The United States government is using drones to kill people in numerous countries. The following is a issues list related to the drone program, and a selection of relevant articles. If you wish to investigate a particular issue, the associated reference numbers in brackets correspond to webbed articles listed at the end on that issue.
- Does the drone program exist to guard the nation against terrorist attacks, or is the drone program a facet of imperial control?    
- Is the drone program legal under U.S. and international law?       
- Is the drone program cloaked in a veil of secrecy to prevent terrorists from learning about it, or to prevent the American people from learning about it?       
- How many civilians are being killed by drones?           
- What is the effect of drones killing civilians on the survivors? Will the nation suffer blow-back from the drone program?   
- How much is expansion of the drone program, in both foreign and domestic realms, driven by lobbying conducted by the Merchants of Death?  
- Does the use of drones in foreign lands set a precedent for domestic drone use?    
- The President claims the power to kill anybody anywhere based on secret criteria, and his own determinations. Can we trust anybody with the powers of Zeus? 
Webbed Articles On The Drone Program
Each webbed article is represented by a shortened url in order to facilitate typing from a printed version of the article. In most browsers, you can omit the “http://” prefix(e.g., type “is.gd/Im6PQ0” instead of “http://is.gd/Im6PQ0”).
 http://is.gd/Im6PQ0 from http://www.theatlantic.com
The Unforgivable Failure of Congress to Rein in Drone Strikes by Conor Friedersdorf
Conor Friedersdorf urges Congress to define rules for drone warfare. Congress has saw fit to ignore the rule of law in every other context, why would anyone expect Congress to rein in drone strikes?
 http://is.gd/i3mlzx from spreadlibertynews.com
Congress and Money, Drone Industry Influencing Washington to Further Domestic Drones by Ezra Van Auken
The article describes how drone manufactures are showering Congress with money in order speed up the domestic drone program.
 http://is.gd/sJbvep from http://www.nytimes.com
Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy by Scott Shane
The intent was to create a set of legal procedures by fiat that Romney would be bound by if he was elected.
 http://is.gd/DGkvQd from antiwar.com
The Mundanity of a Criminal President by John Glaser
Mr. Glaser points out that the drone program is not a response to imminent threats. On the contrary, drones are part of an anti-insurgency program.
 http://is.gd/ciPBVw from http://www.fpif.org
U.S. Using Bad Info for Drone Strikes Like It Did for Detainees by Russ Wellen
 http://is.gd/Kjk2tS from http://www.cato.org
Continuing Devastating U.S. War Crimes by Nat Hentoff
The article discusses the effect of the drone program on the targeted countries.
 http://is.gd/BQiSPf from http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com
How the Washington Post Strips Casualties From Drone data by Chris Woods
 http://is.gd/reWrpb from http://www.guardian.co.uk
US detention of Imran Khan part of trend to harass anti-drone advocates by Glenn Greenwald
The intent is always to silence any dissent, and any whistle blowers.
 http://is.gd/vdkjZS from news.antiwar.com
UN to Establish Ongoing Investigations into Obama’s Drone War by John Glaser
The use of drones worldwide, double tap strikes, and attacks on funerals are
deemed war crimes.
 http://is.gd/9Jrvpf from http://www.guardian.co.uk
The Brookings Institution demands servile journalism by Glenn Greenwald
The article deals with the secrecy surrounding the drone program, and the inadequate response of journalists to that secrecy.
 http://is.gd/iyNuvQ from http://www.independent.co.uk
America is deluded by its drone-warfare propaganda by Patrick Cockburn
Mr. Cockburn questions the effectiveness of the drone program to do what it is advertised to do.
 http://is.gd/PWH5bR from http://www.guardian.co.uk
New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones by Glenn Greenwald
The study documents inaccuracies, and outright lies, that the Obama administration has perpetuated about victims of the drone program. The article also discusses the terror that the drone program is visiting upon civilian populations.
 http://is.gd/hoYBMG from http://www.worldcantwait.net
Naming Those Killed in US Drone Strikes by Kevin Gosztola
The article talks about efforts to identify those killed by drone strikes. Since the result contradict administration claims, they are getting considerable push back.
