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Apr 19 2012

Govt. Denies Visa to Anti-Drone Activist

If you’re already disappointed in the Obama administration’s many illegal and unconstitutional actions in the war on terror, prepare to be even more disappointed. The administration has denied a visa to a Pakistani attorney who represents victims of the American drone bombing campaign in that country. He was invited to speak at a conference in DC next week but is being kept out of the country to prevent him from doing so.

Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar has been invited to speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, but the U.S. government is failing to grant him a visa.

The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, is important to the Summit because of his work providing legal aid to victims of CIA-operated drone strikes. Akbar filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has been a critical force in litigating and advocating on victims’ behalf.

While Akbar has traveled to the United States in the past, he has not been granted permission to return since becoming an outspoken critic of drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed hundreds of civilians. He was previously invited to speak about drone strikes at Columbia University in New York, but he never received a response to the visa application he filed in May 2011. One year later, he is still waiting for a response, and he has been unable to get an answer from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as to why his application is being held up.

“Denying a visa to people like me is denying Americans their right to know what the U.S. government and its intelligence community are doing to children, women and other civilians in this part of the world,” Akbar said. “The CIA, which operates the drones in Pakistan, does not want anyone challenging their killing spree. But the American people should have the right to know.”

The CIA’s secret drone program has killed hundreds of people in Pakistan with no due process and no accountability. Akbar represents families whose innocent loved ones have been killed and maimed in these drone attacks.

This action fits perfectly into Obama’s exceptionless pattern of avoiding transparency and accountability for any actions taken by the U.S. government in the name of fighting terrorism. It may be that the drone campaign is worth doing, of course, but let’s at least have a public debate about it. Let’s at least put all the facts on the table and allow the advocates on both sides have their say. Let’s not hide behind assertions of legal privilege and unjustified visa denials in order to avoid having that debate.

50 comments

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  1. 1
    noastronomer

    “Let’s not hide behind assertions of legal privilege and unjustified visa denials in order to avoid having that debate.”

    Because unless we do actually have the debate we don’t know whether the drone campaign is worth doing or not. Just like we never had a debate about waterboarding until after it was done and *then* we decided it is was pointless.

    Mike.

  2. 2
    sundoga

    In a lot of ways, I would like to have outrage over this, and the bombings, but, in all honesty, I don’t. In fact, I find myself in just the opposite situation: supporting the drone attacks and wanting them to continue.
    The United States is fighting a war in Afghanistan. It’s an insurgency, or guerilla war. And the 1st rule of fighting a guerilla war is this: if the insurgents have a safe haven, they will never stop. You must deny them any such haven if you intend to win.
    Every successful anti-insurgency campaign has done this. Malaya; Sri Lanka; Peru. If the safe haven is eliminated, the insurgency cannot train new fighters, stockpile equipment or rest battle-worn troops, and ultimately it must either create a new haven or perish.
    The Taliban’s safe haven is Pakistan. For political reasons, we can’t take control of the area – but we can deny the enemy safety and security. This may or may not be enough. But if we don’t, we will lose this war. And I do think that would be a seriously bad thing for us, and for the people of Afghanistan.

  3. 3
    Ingdigo Jump

    But if we don’t, we will lose this war. And I do think that would be a seriously bad thing for us, and for the people of Afghanistan.

    Oh please. If you cared about the later half of that sentence at all you wouldn’t be in favor of bombing the shit out of the area

    “we must destroy the village to save the village”

    I’m sorry you people are scum to me. It’s so bad what Al Queda did, bombing us because of some beef…now we’re totally going to bomb other countries in the same way.

  4. 4
    sundoga

    Really? You would, then, be in favour of allowing the Taliban to restore their government, oppress 50% of the population (the female half) and support groups dedicated to expanding their system throughout the middle east.
    Not fair? No, it isn’t, but you can’t have it both ways. We stop them, or they win. I may be scum to you, but at least I’m not living in a fantasy of niceness and daffodils.

  5. 5
    Who Cares

    @Sundoga:
    Yes, let them sort out their mess and don’t come barging in like the idiots the USA has been.
    It isn’t right but unless you can get the population to work with you anything to you try to fix the problems you mentioned is pointless.
    Bombing the shit out of innocents is the best way to never get that support.

  6. 6
    Chiroptera

    sundoga, #4: You would, then, be in favour of allowing the Taliban to restore their government, oppress 50% of the population (the female half)….

    Oh, please. I am so tired of clowns using the women of Afghanistan as an excuse for their own murderous jihad when they don’t even care what the women of Afghanistan think or want.

  7. 7
    Who Cares

    Bah I should have a grammar checker.
    That should be:
    It isn’t right but unless you can get the population to work with you anything you do to try to fix the problems you mentioned is pointless.

