee, we told her. The worst – we hope she now concedes – was voting to authorize the Iraq War. Read the letter in full here.

Let me also mention something else that seems to be going on in the “legal” debate that is now distracting people as it devolves into party partisanship. A number of law professors and legal commentators, from both the Right and the Left (even most recently Georgetown Law Professor David Cole who wrote: “Laying Down the Law–Why Obama’s targeted killing is better than Bush’s torture“) have turned what should be a much wider real debate based on facts and law into the narrow, more partisan-driven question of “What’s worse? (Bush’s) Torture or (Obama’s) Drone Bombing?”

Some like Cole, at least have the decency to preface their comments with “well they are both wrong, but…..” while Bellinger III and others of his Lawfare ilk post their challenges on the other side of the partisan “divide,” that in fact killing is worse than torture, using such common sense arguments that it’s better to be alive with your fingernails torn out than to be dead.

Isn’t this partisan “divide” as to whether to prefer torture or assassination as the lesser evil a bit like counting how many demons can dance on the head of a pin? It’s certainly confusing to those of us who think torture AND drone assassination are wrong, wrong, wrong. The unfortunate result, however–and perhaps the goal of the two party kabuki theater–is that the entire red herring “debate” distracts the partisans of both parties, making both Republicans and Democrats more complacent about both torture & drone assassination. This is how so many people come to ignore the right and wrong of it all and turn it into a mere political difference of opinion.

(Cross-posted from Huffington Post.)

Ban Weaponized Drones from the World

From Roots Action:

Meticulous researchers have documented that U.S. drones are killing many innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Drones are making the world less stable and creating new enemies. Their remoteness provides those responsible with a sense of immunity.

Weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs, or chemical weapons. The world must renounce and forbid their manufacture, possession, or use. Violators must be held accountable.
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“Let Justice Flow Like a River…”

Resisting Drone in Missouri

by Brian Terrell, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence

The United States District Courthouse in Jefferson City, Missouri, is a modern and graceful structure sitting on a bluff over the Missouri River. Less than one year old, it is a virtual temple in white marble, granite and glass, its clean lines all the more immaculate in contrast to its nearest neighbor, the crumbling 19th century hulk of the derelict and empty Missouri State Penitentiary, now a tourist attraction and occasional movie set. Set into the floor of the courthouse rotunda, executed in marble and bronze, is the image of the Great Seal of the United States, the eagle with arrows in one talon and olive leaves in the other, circled by a quote from the Bible, from the prophet Amos, “Let Justice Flow Like A River.”
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Confusing All Around: The Air and Space Museum Bumrush

Yesterday I read with excitement that otherwise docile protests in Washington, DC — the merging of the pre-planned October2011 rally with the spontaneous “Occupy” movement — rushed the Air and Space Museum and got it shut down. Guards shot pepper spray at the crowd, affecting several. The Museum, at the Smithsonian on the Mall in the capital, was featuring an exhibit about drones.

Today it turns out the most active participant in this rush was one Patrick Howley — a writer at the American Spectator. And he openly admits in his column that he ended up as an agent provocateur after first only planning to infiltrate and write a hit piece on the “socialist” movement and its apparent “indoctrination” techniques. But aside from this, the story is pathetic all around.

Howley reports the protesters, ever-bolder as they marched to the museum for a planned action, slowed down as they approached the building’s steps. Only about half rushed up them and tried to enter the building; only Howley and another protester actually got in the doors past the guards. In the ensuing moments, Howley and the protester were pushed and then pepper sprayed, and apparently the spray reached several others. Howley then ran through the museum thinking he had opened the way for the other protesters to streak through and hang banners and whatever other actions they planned. He turned around, squinting through his mace-swollen eyes to realize nobody had followed him.

Creepily, Howley is proud of the guard who sprayed him — he and the other guards “acted with more courage than I saw from any of the protesters.”

Now, the lefty blogosphere is outraged. This isn’t journalism! they shriek. Well, yes and no. It’s legitimate to infiltrate a movement in order to report; that’s classic stuff. But the result by Howley is less journalism than goofy slander — the piece he intended to write would have been rather weak without his little adventure.

But what’s puzzling is that Charlie Grapski of FireDogLake seems to have been snookered into kneejerk opposition to Howley’s actions, not just their intent. Sure, Howley did something he himself thought was terrible and would set-up and implicate the antiwar protesters as disruptive hoodlums. So… Grapski — and hundreds of commenters — agree with Howley? Yes, apparently.

“In light of his detailed description of his activities today the fact that they clearly document the commission of the crime of trespassing on federal property, if not the intent to incite a riot there, these admissions should not be taken lightly or ignored. … the presence and admitted activities of this self-proclaimed agent provacateur should be brought to the attention of federal law enforcement officials. … Who was really to blame for the chaos and disruption of a Federal Museum?

Blame? Surely, Grapski means who was the unintended hero in the righteous disruption of a museum that engages in imperial propaganda, when all others stood back and cowered? We’re supposed to be in solidarity with the masses of Tahrir, no? Well they burned down the party headquarters, buddy. If protesters had smashed up a few papier mâché drones in a museum wouldn’t exactly make Gandhi cry.

It’s time to embrace these nonviolent tactics that may happen to break the rules. It’s time to take some clues from the Occupy Boston participants who told the cops “No.” Let them eat their free-speech zones. They certainly have the seasonings handy.

Why is FireDogLake opposing this “crime of trespassing on federal property” — at all? This is the ONE truly heroic hardcore direct action against authority and the glorification of violence that we’ve seen! Smashing up a publicly owned shrine to remote death from the air — hurting nobody — is nonviolent. A sit-in — oooh, trespassing! — is also nonviolent and absolutely just. Who owns that museum? What crimes is that museum complicit in pimping to American children as legitimate?

Shutting it down was right. And sadly, it took some provocateur asshole to show us how it’s done.

Jeremy Scahill Trashes Juvenile Howard Dean on Obama ‘Successes’

Jeremy Scahill, despite lacking “mainstream” media credentials, continues to show the best chops of any military reporter out there. This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he thrashed the moron Howard Dean on the issue of, well, everything, really — from oh no the al-Qaedas will take over those Somalia Shabobs! to blatherings about Obama’s not endangering American troops in his little Libya adventure, though, as Scahill points out, those troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dean sounds like a child talking about this region, the Middle East, he just heard about. It’s quite embarrassing.

Newsweek‘s Tina Brown calls the drone program “smart power,” and doesn’t seem to care about the blowback she coolly admits will likely happen due to Obama’s massive expansion of it in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.