Number 575 May 8, 2015

This Week: Threats to the Empire

"Quote" of the Week: "Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Airstrikes"
Threats to the Empire
Empire Decline in the Americas
Turkey and the Threat of Independence
"An Agent of Vast Economic Progress"
April 24th: A Remarkable Day in the Times


I don't like using my Editor's Note space to apologize, but I feel I really must apologize for the long wait for this issue of Nygaard Notes. It's been over a month since #574 hit the stands. That, in my mind, is too long. By way of explanation, there have been some health issues and family issues in my personal life that have made it difficult to get the writing done in as timely a manner as I would like. I can't say that the issues are all resolved, but I can see some light at the end of the tunnel, and my hopes are to soon return to a more timely publication schedule.

I have such a large collection of "Quotes" of the Week that I may decide to do an entire issue of nothing but quotations that I've collected in recent weeks. But, at the same time, there are so many issues I've been thinking about and researching! Certainly among them are issues of race, racism, and white supremacy, issues that have made their way to near the top of the national agenda. I hope to have something useful to say about that in the near future.

In the meantime, stay well, enjoy the spring (or fall, if you're far enough south). And the next Notes will be here before you know it.



"Quote" of the Week: "Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Airstrikes"

In mid-April The Open Society Justice Initiative published a 126-page study "Death by Drone: Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Targeted Killings in Yemen." Featuring nine case studies of drone strikes over the past four years. Here are two paragraphs from the press release announcing the publication:

"The U.S. has not officially acknowledged any of these [nine documented] strikes or the resulting civilian casualties. None of the victims are aware of any investigation into the strikes, and in most cases did not receive meaningful compensation. Many survivors argue that the strikes are counterproductive, pushing Yemenis into the arms of al-Qaeda.

"Despite the U.S. government's best efforts to keep the strikes secret, this report exposes the suffering of civilians directly affected by U.S. airstrikes: innocent people burned alive, parents who saw their children killed, families that lost breadwinners, and traumatized communities that continue to live under the threat of drones. Based on the testimonies of eyewitnesses and survivors, this report provides a first-hand, in-depth account of civilian harm caused by U.S. airstrikes."

This is an important study. I plan to say more about it in a future issue of Nygaard Notes. In the meantime, if you want to see it for yourself, look HERE.


Threats to the Empire

Every major news organization has a National Security Correspondent, whose job it is to report on specific types of threats to "national security" and to report on what are understood to be the various things that are being done, or being talked about, to protect the people of the United States from those threats.

When I say "specific types" of threats, I am referring to the idea that the only threats that qualify are the threats posed by individuals (or groups of individuals) who have the conscious intention of hurting some people in the United States or allied nations. So we get news of terrorists, news of conspiracies, and news of hostile foreign powers. Then we get news of foiled plots, news of the deaths of "bad guys" around the world, and news of the various deployments of our military and paramilitary forces in response to perceived threats. And we get news about how our political leaders are managing all of this.

All of this news is no doubt significant and sometimes even interesting. But such individualized coverage, focusing as it does on ill-intentioned "bad guys," obscures a very important dynamic that poses a greater threat to the well-being of the people of the U.S. than any terrorist plot. This larger dynamic is really beyond the control of any political leader. I'm speaking here of the ongoing, rapidly-accelerating decline of what might be called the U.S. Empire. Tracking this decline—and the implications it has for the well-being of the population—really isn't the job of a National Security Correspondent. What we need is a State of the Empire Correspondent—a journalist who would report on the stories that illuminate this larger issue and provide the details and context that would help us prepare for, and shape, the new reality that is so rapidly approaching.

(On a related note, I'm planning a semi-regular feature in Nygaard Notes that will highlight the items, large and small, that illustrate the nature and intensity of the decline of the U.S. Empire. Not sure what to call it: Empire Notes? As The Empire Wanes? Send me your ideas!)

I spoke at length about the Decline of the US Empire back in January, in Nygaard Notes #569. But I'm featuring here a recent set of four articles that perhaps will illustrate how we can make more sense of the daily news if only we can see things through an "imperial lens." The first article has to do with the U.S. relationship to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.