    And an addendum:
    Even better not intervening allows the people inside the country to setup their own resistance to the people trying to continue these backward policies without being labeled foreign agents.
    Case in point is Iran. The mullahs there were losing influence like you wouldn’t want to believe. Right up to the point where Bush Jr. decided to paint them as so evil that the country has no right to exist except at the mercy of the US. Then the opposition melted away. Rinse and repeat with the idiotic sanctions imposed on Iran now.

  8. 8
    D. C. Sessions

    The bad news is that he’s annoying enough that he can’t enter the United States.

    The good news is that he’s not annoying enough to have a drone sent after him.

  9. 9
    Chris from Europe

    @Chiroptera
    Oh, I’m sure the US-allied warlords have different ways to oppress, injure and kill women that are much better.

  10. 10
    gridlore

    OK, please cite which section of the Constitution is being violated. The President ordered the campaign in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief. Congress has funded the mission and votes to continue it. I’d also like to see what specific law you think is being violated here, with a reference to the exact sections of the USC you feel are being broken.

    We are not “bombing the shit” out of northern Pakistan. If we wanted to do that, B-52s out of Diego Garcia, each carrying 35 tons of deadfall bombs, carpet bombing the inhabited valleys of Northwestern Pakistan indiscriminately would be bombing the shit out of them. The whole point of using drones is you can be selective about your targets.

  11. 11
    timberwoof

    If, as you say, “The whole point of using drones is you can be selective about your targets,” then you can tell us how many rounds of ammunition and how many bombs UAVs have deployed, how many actual targets they have killed, and how many innocent bystanders they have killed.

    Remember the Smart Bombs debacle during the first invasion of Iraq? Neighboes of targets were told that the bombs are smart and only hit exactly what they’re aimed at. So they concluded that they, innocent bystanders, were the targets. Americans wondered why Iraqis weren’t all happy and overjoyed to be killed by the latest in Smart Bomb technology.

    The organizers of the conference should set up a video teleconference and have Shahzad Akbar visit electronically from Toronto. Have backup means of communications ready. The points will be made.

  12. 12
    Who Cares

    @Gridlore:
    Please come back when you are willing to talk a bit more reasonable then pulling hyperbole so out of context it is unrecognizable.

  13. 13
    Who Cares

    About being selective. You do know the restriction under which those hellfires (for the predator UAV) or 500 lbs bombs (for the Reaper UAV) can be launched/dropped, don’t you?
    And how much collateral damage one does?
    Don’t talk about selective when the restriction is so vague that me sitting behind a computer is enough to be on the receiving end (were it not that I’m lucky enough to not live in the nations currently being patrolled by those UAVs). And what is so selective about 20 (hellfire) or 200+ (bombs) pounds of high explosives and shrapnel ?

    Selective is a single bullet through the head of someone positively identified, not someone who is behaving suspiciously (according to the controller of the UAV) and the 20+ yards around said person.

  14. 14
    Infophile

    @10 gridlore:

    OK, please cite which section of the Constitution is being violated. The President ordered the campaign in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief. Congress has funded the mission and votes to continue it.

    Fine, I’ll play your game. Article 1, Section 9, line 3:

    No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

    How does this apply? Let me spell it out:

    The CIA controls all drones. The CIA is a civilian intelligence organization, not a military organization. The President has no authority in his role as Commander-in-Chief to order them to do squat. He does have authority as the head of the Executive branch of government to direct him, but this is independent of his role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. So, in analyzing the actions of the CIA, we cannot treat them as part of the military (because they aren’t part of the military – I just want to emphasize this point).

    The state has the power to execute persons subject to its laws, but the line I quoted above prohibits an act of Congress from declaring anyone guilty (or from administering punishment regardless of guilt) without a trial (it also prohibits it with a trial – it’s simply not Congress’s job to judge or execute people).

    Simply put, the Constitution does not grant the government the power to execute drone strikes such as these. It in fact specifically forbids Congress from doing something like this. And, as the Ninth Amendment makes clear, the Constitution limits the government’s rights, not the people’s. If the government isn’t granted the power, it’s unconstitutional.

    (Now, if the drone strikes were executed by the military, they might be constitutional, but they would be war crimes in that case.)

    Of course, none of this addresses the question of whether or not these drone strikes are right, ethical, or practical. That’s what we’re actually talking about. I suspect you tried this distraction as you thought you’d win this way. You didn’t. You lose. Good day, sir.

  15. 15
    gridlore

    Actually the USAF controls most of the drones we are using. And the CIA has taken an active role in all out wars since the Korean War. Again, fully funded and approved by Congress. Drones are operated by the Air Force’s 3d Special Operations Squadron (3 SOS).

