American Terrorists on Both Sides of War

An Article by William Boardman published at Reader Supported News on February 14, 2014

Drone Rangers shoot first, ask questions later – maybe.

The United States often and wrongly calls itself the "indispensable nation," as if just being a global empire meant the world couldn't possibly live without us. How about a universal plebiscite on that proposition? But there is one way in which the U.S. really and truly, honest-to-God, is undeniably the world's indispensable nation – that characterization is absolutely true when our drone strikes wipe out men, women, and children at weddings and funerals, or in their town meetings and gardens, or wherever sudden, painful death happens to catch them by surprise just because the president checked someone's name on a list.

You're not supposed to know the U.S. kills civilians. You're not supposed to think of your own country as a state sponsor of terrorism. Your government won't tell you about America's red, white, and out-of-the-blue murder policy. Accomplice governments won't talk about their unclean hands either. But word gets out. They can't persecute truth tellers fast enough. Not yet anyway.

On January 29, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London once again blew some the secrecy off American foreign homicidal policy. A leak from inside the Pakistani government documents 330 drone strikes in that country from 2006 through 2013, an average of 47 a year (although 2010 was a peak year). The official, secret document supports the accuracy of previous Bureau reports of 2,371 drone deaths during that period. The official document gives a total of 2,217 remote kills, but has no data for 2007.

The Bureau reported that: "The document is the fullest official record of drone strikes in Pakistan to have yet been published. It provides rare insight into what the government understands about the campaign. It also provides details about exactly when and where strikes took place, often including the names of homeowners…. But interestingly, the document stops recording civilian casualties after 2008, even omitting details of well-documented civilian deaths and those that have been acknowledged by the government."

Your job, fellow citizen, is to want not to know

That absence of information is the essence of any attempted cover-up. During the Watergate cover-up in 1972, an underling asked money-man Maurice Stans what a particularly unusual expenditure was for. Stans gave a response that is the essence of a cover-up: "I don't want to know, and you don't want to know." Stans was never convicted of being a knowing part of any of the crimes in which he took part.

Not knowing what criminal activity the government is up to makes you a good citizen (in the government's eyes), but you're an even better citizen if you don't even think about it. That's a value judgment Apple has tried to enforce in its role as a government surrogate in extending official thought control.

For his final thesis as a grad student at New York University, Josh Begley developed an app for the iPhone and then submitted it to Apple. He called the app Drones+ as he explained to Democracy Now:

"And the idea for it was really simple: It would send you a push notification or just ping your phone every time there was a U.S. drone strike. Right? So, even if we [had] access to the data about drone strikes, do we really want to be interrupted by it, right? Do we really want to be as connected to our foreign policy as we are to our smartphones? Our phones, which are these increasingly intimate devices, right, the places that we share pictures of our loved ones and communicate with our friends … do we really want these things to also be the site of how we experience remote war? Right? In an age when it's possible to sit in an air-conditioned room in New Mexico and control an airplane as it hovers over a village in what used to be India, is there a way to close that feedback loop a little bit and actually feel something, even if it's just my pocket vibrating when the missile hits the ceiling?"

Apple tries acting like a self-appointed censor

In the summer of 2012, Apple's answer to Begley's questions was to reject his Drone+ app because it was, as Apple termed it, "excessively crude or objectionable content" and "not useful or entertaining enough." Begley was persistent. He said Apple ended up rejecting the app three times. Bad enough to try to count crude American assassinations of Pakistanis, but to expose an Apple user to the danger of feeling something about these war crimes, anyone could see that was objectionable.

But now, surprise – Begley's app is available for your Apple iPhone, thanks to a political workaround: he changed the name to Metadata+ and submitted it as an empty app. After they accepted it in that form, he loaded the data.

Now it turns out, from the first issue of The Intercept, drone crimes are more than a CIA executive action, in cahoots with the chief executive. The National Security (NSA) is in on it too, secretly sifting mobile phone metadata to assess, kind of ouija-board-like, which unknown phone user might be "bad" for the United States.

In other words, if you happen to pick up the wrong cell phone, your innocence isn't enough to keep you from getting dismembered. And Americans don't even have to know about it. The government just adds your anonymity to the body count and waits for those hearts and minds to start rolling in. Maybe there's even an app for that.

World's most powerful man looking for help with law-breaking

And being American doesn't necessarily make you safe. Maybe you noticed the AP report on February 10 about how President Obama wants to take out an American citizen he says is a member of al-Qaeda and is planning to attack the United States, or so they say. The AP described the president's anguished position like this: "The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he's a U.S. citizen. The Pentagon drones that could are barred from the country where he's hiding, and the Justice Department has not yet finished building a case against him."

The most powerful man in the world is not only hampered by not having a complete case on the suspect he wants to eliminate by executive action, the country the suspect is in doesn't allow U.S. drone strikes and, worse, the president's own new policy states that Americans in foreign countries can be killed only by the military, not the CIA. Talk about hoist by your own petard.

Of course if it were up to Congressman Mike Rogers and the other yahoos in Congress, the president could ignore all the niceties, including the U.S. Constitution (with its blather about due process and stuff), and just blow the suspect to kingdom come, along with anyone who happened to be within blast range. Rogers is a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee who has indicated he doesn't care how many constitutional principles or civilians need to be shredded to protect the troops.

As the first president of the war on terror once said, "They hate us for our freedoms."

Well, we're getting rid of our freedoms, so why would they still hate us?

It couldn't have anything to do with drones or night raids or assassinations or any of the other special operations the government tries to keep secret from its citizens, even though they're no secret to their targets.

Looks like the "war on terror" is actually a typo.

It's a war of terror.

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