The US government is clearly upset that WikiLeaks, under Assange’s direction, published clear evidence of war crimes the US committed. But what WikiLeaks published isn’t illegal (see the Pentagon Papers) and the US government knows this so it’s claiming illicit computer access instead, a case for which there appears to be no more evidence now then there was when the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs were initially published. The indictments are a matter of seeking revenge against Assange to punish him for his truth-telling and a warning to us all that we must not do similarly.
The charges against Assange relating to his journalistic WikiLeaks work must be dropped. If any other charges are pursued, we can evaluate their merit as we learn what those charges are. So far the only charges published are those having to do with what WikiLeaks published.
Tulsi Gabbard has been called variations of “anti-war” or “anti-establishment” because of her “positions on war” by supporters and critics alike:
Huffingtonpost.com: “Tulsi Gabbard Claims Anti-War Credentials After Accepting Over $100,000 From Arms Dealers—Lockheed Martin and Boeing were two of Gabbard’s largest donors during the 2016 election cycle.”
Shadowproof.com: “Such positions on war and U.S. foreign policy effectively make her a pariah to establishment media pundits and the political class.“
Jimmy Dore’s show on Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement where she says she’ll end the cold war and end regime change wars, and another episode of Jimmy Dore’s show reviewing a 2019 CNN “Presidential Town Hall” with Rep. Gabbard where you can also hear sharp criticism of the US drone program (“Did you know that our drone program is the biggest terrorist program in the world? Kills mostly innocent civilians?” at 15m05s) which left out that Gabbard endorsed using drones, and later Gabbard is called “a candidate who is principled” (16m42s).
MintPressNews.com: “Tulsi Gabbard Interview Turns Ugly as MSNBC Hosts Assail Her Anti-War Positions: Instead of allowing Gabbard to relay her vision, MSNBC and company hounded her, opting to shoot the messenger for advocating against the designation of a foreign leader as an “enemy” of the U.S.”
Glen Ford wrote an essay rightly criticizing the Social Democrats as “hav[ing] no principled objection to the military-political-economic structures of global capitalism — a system most people in the world call imperialism” and noted that “Of the Democratic presidential contenders, only Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii anti-war congressperson who does not call herself a socialist, was emphatically anti-intervention” against Venezuela.
When describing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, how accurate is that language—anti-war—and what does that mean she’s for?
The congresswoman has taken a hard line against terrorist groups, but opposes military conflicts justified in part as serving national security interests down the line by installing more cooperative governments.
“In short, when it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk,” Gabbard said. “When it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove.”
In January 2018 she told The Intercept starting around 28m43s: (emphasis mine)
Jeremy Scahill: I’m wondering what your position, I know that in the past you have said that you favor a small footprint approach with strike forces and limited use of weaponized drones. Is that still your position that you think that’s the — to the extent that you believe the U.S. military should be used around the world for counterterrorism, is that still your position?
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Well, when we’re dealing with the unconventional threat of terrorist groups like ISIS, al Qaeda and some of these other groups that are affiliated with them, we should not be using basically what has been and continues to be the current policy of these mass mobilization of troops, these long occupations and trillions of dollars going in, really abusing the Authorization to Use Military Force and taking action that expands far beyond the legal limitations of those current AUMFs.
So, with these terrorist cells, for example, yes, I do still believe that the right approach to take is these quick strike forces, surgical strikes, in and out, very quickly, no long-term deployment, no long-term occupation to be able to get rid of the threat that exists and then get out and the very limited use of drones in those situations where our military is not able to get in without creating an unacceptable level of risk, and where you can make sure that you’re not causing, you know, a large amount of civilian casualties.
“Quick strike forces”, “surgical strikes”, “in and out, very quickly”, “no long-term deployment, no long-term occupation”
“Quick strike forces”, “surgical strikes”, “in and out, very quickly”, “no long-term deployment, no long-term occupation” are all pro-war propaganda. This vague language (how long is “long-term”?) is indistinguishable from what any neo-con would say to make war seem more acceptable.
“a large amount of civilian casualties”
As for “a large amount of civilian casualties”: It’s hard to know what would constitute “a large amount”. The US drone war is a secret war and the US Government doesn’t keep official statistics on those it kills. But the US doesn’t know whom it is killing. As Marcy Wheeler told DemocracyNow about so-called “signature strikes”:
[A signature strike] means we’re shooting drones at people whose identity we don’t actually know. We’re shooting at them because they look like terrorists from the sky, because they seem to have certain levels of security. In other words, Brennan was not telling the full truth when he said that these are targeted killings. What they are, in fact, are not targeted. We don’t know who we’re shooting at.