    The National Security Act of 1947 (Pub.L. 80-235, 61 Stat. 495, codified at 50 U.S.C. ch.15) which created the CIA and the National Security Council placed the Director of Central Intelligence under the President. The CIA does take orders from the President. Again, Congress has funding control and oversight, but not control.

    I will give you points for an amusing interpretation of the Article I, S.9. Are you claiming that targeting enemies in war amounts to a bill of attainder? OK, the show me the law passed by Congress that names specific targets for drone attacks.

  16. 16
    Makoto

    “Obama’s exceptionless pattern of avoiding transparency and accountability for any actions taken by the U.S. government in the name of fighting terrorism.” – um, no. Obama isn’t perfect, but he also doesn’t have a perfect record of avoiding transparency and/or accountability for his actions, even in the realm of fighting terrorism. If we’re fighting against hyperbolic statements from the other side, we should avoid using them ourselves.

  17. 17
    abusedbypenguins

    In Parliament 1777 George Washington, et al were declared “Terrorists”. We refer to them as “Freedom Fighters”. The was on “Terror” has been going on way far longer than the war on drugs. The powers that be keep telling us we’re winning, it’s straight out of 1984. If you are going to declare war then quit fucking around and go to war. William T. Sherman knew how to fight a war(Finally), destroy everything standing and kill everything that moves, or unconditional surrender. But, no, that bunch of losers that refer to themselves as the us military haven’t done anything right from Sept. 1945 to now. Viet Nam, gurilla war on their home land. No different than “Terrorists” fighting the British 1777 or “Terrorists” fighting the army 1969. Either scorch the earth and win or don’t even start. What has been the purpose from 1945 to now except for the solid stream or lies. One obscene cluster-fuck after another and we’re always winning. Hitler told the Germans the same lies for 12 years. I’ve listened for 60 years of the same lies, different language. Either kill every Iraqui and Afgani and scorch the earth or get out. 12 years ago the Iraqui people had a nice but nervious civilization, the us military squatted on Iraq and proceded to shit all over those people for no reason what-so-ever. In about the same way the german arny did to Poland 9/1/39. I lost all respect for the us military 9/4/68 in Saigon. I’m not proud to have been forced to join or be drafted and my 3 years, 8 months, 14 days and 2 hours in uncle sam’s canoe club were the shits.

  18. 18
    Infophile

    @15 gridlore:

    There’s a difference between civilians supplying intelligence to the armed forces (the traditional role of the CIA in warfare) and civilians killing enemy targets. CIA personnel are the ones pulling the triggers, not air force personnel. If it were air force personnel, it would be a lot more defensible, and I wouldn’t see any constitutional problem with the program.

    As for how Article 1, Section 9 applies, you said it yourself: Congress approved and funded this program. Now, their approval didn’t name anyone itself, but it handed the authority to do so over to the CIA. Now, given the history of Supreme Court decisions regarding bills of attainder, they probably wouldn’t classify this as one, though I personally think that it’s simply a shell game – if the congress let’s someone else decide who’s to be killed without a trial, suddenly it’s alright.

    But really, if this issue went to court, no lawyer would be making this argument. It was just the first argument that came to me while skimming the Constitution for limits on Congress’s power. Any lawyer worth his or her salt would point to the fifth amendment instead:

    [N]or shall any person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…

    I believe we can agree that the drone campaign deprives people of life (note that the Constitution never limits rights to American citizens or people within its boundaries). Although the CIA has its methods for trying to make sure only actual terrorists are targeted, the program still violates the due process clause as the accused are never given an opportunity to confront their accusers in a court of law (as guaranteed by the sixth amendment).

    Now, the involvement of the US Air Force in this program does complicate things a bit, I’ll grant you. The military isn’t bound by due process requirements when fighting enemy combatants, but they also aren’t the ones making the decisions or pulling the trigger here. But as I alluded to before, even if this is treated as a military operation, that doesn’t make it acceptable – it’s quite possible that it would qualify as a war crime.

  19. 19
    sundoga

    All the posts about the Constitution? Please stop. It’s all bullshit.
    The Constitution does not say what you want it to say. Or what I want it to say. It says what the Supreme Court says it does, and they have never had a problem with military or intelligence agencies using lethal force outside the US.
    As to “War Crimes”, all I have to say about that is “Victor’s Justice.”
    Regarding the rest: I have only one question: Do you want us to lose? Are you fine with having the Taliban back in control? Because this IS a zero-sum game – one winner, one loser. If we allow the Taliban forces to contnue to operate out of northern Pakistan unimpeded, we will lose, whether or not we get the Afghan people on our side (and yes, that is another vital area). So, make a choice – act against the Taliban wherever they hide, or let them take over again.

