“I've been told American drone strikes are "surgical" while attending Aspen Ideas Festival panels, interviewing delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and perusing reader emails after every time I write about the innocents killed and maimed in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. It is a triumph of propaganda. The inaccuracy of the claim fully occurred to me as I played back a recent interview I conducted with Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution. (His book Wired for War is a fascinating read.) "You used to measure a surgeon by how still could he hold his hand," Singer told me. "How precise could he make the cut? Well, robotic systems, it isn't a matter of shaking at minute levels. It doesn't shake. You are amazed by a surgeon doing a cut that is millimeters in precision. With robotics it is in nanometers." He was explaining why unmanned systems make sense in a variety of fields, not commenting on the Obama Administration's rhetoric in its ongoing, multi-country drone war. But that is how we think of surgeons, isn't it? They use a scalpel. Their cuts are precise down to the millimeter. Once in a great while there is a slip of the knife, a catastrophic mistake. In those cases, the surgeon is held accountable and the victim lavishly compensated. Oh, and there's one more thing about surgical procedures: While the person being cut into is occasionally victimized by a mistake, there is never a case where the scalpel is guided so imprecisely that it kills the dozen people standing around the operating table. For that reason, orderlies and family members don't cower in hospital halls terrified that a surgeon is going to arbitrarily kill them. And if he did, he'd be arrested for murder. So no, drone strikes aren't like surgery at all. ”—
If you haven’t already, read this article.
How would you amend the Constitution?
Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic asked this question and got back some interesting replies. Among my favorites:
“Legal jargon aside, an adult person should be sovereign over their own bodies and free to do anything they wish to it without limit. They ought to be able to ingest anything, even if it kills them. They ought to be able end their life at any time for any reason. The decision to do so ought to be outside the reach of government. ”
“Citizens shall have standing to challenge the constitutionality of any federal law, executive order, or regulation [in a court of law, without waiting for a plaintiff who has been directly harmed].”
“Each year every member of Congress shall spend at least one consecutive day and night in a regular cell inside a randomly selected federal prison that is located inside his or her state.”
Personally, I’ve always liked the idea of requiring members of Congress, the President, and the SCOTUS to 1) be subject to all the laws they pass/sign/approve, no exceptions; and 2) have a significantly lower salary, set according to the median income either nationally or in their state or district.
Read the rest, and answer/reply to this post with what you’d add to the list!
“I don't see how anyone who confronts Obama's record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. ... How can you vilify Romney as a heartless plutocrat unfit for the presidency, and then enthusiastically recommend a guy who held Bradley Manning in solitary and killed a 16-year-old American kid? If you're a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes. ... Keen on Obama's civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama.”—Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.
“The return of the torture debate is striking because its apologists no longer feel the need to advocate for a narrow exception to prevent an American city from being nuked or a busload of children from dying. In the jubilation over getting bin Laden, they're instead employing this frightening standard: torture of multiple detainees is justified if it might produce a single useful nugget that, combined with lots of other intelligence, helps lead us to the secret location of the highest value terrorist leader many years later. It's suddenly the new baseline in our renewed national argument. That's torture creep.”—The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf on the renewed torture debate taking hold of American politics
“Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn't 'precise' or 'surgical' as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid.1 Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. [...] Keen on Obama's civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama. Have you any deal-breakers?”—Conor Friedersdorf.
“Er, no, they're less destructive and more precise. To conjure a surgeon with a knife is to lead the listener astray. And it is a downright dishonest metaphor when invoked by an administration that could make their strikes more like surgery but doesn't. For example, the Obama Administration could make certain of the identity of the people it is "operating on." Instead it sometimes uses "signature strikes," wherein the CIA doesn't even know the identity of the people it is killing. It could also attempt autopsies, literal or figurative, when things go wrong. Instead, it presumes sans evidence that all military-aged males killed in drone strikes are "militants.”—
The phrase “surgical drone strike” is handy for naming U.S. actions without calling up images of dead, limb-torn innocents with flesh scorched from the missile that destroyed the home where they slept or burned up the car in which they rode. The New America Foundation, which systematically undercounts these innocents, says there have been at least 152 and many as 192 killed since 2004. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts the civilian death figure at between 474 and 881 killed. Either way, would “surgical” strikes kill innocents on that scale in a region with just 2 percent of Pakistan’s population? Using data that undercounts innocents killed, The New America Foundation reports that 85 percent of Pakistanis killed in drone strikes are “militants,” while 15 percent are civilians or unknown. What do you think would happen to a surgeon that accidentally killed 15 in 100 patients? Would colleagues would call him “surgical” in his precision?