 http://is.gd/Qb1sWQ from http://www.thenewamerican.com
Obama Lists His Five Criteria for Death by Drone by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
The article questions whether the advertised criteria are actually being followed.
 http://is.gd/vNQdfb from truth-out.org
Civilian Deaths From US Drone Attacks Much Higher Than Reported – Paul Jay interviews Gareth Porter
 http://is.gd/6YooHH from http://www.guardian.co.uk
US drone strikes target rescuers in Pakistan – and the west stays silent by Glenn Greenwald
 http://is.gd/dtpuGX from thenewamerican.com
U.S. Drone Manufacturers Contribute Millions to Congressional Campaigns by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D
The drone manufacturers want restrictions on international sales removed.
 http://is.gd/YPGwwX from http://www.theatlantic.com
CNN’s Bogus Drone-Deaths Graphic by Conor Friedersdorf
A CNN column claims that zero innocents have been killed during strikes inside Pakistan this year – information neither CNN nor anyone else can verify.
 http://is.gd/1F9JDY from rt.com
Drones over US to get weaponized – so far, non-lethally
Weapon technologies developed to fight wars abroad are finding their way back home to an increasingly militarized domestic law enforcement environment.
 http://is.gd/svOBdH from http://www.brookings.edu
Deadly Drone Strike on Muslims in the Southern Philippines by Akbar Ahmed
Drones are advertised as a tool to be used against terrorists. On the contrary, drones are actually used by the U.S. in support of client states against their own recalcitrant populations.
 http://is.gd/JvYINk from http://www.guardian.co.uk
We are sleepwalking into the Drone Age, unaware of the consequences by Clive Stafford Smith
Drone attacks are based on erroneous target criteria, including information provided by paid informants, who therefore have a motive to lie. The result is the death of innocent people, and widespread hatred for the U.S. “Obama first embraced a policy of taking no prisoners in order to avoid the embarrassing sore of Guantanamo.”
 http://is.gd/whHpv3 from http://www.theatlantic.com
Don’t Let John Yoo Talk You Into Domestic Drone Use by Police by Conor Friedersdorf
 http://is.gd/FXaanC from http://www.nytimes.com
Spy Balloons Become Part of the Afghanistan Landscape, Stirring Unease by Graham Bowley
Drones, and spy balloons for surveillance, become part of the strategy of imperial control. Rest assured that the Panopticon will return home to grace our own skies.
 http://is.gd/wSshIo from http://www.wired.com
Oops! Air Force Drones Can Now (Accidentally) Spy on You by Spencer Ackerman
 http://is.gd/5TfHNg from original.antiwar.com
Why I Interrupted Obama Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan by Medea Benjamin
Medea Benjamin publicly challenges the future head of the CIA.
 http://is.gd/wzUaz9 from http://www.salon.com
Obama escalates in Yemen – again by Glenn Greenwald
 http://is.gd/ezzj37 from http://www.aclu.org
Targeted Killing Drone Strikes: Secret or Not? The Government Wants It Both Ways by Nathan Freed Wessler
The government covers the drone program in a veil of secrecy while it selectively leaks information for propaganda purposes.
 http://is.gd/HnS6sN from http://www.independent.co.uk
Protests grow as civilian toll of Obama’s drone war on terrorism is laid bare by Andrew Buncombe and Issam Ahmed
 http://is.gd/YzSzrE from news.antiwar.com
Pakistan Secretly Helping US Drone Campaign by Jason Ditz
The above article is redolent of deep government. The intelligence services operate in secret, and are at least semi-independent of the public face of government represented by the civilian and the military.
 http://is.gd/XVViTx from http://www.alternet.org
America’s Secret Empire of Drone Bases: Its Full Extent Revealed for the First Time by Nick Turse
The article describes the future of war.
 http://is.gd/w4loon from http://www.businessinsider.com
Obama May Need The NDAA To Justify Widespread Use Of Drones by Michael Kelley
 http://is.gd/EfE1k5 from http://www.businessinsider.com
The NYU Student Tweeting Every Reported US Drone Strike Has Revealed A Disturbing Trend by Michael Kelley
The drone strikes employ a double tap technique that constitutes a war crime.
 http://is.gd/euCG17 from xrepublic.tv
ACLU & CCR Lawsuit: American Boy Killed By U.S. Drone Strike
The Obama administration does not deign to explain why the boy was killed,
other than to say that he should have been more careful in his choice of
The point of the Empire’s sword is directed toward Syria. The
following is a prospective issues list related to the Syrian
intervention, and a selection of relevant articles.
* Sanctions always hurt civilian populations. Carried to an extreme,
as with Iraq, sanctions can decimate the population of a nation. In
addition, sanctions do not hit the privileged elites anywhere near as
hard as they do the general population.
* Military intervention always hurts civilian populations. The Western
powers are already intervening in Syria, with disastrous results for
the Syrian people.
* Attacks on Syria by Western powers strengthen domestic support for
the Assad regime. The Syrian people rightly perceive foreign assaults
as being imperialistic.
* Much of the reporting on Syria consists of dubious propaganda. Both
sides of the civil war lie, but the Western media plays up the side of
the Syrian opposition without applying any appropriate degree of
* Syria is a stepping stone on the path to regime change in Iran. Not
only is Syria an Iranian ally, Syria also funnels arms into Lebanon.
Those arms could be used against Israel if Israel attacks Iran. Thus,
the Western powers want Syria out of the way in order to facilitate
regime change in Iran.
* Sunni/Shia divisions – Syria, Iran, Lebanon(mixed), and Iraq form a
Shia alliance. Saudi Arabia leads a Sunni alliance(Turkey, Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates) that wants to break up
the Shia alliance. The Western powers want to play up the divide, in a
classical imperialist manner, in order to maintain and extend hegemony
over the Middle East.
* It is a grievous mistake to align yourself with any government. The
Syrian government, the United States government, the Russian
government, the Saudi Arabian government, etc., all have their own
agenda that has nothing to do with the welfare of the Syrian
people. The critical point is to allow the Syrians, and everybody
else, to determine their own fate.
* The assault on the Syrian government is straining the relationship
between the United States and Russia, a Syrian ally. Anything that
strains the relationship between the two nuclear superpowers is a bad
* Foreign powers are funneling arms to the Syrian rebels. The result
is not only an increase in violence, but the whole opposition movement
is being taken over by the most violent elements.
* Imposing regime change on Syria is likely to have dire consequences
for religious minorities. For example, religious minorities in Iraq
suffered enormously after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
* In a time when the United States government is running deficits of
over a trillion dollars a year in order to prop up its teetering
economy, and the European banking system is in danger of collapse,
do the Western powers really need to take on the expense of imposing
regime change in Syria?
* Do the actions of the United States toward Syria conform to
* What should opponents of a Syrian intervention do to stem the
assault? At Tolstoy put it, what is to be done?
WEBBED ARTICLES ON THE SYRIAN INTERVENTION
Propaganda Is the Name of the Game in Media Reports of Atrocities in Syria
by Jeremy R. Hammond
The article analyzes claims of atrocities propagated by
Western governments and media.
In Syria, foreign intervention will only shed more blood
“In other words, the US and its allies are sponsoring regime change
through civil war.”
The article emphasizes the importance of the Sunni/Shia conflict.
The Bloody Road to Damascus by James Petras
Mr. Petras describes the goals of the various parties attempting
to bring down the Syrian regime.
SYRIA: NATO’s Next “Humanitarian” War? by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky
Mr. Chossudovsky describes the genesis, and character, of the Syrian
opposition. The article describes, in some detail, how the U.S. has
worked to destabilize the Syrian regime, and the use of propaganda.
Starving the Syrians for Human Rights – Physicians for Human Rights
Supports Tougher U.S. Sanctions on Syria by John Walsh
Mr. Walsh describes how sanctions hurt ordinary Syrians.
The article also elaborates on how NGOs are corrupted by the Empire.
NATO’s Slow Genocide in Libya: Syria is Next by Tony Cartalucci
Mr. Cartalucci describes how Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International became part of the propaganda
machine that supports wars in Libya and Syria.
Military Intervention in Syria is a Bad Idea by Stephen Zunes
Mr. Zunes says that intervention will raise the overall level of
violence in Syria. Violence plays into the hands of the Syrian
regime, and the most violent elements of the opposition.
What Is Really Going On in Syria by Eric Margolis
“There are no clean hands in Syria.”
Syria: Armed Opposition Groups Committing Abuses
Human Rights Watch describes abuses that include kidnappings,
torture, and murder.
Syria: Straining credulity? by Alastair Crooke
Mr. Crooke examines the uses of emotion in propaganda, and the
purposes that such a strategy serves.
Stratfor Emails: Covert Special Ops Inside Syria Since December
by John Glaser
A private conversation with Pentagon officials suggested US
and allied troops were on the ground in Syria.
Road to Damascus… and on to Armageddon? by Diana Johnstone
“Which is more important, ensuring disgruntled Islamists freedom to
overthrow the secular regime in Syria, or avoiding World War Three?”
Ms. Johnstone sees civil war in Syria, and an attempt by the Western
powers to shift the balance of power against Iran, Russia, and China.
Syria: Clinton Admits US On Same Side As Al Qaeda To Destabilize
Assad Government by Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham
The article avers that Al Qaeda elements are committing
terrorist acts, and that the result could be a wider war.
Exposed: The Arab agenda in Syria by Pedro Escobar
The article describes the machinations of the Arab League
against the Syrian government.
Russ Baker on the roots of the foreign intervention in Syria.
The article describes the overweening hypocrisy of the U.S.
government, the operations of Al Qaeda, and the role of the
The Syrian Crucible by Justin Raimondo
The article covers omnipresent U.S. government hypocrisy,
the Movement for Justice and Development, the Free Syrian Army,
the movement of arms, the National Transitional Council(supported
by foreign governments), the Abu Bakr Brigade, and the uses of so
called soft power.
CIA Funneling Arms to Syrian Rebels Through Turkey by Jason Ditz
CIA officers are engaged in a supposed vetting process for which
fighters get arms.
Be careful what you wish for: the Friends of Syria are no friends at all
by Lindsey German
The article covers the operations of NATO, the history of recent
wars, and the hypocrisy of the major players.
Ankara ups the ante on Syria by Jacques N Couvas
The article includes a lengthy history of the Turkish/Syrian
relationship, a discussion of the role of the Kurds, and a
brief description of the Sunni anti Syrian coalition.
Al-Qaida affiliates operating in Syria, says William Hague
by Nicholas Watt and Martin Chulov
The article describes arms smuggling into Syria, and the
operations of the Free Syria Army.
Why we should stay out of Syria by Steve Chapman
The article compares the Syrian intervention unfavorably with the
Libyan intervention based on practical considerations.
C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition by Eric Schmitt
Given that the Russians and Chinese are blocking direct military
intervention, the Empire is attempting to destabilize the Syrian
regime via indirect military means.
‘Simply put, no one is in charge.’ by John Glaser
Mr. Glaser discusses the fractured and brutal nature of the Syrian
opposition, the foreign military support for the opposition, and the
US holds high-level talks with Syrian rebels seeking weapons
in Washington by Peter Foster and Ruth Sherlock
The United States keeps progressing toward direct intervention.
There will be hell to pay for NATO’s Holy War by Pepe Escobar
The article describes how Syria fits into the geopolitical
maneuvering between the American Empire and its rivals.
The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking? by Charlie Skelton
Mr. Skelton takes a close look at the public face of the Syrian
opposition, and finds deep ties to American neo-conservatives,
neo-liberals, and the State Department.
Angelo M. Codevilla wrote an article, America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution, that received quite a bit of positive attention. For example Robert Higgs, Charles Burris, and Gary North all wrote glowing reviews of Mr. Codevilla’s essay.
Mr. Codevilla’s piece basically says that the progressive movement has become the ruling class in the United States. I responded to Mr. Codevilla’s article in A Conservative View of the Ruling Class. While I agreed with Mr. Codevilla about the sins of the progressives, my main complaint was that Mr. Codevilla ignored certain aspects of the state, such as the military, when he wrote about the American ruling class.