  20. 20
    Who Cares

    @Infophile:
    There are two parts to the drone control.
    One is the USAF. This one boils down to improved artillery. With JAG authorizing weapon release under strict rules of engagement. This part actually reduces collateral damage by not having to perform saturation bombing (as with traditional artillery) or having to attack now otherwise the targets are gone.
    The other is the CIA which has little to no oversight, at least with the people on the so called signature lists, and kills based on suspicion instead of positive identification resulting in innocents getting killed instead of the real target.

    @Sundoga:
    The US & NATO have already lost. They lost the moment that the goal in Afghanistan changed from get Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to turn the place into a democracy and didn’t change tactics accordingly.
    Also what is so bad, for the western world, about the Taliban back in business?

  21. 21
    stuartvo

    sundoga
    It seems to me that you feel that winning is an end in itself, and that “losing” is simply unacceptable. (Inconceivable, even?)

    But it seems that, as abusedbypenguins says, there simply is no way to “win” short of burning all of Afghanistan to the ground!

    Winning “hearts and minds” isn’t a separate issue from winning the war. It’s the only way to win a guerrilla war. And it seems that the West’s chance of achieving that may well have passed. Too much hatred from the common people of the country towards the occupying troops.

    The Afghans are going to have to win this fight on their own. They don’t want outside “help”, they’ve had far too much of that already, going back a long time, now.

    And as for the suffering of the women of Afghanistan: All of that is already happening, and all the foreign troops don’t seem to be able to stop it. True, it may get even worse if everyone pulls out, but we can’t just assume that as a given. Not can we assume that if they just stay longer they’ll be able to root out every Islamist fuck-head in the whole country. (Remember, it’s not just the Taliban committing these atrocities.)

  22. 22
    AJS

    Excuse my French, but how the fucking fuckety fuck is fitting any kind of weapon to an unstaffed aircraft not a serious violation of the Geneva Convention?

    Any weapon should require the person firing it to be able to see that they are pointing it at a human being just like themself, and feel the relevant emotions as they pull the trigger.

  23. 23
    Chris from Europe

    With little fascists like sundoga, having a Constitution is a waste of time.

  24. 24
    sundoga

    Ah yes, you have no actual argument to make, so just ad hominem away. Sit down, please, Chris from Europe, adults are talking.

    I don’t find losing inconceivable, or unacceptable. My problem with it is that it won’t be the end of the problem.
    Losing in Vietnam ended the situation for the best. Vietnam unified, built a nice little state for itself, and has matured into a respectable and respected nation. Call that a win.

    Does anyone really think, that if the Taliban are back in control of Afghanistan, that we won’t be doing all this again 20 years from now?

    This is what I don’t want. And if we stop putting pressure on the Taliban in Pakistan, it will.

  25. 25
    Chiroptera

    sundoga, #24: Does anyone really think, that if the Taliban are back in control of Afghanistan, that we won’t be doing all this again 20 years from now?

    With nuts like you in charge, we’ll be continuing to do this for 20 years anyway.

  26. 26
    eric

    Wow, the thread spirals off-topic at post #2.

    You folks realize that what Ed is talking about is the government preventing someone entry into the country merely because they want to have the argument you’re having, right?

    I don’t see how anyone can condone that as a matter of principle. Sure, its probably legal; the guy’s not a US citizen, and the government is probably within its rights to deny a non-citizen entry for something it would be perfectly legal for one of its citizens to do. But its a pretty censorious move. I don’t want my government restricting the flow of outside opinions into the country. That’s what the Soviet Union did and China and North Korea still do.

    The goverment should let him in. I don’t give a crap whether I agree or disagree with his position on drones; I very much give a crap that the government is trying to deny me access to information and opinion about its policies.

  27. 27
    harold

    OK, please cite which section of the Constitution is being violated.

    False dichotomy. I can oppose a policy without thinking that the policy violates the constitution.

    Sundoga said –

    Ah yes, you have no actual argument to make, so just ad hominem away.

    You are mistaking an insult for an ad hominem.

    For the record, I don’t think it’s likely that you’re actual fascist.

    I just think that you’re terribly, pitifully naive, in a self-serving way.

    The Taliban ruled Afghanistan for many years without the least interference from the US. Which made perfect sense. The world is full of horrific situations. The United States should not and obviously literally cannot use military force to change the domestic policies of every oppressive country on earth.

    The Taliban posed no direct threat to the United States, but eventually, Ossama Bin Laden and his band of mainly Saudi Arabian, all non-Afghan terrorists settled in Afghanistan, undoubtedly taking as much advantage of the relative remoteness and anarchy of most parts of Afghanistan as of the Taliban government.