“Right-leaning populists regard the nexus of big finance and big government as irredeemably corrupt; left-leaning populists agree! Alone, neither group can muster a sizable enough coalition to challenge the status quo. How convenient for the establishment that they're so easily pitted against one another. ”—Conor Friedersdorf, from TheAtlantic.com http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/10/why-the-tea-party-and-occupy-wall-street-should-cooperate/246413/
Sarah Palin documentary not exactly off to the best start
- ten number of theaters the Sarah Palin documentary, “The Undefeated,” opened in this weekend — mostly conservative test markets
- three people were in a recent Orange County showing — including a fairly lonely reviewer for The Atlantic; the other two left after 20 minutes source
» A pretty bad test weekend: While some estimate that Palin’s film could make as much as $4 million over its entire run — good for a rally-the-troops conservative film — the weekend that they chose to test it is one where most filmgoers of all political persuasions are preoccupied with Harry Potter. But one thing to keep in mind — if she decides to run, the film could do a lot better. For what it’s worth, the other two girls in the theater with Atlantic editor Conor Friedersdorf probably thought “The Undefeated” was an action movie, so maybe she’ll get some business from confused moviegoers.
“What does "better than the Republicans" get you if it means that executive privilege keeps expanding, the drones keep killing innocents and inflaming radicals and destabilizing regions, the Pentagon budget keeps growing, civil liberties keep being eroded, wars are waged without Congressional permission, and every future president knows he or she can do the same because at this point it doesn't even provoke a significant backlash from the left? Is the dysfunction of the Republican Party license to oppose those policies less vociferously than they were opposed during the Bush Administration?”—A Plea to Liberals: Stop Marginalizing Peace and Civil Liberties | Conor Friedersdorf
“Holed up in a redwood forest on the Northern California coast, the nearest McDonald's two hours away, I clicked through to some photos of Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York City, and saw that one of their signs displayed in big block letters 46 words that I wrote! They're being held aloft by an attractive 20-something blond woman I've never met before. This is the story of how they got there -- or at least the small part of it I know, which is all that's required to see why it could only happen now, and how political engagement in America is changing.”—
(via The Atlantic)
“Progressives are prone to talking as if optimal policies and methods can be agreed upon if only right-thinking people vest trust in appropriately enlightened technocrats. But outside the wonk bubble, Americans have deep, legitimate disagreements about what ought to happen. ”—Conor Friedersdorf, ”Thank Goodness Kids Do Belong to Their Parents,” The Atlantic.
“How would you have reacted in 2008 if any Republican ran promising to do the following? (1) Codify indefinite detention into law (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible (6) enter and prosecute such a war (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed) (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act (13) select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis. I submit that had Palin or Cheney or Rumsfeld or Rice or Jeb Bush or John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney proposed doing even half of those things in 2008, you’d have declared them unfit for the presidency and expressed alarm at the prospect of America doubling down on the excesses of the post-September 11 era. You’d have championed an alternative candidate who avowed that America doesn’t have to choose between our values and our safety. Yet President Obama has done all of the aforementioned things. ”—Conor Friedersdorf
“I knew that if I hung around long enough, a day would come when an acquaintance who I genuinely liked as a person would sell out by writing a book that we both knew to be dishonest, or stay silent in the face of some indefensible bullshit to preserve the viability of his career, or otherwise become complicit in the most destructive habits of America's professional political elites. ”—
Relevant thoughts if you’re ever in one of “those” moods.