:: meeting room, Peace House ::
Some of the wiser elders of Portland (Oregon) gathered at Peace House tonight to go over their thinking about hearings in Washington DC regarding intelligence matters. Our speaker: a native born Afghan expat with over forty years experience in North American academia, going back and forth to Kabul. He has US citizenship yet speaks fluent Pashto and Dari, as well as English, reads and writes in 'em too.
The New York Times article of February 5, Drone Strikes' Risks to Get Rare Moment in the Public Eye, was passed around for those who'd not seen it. This was a well-read group, professional activists, well traveled, Portland cognoscenti. The NYT article focuses on Mr. Brennan's advocacy of weaponized drones, versus drones for surveillance only, such as the WWF uses against animal poachers in East Africa (and elsewhere).
Afghani police themselves wonder why they can't make the arrest on the ground, versus letting aliens shoot at fellow citizens from the sky by remote control. Drones seem pretty cool until they start shooting, at which point you have to wonder what happened to habeas corpus and innocent until proved guilty, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and so on. Why are the poor and under-priviledged always getting the ax? Aren't those pulling the trigger on their "flying shooters" (weaponized UAVs) equally chargeable as criminals?
Nah, war is always about double standards and total unfairness. War is about flipping off those who yearn for the rule of law. Mayhem rules. We had some Vietvets with us, reminding us how true that is. Given permission and encouragement, humans have what it takes to slice each other to bits and then some. Drugs help.
War is by definition a kind of gangland violence and a US president wanting war powers is someone working hard to suspend the Constitution. We all learned about Rome in school. The patricians (Republicans) were frustrated by the constraints placed on them by the Plebes (Democrats) and decided enough was enough. They went fascist, staged a coup and branded a new position of Emperor, commander in chief in a perpetual war of expansion. "Fasces" is Latin for "bundle of rods" and is what you see emblazoned in US House of Representatives iconography.
They tried the same thing against FDR, but Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler blew the whistle (see Business Plot in Wikipedia).
Rome is never far beneath the surface, and at times like these, one wonders why they don't just wear togas in Congress. I guess the suits make 'em look more Anglo and they're still aping the Brits after all this time.
I asked our speaker about how to tell the story as a Drug War. We'd heard about oil, copper, gold... Afghanis are rightly proud of their resources. They see the size of those bases, the US embassy, like Roman outposts, and don't believe for a minute that they're about to be vacated. This "pulling out" in 2014 sounds like another chapter in hoodwinking the American people, while continuing to run a giant jobs-welfare program on the backs of the occupied.
The military / mercenary business is a jobs program, we all know that. Dollars pump directly though these pipelines, as desirable as opium or cocaine, directly to warlords and government officials. It's called "corruption" but it's also called doing what one can while one can, for one's extended family.
The audience reminded me it was Ecuador that had taken recent steps to legalize its own pharmacological assets. Washington DC likes to outlaw crops in other countries, shows up with flame-throwers, assuming it has jurisdiction where it has none.
The idea that after all this time the US was still in some kind of "stalemate" in Afghanistan seemed somewhat laughable to those present at this meeting.
We were admittedly not yes-men or yes-women regarding the president's policies. This was not a room full of kiss-butts at the CIA, praise Allah, all bucking for job security and cushy retirement (the hearings are about making Brenner the new CIA chief, which Central Intelligence Agency is, since 911, only one of sixteen desktop icons in the lineup -- but still with higher public name recognition than most, with NSA a close second).
Like John le Carré, Dr. Wahab would have liked a police response to the crime of 911. This was not a job for the military and the militarization of intelligence has resulted in a rotting and crumbling of that intelligence.
The USA of forty years ago was not as idiotic, to put it bluntly, was just starting down that slippery slope. The leadership was perhaps better back then, for all the psychosis in high office (not a new phenomenon). Even if Obama is semi-sane, he's still surrounded by drone-infatuated crazies and Gitmo apologists. Back in the day, we had more people like Bob Textor and Roger Paget (and James Lambert while I'm naming names).
I think NATO was just jealous of all the respect the UN was getting, sending consultants around and trying to make the world (aka Planet Earth) a better place. The US was like the evil queen in Snow White, going "mirror mirror..." and hearing "UN, UN" (not US). This was hurtful, and the Jesse Helms crowd decided to pull the plug on the UN and go with NATO instead, which had a more liberal use-of-weapons policy (best to go with one's strengths, they were thinking).
NATO is now practicing "development at gun point", far less effective than the UN brand, and far more corrupt. The military-minded also prefer NATO because they like to strut and puff in uniform, while sending emails to their secret admirers.