Empire Decline in the Americas

Every three years since 1994 representatives of most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere have gathered in what are called "Summits of the Americas." This year's Summit, held on April 10th and 11th in Panama, was the Seventh in the series. Officially, this year's gathering was held to offer participating nations "the opportunity for countries to jointly define a hemispheric agenda at the highest level to address urgent challenges and propel positive change."

Readers may recall the big news from the last Summit, held in 2012, when 12 Secret Service agents were sent home for their scandalous behavior with Colombian prostitutes. (One agent even stiffed the woman he hired). The media loves this kind of story, but the Summits are newsworthy for important reasons, too.

For this year's Summit, the generally-accepted storyline in this country was that the U.S., in light of its recent opening to Cuba, is now considered a friend to all in the region. A New York Times article after the conference summed it up with the headline "Talks With Cuba Earn U.S. Raves in Latin America."

(For the simplistic anti-Obama perspective, we can always turn to the reactionary newspaper The Investor's Business Daily. Their story about Obama meeting the Cuban president at the Summit was headlined "The President Bows To Another Enemy." In their view, it was "one sorry sight" to see "the president of United States being bullied and pushed around" by these little countries, which seem to be getting rather uppity.)

So, whether one considers it good news or bad news, the Cuba angle was an important one, and it's true that the U.S. opening to Cuba (announced on December 17th) has engendered a lot of goodwill in the region. But the larger story, and one that a U.S. audience really needs to understand, is the rapidly-fading dominance of, and growing hostility towards, the U.S. in the hemisphere.

Growing Hostility Towards the U.S.

The hostility isn't new, and it's not unjustified, as a glimpse at the history of U.S.-Latin American relations will show. Here, courtesy of historian William Blum, are "Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government [in Latin America] since the Second World War." (* indicates successful ouster of a government): Guatemala 1954*; Costa Rica mid-1950s; British Guiana 1953-64*; Ecuador 1960-63*; Brazil 1962-64*; Dominican Republic 1963*; Cuba 1959 to present; Bolivia 1964*; Chile 1964-73*; Costa Rica 1970-71; Bolivia 1971*; Jamaica 1976-80*; Grenada 1983*; Nicaragua 1981-90*; Panama 1989*; Ecuador 2000*; Venezuela 2002*; Haiti 2004*; Honduras 2009. (Read the entire list HERE.)

That's a long list, but the bad behavior isn't all in the past, as sociologist Gabriel Hetland reminds us. Writing on the website of NACLA (the North American Congress on Latin America) on April 20th, Hetland says that "Latin America remains profoundly wary of the United States. This is not simply because of 'history,' as Obama would have the world believe. Rather, it is because of Washington's continuing efforts to assert its dominance over Latin America."

One such effort occurred on March 9th, when President Obama issued an Executive Order imposing sanctions on the nation of Venezuela, declaring that "the situation in Venezuela ... constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat." That statement was so absurd that the Obama administration was soon forced to take it back. First the State Department said "Never mind," and then the President himself said on April 9th that "We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government." (This was in an interview with the Spanish news service EFE, and went unreported in this country.)

The idea that Venezuela is a "threat" to the U.S. and thus is deserving of punishment is not only absurd, it was angrily rejected by virtually every country in the hemisphere. As with Obama's startling retraction, the chorus of boos was also held back from the U.S. audience. The following anecdote from NACLA's Hetland (whose story was headlined "Press Doublespeak at the Summit of the Americas in Panama "), tells the story. Said Hetland:

"The New York Times reported that, 'Several Latin American nations have criticized recent United States' sanctions against several Venezuelan officials it has accused of human rights violations.' This statement, however, is so deceptive that it warrants an official retraction by the Times. 'Several' Latin American nations did not criticize U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. Latin American nations universally condemned U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. On March 26, 2015, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which represents all 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, issued a statement rejecting U.S. sanctions on Latin America and calling for the reversal of the executive order issued on March 9. As Eva Golinger wrote, "Even staunch U.S. allies such as Colombia and Mexico signed onto the CELAC statement." In a remarkable display of how out of touch the U.S. government has been when it comes to Venezuela, even the anti-government opposition in Venezuela rejected the view that Venezuela constitutes a threat to the US, issuing a statement that, 'Venezuela is not a threat to any country.'"