Therefore estimates are all we have to go on as this Wikipedia article paragraph describes:
Leaked military documents reveal that the vast majority of people killed have not been the intended targets, with approximately 13% of deaths being the intended targets, 81% being other “militants”, and 6% being civilians. According to a journalist at the Intercept, the source who leaked the documents stated that the 94% militant deaths included some “military-age males” only assigned the label of militant because they were in a militant facility at the time and hadn’t been specifically proven innocent, though the source offered no actual evidence of this and none of these assertions were confirmed in the documents themselves. Estimates for civilian deaths range from 158 to 965.
The drone war kills mostly innocent people (sometimes politically labeled as “militants” to help let the attackers off the hook for their murder), and everyone killed is killed extrajudicially: no charges, no evidence, no opportunity for reviewing evidence, no opportunity for debate.
According to the New York Times, one person (the US President) decides whom to kill. The President makes the decision in a Tuesday meeting (known as a “terror Tuesday meeting”) by reviewing a set of dossiers (“baseball cards”). Missiles are fired from a drone remotely-controlled by the US Government. The zone of destruction is so wide that attacks typically kill many more people than the US will admit.
The US Government is remarkably indiscriminate about whom they kill in this way. The US has killed children and US citizens in the drone war, a clear violation of their due process rights. The US citizens killed in the drone war include Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman (both killed in the Obama administration), and his 8-year-old daughter Nawar on January 29, 2017 in a drone-led Navy SEAL raid under the Trump administration. We’re told that Anwar was recruiting for al-Qaeda but this claim comes without evidence. We were given no good reason for killing Anwar’s minor children. Shortly after learning that the Obama administration murdered 16-year-old Abdulrahman in a separate drone strike 2 weeks after the drone strike that killed his father, that administration was asked why they killed the minor. The Obama administration’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs replied that children like Abdulrahman “should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children“. The Atlantic rightly added:
Again, note that this kid wasn’t killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment.
Who benefits from objecting to Tulsi Gabbard in this way?
It seems that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is at best against some wars, but other wars are okay. What she opposes are technical details: methods of warmaking any of which could easily be used to help the US invade countries, foment regime change, and create enemies. But the methods she approves of could be used for the same goals. The establishment media is complaining (or remaining silent about her campaign) possibly to use her as the next sheepdog for their preferred establishment candidate like Bernie Sanders was, according to BlackAgendaReport.com. Contrary to how her objections are framed Gabbard doesn’t have a principled stance against war.
Her supporters have been overwhelmingly silent on this issue so far. Whenever I could find a contact point for those who claim Rep. Gabbard is anti-war I’ve pointed them to the Intercept’s January 2018 interview asking them to cover this discrepancy between their description and the available evidence from Gabbard herself. So far nobody has replied to me and I’ve seen nobody address how this view of extrajudicial assassination squares with calling her anti-war. Exhibiting the kind of silence they eschew when Gabbard is left out of election coverage from mainstream media (such as what Jimmy Dore’s show recently released) is simply progressive hypocrisy.
DN’s short headline about Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ law is a particularly shameful headline from Democracy Now (DN), a so-called “alternative” news outlet that used to chastise the US for mistreating and killing news reporters. During G.W. Bush’s Iraq invasion and occupation, and when journalist Tareq Ayyoub was likely killed by the US war forces, DN rightly pointed out how sharply their coverage was not like the corporate media drumbeat for war. DN didn’t simply repeat the pro-war narrative (built on lies) and have a bunch of other pro-war people on to reaffirm the deception. DN used to make a big deal out of 1st Amendment threats to journalism and DN featured reports from “unembedded” reporters showcasing the difference between their reportage and that of the corporate media. But after the 2016 US election, DN has radically changed into something it used to criticize and this change risks rendering DN dismissable right alongside the corporate media it now sides with.
Why is DN’s headline shameful?
This headline doesn’t point out the difference between the two laws: The Russian law exists and poses a real threat to freedom of speech in Russia as its American counterpart does in America, but unlike the American law the Russian foreign agent registration hasn’t yet been forced on foreign news agencies with outlets in Russia. RT America has been under the restrictions of FARA for over a week now.