    The Clinton administration had, for good reason, been closely monitoring Al Qaeda, but the Bush administration scorned that policy, possibly because of the Bush love for Saudis, possibly out of contempt for anything associated with Clinton, possibly for some other reason.

    Within less that a year from Bush’s inauguration, the WTC/Pentagon attacks of Sept 11, 2001 occurred.

    The official Taliban response was to condemn the attacks, by the way.

    Bush mainly used the situation to drum up a useless war against Iraq, a war that many sources agree he would have pursued 9/11 or no 9/11, despite the total lack of involvement of Iraq or Iraqis in the attacks.

    Afghanistan was also invaded. Here we could say that the invasion was “justified” – whether deliberately or through lack of ability to control their jurisdiction, the Taliban allowed the attacks to be plotted from Afghanistan.

    But the question you don’t seem to be able to ask is, was the invasion rational?

    You seriously seem to believe that indefinitely continuing an ineffective yet savagely brutal occupation, via means such as drone attacks that kill underaged children by the hundreds, will eventually lead to some kind of permanent Utopia in Afghanistan.

    It won’t, and Afghanistan was never the problem anyway. Saudi Arabian upper class Ossama Bin Laden was the architect of the WTC/Pentagon attacks. He could have plotted them from a vast number of locations. He happened to choose the anarchic, nearly-impossible-to-control hinterlands of Afghanistan, possibly because the Taliban were in power, or quite possibly, because whatever Afghan government was in power, it would not have had much control over the area where he was based.

    At this point, he is dead, Afghanistan poses no more threat to the US than many other places – the world is full of relatively anarchic places where brutal, imperialistic US policies are bitterly resented by violent people with little to lose, but you’ll just have to live with that; it would take decades of changed behavior by the US to change that.

    The occupation of Afghanistan is a total failure that has had a devastatingly negative effect on US prestige, US military morale, and the US economy.

  28. 28
    gridlore

    AJS@22:

    OK, cite the section of the Geneva Conventions that prohibit unmanned drones.

    You see, when people scream things like this, I always ask for a citation, because it almost always turns out that the person claiming that something is unconstitutional, illegal, or in violation of some treaty has no real clue what they are talking about.

    By the way, your demand that people be able to see the enemy is about a century out of date. Even infantrymen (which I am proud to say was my MOS) spend most of their time shooting at movement, muzzle flashes, and where they think the enemy is. It’s almost unheard of for the enemy to stand up and show themselves. You’d also ban artillery, mortars, hand grenades, close air support.. do you have any clue what a modern battlefield is like?

  29. 29
    Marcus Ranum

    I have a great idea!! Let’s send the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to Washington to finger-wag at the administration about openness and the rule of law! That’ll help.

  30. 30
    Marcus Ranum

    gridlore:
    , cite the section of the Geneva Conventions that prohibit unmanned drones.

    Nicely framed. The pieces of the GC that are relevant are the ones regarding distinguishing combatants from non-combatants. I know it’s been public policy since Vietnam that “collateral damage” is acceptable but the GC don’t agree. The notion of proportionality has been egregiously distorted – “all the passengers in a car” are not military targets because one person in the car is suspected of being a military target. Shooting at muzzle-flashes means you’re probably getting incoming fire, right?

    The issue is not how drones, artillery, and close air support work – it’s how they are being used. If you’re using artillery to perform counter-battery fire that’s one thing, but if you’re using artillery against a village full of civilians because someone fired a rifle at a helicopter, it’s another entirely. At that point you’ve moved away from military necessity and into punishing the civilian population for having a military element infiltrate itself into their presence. While the laws of armed conflict say that its a crime to use “human shields” (so if someone places a sniper in a village, it’s the sniper and the sniper’s commander’s crime) it is ALSO a crime to blow the village flat with air strikes because of the sniper. Oh, and in case you’re not really an adult: two wrongs don’t make a right.

  31. 31
    Chris from Europe

    @sundoga
    As Harold explained, you don’t even know what an ad hominem is.

    @harold
    The person may not be fascist, but the thinking is certainly everything but civil-libertarian. Giving the arguments made here, there should be no question that not being a classical fascist isn’t enough to be a better person than a fascist.

    @eric
    The government certainly abuses the unchecked power it has in the area of entry of non-citizens. I don’t remember the case, but the Supreme Court has ruled the wrong way on this issue.

    The Supreme Court may even make sure that arguments about unconstitutional behavior of administrations can’t reach them and I think they did. That doesn’t mean we should shut up about it and that the claim of being unconstitutional is without merit.

  32. 32
    slc1

    What should have been done after 9/11 was to load up a B52 with four 15 megaton bombs, targeting the first one for Tripoli to take care of Colonel Gaddafi, targeting the second one on Baghdad to take care of Saddam Hussein, target the third one on Tehran to take care of the Ayatollahs, and targeting the fourth one on Kabul to take care of the Taliban. No necessity for sending in ground troops.