The March 9th U.S. action against Venezuela—retraction notwithstanding—has sent the message that the U.S. still considers itself The Boss in the hemisphere. The resulting hostility is revealed in the failure of the Summit to produce a final joint declaration. The TELESUR news network reports that "The lack of a final declaration, which is customary during these summits, is attributed specifically to the intransigence of representatives from the United States and Canada who opposed certain clauses contained within the draft."

And so the United States continues to marginalize itself, in the process driving the other countries in the hemisphere to forge on without it. In the past few years we have seen new regional organizations spring up, such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and the above-mentions Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The United States is excluded from membership in each one. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs put it in an April 9th article on the Summit of the Americas, "These alternative regional institutions are representative of the strong discontent towards U.S. domination across the hemisphere, and the decline of Washington's leadership in the Americas."

The NY Times summary of the Summit included the comment that "American sway in the region has been undercut somewhat paradoxically by the sweep of democracy since the 1970s..." Paradoxically? How about the idea that "American sway" has been undercut as a result of increasing democracy? The establishment view, of course, is that the U.S. is, and has always been, an advocate of democracy in the hemisphere—indeed, in the world—and that's why the ultra-establishment New York Times sees a decline in subservience as a democratic "paradox." Further indicating their cluelessness, the editors at the Times insist on referring to the United States as "America"—even when the countries to which they are referring are all part of "America." For heaven's sakes, the meeting upon which the Times is reporting is called the "Summit of the Americas!" The U.S. media has clearly not gotten the memo informing them that times have changed.

Rocking the Capitalist Boat

If our major media had a State of the Empire Correspondent instead of a National Security Correspondent, what might be different? Here I'll quote Alejandro Velasco, writing in NACLA's Report on the Americas: "This struggle [over democracy in Latin America] has recalibrated the balance between social and economic rights on the one hand and the civil and political rights that held sway under neoliberalism on the other."

Here is where we get our explanation as to why U.S. leaders really do see countries like Cuba and Venezuela (and Bolivia and Ecuador, and increasing numbers of others) as threats. When such countries, no matter how small, choose to prioritize the social and economic rights of their people, the political steps they often take to do so are very likely to interfere with the workings of the global capitalist system. A U.S.-style emphasis on civil and political rights, on the other hand, is much less likely to result in a rocking of the capitalist boat.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, for instance. What if they decide to redirect their oil wealth away from the pockets of Exxon/Mobil and toward the Venezuelan people, thus impinging on the "rights" of Exxon shareholders? Half of the world's lithium—key to the high-tech economy—is found in Bolivia. What if Bolivia were to give preferential terms to Russia in its sales of lithium, thus giving a competitive advantage to the U.S.'s arch-rival? Avoiding just such a scenario is part of the point of the trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle put it a couple of years ago, "Latin America is becoming increasingly important as a supplier of raw materials for German industry. China, Canada and the US are competitors in the race for natural resources." In the decades when the U.S. saw Latin America as its "backyard," such competition was more or less avoided. But times have changed, and the various moves toward democracy in the region are resulting in the forging of new paths, paths that lead away from the capitalist ("neoliberal") orientation. Such moves are seen in Washington as a threat, and the fear of the U.S. reaction to that threat is part of what drives hostility toward this country in the hemisphere.

Stories about the Summit of the Americas could go a long way in helping the people of the U.S. understand some of these big, structural changes that are underway. Or they could simply focus on the U.S. earning "Raves in Latin America." So far, we mostly get the latter.


Turkey and the Threat of Independence

As the U.S. watches its economic, diplomatic, and even propaganda power diminish, there is one area where U.S. dominance remains relatively unchallenged, and that is the military realm. The following four sentences from the National Priorities Project tell the tale:

* "World military spending totaled more than $1.7 trillion in 2013. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total."

* U.S. military expenditures are roughly the size of the next nine largest military budgets around the world, combined.

* U.S. military spending dwarfs the budget of the #2 country – China. For every dollar China spends on its military, the U.S. spends $3.60.

A couple of stories in the daily news recently shed some light on another aspect of the power of the U.S. military industrial complex, and the anxiety building in Washington as some analysts begin to wonder if even U.S. military power may be starting to erode.

