FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Bad Omen for America

by ELIZABETH GOULD And PAUL FITZGERALD

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of the law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast. Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake!

“A Man For All Seasons,” Robert Bolt

With the U.S. already having cut down every law in the forest when it comes to terrorism in the last 9 years, there was nothing left for Barack Obama’s war cabinet to do but risk a hazardous new escalation of its AfPak war following the attempted bombing in Times Square by Pakistani Taliban-trained Faisal Shahzad.

The administration sold its own version of the Afghan war originally by narrowing it to hunting Al Qaeda in Pakistan regardless of the moral, ethical, legal or even political consequences. It continues to claim success in its greatly expanded use of Predator drone assassinations. But as the administration scrambles to counter something that was apparently beyond what it thought possible, it must now face the grim reality that warfare, no matter how high tech or expensive, is and will continue to be a two way street. It must also finally face up to the fact that its glaring lack of sophistication in its dealings with Afghanistan and Pakistan have made the U.S. more vulnerable to attack and not less.

The entire strategy for a draw-down of U.S. forces in 2011 rests on the blindly unrealistic assumptions that a NATO-trained Afghan Army and police force can somehow magically replace American “boots on the ground,” while the drone campaign will deter the enemy’s leadership from acting effectively and frighten away potential recruits. Up to now, the administration’s policy has rested on the claimed effectiveness of these strikes to weaken the Taliban and make them more receptive to a peace agreement that would bring them into the Afghan government. But in a gaping breach of logic, the possibility that they might actually retaliate on U.S. soil, was never even factored into the equation.

The efficacy of assassinating Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects with such weapons challenges at least two major assumptions. The first is that the weapons themselves are not a technically suitable replacement for human counterinsurgency forces (which in and of themselves are beset by problems). The second and perhaps more important, is whether high tech warfare – with all its imperial-death-from-above implications – isn’t actually self-defeating, given the negative political impact it has on the local population. Critics of the Predator attacks have warned of the potential blowback for years.

In 2004, Robert A. Pape, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago warned of the negative consequences of an over reliance on drone technology in a Foreign Affairs commentary:

“Decapitating the enemy has a seductive logic. It exploits the United States’ advantage in precision air power; it promises to win wars in just days, with few casualties among friendly forces and enemy civilians; and it delays committing large numbers of ground troops until they can be welcomed as liberators rather than conquerors. But decapitation strategies have never been effective, and the advent of precision weaponry has not made them any more so.”

According to counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, the strategy of predator drone strikes in Pakistan fails on all counts by creating a siege mentality among Pakistan’s civilian population, “exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion,” while actually being only a “tactic,” masquerading as a “strategy,” which only “encourages people in the tribal areas to see the drone attacks as a continuation of [British] colonial-era policies.”

Kilcullen and Exum explain the ill-logic of the U.S. Predator campaign:

“Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.”

Drone attacks and targeted assassinations have already opened a Pandora’s box of legal demons for the United States that will someday have to be faced. On February 14, 2010 the Washington Post reported on the gory details of how the administration had come to deal with the inflammatory legal issue of jailing terror suspects by choosing to kill, rather than capture those it deemed terrorists. But, in the ten days following the failed terror attack in New York, instead of pausing to reconsider the consequences of such draconian tactics, the U.S. responded by threatening Pakistan with a direct U.S. military “boots-on-the-ground” expansion while accelerating pilotless attacks in the tribal area of North Waziristan even further, firing 18 missiles on May 10, alone.

That the Obama administration continues to believe its response to the “almost” Taliban attack in New York will “soften up” Pakistan’s Taliban after 9 years of softening, is a bad omen for America. Having already discarded the “benefit of the law,” for our own safety’s sake, it will only be a matter of time before the devil comes knocking again.

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are authors of “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” published by City Lights. They can be reached at  www.invisiblehistory.com

WORDS THAT STICK

 

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are authors of “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” published by City Lights. They can be reached at  www.invisiblehistory.com

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail