Friday, May 13, 2016

The Assassination Complex: A Long-Overdue Window into America's Vast Killing Machine

Based on dramatic revelations from a post-Snowden whistleblower and written by Jeremy Scahill and other Intercept writers, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program provides a long-overdue window into America's vast killing machine: who makes the decisions on who will be killed; how those decisions are made; how the strikes are carried out; most of all, in a thoughtful foreword by Edward Snowden and afterword by Glenn Greenwald, the implications for a democratic society of all this due-process-free, non-battlefield killing.

In addition to its substantive appeal, the book is beautifully laid out and includes numerous graphs, photographs, and text inserts that render some of the more complex aspects of the topic (such as the communications infrastructure and other logistics of drone strikes) easy to follow.

The inserts on the Orwellian language of drone strikes were particularly good. Did you know the military laments the difficulty of killing far-away people as "the tyranny of distance"? It takes a special sensibility to refer to obstacles to killing people as a form of "tyranny," but those are your tax dollars at work. Also, when an intended target is killed, that's called a "jackpot," but when an unintended target is killed, that's called an "EKIA," or Enemy Killed in Action. So no matter who is killed, the government always wins. It's both amusing and dispiriting to consider that the people behind this "heads I win, tails you lose" nomenclature also probably roll their eyes at the notion of children getting a "participant" ribbon just for entering a competition, with no need to actually win anything.

I'm a little surprised the book has received only four Amazon customer reviews since coming out ten days ago. I have a feeling the relative paucity might have something to do with Americans not wanting to know about the tyrannical powers our government has arrogated to itself and now exercises in secret, with no accountability or meaningful public debate. The attitude seems to be, "Do whatever you think you must to keep us safe; just don't tell us the disturbing details, lest we have to grapple with the legality, morality, and effectiveness of these far-reaching policies, and accept responsibility for them." There are a lot of things that might be said about such an attitude. "Consistent with the long-term health of a democracy" isn't one of them.


Unknown said...

I wanted to post a comment regarding a phrase in the article "the implications for a democratic society of all this due-process-free, non-battlefield killing". When dealing with organized groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, or lone wolf or other small less organized groups of people how is "non-battlefield killings" relevant? Those parties do not differentiate between battlefield and non-battlefield targets. They are just as likely to target military personnel as they are civilians attending a sporting event, sipping coffee at an outdoor café or riding public transportation. Since the people engaged in this conduct are not uniformed military personnel of a nation state, the nature of the conflict is different between a nation state and them as opposed to a traditional war between two nation states. Are you suggesting that we need to hold hearings and issue warrants for each and every attack against terrorists? Are you suggesting we are limited to attempting to arrest them and try them in a court of law, and therefore they are immune from attack by our armed forces? Would all of this be solved by a formal declaration of war against ISIS, Al Qaeda and each and every individual by name that we wish to kill either on a battlefield or on a non-battlefield? Drones are our response their style of warfare. Are you suggesting our only legitimate alternatives are do nothing or a formal declaration of war and the landing of massive numbers of troops to carry the fight to them in a more face to face manner? Are you suggesting that an invasion is more moral? I read the critiques and good points are made. What I hear less of is a clear explanation of how we should deal with ISIS and Al Qaeda,that is more moral and more legal? Thanks.

Unknown said...

I'd like to respond to John's comment. The label of 'terrorist' is being expanded to include civil disobedience. Does that merit a drone strike? Where will the line be drawn without any form of checks and balance? Without due process, without boots on the ground? It's easier to simply kill, and ask questions later. Are we going to try the easiest way possible? It has not been proven to be an effective deterrent for NEW ISIS recruitment. I've heard that when bombs blow up families, it actually creates more terrorists. I could honestly say that if my family were killed (women and children) I would also likely become extremist. What, John, would you do if an innocent member of your family were killed by a drone strike? What happened to valor, courage and strength? Our military services have great soldiers, willing to sacrifice in the name of whats good. Why have these service personnel on the ground AT ALL when all we are doing is making things worse? People have a natural aversion to tyranny, and if we give them the tools and opportunities, we can change lives. If all we do if step on their faces, we are no better than who we are fighting against.

McCoyote said...

Not only public not wanting to know but afraid to discuss it under the Panopticon's watchful eyes.

TimBo said...

Major General Teddy Ands was dreaming of trout fishing when the secure phone rang on the bed stand next to him. He woke up immediately in a panic. He’d been awakened plenty of times in the course of his career and it was never good news. His mind instantly jumped to his major concern.

He blinked and reflexively scanned the room by the dim light of the Frozen night light, Elsa’s image shining from the ceiling. His spouse, Donald, continued to sleep peacefully beside him. He’d learned to tune out NSA’s intrusions almost immediately after Teddy had been appointed director. Donald was totally apolitical and could care less about Teddy’s work. He was an apathetic man.

Teddy cleared his throat and picked up the handset before it could wake Donald with a second ring. “Is it Eisler?” he asked quietly but with a quaver of fear in his voice. It wasn’t his standard greeting – a crisp efficient command.