Arms Sales Up

The first story came out on March 16th, when the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its annual report on the global arms industry. The report received little coverage in this country, and the coverage it did get focused on the alleged threat posed by China. The New York Times, for example, headlined its article, "China: Nation Rises to No. 3 in Arms Exports Worldwide." The Wall Street Journal likewise highlighted the threat: "China Surpasses Germany as World's Third-largest Arms Exporter."

While that's true, it's also true (as the Times reported) that the United States and Russia remain the dominant sellers of weapons worldwide. The U.S. accounted for a full 31 percent of global arms sales between 2010 and 2015, while Russia sold another 27 percent. While China's share of the trade increased greatly during the period, its sales still lag "significantly behind the USA and Russia," making up only 5 percent of the total. (This is separate from their military "spending" which, as we saw above, is second only to the U.S.)

The truly bad news that really should garner the headlines is this: "The [worldwide] volume of transfers of major weapons in 2010–14 was 16 per cent higher than in 2005–2009."

Turkey Thinks for Itself, Turns to China

All of that makes it seem as if the U.S. is still unchallenged as the dominant military force on the planet. But... not so fast; here's the second story in this pair of stories on U.S. Military Power.

It was a mere five weeks after the SIPRI report was released that the Wall Street Journal ran a story headlined, "Turkey Breaks From West on Defense; Ankara Takes Steps to Boost its Own Arms Industry and Reduce its Military Dependence on its NATO Allies"

Here's a lengthy excerpt from this important article:

"Ankara [the capital of Turkey] has recently moved to diminish Turkey's military dependence on the West, including last month inaugurating rocket testing and radar technologies facilities. Both are part of Turkey's effort to boost a fastgrowing arms export industry that also is supplying its own forces with locally built tanks, warships, drones, missiles and—by the republic's centenary in 2023—a jet fighter. Ankara has also rejected bids by its NATO allies for a missile-defense system in favor of a Chinese-built one that these partners say is incompatible with their technology and threatens intelligence cooperation. Turkey's Islamist-rooted government argues it needs a more independent military force to avoid the fate of the Ottomans, whose empire collapsed after banking on alliances with Germany and Austria-Hungary, only to be invaded by the U.K. and France—a bitter historical chapter that still fuels mistrust toward the West. 'Turkey is recasting itself as a nonaligned country in its rhetoric, which is making NATO very uncomfortable,' said a Western official in Brussels. 'Turkey's stance will be an issue for years to come, not only if the Chinese missile deal happens, but also because of its politics.' Many officials in Washington and Brussels view the developments as part of a broader pivot by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose efforts to forge an independent foreign policy also led to other strains—over Syria, Egypt and Israel, for example."

"Independent foreign policy"? This could spell trouble, as we can see if we consider a comment made by Dr. Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. Said Fleurant, "The USA has long seen arms exports as a major foreign policy and security tool, but in recent years exports are increasingly needed to help the US arms industry maintain production levels at a time of decreasing US military expenditure." (More evidence, by the way, of U.S. decline: We're increasingly dependent on the wealth of other nations to keep domestic profits rolling in.)

If Dr. Fleurant is right, then we can begin to understand what the Wall Street Journal article is telling us. It's telling us, first of all, that this "major foreign policy tool" is not working so well in the case of Turkey, which is a key NATO ally. Secondly, and perhaps worse, we're being told that Turkey's choice to buy major arms from China harms the ability of the U.S. to "maintain production levels" in this deadly, but highly-profitable, industry. These sorts of things keep U.S. planners up at night, and keep the Marines – or maybe the drone pilots – on alert.

We're not likely to hear much about arms sales to Turkey (or the lack thereof) from our presidential candidates over the next 18 months. (18 months!) But direct and indirect campaign contributions to those candidates from the world's largest arms dealers (Lockheed Martin #1, Boeing #2, Raytheon #4, Northrup Grumman #5, and General Dynamics #6) will likely be key in determining which candidates are "viable." Gotta maintain those production levels, y'know!

Meanwhile, what else is China doing that is upsetting the United States? Plenty, as it turns out. The next article talks about one aspect of the Rise of China.


"An Agent of Vast Economic Progress"

On April 20th China's President Xi Jinping was in Pakistan, where he announced the formal launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It's part of a larger project of massive Chinese investments in Pakistan, which in turn is a part of an even-larger project to connect China to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This is sometimes called "The New Silk Road," wherein China "envisions an 'economic cooperation area' that stretches from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea," as the Japanese magazine The Diplomat puts it.