This headline is all Amy Goodman offers on this story after months of the American law being discussed on RT. DN chose silence (just like her corporate media ideological partners). Prior to the November 16, 2017 headline one sentence of coverage, DN’s last RT story was from October 18, 2016 (repeat the search and see what has changed).
This headline comes with inadequate context setting. What little context is present minimizes who started this and why. The headline tries to draw focus to the Russians doing something bad, and not squarely place the blame where the issue began—the US doing something bad to foreign media and Americans’ freedom of speech—as part of a larger Russophobic campaign by Hillary Clinton supporters to discredit Pres. Trump’s electoral victory in 2016 (among other reasons). The headline doesn’t at all describe the ugly consequences for Americans who want to be properly and fairly informed by their news media. This headline is quite a sharp departure from how Goodman handled the US narrative on the 2013 Iraq invasion and occupation where she would give the mainstream pro-war narrative and then immediately point out the problems with the case for believing that narrative including that Hans Blix’s group did the legwork to back their claim that claims of Iraq’s possession of WMDs were false.
The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel called this press restriction part of a new cold war with Russia (the transcript should show up eventually). I don’t agree with some of what vanden Heuvel says here (for example: she leaves room to believe that the Russians played a role in interfering in the 2016 US election despite any evidence to back that argument, or that she says RT gets “a negligible audience” because Nielsen doesn’t track their viewership), but the comments about why the US government is angry with RT, what the foreseeable consequences of this anger are, and comments about the structural nature of the critique are all valuable commentary. RT gave a platform to those who criticize American power on a structural level; this goes well beyond getting into petty distractions about Donald Trump personally. RT’s audience on television doesn’t really matter because more people are ‘cord cutting’ or abandoning cable TV for routing their audio & video communications over the Internet. Hence, RT via video sharing sites (such as YouTube) matter considerably and that popularity is the reason why Google and Twitter offered RT premium ad packages prior to being chastised by US Senators who seek to delegitimize what RT says. vanden Heuvel is right that what we colloquially refer to as “Russiagate” could foreseeably become the opening of a new war with Russia. Why would DN (the self-styled “war and peace report” which, given their previous reportage, used to mean ‘anti-war’) want to join forces with the historically pro-war media?
One sentence (“The vote comes shortly after the United States forced the international Russian broadcaster RT to register as foreign agents.”) about something that ought to concern any media outlet that views itself as being not on the side of power, an organization that informs their audience even if that means going against the prevailing corporate narrative. I can only guess that means Goodman has switched sides and her pro-DNC take on other stories (from silence about the DNC lawsuit where the DNC’s lawyer told us the Democrats don’t owe us fair primaries, to uncritically buying into the various arms of the Russiagate narrative) means we are being given permission to view her show as a far less watched MSNBC-alike as Max Blumenthal said in a recent interview with Aaron Maté on The Real News Network. Maté also pointed out this “lone mention” by his former employer.
Implications for local media?
DN got to where it is largely by local community media outlets. Does your local in-town media still play DN? At what point do local media managers decide that DN is taking the same view as the corporate media and therefore it’s time to find a DN replacement that can offer local media audiences something they can’t easily find elsewhere (thus justifying the existence of local media)?
RT is a Russian propaganda tool. Any Americans who work for the network should at least own up to that. Dear friends who work at @RedactedTonight, don’t be useful idiots to a country that censors speech and kills journalists. You are smart and talented and can get work elsewhere.
What’s come out so far is nothing more than can be explained by media outlets advertising for themselves and free speech. Friedman is also tacitly supporting blacklisting along these lines.
A much more reasonable perspective can be found
But they require some looking around; most mainstream media outlets and freedom of speech groups apparently choose to remain silent about this threat to freedom of speech.
There is no such thing as a progressive movement that is also pro-war. And there is no such thing as a progressive movement that is aligned with the CIA. And yet, that is exactly, exactly the position that the Democratic Party is taking, including its black luminaries, such as Congressman John Conyers, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and even Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is considered to be the most left-wing person on Capitol Hill. All of them are busy attacking from the right, the very right-wing president, Donald Trump. And any fool should know that countering right-wing politics with even more right-wing politics can only lead to a disastrous and definitively right-wing result. You cannot create a progressive movement out of a McCarthyite, anti-Russian, pro-war propaganda campaign such as the Democrats are waging now and which they have now enlisted the support of lots of people who call themselves progressive. And even some who consider themselves to be radical.
