Pakistan

Rand Paul Issues Second Letter Asking the FBI About its Drone Use

On March 6th, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) held a 13-hour long filibuster to rally against this administration’s threatening drone policy concerning the targeting of American citizens overseas. He also used the time he had to ask broader questions dealing with the potential targeting of Americans on U.S. soil, which weren’t fully answered.

On June 20th, Sen. Paul requested more answers concerning the current U.S. drone use. Unfortunately, the Senator did not obtain any responses to his first letter, which was directed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the official release, Sen. Paul questioned the FBI Director Robert Mueller on whether the agency is actively using drones without governance policy, which would be the only way to assure the lawful use of the unmanned devices is authorized.

With the first letter, Sen. Paul asked the FBI for details on the period in which drones have been in use by the agency, and accurate information on whether these devices are armed.

Sen. Paul has now issued a second letter since the FBI failed to provide answers to his questions after Robert Mueller testified before Congress on June 19th claiming that the FBI does operate done aircrafts.

The Drone Dilemma

Yesterday, I read an article from the Council on Foreign Relations called “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies.” The opening paragraph read:

Over the last ten years, drones have become a critical tool in the war against terrorist and militant organizations worldwide. Their advantages over other weapons and intelligence systems are well known. They can silently observe an individual, group, or location for hours on end, but take immediate action should a strike opportunity become available—all without putting a pilot at risk. This combination of capabilities is unique and has allowed the United States to decimate the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and disrupt the activities of many other militant groups.

The paragraph seems to be a wholehearted endorsement of drones. But everyone knows what happens when you start peeling the layers of an onion. What appear to be reasons for drone strikes also happen to be reasons against them.

Death pics, “Deathers,” and an October Surprise?

I have become completely obsessed with this so-called “deather” phenomenon, the topic du jour that the media wants to shove down our throats at the moment.  I should warn you straight away, that I am a raging news junkie.  There are far too many moments of my life spent sitting on the couch watching a news channel on television, while reading the news on my iPad, and checking Twitter with my Blackberry.  In fact, I have pretty much been in that position since Sunday night.  So, as soon as I heard the news that we had finally tracked down and eliminated the most infamous terrorist of any of our lifetimes, I did kind of wonder if we would see a death photo of Osama bin Laden.

I’m not really someone who seeks out shocking or gruesome images or videos, only because I don’t want to live with something that disturbing in my mind if I can avoid it.  In fact, I have never watched any of the videos of Americans being beheaded at the hands of animals in the Middle East, I didn’t watch Saddam Hussien’s execution, I’m frankly just not curious about these things.  However, on Monday morning, when I listened to Hoda and Kathie Lee breezily chatting about a death photo on the Today show, I figured there was no way in hell those photos weren’t going to be released.   Well, obviously I was wrong.  Of course, no politician would ever let an opportunity like this pass without milking it for all the political capital it is worth, so a delay and drawn out public debate didn’t surprise me.

Ron Paul: What if the American People Learn the Truth?

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What if we wake up one day and learn that the terrorist threat is a predictable consequence of our meddling in affairs of others and has nothing to do with us being free and prosperous?

Reflections on Veterans Day

One of my duties as Music Associate at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, AL, is to play the organ for the annual Veterans Day service. The first of these for me was one year ago. The one part of the service that really struck me was the reading of the names of all U.S. military personnel who had died in all wars during the past year. A staggering 336 names were printed in the program and read, amidst the background of a snare drum roll, with the ominous boom of a bass drum after each name. With each boom of that drum, a penetrating, sinking feeling came over me as I thought of how the loss of that one life impacted so many loved ones. It was the longest part of the service, and it went on and on, for some 45 or 50 minutes.

Missing in action: Bush-era antiwar activists have rubber stamped Obama’s foreign interventionism

In 2002, Barack Obama, then an unknown Illinois state senator, gave an impassioned speech at the Federal Plaza in Chicago in which he blasted the Bush administration’s plans for war in Iraq.

“I don’t oppose all wars,” he declared. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.” He blistered Bush administration officials, calling the looming war in Iraq one “based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”

Obama’s speech was just one small part of the wave of antiwar activism that swept the country over the next several years. Protesters demanded an end to the war, often accusing President George W. Bush and members of his administration of war crimes and comparing them to Nazis.

By 2005, as American causalities began to mount, public opinion began to shift against the war in Iraq. The souring mood is largely the reason Republicans lost the 2006 mid-term election, handing control of Congress to Democrats and setting the stage for the rise of antiwar presidential candidate.