CPEC is a route that runs for two thousand miles from the landlocked western Chinese province of Xinjiang to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. The BBC explains that, for China, "The corridor through Gwadar gives them their shortest access to the Middle East and Africa, where thousands of Chinese firms, employing tens of thousands of Chinese workers, are involved in development work." China surpassed the U.S. as Africa's largest trading partner in 2009.

Adds the BBC, "China has been a more reliable and less meddlesome supplier of military hardware to Pakistan than the US, and is therefore seen by Pakistanis as a silent ally against arch-rival India." And, in an April 21st post, Juan Cole explains what is meant by that word "meddlesome": "Whereas the US likes to sell useless weapons systems that either rust in warehouses or foment wars like that in Yemen, China's investment is divided between $11 billion in infrastructure and $35 billion in energy." That China views its role in Pakistan as that of an agent of vast economic progress likely makes it a more attractive partner for Islamabad than the US. A majority of Washington's aid (and often a vast majority) has been arms and "security-related." To back up his point he quotes the Center for Global Development:

"Between FY2002 and FY2009, only 30 percent of US foreign assistance to Pakistan was appropriated for economic-related needs; the remaining 70 percent was allocated to security-related assistance. In the period since [the US Congress authorized increased aid to Pakistan in 2009] ... 41 percent of assistance has been allocated for economic-related assistance. But 100% of the CPEC is development aid and loans, which in turn are aimed at increasing trade and manufacturing. If the $31 billion the US has spent there since 9/11 had been structured more like the Chinese plan, the US might have won in Pakistan. As it is, it is relinquishing that sphere of influence to China."

And so it goes as the influence of the U.S. fades and the influence of China grows. A threat? Or simply a new reality? I vote for the latter.


April 24th: A Remarkable Day in the Times

Every once in a while a particular issue of the New York Times is so bizarre that I have to read it several times in order to convince myself that I'm not hallucinating. April 24th was just such a day.

Readers may recall that it was announced on April 23rd by the Obama administration that U.S. drones had killed two Western aid workers. The killings took place on January 15th when the drones attacked a compound in Pakistan where the two workers were being held as hostages. One of the aid workers was a U.S. citizen named Warren Weinstein, who was kidnaped in 2011. The other was an Italian man named Giovanni Lo Porto, who was seized in 2012.

Drones April 24, #1: The Apology

The President appeared before the press on April 23rd. Here's how the Times reported it: "Visibly upset, Mr. Obama came to the White House briefing room shortly after his staff issued a written statement announcing the deaths to make a rare personal apology. 'As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,' the grim-faced president told reporters as television cameras broadcast his words. 'I profoundly regret what happened,' he added. 'On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.'"

It wasn't mentioned in that article, but in an accompanying article that was also on the front page, the President's apology was given needed context when the author, Scott Shane (who will soon publish a book about the 2011 drone strike that killed a U.S. citizen named Anwar al-Awlaki) quoted Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. Zenko "said that an average of separate counts of American drone strikes by three organizations, the New America Foundation, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Long War Journal, finds that 522 strikes have killed 3,852 people, 476 of them civilians. But those counts, based on news accounts and some on-the-ground interviews, are considered very rough estimates."

Rough, indeed. Since we tend to keep good records of things we care about, the fact that we only have "rough" numbers on the thousands killed by U.S. remote-control violence is quite revealing. The most reliable of the three groups listed above, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, reports these numbers from Pakistan alone in the years 2004-2015: 415 drone strikes, resulting in 2,449-3,949 people killed, including 423-962 civilians, 172-207 of whom were children.

It would seem that the President has several hundred "deep apologies" yet to make. Black and brown lives do matter, after all, and not just in the U.S.

Here's one more odd thing from this article. Actually, the odd thing only appears in the paper copy of the New York Times, having been edited out of the online version. That's odd, in itself. But, anyway, in the paper version we read this:

"Mr. Lo Porto studied at London Metropolitan University and worked on aid projects in the Central African Republic and Haiti before traveling to Pakistan to help rebuild an area hit by flooding, according to media reports. Shortly after arriving, he and a German colleague were abducted. American officials said they do not know where the German is now but expressed confidence he was not at the compound where Mr. Lo Porto died."