Any movement that takes its cues from the CIA is a danger, not only to world peace, but it is a danger to itself. It’s a danger to the very civil liberties that a progressive movement claims that it’s trying to defend from the likes of Donald Trump. And, frankly, it’s just plain stupid and it’s stupid in a very peculiar and very American imperial kind of way.
We could do a lot of good reallocating billions of dollars away from killing people in wars and toward buying out HMOs (in order to end their dominance against universalizing Medicare), giving the homeless homes, repairing infrastructure (which also includes jobs), establishing a guaranteed annual income, and funding many other projects including free software development and spying-free hardware development (such as POWER-based systems for desktop/server use and low-end systems for high portability) which run on 100% free software.
Despite Oliver’s “come get me” attitude (particularly in the latter part of the piece), Oliver is really punching down by remaining silent about how real power behaves.
The piece builds to Oliver replaying a clip from Donald Trump’s call into a Fox News show where Trump said
…the other thing with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. They say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.
to which Oliver followed up
That is the front runner for the Republican nomination advocating a war crime.
Yes, it is, but the real problem with Trump’s words on Fox News is how well he describes the apparent policy undertaken by the current Democratic Party president, Barack Obama, and his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who happens to also be a front runner for the Democratic Party.
Oliver gives no mention of a host of relevant counterpoints that could help the viewer focus on the more important issue of executing war crimes instead of one-sided jabs against belligerent speech such as:
Obama’s “Terror Tuesday meetings” in which Obama hand-picks whom to assassinate by drone attack on mere suspicion of wrongdoing.
Oliver’s staff researched Trump’s bankruptcies, his failed business attempts selling steaks, a travel agency, “Trump” magazines, a mortgage bank just before the 2008 collapse, as well as Trump’s flip-flopping on various political opinions, and Trump’s family former name of “Drumpf”. Oliver has good reason to be incensed about Trump’s words here, and Trump has plenty of other characteristics to disrecommend him for US President. But Trump’s speech can’t possibly be more important than authorizing war crimes as Obama and Clinton have.
It would be nice if Oliver were half as concerned about what’s actually happened as he is about Trump’s words. Oliver’s silence in the segment about what has occurred—real extrajudicial killings, real war crimes—completely undermines the power of the point Oliver built up to through the bulk of the segment. Viewers are left with some belligerent speech and a series of entertaining but ultimately significantly less harmful bad business attempts that in no way compare to the lethal horrors undertaken by the US government under President Obama and Senator and later Secretary of State Clinton.
If Oliver were at least as concerned with real killing as he is with advocated killing, he’d have to reach the conclusion that neither major corporate party is likely to make a choice against more belligerency. And that means criticizing the system on an important matter—recent extrajudicial killing by the US government—which I’m not convinced Oliver is prepared to take on in as thoroughgoing a fashion as he was with Trump’s failed business ideas and lies.
Oliver could have Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein on his show to point all this out and help him and his viewers understand that there’s a candidate on many ballots who doesn’t stand for any of this.
Here we see the elite class agreeing to pretend that Trump is advocating views that are inherently disqualifying when — thanks to those doing the denouncing — those views are actually quite mainstream, even popular, among both the American political class and its population. Torture was the official American policy for years. It went way beyond waterboarding. One Republican president ordered it and his Democratic successor immunized it from all forms of accountability, ensuring that not a single official would be prosecuted for authorizing even the most extreme techniques, ones that killed people — or even allowed to be sued by their victims.
Many of the high officials most responsible for that torture regime and who defended it — from Condoleezza Rice and John Brennan — remain not just acceptable in mainstream circles but hold high office and are virtually revered. And, just by the way, both of Trump’s main rivals — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — refuse to rule out classic torture techniques as part of their campaign. In light of all that, who takes seriously the notion that Trump’s advocacy of torture — including techniques beyond waterboarding — places him beyond the American pale? To the contrary, it places him within its establishment mainstream.
The US government has it in their power to negotiate terms here. They could choose to negotiate that VW release its car software under the GNU GPL version 3 or later and give VW owners a chance to inspect and improve the software themselves, rather than leave the tools for more fraud in the hands of known fraudsters. VW could also choose to release the software under the same terms without being pressured into doing this; this will help them rehabilitate the “broken trust of [their] customers and the public” VW CEO Martin Winterkorn referred to. In fact this will help give them a leg up above their competition in the short and long-term.