  33. 33
    slc1

    By the way, the US Government has denied entrance to numerous other individuals, including most famously Canadian writer Farley Mowat.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farley_Mowat

  34. 34
    Who Cares

    @Sundoga:
    You answered:

    Also what is so bad, for the western world, about the Taliban back in business?

    We have to do this again.

    I do want to point out that this is the real world not Minority Report.
    Aside from that the target was not the Taliban, it was Al Qaeda. The Taliban itself never threatened the western world, they were just very obstinate about just handing over the brother (or son, would have to check that one) in law of their leader. I doubt that is going to happen again seeing that the new place Al Qaeda seems to be Yemen.

    So again I ask what is so bad, for the western world, about the Taliban back in business?

  35. 35
    sundoga

    Harold, thank you, however I believe that Chris from Europe was in fact attempting not only to insult me, but also to label me in such a way as to make my arguments apear irrelevant and/or farcical. This would make it an ad hominem attack as well.

    Your timeline, from what I can see, is quite accurate. And I find your arguments rational. But a few points:
    First, the occupation of Afghanistan is not “savagely brutal”, though I can accept “ineffective”. The castigation of the Moro uprising in the 1900s was both savage and brutal; the actions of the Japanese towards the Chinese in World War Two; the Russian actions in the second Chechen war might be likwise described. As always, the worst aspects are the ones that show up on the news, but by any rational view the current occupation is reasonably civilized and actually attempting to create a relationship other than “us and them”.
    Second, while I would agree that at this point we are not succeeding, I don’t think that’s the way it must be. Utopia is unacheivable anywhere; a reasonable and non-extremist government is not. But the Taliban insurgency will not allow that to happen in Afghanistan, and that insurgency CAN be defeated. But not if we let them have free reign of Northern Pakistan.

    Oh, and Chiroptera, you still didn’t answer the question.

  36. 36
    sundoga

    Sorry, Who Cares, missed you the first time:

    What’s wrong is that the Taliban may not have been threatening us, but definitely were threatening Pakistan (nuclear power), Iraq, Iran (rapidly approaching being a nuclear power), the ex-Soviet states in central Asia…and providing a home for the extremists of all sorts. Plus, what happens in other parts of the globe most assuredly does affect us. No, there’s no “domino theory” at work here, but this will make things worse for us. And all of this ignores the fact that they will go back to making the country a complete hellhole…which, yes I do actually care about, even if you don’t.

  37. 37
    kermit.

    This has cost us militarily. We are overextended, and have few options should we be attacked for real elsewhere. Our military personnel are stressed, have seen a record number of tours, are losing their homes and families. And these are people who could be put to better use rebuilding the infrastructure, running their own businesses, and supporting their families.

    It has cost us politically. We had built up some good will with Kosovo; our military action there was restrained, it was motivated by good will and not imperialism, and it was largely effective in short order. It is now impossible for us to castigate other countries for aggressive wars – we have no moral standing. Many countries do not trust us; some of them wonder if we will decide that their natural resources will be considered “US interests”.

    It has cost us financially – many of the best of us are off getting blown up or making enemies rather than working here in the US. We have spent hundreds of billions building stuff with productive purposes. Our economy has been restructured.

    It has cost us our freedom. Make no mistake; the internal war on freedom and religion saw the twin towers attack as a God-send. The fear and wartime atmosphere allowed the president to get away with decisions that may not have been possible under peace and prosperity. Torture, invasion of privacy, jingoism, suspended legal rights, were facilitated by these wars. There are still tax-paying voters who think that Saddaam Hussein was behind the World Trade Center. Tax dollars hae been channeled rapidly into Blackwater, Haliburton, and other companies doing tasks that used to be done by government personnel. Remember when the argument was that it woudl be cheaper that way? It’s not, but to be fair, we no longer hear those arguments – they’re no long necessary.

    It has cost us morally. My daughter’s generation has grown up with being constantly monitored, with “outsourcing evil”(1), with torture.

    And it may kill us all, literally. We are diverted from pressing problems such as global warming, ocean acidification, peak oil, forest loss, a burgeoning population, etc.

    As for the topic Ed actually posted about, Timberwoof is right. We need to use the new technologies to get around the maneuverings of the ossified soul Fascists.
    (1) My daughter’s words.

