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Although U.S. drones firing missiles at suspected bad guys in faraway places – such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia – have gotten much publicity in recent years, it was recently revealed that the CIA assassinated top Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mugniyah with a good old fashioned car bomb in Damascus, Syria with President George W. Bush’s strident approval in 2008. Because of an executive order, signed in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, prohibiting assassinations by the CIA, presidents usually get around that order by using the military to kill an enemy bigwig and then make the disingenuous claim that it was merely taking out a “command and control” target rather than an assassination. In this case, Bush, never one to observe constitutional or legal niceties, became incensed that the CIA director was being too timid in carrying out the hit using the exploding car. The real issue in such cases is not whether it is more dangerous to liberty to kill the enemy using a high tech drone or a more traditional car bomb, but whether it constitutional to do either.
Tag Archives | Warfare
Venue visits the surreal Fort Irwin, arguably the Pentagon’s Universal Studios, where U.S. soldiers spend three weeks role-playing urban warfare in a mock city, complete with gruesome special effects, food markets filled with burqa-clad women, and gamer-style cards which instruct soldiers as to what injuries they must pretend to have:
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Fort Irwin is a U.S. army base nearly the size of Rhode Island, located in the Mojave Desert about an hour’s drive northeast of Barstow, California. There you will find the National Training Center, at which all U.S. troops, from all the services, spend a twenty-one day rotation before they deploy overseas.
Sprawling and infernally hot in the summer months, the base offers free public tours twice a month of the simulated battlefields in which imaginary conflicts loop, day after day, without end. Picture paid actors shooting entire magazines full of blank rounds out of machine guns behind simulated Middle Eastern buildings in the Mojave desert.
It may seem as if the world is going to pieces, but here’s some heartening news from Parapolitical, explaining why it would make little sense for an advanced alien race (assuming one exists) to attack humanity:
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“MAD with Aliens? Interstellar Deterrence and its Implications” by Janne Korhonen of Finland’s Aalto University, published in the current edition of Acta Astronautica – the journal of the International Academy of Astronautics – explores motivating and demotivating factors for an alien assault against the Earth (or anyplace) and concludes that the conditions of interstellar warfare make such an adventure “too hazardous for an attacker.”
Korhonen identifies key concerns that could preclude a potentially aggressive civilization from choosing to launch a genocidal attack on humanity. “If the light speed limit holds,” Korhonen posits, “all intelligence gathered before an attack is launched will be very much out-of-date by the time the attacking force arrives to the target system.”
Another issue is the inherent inefficiency of attacks with less than one-hundred-percent lethality: “An average growth rate of 1% could repopulate the Earth to seven billion people from only five thousand survivors in little more than 700 years.
Drone wars to come? PolicyMic reports:
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In the lead up to Pakistan’s general election on May 11, former cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan has again vowed to shoot down American drones if elected. Given that most polls show Khan ahead of Nawaz Sharif (previously thought to be the favorite), there is a very real chance that Khan will become Prime Minister.
Drone strikes have increased dramatically under President Obama, and while Pakistan has always been publicly opposed to attacks conducted by the CIA, the possibility of a prime minister who has promised to shoot down the drones could make things very awkward for the U.S.
Khan has long been a fierce critic of the U.S. drone war in Pakistan, leading anti-drone protests and even being removed from a plane and detained by U.S. immigration officials on a trip to New York last year. According to Khan, he was “interrogated on [his] views on drones” while he was detained.
Via the MIT Technology Review, Tom Simonite writes:
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A freshly discovered weakness in a popular piece of software, known in the trade as a “zero-day” vulnerability, can be cashed in for prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from defense contractors, security agencies and governments. This trade in zero-day exploits is poorly documented, but it is perhaps the most visible part of a new industry that in the years to come is likely to swallow growing portions of the U.S. national defense budget.
It became clear that this type of assault would define a new era in warfare in 2010, when security researchers discovered a piece of malicious software known as Stuxnet. Now [known] to have been a project of U.S. and Israeli intelligence, Stuxnet was carefully designed to infect multiple systems needed to access and control industrial equipment used in Iran’s nuclear program.
No U.S. government agency has gone on the record as saying that it buys zero-days.
The mainstream media as a dead end for information, via the Guardian:
Bradley Manning has revealed to his court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, that he tried to leak US state secrets to the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico before he turned in frustration to the new anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Manning, the US solider accused of the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, read out a 35-page statement to the court that contained new detail on how he came to download and then transmit a massive trove of secrets to WikiLeaks. It contains the bombshell disclosure that he wanted to go to mainstream American media but found them impenetrable.
Manning also gave insight into the ethical reasons that he had for making such an enormous breach of military orders. Referring to the war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he felt they would reveal the “true costs of war.”
Who lives and who dies? The drone court will decide. Via Reuters:
During a fresh round of debate this week over President Barack Obama’s claim that he can unilaterally order lethal strikes by unmanned aircraft against U.S. citizens, some lawmakers proposed a middle ground: a special federal “drone court” that would approve suspected militants for targeting. The idea is being actively considered, however, according to a White House official.
At Thursday’s confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee John Brennan, senators discussed establishing a secret court or tribunal to rule on the validity of cases that U.S. intelligence agencies draw up for killing suspected militants using drones.
Senator Angus King, a Maine independent, said during the hearing that he envisioned a scenario in which executive branch officials would go before a drone court “in a confidential and top-secret way, make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.”
The find reveals that the terrorist network has been anticipating drone-based quasi-war by the United States for a long time. Via the Telegraph:
Found by the Associated Press in a building in Timbuktu, the ancient city in Mali occupied by Islamists last year, the document is believed to have been abandoned as extremists fled a French military intervention last month. Hidden inside a manila envelope, it is a Xeroxed copy of a tipsheet authored by Abdallah bin Muhammad, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“These are not dumb techniques. It shows that they are acting pretty astutely,” said Col Cedric Leighton, a 26-year-veteran of the United States Air Force, who helped set up the Predator drone program.
The tips include:
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Hide under thick trees.Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy.
Spreading reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building.
Have Bush and Obama ushered in the age of vague, unpublicized, poorly-defined war that never ends? Via Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko writes:
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Since September 11, 2001, the president has been able to threaten or use military force to achieve a range of foreign policy objectives with few checks and balances or sustained media coverage — to an extent unprecedented in U.S. history. It is unlikely that the United States will ever have a peacetime president again.
The primary reason for this stems from how policymakers in Washington perceive the world — a perception that bridges partisan divisions. According to most officials, the international security environment is best characterized by limitless, complex, and imminent threats facing the United States. Those threats require the military to be perpetually on a wartime footing and the president to frequently authorize the use of lethal force. As a Pentagon strategy document first noted in 2010, the United States has entered “a period of persistent conflict.”
In response to this world of grave uncertainty and looming threats, the United States has invested heavily in offensive military capabilities [including drones, special operations forces, and cyberattacks] that the president leverages with speed, secrecy, and minimal oversight.
DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has challenged researchers to build drones that mimic the size and behavior of bugs and birds. Cobb’s answer is a robotic hawk moth, with wings made of carbon fiber and Mylar. Piezoelectric motors flap the wings 30 times a second, so rapidly they vanish in a blur. The Air Force has nonetheless already constructed a “micro-aviary” for flight-testing small drones. In an animated demonstration video, the drones swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines. One of them sneaks up on a scowling man holding a gun and shoots him in the head.