Thursday, April 29, 2010
The pilots waging America's undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for "war crimes," a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday.
Harold Koh, the State Department's top legal adviser, outlined the administration's legal case for the robotic attacks last month. Now, some legal experts are taking turns to punch holes in Koh's argument.
It's part of an ongoing legal debate about the CIA and U.S. military's lethal drone operations, which have escalated in recent months — and which have received some technological upgrades. Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued that the campaign amounts to a program of targeted killing that may violate the laws of war.
In a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's national security and foreign affairs panel, several professors of national security law seemed open to that argument. But there are still plenty of caveats, and the risks to U.S. drone operators are at this point theoretical: Unless a judge in, say, Pakistan, wanted to issue a warrant, it doesn't seem likely. But that's just one of the possible legal hazards of robotic warfare.
Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That's because the CIA's drone pilots aren't combatants in a legal sense. "It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant's privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws," he said.
"Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause," Glazier continued. "But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes."
This is the story of three drugs. Except one is not really a drug at all and is merely an illusion, a nifty construct, an intense belief that it might be a drug, even though, as mentioned, it is very much not. We just think it is. Isn't that strange? Wonderful? Both?
by Adam Lynch
Also see: Ceara's Season, Adam Lynch's interview with Ceara Sturgis' family
When Veronica Rodriguez opened Wesson Attendance Center's Yearbook on Friday, she didn't find a trace of her lesbian daughter Ceara Sturgis after a long battle with school officials to include a photo of her daughter wearing a tuxedo in the school's 2010 yearbook.
"They didn't even put her name in it," Sturgis' mother Veronica Rodriguez said. "I was so furious when she told me about it. Ceara started crying and I told her to suck it up. Is that not pathetic for them to do that? Yet again, they have crapped on her and made her feel alienated."
Sturgis and her mother commissioned the Mississippi ACLU to protest officials' October 2009 decision not to allow Sturgis' photo to appear in the senior yearbook because she chose to wear a tuxedo instead of a dress.
The ACLU wrote an October letter demanding officials use Sturgis' submitted photo in the yearbook, but Copiah County School District officials refused. Rodriguez said she expected the yearbook to at least contain a reference to her daughter on the senior page. What she discovered on Friday, when the yearbook came in, was that the school had refused to acknowledge her entirely.
"It's like she's nobody there, even though she's gone to school there for 12 years," Rodriguez said. "They mentioned none of her accolades, even though she's one of the smartest students there with wonderful grades. They've got kids in the book that have been busted for drugs. There's even a picture of one of the seniors who dropped out of school.
"I don't get it. Ceara is a top student. Why would they do this to her?"
Those who think there's an immigration crisis in Arizona are correct. However, this is but part of the story. The truth is, a civilizational clash is being played out in the same state in which the state legislature questions the birthplace and legitimacy of President Barack Obama and where Sen. John McCain competes with Senate hopeful J.D. Hayworth to see who is the most anti-immigrant.
It is also the same state that several years ago denied a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., and that today permits virtually anyone - on the basis of trumped-up fear - to carry concealed weapons anywhere.
Welcome to Apartheid Arizona - the land of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, "States Rights" and a desert that has claimed thousands of migrant lives. By way of the same extremist legislature, the battle here is even much larger and more profound. This civilizational clash is being waged daily here via more bills involving who belongs, what language can be spoken and who and what can be taught in the state's schools. This is beyond the notion of who is "legal."
Whoever said this crisis is proof that the illegal Mexican-American War never ended is partially correct because this conflict is even older than that war in which Mexico lost half its territory to the United States. The irony regarding the recently signed SB 1070 - which permits law enforcement to question people about their citizenship, based on "reasonable suspicion" - is that those principally targeted will be those who look the "most Hispanic."
"Looking Hispanic" has always been a misnomer; what it really means is those who are dark and short and who look the "most Indigenous." Truthfully, here in Arpaio Country, the profiling that everyone fears is already with us. And to dispel further illusions, this civilizational clash alluded to is national in scope; witness the many hundreds of anti-immigrant bills nationwide since 2006. Only its epicenter is here.
The spending comes as Congress and President Obama pursue a legislative agenda that touches virtually all parts of the U.S. economy from bills on health care and energy to new regulations for banks and Wall Street firms.
The lobbying expenses exceed the $848.1 million spent during the same period in 2009, according to figures tallied by the non-partisan CQ MoneyLine. Lobbyists spent an average $305 million a month from January to March to influence policy this year more than double the monthly rate of spending a decade ago.
Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official and expert on money in politics, said the increased spending ensures companies get heard on Capitol Hill. "As new regulation is being considered, they are willing to pay top dollar to get up close and personal with the legislators who can help or hurt their profit margins," he said.
The book is called Open Leadership, and I would classify it as the first of the post-social media books. By that I mean that it looks at the consequences of democratized communications rather than at the media itself. Expect to see a wave of similar books in the coming years. This is a very good first entry.
Open Leadership will make a lot of people uncomfortable because it proposes that the only way to govern effectively in a transparent business world is to give up control and trust people to do the right thing. Li makes a persuasive case by citing numerous examples of companies that have successfully done exactly that.
Li is a former Forrester Research analyst, founder of Altimeter Group and co-author of Groundswell, the breakthrough 2008 book that provided the first demographic profiles of social media users as well as a rigorous methodology for evaluating the ROI of social programs. In this book, she builds on some of the economic models first presented in Groundswell, but Open Leadership is more of a call to action than a financial exercise.
The premise is encapsulated in the title of Chapter 1: "Why Giving up Control Is Inevitable." Li asserts that today's business world is too complex and competitive to permit organizations to continue to manage the way they have since the Industrial Revolution. That top-down philosophy assumes that people are idiots who can't accomplish tasks without instructions, rigid rules and constant oversight. That worked okay when companies had some control over their environment, but today too many factors are out of their hands. So one man's story of how an airline broke his guitar and refused to fix it becomes a cultural sensation while the airline stands by helplessly and fumes.
Li (left) asserts that the only way to gain any level of control over today's turbo-charged business environment is to give up as much control as possible. New business leaders set examples, demonstrate confidence and create cultures that tolerate intelligent, well-intentioned failure. And guess what? It turns out that when smart people are given the latitude to make decisions, they tend to make better ones than if someone else makes decisions for them.
Open Leadership provides some refreshing new examples of how this new management philosophy is working:
- Meetup.com replaced a top-down approach to project management with one that requires stakeholders to persuade engineers to spend time on their projects. Productivity exploded;
- BestBuy outlasted competitors in the brutal electronics retailing business in part by developing a culture that lets its employees guide customers toward the best decision, even if that means buying from a competitor;
- Electronics distributor Premier Farnell distributed low-cost digital video cameras to every employee in the company so that they could document their best practices and share them on an internal network. Employees are more empowered and the quality of information is better.
Well, that wasn't exactly the headline but it was the truth behind the reports about the vote in the House of Representatives to tighten the ligature of sanctions around the neck of Iran, as Antiwar.com reports. In accordance with the "diplomacy" of the Peace Laureate in the Oval Office, the House wants to "cripple" the Iranian economy by starving the human beings who live there of gasoline and other vital goods necessary to maintain a modicum of ordinary life.
In other words, the popularly elected leaders of the world's greatest democracy champions of liberty, justice and human rights want to stop ambulances from transporting sick and dying children to the hospital. They want whole families to burn to death, whole city blocks to go up in flames while fuelless fire trucks stand idle. They want deliveries of food and medicine to grind to a halt, setting off spirals of starvation, disease, chaos and vast suffering. They want to see tens of millions of innocent human beings driven into a low and brutal level of subsistence, to languish, diminish and die in deprivation and misery. This is what they want to see happen. This is the clear intent of their "diplomatic" strategy.
And why are they doing this? Because ostensibly because the government of Iran is pursuing the development of a nuclear energy program in accordance with international treaties and under international supervision. And if the above condign punishment of millions of innocent people does not force the government of Iran to give up this legal, carefully inspected program, then the champions of liberty, justice and human rights have proclaimed their intent to unilaterally attack Iran with all the "options" at their command, up to and including the "option" of immolating multitudes of innocent human beings with nuclear weapons.
Now, the government of Iran is an odious regime. Not nearly as odious as, say, the regime of America's staunch ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, of course, but odious enough. But as restrictive as it has been to its own citizens, it has not in the last decade alone launched and maintained massive wars of aggression and domination that have killed, by direct and collateral hand, more than a million innocent people. The bipartisan champions of liberty, justice and human rights in Washington have done that, and are doing that.
They seek to break Iran not because it is an odious regime, but because it defies the imperial will, and balks the bipartisan imperial agenda to impose domination on the oil lands. If Iran agreed to become an American client state tomorrow, it would not matter in the least how odious its regime might be -- as we saw in the long, atrocious decades when America's pet tyrant, Reza Pahlavi, ruled there.