The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 29, 2012

Jim Scofield | A new weapon in war – assassination

— President Obama and a small inner circle of advisers have settled on an assassination policy using drones and Special Forces, one which extends into countries with which we are in no way at war. There is no open review of these targets, no indictments or public rationalizations, even when they are American citizens or when they have included killing a 16-year old American.

Assassination – a term usually suppressed in our media – is a crime in American and international law. This sort of secret power is reminiscent of the Watergate-era abuses.

It’s a policy that parallels our holding of thousands of uncharged prisoners in Guantanamo, Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, in this borderless, perpetual war on terror. Many (detainees) have no real evidence against them (President Bush had claimed  they were “the worst of the worst”). Even the chief suspects in the 9/11 planning who have been held  for 10 years were only recently charged.

Why weren’t they tried long ago, so we could witness the vileness of their actions?

It was suspicious in the vindictive glee over the Special Forces’ assassination of Osama bin Laden that he was immediately executed once he was securely in American hands. Why? Our passive media never asks such impolite questions. And now the Obama administration asserts the right to hold captives in indefinite detention, without charges, including Americans. 

Against such policies the American Revolution was fought.

Can we remember that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11, and that the Taliban (which at the time ruled Afghanistan) is not an international terrorist group, but, its brutalities notwithstanding, a resistance force to foreign Western powers in Afghanistan and Pakistan? 

Both President Bush and Obama have tried to conflate the Taliban with terrorist al-Qaida.

The demented, criminal 9/11 attack was payback, in al-Qaida’s view, for U.S. intrusions in the Middle East, including our first Gulf war, and probably for a century of Western imperialist domination, starting with Britain and France in the first part of the 20th century. I fear that the hundreds of thousands of deaths our wars have caused are creating more enemies for us. The Bush and Obama idea that if you kill enough opponents, you win, is counter-productive. Our consistent support has been for despotic regimes in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and also the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators right up until “the Arab Spring” forced the U.S. to back down. Only in our press does America stand for democracy in that area.

Our recent Libyan war’s objective, contrary to administration claims it was to protect civilians, was obviously to kill and replace the Moammar Gadhafi family.

In Iran, our new target, we have already participated in the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear physicists, in a cyberwar to disrupt Iran’s computers, and in imposing crippling economic sanctions.

All this on the pretext that we have the right to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, although our own reports show it isn’t close to such.

Contrary to official propaganda, we have no right to bar a nation acquiring these weapons, especially when the U.S., Israel, Pakistan and India, among others, have horrific amounts of them. In fact, all the nuclear powers are supposed to be mutually decreasing  their arsenals in stages, to zero. Our pundits and press, however, don’t question that we have the right to make war on Iran, all too parallel to the propaganda which led to our attack on Iraq, another country that in no way threatened our nation.

Must we always find enemies?

Right now, we have the means with our computer game-like resources, in a Nevada base and in the CIA’s Virginia headquarters, to assassinate from afar any leader or suspect the president designates. Very soon, other countries and groups will also possess the drones and capabilities for such warfare, perhaps against us. We are using our Special Forces and drones to secretly extend our wars. Now they target suspect Middle Easterners, but current strategy also points them toward Africa and Latin America. No need, anymore, to declare war or justify attacking others.

This militaristic policy is aggression rather than defense. Meantime, back at home, our leaders tell our citizens they don’t have the funds anymore for decent health care and  retirement programs, or to curb our scandalously high poverty rate or to fix our important, but decayed, infrastructure.

Instead, everyone, except for the very rich, must share the sacrifice.

Jim Scofield of Richland Township is a professor emeritus of English at Pitt-Johnstown.


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