Obama, who by this time was a U.S. senator, had continued to speak out against the war in Iraq and used his opposition to his advantage. Most of his primary opponents — including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, and John Edwards  — voted for the 2003 authorization for the use of military force against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

President Considers Escalating U.S. Role in Syrian War

Following the news that President Barack Obama hasn’t bombed Pakistan for almost two months, concerns related to our presence as an active agent in the Syrian conflict have began to tickle Washington again.

Most Americans have already voiced their contrary opinion regarding any “boots on the ground” type of intervention in Syria, but that doesn’t mean that the president hasn’t been considering taking part in targeted attacks on certain Islamist fighters that have been taking vulnerable areas of the war-torn country. The White House seems to think that by targeting these fighters, the U.S. might be able to avoid conflicts that would lead to attacks against what Washington still considers U.S. allies. The problem is, will Americans go along with the idea?

In spite of what critics say concerning the inefficacy of Washington’s policies concerning shipment of heavy weaponry to rebels, the White House maintains its position. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey advised Washington to avoid offering any military help to active agents in the Syrian civil war precisely because any kind of involvement would potentially place the United States in a tough spot, causing conflicts to escalate. Interference would also further our commitment to embrace an active role in the conflicts.

Obama bragged that he’s “really good at killing people”

How many Nobel Peace Prize winners have you never heard of brag about being “really good at killing people”? Granted, the history of the award is kind of checkered, with some questionable winners in the past.

But a new book, Double Down: Game Change 2012, reveals that President Barack Obama bragged about the drone strikes that he ordered in Pakistan, allegedly commenting that he’s “really good at killing people.”

White House officials have already denied some of the accounts in the book, though this particular allegation went without comment over the weekend. Dan Pfeiffer, a chief strategist for President Obama, did talk about the book during an appearance on ABC’s This Week.

“Well, look I haven’t read the book. So I don’t know all the details of it. There’s no question the first debate did not go as well as anyone would have hoped. But he bounced back in the second and the third. It took work to get there. It took work from the president and his team,” Pfeiffer told host George Stephanopoulos, who followed up with a question about leaks.

“[W]e are not the first White House to deal with leaks. Every White House has dealt with it. I think we have been more leak-free than most. And where we find them we try to stop them,” said Pfeiffer, adding that that President Obama is “always frustrated about leaks.”

“I haven’t talked to him about this book. I haven’t read it. He hasn’t read it. But he hates leaks. Everyone hates leaks. Because the point is we should be able to work together to get the American people’s work done,” said Pfeiffer after another follow-up. “I think anyone who leaks has to pay the price. I don’t know who leaked in that book.”

Drone strikes fuel terrorism, says Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai was returning home from school on 9 October 2012 when Taliban gunmen attempted to assassinate her. She was shot in the neck and in the head as a result of the assassination attempt. Despite the severe wounds and the time she spent in critical condition, Malala was able to recover.

Last Friday, Malala Yousafzai met with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Malia in the Oval Office. She talked about her difficulties as a young girl living under Taliban rule and the hardships girls face in Pakistan when they decide they want to obtain an education.

The White House reported that the first couple invited Malala as their guest to discuss her work as an inspiring education activist, but what President wasn’t expecting was to hear what the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize had to say about this administration’s drone use.

After the meeting, Malala issued a statement expressing her concerns regarding the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. She stated that she worries the strikes fuel terrorism by claiming the lives of innocent victims and encouraging Pakistani people to act out of resentment. The White House statement did not mention Malala’s concerns regarding the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan soil but in Yousafzai’s official statement, however, her words are clear:

“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

Where’s the moral outrage over the deaths of innocent civilians in Pakistan?

Among the arguments the Obama Administration has made for military action in Syria is that that the alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians by Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a moral outrage that demands a response.

Secretary of State John Kerry made very emotional arguments for action in Syria earlier this week, stating that the use of chemical weapons “defies any code of morality” and called the killing of civilians a “moral obscenity.”

“As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him; the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound; bodies contorting in spasms; human suffering that we can never ignore or forget,” said Kerry.

There is no disagreement that the use of chemical agents to kill innocent people is outrageous, though it isn’t a case for getting involved in a conflict where the United States doesn’t have a national interest or doesn’t represent a clear and present danger.

Though one can argue that the use of chemical weapons in the Middle Eastern country’s civil war is a “game changer,” there is much hypocrisy in the case being made by the Obama Administration for military action in Syria.

Last year, researchers at Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law put together a study documenting the traumatic effects of the drone strikes that the United States has carried out in Pakistan.


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