Mr. Codevilla appeared on John Stossel’s television program that aired October 21st, 2010. Mr. Codevilla’s appearance did much to clear up why his view of the American ruling class is biased. What was implicit in Mr. Codevilla’s essay became explicit.
The subject under discussion was cutting government spending. Someone asked Mr. Codevilla whether he was in favor of cutting military spending. Mr. Codevilla replied that he preferred to look in other areas of the budget. In defense of his stance, he said that the defense budget was a relatively small part of the total federal budget. Mr. Codevilla also said that he was in favor of cutting waste in the intelligence budget.
Mr. Codevilla’s background explains much. From Mr. Codevilla’s biography in the American Spectator, “Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University, a fellow of the Claremont Institute, and a senior editor of The American Spectator, was a Foreign Service officer and served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee between 1977 and 1985”.
Mr. Codevilla made his career as a part of the defense establishment. Would you really expect that someone with such a background would want to cut the military? Imagine asking a functionary in the the Social Securities Administration(SSA) whether government spending on federal social programs should be reduced. That functionary might support cutting waste, but he would be highly unlikely to support a fundamental change in policy that attacked federal spending on social programs. In the case of the SSA functionary, Mr. Codevilla would recognize that the bureaucrat was part of the ruling class. The same insight escapes Mr. Codevilla with regard to matters military.
As for Mr. Codevilla’s contention that the military budget is a small part of total federal spending, the facts speak otherwise. Robert Higgs in Defense Spending Is Much Greater than You Think, comes up with a figure of 1,027.5 billion dollars for total defense expenditures in fiscal year 2009. The United States federal budget lists total expenditures of 3,518 billion dollars for fiscal year 2009. Thus, 29.2 percent of the federal budget is devoted to defense. Maybe I am old fashioned, but both in absolute and relative terms, a trillion dollars a year seems like a lot of money.
Mr. Codevilla says he wants to cut waste in the intelligence budget, but an endless series of commissions have been formed over the years to cut waste in various aspects of the government. You would be hard pressed to find a politician who fails to promise to cut waste while campaigning. Nothing has come from all the studies, and all the promises, except that federal spending keeps going up. You have no hope of reducing spending unless you change the policies.
The trillion dollars a year in defense spending buys armies of bureaucrats, military personnel, and defense contractors. Ever since the 1940’s, when the United States established an empire, defense outlays have fed a permanent establishment. Journalist and academics provide justifications for defense outlays, and help shape public opinion to accept the security state. So, how can some bureaucrat in the Social Securities Administration be a member of the ruling class while Mr. Codevilla fails to achieve that honor?
For a trillion dollars a year, America gets a lot of dead foreigners, some dictators propped up, and quite a few dead Americans. The ruling class, including Mr. Codevilla, profit quite handsomely from defense outlays, while most Americans get a host of foreign enemies, and the bill.
As the United States government slides toward financial ruin, about the only way that the defense establishment can be preserved is if non-defense expenditures are drastically cut. There are plenty of good reasons to cut non-defense related expenditures, but saving the defense establishment is not one of them.
H.L. Mencken On The Morality Of Voting
“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
Emma Goldman On The Practicality Of Voting
“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
A Campaign Sign Inspired By Art Hoppe
Vote for Nobody
Nobody Will Stop the Wars
Nobody Will Eliminate Taxes
Nobody Will Respect Your Rights
Vote for Nobody!
Lew Rockell Tells Us Why He Does Not Vote
John Pugsley Weighs In On The Electoral Process
I tended to dismiss Joe Sobran because of his National Review connection. Just by happenstance, the day before Sobran died, I listened to an audio of an interview Sobran did with Scott Horton. Joe Sobran had come a long way from his unthinking National Review conservatism. The following is from my ever fallible memory:
“If you advocate violence against Americans, you are a liberal. If you advocate violence against foreigners, you are a conservative. If you advocate violence against both Americans and foreigners, you are a moderate. If you advocate violence against nobody, you are a radical.”
