Dirty Wars at URI

The President is all fired up; cameras are rolling. Days of coaching by a talented theater director flown in from a small, elite college are paying off. The lines are delivered with poise and apparent compassion. With pregnant pauses and the cadence of her delivery, the President punctuates the gravity of her message:

Our preference is always to capture if we can, because then we can gather intelligence. But a lot of the terrorist networks that target the United States, the most dangerous ones, operate in remote regions and it’s very difficult to capture them.

Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,  URI, Kingston, Swan Hall, Thursday Nov. 14, 2013, 7:30 pm

Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, URI, Kingston, Swan Hall, Thursday Nov. 14, 2013, 7:30 pm

To reinforce the President’s message, White House Press Secretary, Jay Carnage, declares:

U.S. counter-terrorism operations are precise, they are lawful and they are effective.

To wrap up the media fib-fest, partisans of the In-List —bought from Google for a president’s ransom— receive a message affirming that the Unites States is a the moral leader and savior of the world. The message boosts the confidence of the In-team in their Leader. At the same time, the Out-List team receives a message that the Unites States is a the moral leader and savior of the world. It spells out that the President is weak on defense, asleep at wheel, and puts the Nation at grave risk.

Who is this President? The current one? A previous one or the next specimen? It does not matter. Political theater, designed to make slaughter look respectable, is as old as the hills, but it really thrives in today’s Google-Facebook surveillance state. Performances like this, assisted by mass media that are the envy of the world’s most vicious tyrannies, succeed phenomenally in their goal: only 11 percent of the population thinks that the use of drones should be decreased.

This Thursday (11/14/2013) the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies at URI will be screening Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield

Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the hidden world of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. With a strong cinematic style, the film blurs the boundaries of documentary and fiction storytelling. Part action film and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and under-reported stories of our time.

Jeremy Scahill is the reluctant star in this film, directed by Richard Rowley. Both risked their lives in its making, and it is not just foreign threats that they had to worry about.

The film —as does the book by the same title— chronicles the expansion of covert US wars and the security state. It focuses on the pervasive abuse of executive privilege, and features the elite military units operated by the White House and its War Lord in Chief.

Dirty Wars documents naked American exceptionalism and wholesale subversion of the Constitution. The film features the Party of Corporate America, represented by a duopoly of alternating right wings, and how it has bought into the idea that “the world is a battlefield” of undeclared wars.

Take this transcript of a conversation between Jeremy Scahill and Ron Wyden, since 2001 a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee:
Scahill: When there is a lethal operation and a high-value person is killed, the President then of course acknowledges that we kill …
Background voice: He can’t confirm that there have been any lethal operations outside of a war zone.

(Oh, oops, Wyden got drowned out, but he’ll be back soon.)

The Unitary Executive is unchecked by law or oversight. Ron Wyden has repeatedly asked the administration for its legal justification of killing of its own citizens without trial. What else can such requests produce but self-serving blather?

A major portion of the film is devoted to the life and death of Anwar al Awlaki, who may be the first American citizen to be assassinated by his own government under the guise of legality. He had not been indicted in any US court and faced no known charges. How would he have surrendered? And to whom? Also his son, a minor and an American citizen, was executed by presidential fiat without due process of law, in a flagrant violation of the Constitution.

The conversation with Wyden continues:
Wyden: It is almost as if there are two different laws in America, and the American people would be extraordinarily surprised if they could see the difference between what they believe a law says and how it has actually been interpreted in secret.
Scahill: You are not permitted to disclose that difference publicly.
Wyden: That is correct.

Is there any doubt that the presidency has become a national security dictatorship, solely guided by what it deems to be in the national interest? Farewell, checks and balances!

Kill-lists are perpetually replaced by kill-lists twice their size, and, without a doubt, blow-back is on the way. As always, the vast majority the victims are non-combatants, pregnant women and children. It makes you wonder with Ecclesiastes:

One of the children we terrorize with the drones bought with our taxes. From Robert Greenwald's Unmanned

One of the children we terrorize with the drones our taxes buy: “They buzz around twenty-four hours a day, so I’m always scared; I cannot sleep.” From Robert Greenwald’s new documentary Unmanned.

And look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter—
On the side of their oppressors there is power, But they have no comforter.
Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead,
More than the living who are still alive.

Violence perpetrated overseas comes home to haunts us, and the police is equipped with imperial war surplus and the mindset that goes with it. This is what we do with peace activists of Disarm Now Plowshares, a group made up of Sacred Heart nuns, Jesuit priests, and their nation-threatening ilk:

Once arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with sand bags because, the marine in charge testified, “When we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them…, so we did it to them.”

This is what moral bankruptcy looks like at the level of the individual. Nationally, we see racist mass incarceration for profit, hand-outs to war profiteers bought with food stamps plus “change,” child poverty, inner cities worse than war zones; and the list goes on. We are way Beyond Vietnam, and as Martin Luther King said:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Our national priorities reflect the face of spiritual death.

At a global level, when it comes to dealing with the climate catastrophe, how much confidence should we have in our national security dictatorship that occupies the White House? None whatsoever, of course, but let me leave it at this, I’m starting to repeat myself.

I hope you will join us this Thursday, 11/14/2013, for Dirty Wars.

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Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just and peaceful, sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and his children and grandchildren in particular.

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