  38. 38
    Modusoperandi

    slc1 “What should have been done after 9/11 was to load up a B52 with four 15 megaton bombs, targeting the first one for Tripoli to take care of Colonel Gaddafi, targeting the second one on Baghdad to take care of Saddam Hussein, target the third one on Tehran to take care of the Ayatollahs, and targeting the fourth one on Kabul to take care of the Taliban. No necessity for sending in ground troops.”
    Exactly. That’s why when my dog bites me I kick it and I kick my neighbour’s dog and his neighbour’s dog and his neighbour’s dog.
    But I leave the little North Korean dog, the Saudi Arabian dog, a couple of nut-lead former Soviet republic dogs, various terrible African dogs, etc, alone. What the hell, I give them guns and landmines.
    I’ll get around to kicking them next time.
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go kick the Vietnamese dog. Because shut up, that’s why.

    “By the way, the US Government has denied entrance to numerous other individuals, including most famously Canadian writer Farley Mowat.”
    To be fair, even the Wikipedia page admits that Mowat is history’s worst monster.

  39. 39
    Chiroptera

    sundoga, #35: Oh, and Chiroptera, you still didn’t answer the question.

    Holy shit! That was a serious question? You’d look slightly less foolish if you just pretended it was a rhetorical question.

    Questions based on false premises need not be answered.

  40. 40
    Who Cares

    @Sundoga:
    I do care as well but we (that is the western world) have messed up so badly that the only thing we can do at the moment is leave the place. Anything else will be considered colonialism by the people there and they’ve been making life of colonialists impossible since the British tried to take the place.

    The Taliban weren’t threatening Pakistan as a whole, though the people in power there might disagree (the trauma of losing what is now Bangladesh doesn’t allow the ceding of more territory). What they wanted was the Pashtun area.
    The threat of fundamentalists taking over the place has increased mainly due to the US ignoring the sovereignty of Pakistan. The only reason that Pakistan can even be used as transit area for material going into Afghanistan is massive bribes (as in handing out billions in ‘aid’ with no strings attached).

    So what reason do we have to stay? You still haven’t mentioned any reason why the western world should stay except a vague maybe someone else will someday do something that might hurt people somewhere (seeing that there is no way that staying there will help improve the situation for women and such), and like I said before this is not Minority Report.

  41. 41
    sundoga

    Chiroptera: Either you didn’t actually read the question, or you honestly can’t say you don’t believe we won’t be back in the country in twenty years if the Taliban come back. I suspect the former.

    Who Cares: They were also most certainly threatening Iran. We don’t get a lot of news from the Islamic Republic (for entirely understandable reasons on both sides) but what we were getting made it pretty clear the Taliban were either actively or passively supporting extremist Sunni in their fight against the “Heretics”. Iran is (very reasonably) unhappy at having US military forces on three sides, but they’re a lot happier with the situation as regards their northern border then they were.

    And I don’t need Minority Report pseudoscience to see likelihoods. The Taliban were not overly radicalized as regards the West before this war, that is true, but they certainly are NOW. Leaving a war with the central issues unresolved and the situation basically unchanged has almost always led in the past to only one outcome – fighting that war all over again a generation later.

  42. 42
    Chiroptera

    sundoga, #41: …you honestly can’t say you don’t believe we won’t be back in the country in twenty years if the Taliban come back. I suspect the former.

    Holy shit! You really do think that’s a profound and thought provoking question!

    It really doesn’t matter who will be in charge in 20 years. We will “be back” in Afghanistan if and when whoever is in charge of this country feels that they can politically benefit from it. The Taliban are unlikely to give them any more of an excuse than any other group (including our so-called “allies”) who are likely to be in charge.

  43. 43
    tsig

    And I don’t need Minority Report pseudoscience to see likelihoods. The Taliban were not overly radicalized as regards the West before this war, that is true, but they certainly are NOW. Leaving a war with the central issues unresolved and the situation basically unchanged has almost always led in the past to only one outcome – fighting that war all over again a generation later.

    So we have to eradicate them since we started fighting them?

    Any reason why we’d be fighting them in a generation?

  44. 44
    sundoga

    Chiroptera, whether you consider it thought provoking, deep, shallow, meaningfull or meaningless is not something I have any power over; your opinion is, as always, your own. I just find it amusing that you have weaseled out of actually answering what is basically a yes/no question three times now.

    Tsig, aside from the fact that it is morally indefensible, abhorrent, and foul, and that I have never said word one about such genocidal stupidity, what makes you think that “wiping them out” would A) work or B) be a win for anyone?

    As to why would we be fighting them in a generation, for the same reason we are fighting them now. The underlying problems have not changed, the situation is no better, and unless we do actually win those positions will remain. And our leaders in twenty years will be no more effective than they are now. All it will require is a trigger, and there are plenty of nuts on both sides perfectly willing to provide one.

  45. 45
    Chiroptera

    sundoga, #44: I just find it amusing that you have weaseled out of actually answering what is basically a yes/no question three times now.