It's weird that some unnamed "officials" would say that they don't know where someone is, but they do know where he is not. Maybe even weirder is that the reporter for the Times appeared to buy this impossible statement. Well, I guess that's what anonymous sources are for. After all, if his or her identity were known, people (not from the New York Times) might ask questions.

Drones April 24th, #2: The Blunder

On the subject of the "We don't know where he is, but he's not here" way of thinking, there was an even stranger example in the April 24th Times. It was found in a second front-page article that day, which was headlined "First Evidence of a Blunder: 2 Extra Bodies." Here are three paragraphs that appeared one right after the other:

1. "In Pakistan, unlike elsewhere in the world, the White House permits the C.I.A. to carry out drone strikes without knowing the identities of the people the agency is trying to kill. These 'signature strikes,' [as they are called] based on patterns of behavior rather than intelligence about specific people, have been criticized in the past as generating a higher number of civilian deaths.

2. "American officials acknowledged that the Jan. 15 attack was a signature strike, but said that the C.I.A. had assessed with 'high confidence' that the compound in the Shawal Valley was being used by Qaeda operatives. The officials said that before every drone strike, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere, the agency must have 'near certainty' that no civilians will be killed.

3. "The strike was conducted despite Mr. Obama's indication in a speech in 2013 that the C.I.A. would no longer conduct such signature strikes after 2014, when American 'combat operations' in Afghanistan were scheduled to end. Several American officials said Thursday that the deadline had not been enforced."

Really, now. How could any "near certainty" rule be "enforced"—no matter what the deadline—when the killers have permission to kill people whose identities are unknown? The words "unknown" and "certainty" just don't go together. The Times could easily find someone to comment on the absurdity of such a claim, which was made by anonymous "officials." Perhaps someone could be found who would suggest that someone here (someone with a name) might not be telling the truth? Apparently that's too much to ask of the corporate media.

Drones April 24, #3: The Ghosts

The third article on the front page was the one by Scott Shane that I mentioned earlier. Entitled "Ghosts in the Cross Hairs" the article highlighted the dark side of The New American Way of War—that is, remote-control war that stays off the TV screens—as exemplified by the officially-secret drone program.

Among many remarkable statements by reporter Scott Shane, this one stands out:

"Every independent investigation of the [drone] strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess."

Shane quotes an expert who notes that "a total of eight Americans have been killed in drone strikes." Shane then remarks that "Obama administration lawyers have ruled that a special legal review should be conducted before killing Americans suspected of terrorism."

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, among other things, that "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Thus, as former State Department worker Peter van Buren says, "the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner."

Shane notes that "drone strikes remain persistently popular with the American public, with about two-thirds expressing approval in polls. And," he notes, drone strikes "have enjoyed unusual bipartisan support in Congress." He thus concludes that "even the latest disclosures will not bring [much] scrutiny to the program."

And, Shane's efforts notwithstanding, the media will no doubt continue to do its part to preserve the status quo, which amounts to active support or passive acceptance of the criminal and ineffective drone program. Indeed, the day after reporting on the President's apology, the Times ran a front-page article headlined "Despite Errors, Drones Decimate Weakened Qaeda." And the following day the headline was "Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.'s Drone Missions." Then, the also-influential Washington Post in their Sunday, May 3rd edition, ran an editorial called "In Praise of Drones." Really!

So there you have April 24th, all in all a remarkable day in the nation's most influential newspaper. First the report that the President offered "our deepest apologies to the families" of one-half of one percent of the innocent civilians who have been killed by U.S. drones. Then the Times reported that "the White House permits the C.I.A. to carry out drone strikes without knowing the identities of the people the agency is trying to kill," while telling us that the CIA somehow cannot conduct strikes unless they have "near certainty" that no civilians will be killed. Finally, the April 24th Times tells us that the Obama administration "has ruled that a special legal review should be conducted" before violating the Fifth Amendment, and that this flagrant violation of the Constitution has broad support in the Congress and among the U.S. public.

The reason I highlight these absurdities is that the performance of the agenda-setting media has so much to do with the attitudes of the general public. So we, as citizens and as activists, need to know what we're dealing with. Then we need to support those who are actively working in opposition to such imperial criminality, and in support of justice. Let's get to it.