In normal use, the VW diesel cars burned fuel in a way that allowed far more pollutants to enter the air. When tested, the same car would burn fuel far more cleanly in order to pass environmental tests:
During normal driving situations, the controls are turned off, allowing the cars to spew as much as 40 times as much pollution as allowed under the Clean Air Act, the EPA said. Such pollutants are linked to a range of health problems, including asthma attacks, other respiratory diseases, and premature death.
This is obviously fraudulent but how many people were adversely affected or killed by VW’s choice?
“I don’t suppose we’ll never know how many people died—asthmatics, for example—because Volkswagen designed its ‘clean diesel’ vehicles—all 482,000 of them sold in the U.S. since 2009—to burn dirty except when they were being tested,” wrote UCLA public policy professor Mark Kleiman at The Reality-Based Community blog on Friday.
Situations like these point to the need for strongly copylefted free software—software users have permission to run, inspect, share, and modify—in all the computers they own, such as software licensed under the GNU General Public License. VW being caught is the exception and this is hardly surprising; proprietary software is often malware. This would naturally include software in their vehicles. It’s critical that derivative programs must convey the same freedoms to its users so the consumer protection of software freedom is carried on.
Copyleft—a means of protecting the freedoms of free software for derivative works—is why mere “open source” is inadequate to the task. Any call for “open source” would purposefully fail to distinguish between copyleft and non-copyleft licenses. The open source movement was built to be silent on software freedom. A non-copyleft license would allow proprietary derivatives. If VW owners get more proprietary software as a result of this, they might get more fraudulence when they’re in a bargaining position to demand and expect justice and fairness. All computer owners deserve software freedom to help them avoid fraud and make their software run safely all the time, not just when being inspected. And don’t buy into any proprietor-friendly excuses of VW’s hands being tied by upstream program providers or regulatory restrictions—people’s lives are at stake and it’s important to prioritize what people need to live safely, ethically, and not pollute their environment unnecessarily.
Update (2015-09-25):ExtremeTech.com reports that more information is coming to light which brings suspicion on more automakers—Audi, Porsche, BMW. It seems that comparable fraud and environmental damage are coming from BMW vehicles (“the BMW X3 2.0-liter diesel model spitting out 11 times more nitrogen oxide than the current level set by the European Union”). Basically, if your car has a computer in it, that computer probably runs on nonfree software. You, the car’s owner, deserve the right to run, inspect, share, and modify the software at any time for any reason. But only the proprietor does, hence the name “proprietary software”.
Tesla’s Model S software apparently allowed “shut[ting] the car down when it was driving“. Tesla claims to have fixed this in an “over-the-air update to Model S owners”, but without the ability to inspect the software only the untrustworthy proprietor can say what else the software allows (either pre- or post-“update”).
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): Researchers Could Have Uncovered Volkswagen’s Emissions Cheat If Not Hindered by the DMCA. Fleeting exemptions to the DMCA are mostly a waste of time[1, 2] since they quickly render whatever is done under them unreproducible using the same methods the original researchers used under the exemption. One could even convincingly argue such exemptions were designed to discourage filing for exemptions, possibly with a long-term goal of changing the DMCA to remove exemptions if exemption applications prove sufficiently unpopular. But one exemption the EFF filed for was recently objected to by the EPA—an exemption that would let people tinker with their car’s software. It’s worth noting that “the EPA is asking the Copyright Office to leave copyright law in place as a barrier to a wide range of activities that are perfectly legal under environmental regulations: ecomodding that actually improves emissions and fuel economy, modification of vehicles for off-road racing, or activities that have nothing to do with pollution” and cars that predate computerization could be modded to not obey ecological regulation, but the US has a long history of being reacting to this by inspections and fines. So there’s no reason to stop computerized car owners from fully modifying the cars they own. And the EFF is right when it concludes, “When you entrust your health, safety, or privacy to a device, the law shouldn’t punish you for trying to understand how that device works and whether it is trustworthy.”.
As Google and area projects aim to bring high-speed Internet access to more people through new networks, society should ask the question Richard Stallman poses in this talk: What makes digital inclusion good or bad?
Activities directed at “including” more people in the use of digital technology are predicated on the assumption that such inclusion is invariably a good thing. It appears so, when judged solely by immediate practical convenience. However, if we also judge in terms of human rights, whether digital inclusion is good or bad depends on what kind of digital world we are to be included in. If we wish to work towards digital inclusion as a goal, it behooves us to make sure it is the good kind.