The Unspeakable Secret: The Pentagon's Global Violence Fuels Terrorism
April 18, 2015
Jon Carroll / The San Francisco Chronicle
Commentary: I know we kill people. We've always killed people. It's a nation-state kind of thing to do. We have enemies, and they have us. Some enemies attack; other enemies menace. But the amount of killing we do (to say nothing of the maiming and the injuring) seems excessive. All that violence is counterproductive, because people tend not to like it when you kill them. Their relatives develop grudges; some start rebel movements.
It's Secret! Must Not Ask! Because It's Secret! OK?
Jon Carroll / The San Francisco Chronicle
(April 16, 2015) -- I know we kill people. We've always killed people. It's a nation-state kind of thing to do. We have enemies, and they have us. Some enemies attack; other enemies menace. And we have to be ready to strike back, because the security and lives of the citizens are at stake.
That's why we gathered into cities and built these walls, so we could raise our chickens and our children in peace.
But the amount of killing we do (to say nothing of the maiming and the injuring) seems excessive. We ramped it down; now we're ramping it up. All that violence is counterproductive, because people tend not to like it when you kill them. Their relatives develop grudges; some start rebel movements.
Of course, the Middle East was a violent mess long before we got there. Afghanistan was ruled by the repressive Taliban; Iraq was ruled by the despotic Saddam Hussein. Both regimes killed a lot of people; we came in and killed more. And today -- don't even think about it. Murderers everywhere.
We killed a lot more American citizens than died in the attacks of 9/11. They were our soldiers, but we told them to go to the killing fields. When they died, we thanked their relatives for their sacrifice and kept feeding bodies into the machine.
This week, we had the spectacle of the prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, visiting the White House, where President Obama had two messages for him: "Try to include some Sunnis" and "Don't be corrupt." It is not known whether the premier agreed to those modest suggestions.
Even as Obama tried to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and how's that working out for you?), he has embraced with unseemly enthusiasm the security-industrial complex. He apparently loves secrecy; he has his minions chase down leaks. He even considered jailing reporters until it seemed politically disadvantageous to do so.
He oversees a surveillance system of unprecedented size and complexity. Despite revelations of its scope, he deflects questions about its intrusiveness. If he's seen estimates of the size of the domestic threat to our country, he hasn't shared them with the public. We'll spy only during the most extreme cases! And we get to decide what an extreme case is.
And the depressing part is, none of this will change. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a hawk; she likes the flexing of American muscle. And her Republican opponent, whoever he is, is certainly going to swagger into the foreign policy arena with guns blazing for American exceptionalism.
The United States spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined. Doesn't that seem vastly disproportionate? Wouldn't a disinterested observer infer that our country is controlled by arms merchants and defense contractors? Wouldn't that be an issue to run on? We are a great big killing machine; that is probably not the Jeffersonian ideal.
I don't buy the demonization of drones. They're just another means of delivering death. We have nuclear weapons -- they're a lot more scary. One leetle accident; goodbye, world.
Still, drones are the current weapon of choice. A report this week by the Open Society Justice Initiative said that drones are killing a lot more civilians (mostly in Yemen and Pakistan) than has been acknowledged. The president has assured us several times that the strikes are "surgical" and that there must be a "near-certainty" that civilians will not be harmed.
But, dead civilians. When asked about the report, a National Security Council spokesman said: "In those rare instances in which it appears that noncombatants may have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted." Can you count the number of wiggle words in that sentence? They don't even admit that they're not admitting anything.
Some drone strikes are not revealed even after they happen. Information on the number of people killed is classified; so are the data on noncombatant deaths. Obama apparently pushed back early on some of the more elaborate scenarios, but he eventually bought into most of the premises of drone warfare.
Because it's all secret, we have no idea how effective drone strikes are. Because it's secret, no one can talk about it. And it's secret because they say so. It's like breaches in homeland security. We are told that there have been many such attempted breaches, and the government has rebuffed almost all of them. No bombs in your bank buildings! But there's still danger! Give us money!
This is the same government that puts bloggers and professors and a whole lot of Muslim people on no-fly lists with no explanation given. The no-fly people are, theoretically, enemies of the state, and if they go abroad, the government could, if it wanted, kill them.
Makes you feel safe, doesn't it? Unaccountable technocrats controlling weapons and whispering into the president's ear -- that's democracy today.
No one is talking about it because it would be political suicide to bring it up. So it's Benghazi or gun rights or organic lunches, and the elephant sits in the room, continuously eating.
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