Paul Craig Roberts announces that the US is a police state. Mr. Roberts points out that the recent raids on anti-war activists portend future prosecutions for anyone who opposes the empire. Mr. Roberts stance is well justified.
Picking out communists, and other politically unpopular targets, is standard operating procedure. If you can establish that the politically unpopular may be attacked, then attacking other dissidents becomes much easier.
The federal material support for terrorist laws are vague and flexible enough to serve as a vehicle for all sorts of mischief. The law criminalizes speech furthering lawful activities. If you can criminalize speech furthering lawful activities, why even bother to pretend that you have a First Amendment?
One of the pernicious aspects of the current raids is that the government has seized records from a large number of people. Anything the FBI found, whether it pertains to a material support charge, or any other federal law, can be used as a basis for bringing charges.
Given the number of laws at the disposal of prosecutors, virtually anyone can be convicted at any time. There are an enormous number of vague and elastic federal laws armed with draconian punishments. Hence, federal prosecutors can almost invariably get a defendant to plea bargain rather than fight. The principle was eloquently expounded by Jay Leno in the documentary A/k/a Tommy Chong.
In the past, wars have been the locus for repression. Lincoln jailed political opponents during the Civil War, as did Wilson during the first World War. Other examples abound. In the past, the repression has ceased with the war. Now, the wars are expected to last forever no matter who is in power. The question now is whether the storm will ever abate, or will arbitrary power be granted to the government endlessly.
As Orwell said, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
Calls for a military draft in the United States continue.
* Congressman Charlie Rangel has been pushing a bill for years that would re-institute a draft. Congressman Rangel thinks that the Iraq war would have never happened if there had been a draft at the time.
* Peace activist Cindy Sheehan has proposed a draft for presidents, Congress critters, and Federal Reserve CEOs. The draft would also apply to CEOs of companies that profit from the war, as well as anyone who favors the war. Finally, the draft would apply all of the age appropriate dependents of the foregoing. Cindy Sheehan acknowledges that her proposal has no chance being instituted.
* Former CIA agent Philip Giraldi proposes a constitutional amendment that mandates a popular vote before going to war. Voting would be mandatory and open. Those voting for the war, and their families, would be subject to a draft, plus taxation to pay for the war. Philip Giraldi acknowledges that his proposed amendment has no chance of passing.
* Constitutional attorney Bruce Fein has called for a return of the draft.
Note that in terms of what is often laughingly referred to as the political spectrum, Rangel and Sheehan are thought of as leftists, while Giraldi and Fein are thought of as men of the right. Despite the differences in their political viewpoints, all of these folks call for a draft in order to put restraints on the ability of the government to wage war.
First, calling for a draft is calling for a return of slavery. You can put all kinds of pretty words around it, but slavery in service of the government differs from chattel slavery only in that the term of service may be shorter. In addition, military conscription amounts to taking young people and feeding them into a meat grinder.
At least in the case of Sheehan and Giraldi, the call for a draft is rhetorical. Sheehan and Giraldi attempt to direct penalties toward those that are responsible for the war. However, both of them extend the penalties toward family members. Extending penalties to family members would have great utility as a deterrent, but the notion raises both moral and constitutional questions.
There is no immediate prospect of a draft. If a draft comes, it will not be passed in order to limit war powers. If Congress wanted to limit wars, it could do so via the purse strings. So, why would Congress pass draft legislation in order to raise opposition to wars?
If a draft comes, it will be imposed as a means of continuing the imperial project. Currently, there is enough money, and enough willing canon fodder, to provide the mercenaries that work for the public and private entities that support the empire. However, given the Federal deficits and the debasement of the currency, someday the money will effectively run out. At that point, the government will be faced with a choice between drawing down the empire and imposing a draft.
Given a convenient scare, a draft will be imposed. You can be sure that the draft will not be directed toward the ruling class. On the contrary, the draft will be directed toward the plebeians, while the children of the ruling class will find ready escape holes. As the republic becomes a distant memory, only the dimmest of the ruling class will allow their spawn to come into the line of fire.