He was expecting an immediate, succinct briefing so he was surprised to hear Colonel Reemer crying on the other end of the line.

“Get a hold of yourself man”, Ands said, “It can’t be that bad. Is it Eisler?”

Reemer choked back a sob, “We haven’t heard from him in almost six weeks. We’re very afraid something has happened to him.”

“What about our surveillance?”

Reemer could be heard using a tissue, “Due to the cutbacks we couldn’t afford to send a team. We sent him some web cams to put up around his place but he never connected them.”

“Damnation!”, exclaimed Ands, “How can I run a surveillance state with no money? Do we have any leads at all?”

“None whatsoever. We’ll just have to wait until he posts something on his blog.”

Ands ended the call and sat heavily on the edge of the bed. He’d have to inform the President, perhaps a state of national mourning would be called. All he really cared about, all that really frightened him now was Eisler. In the end everything else was negotiable.

[All the plagiarism in this post is fair use (I hope)]

Unknown said...

If we're being honest with ourselves then we would accept that the whole concept of not differentiating between military personnel and civilians is not exclusive to Al Qaeda or ISIS. Most Americans find it really troubling to grapple with the fact that the US establishment has created an Israeli style assassination program only its much more widespread with far greater implications. Another thing missing is the entire context in which these terrorist organizations spring up. It's interesting to note how in a lot of cases most of the leaders of ISIS have been top guys of Saddam's military and were secular people hitherto. Most of the people who join these outfits are not ideological fanatics and that's a fact most would rather not confront so as to minimize or obliterate the criminality of their own state.Do you honestly think that US soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan or the private contractors that have riddled these countries place more value on human life than some terrorist outfit does? There have been so many veterans who have confessed to how they treated civilians in these war zones but that's somehow not an act of terrorism because they happen to be the army of the empire with shiny uniforms backed by people who believe that Americans are the ultimate targets when almost all the attacks that have taken place up until now have not occurred on American soil neither the greatest number of casualties and fatalities have been American. The issue is that like all empires, the American empire have to thrive on fear and paranoia so as to protect itself from its own citizens whom it fears could challenge and curb its unbridled power.

Prolonged warfare can be very dangerous and nations that are drunk on power and believe that war is somehow the only option for resolving conflicts and they are compelled to drone civilians and bomb hospitals and residential areas do not see how they have more in common with the mindset of a terrorist than a peace loving individual. Unfortunately for most people in the world the US happens to be the greatest threat to world peace and that's a persisting sentiment and people never wonder why is it? The ugly truth is that most of the people who end up joining a terror outfit do so because they have seen how people blown to bits has been normalized in their country thanks to the American footprint. Each new generation has grown up on more violence than the previous one and they have only seen stuff you wouldn't want your child to witness on a television screen. Now those people refuse to see their kids and women as collateral damage since that's the lingo of the residents of empires who prefer that to the reality of war which is more self revealing than anything else therefore uncomfortable.

In the case of drones, I believe 90% of its victims are not intended targets. They aren't terrorists who are immediate threats to the United States. Most of them are civilians who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Why would anybody drone a procession or a wedding or a funeral? Why after seeing the video revelation from Chelsea Manning people still prefer believing that its 'the other evil ones' who target civilians deliberately and not us. If that's not enough to disturb and disgust people then I don't think anything can. There was this whole media frenzy over ISIS beheading a journalist on how low can one get to do something like that but there is never any mentioning of daily bombings in Iraq and Syria where children see heads blown off every day and its their daily reality thanks to the hubris and greed of world powers. Its rather hypocritical to demand they would not turn into monsters specially while being traumatized by the violence without any reprieve and wouldn't want revenge when the nation that schools the world on democratic values went berserk after 9/11 into legitimizing illegal not to mention immoral belligerent policies around the world all in the name of revenge and later security.

Unknown said...

It's simply delusional to think its not going to have repercussions. It's like saying as long as its us doing the killing all is well but no way can anybody else bring the war on our turf. We kill civilians and its collateral damage but when you do it its terrorism. That hypocrisy is expected from elected representatives but when citizens of a state nod at that without daring to poke holes in that narrative then your living under the illusion of a democracy at best.There is a simple fact that everybody who hasn't deliberately brainwashed his or herself can understand and that is that the kill ratio of civilians achieved by the American killing machine is something no other terrorist outfit can rival no matter how lethal they happen to be and as long as people living in these countries get terrorized by the American belligerency on their soil, terrorism will grow a more vicious head than the one that gets counteracted and it would be a never ending cycle.

fairfield girl said...

Y'all have fine points of sound logic presented so well. Truthfully I'm not worried about what we are doing abroad with drones I'm worried about drone usage here in the U.S. after they get board playing with them overseas. Unless you live under an airport or on a base your in a drone fly zone. I'm worried about that potential future use and abuse this is an entire new world where crime and big brother can be having second helpings before I Joe Slow figure out its even a problem. Maybe we could reinvent bug zappers only for drones or some type of indestructible fishing line that we could weave into nets in our spare time.