    Ah, you think that it it was a “yes/no” question. That’s why you don’t realize that I did answer your question.

    You might find that people will take you more seriously when you realize that the world is a far more complicated place than what you read in comic books and start suggesting policies that are based in reality than action heros.

  46. 46
    sundoga

    And that’s four. And I would have significantly more respect for you if you had more than gratuitous and silly insults and posted any sort of suggestons, policies or ideas at all. As it is, all I’m seeing is a rather poor troll.
    I’m actually taking this seriously, Chiroptera. As have been many of those who have argued against me. I think we’d all appreciate it if you did the same.

  47. 47
    dobbshead

    Man, these comment threads really develop an in-crowd, out-crowd mentality fast.

    The arguments that somehow the drone strikes are unconstitutional are all pretty silly. The constitution gives congress the power to: “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”. The courts have been pretty clear that due process doesn’t apply outside the borders. If it did, war would be illegal.

    Trying to play a game where the CIA somehow can’t do a drone strike, but an airman can also seems pretty silly to me. The section of the constitution cited above allows congress to hire ‘privateers’ (read: mercenaries) for combat at sea. Why couldn’t they hire civilians for combat support roles?

    I think Ed got it in his last paragraph. The question isn’t whether or not congress and the president have to power to wage this kind of war (because they most certainly do), but whether or not we should wage this kind of war. In which case limiting discussion by not allowing people into the country is undemocratic.

    That being said, sundoga has had some pretty good points. Drone strikes were in fact developed to be more precise. Now that we have invaded, and are in control there is a good argument to try and leave rationally. If we leave now there is a lot of reason to think insurgent forces would take over and make a pretty hostile circumstance to western influences. There are some good arguments for the use of drones as part of fighting this war.

    That all being said, I’m not convinced (as a layman) that it is really worth it to continue the campaign in Afghanistan. It’s been a really long time, and we aren’t seeing results. I’ve heard from the beginning that it’s because the mission objective isn’t clear or something, but apparently the administration/command is unable to unwilling to clarify their objective to make it obtainable. And when it comes to spending American lives and dollars to keep one oppressive regime from forming, I can’t really care about that either. Unless they can come up with objectives that they can achieve in the next year or too, I don’t see much reason to stay.

    I also don’t buy the argument that if we don’t stabilize Afghanistan now we’ll be back in 20 years. I don’t have a rational argument as to why we won’t, but I don’t understand your argument that we will. It just seems unlikely given that there are plenty of unstable regions of the world that we don’t run military campaigns in.

  48. 48
    Chiroptera

    sundoga, #46: As it is, all I’m seeing is a rather poor troll.

    Right. I’m a troll for pointing out that your childish “yes/no” questions are somehow profound and relevant to a real discussion.

    Why don’t you take a little time explaining why my response in #42 was “trolling” rather than an actual response to your question?

  49. 49
    dobbshead

    @Chirotera

    Actually it does matter if the Taliban comes back as a result of a US withdrawal. It can be argued that since US forces as a whole have had such a strong effect in the region, that we have a responsibility to leave the region with a semblance of stability. I think that’s sundoga’s point, and its a good one. Your insistence that the question was a bad one does make you kinda look like a troll, IMO.

    I’d argue that at this point the marginal cost in terms of American lives, Afghan lives, and American dollars, as well as the very real risk that a stable Afghanistan is not achievable even with continued operations, outweigh the risk to the local population under Taliban governance. Which means we should withdraw and let Afghanistan sort itself out, maybe with continued aid to the Afghan government.

    If somebody could propose a set of reasonable objectives which could be achieved in relatively short order that would significantly reduce the chance of a reversion to Taliban rule, then the argument for continued operations begins to look better. I’m not convinced that drone strikes are up to that task because of the serious concerns about confidence in acquiring targets (which is what the OP was about). But then again, no one technique is ever up to solving a complex problem.

  50. 50
    sundoga

    Actually, Chiroptera, I don’t consider you a troll because you apparently cannot answer the question, I consider you a troll because, unlike many of the others who have criticised my position here, you have basically added nothing to the debate except empty rhetoric and attacks primarily on minor aspects of my arguments. Not to mention your pleasent habit of straw-manning in an attempt to make my arguments look ridiculous. The perfect example being your continuing insistance that I find the question in question to be “somehow profound and relevant” – a claim I have never made. It is a question, with a simple yes/no answer, nothing more, yet, it sems to matter so very much to you that you not answer it.

    As to why #42 is not a response, it is because it does not address the question. It is simply a generalization based upon your perception of US foreign policy, and as such, generally applicable worldwide – IF one accepts the fundamental assumptions behind it, which I for one, do not. Thus, it stands only as a rather trite and cliched attack on an area only tangentially related to the primary thrust of the question.

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