DRONES APPEAR KEY IN A WAR ON IRAN

The U.S. war on Iran, aided by Israel, very likely began May 10, 2018 with the Israeli attack on Iranians in Syria.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-says-retaliation-just-thetip-of-the-iceberg-after-iran-blamed-for-overnight-strikes/2018/05/10/bd2fde18-53e8-11e8-a6d4-ca1d035642ce_story.html?utm_term=.9e9bcab71f41

Now, as Americans focus at home on abuse of immigrants, racism on the Supreme Court and the threat to women's right to choose to give birth, sanctions, another aspect of the new assault on Iran, seem to be beginning to bite, as evidenced in protests in Iran. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/president-says-iran-in-economic-fight-with-us/2018/06/26/392702d0-791e-11e8-ac4e-421ef7165923_story.html?utm_term=.11d030e66563

And, the U.S. is almost certainly laying plans for military action against Iran.

The following are likely to be key features of this war, undertaken bit-by-bit, with no publicity, until major fissures are created in Iran’s civil society:

1.     U.S. and Israeli drones assassinate Iranian military and civilian leaders viewed as opponents, in support of Iranian rivals, collaborators who will make deals with U.S. and Israel.  These deals will involve not only political cooperation but control of Iran’s oil and gas reserves. (Iran is said to have the fourth largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest natural gas reserves.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves_in_Iran https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas_reserves_in_Iran

Potential U.S. allies in Iran listed in a memo by John Bolton, head of the National Security Council, include: “the democratic Iranian opposition”, “Balochis, Khuzestan Arabs, Kurds, and others” and also “internal resistance among labor unions, students, and women’s groups”. https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/iran-nuclear-deal-exit-strategy-john-bolton-memo-trump/

 A program of systematic assassination would obviously lead to huge disruption in governing and commerce and, very probably, economic chaos.   The shattering of Syria might be the model, with the goal of permanently fracturing Iranian national government and its nationalization of oil and gas.  This would open the way for corporate oil and gas exploitation amid the chaos, as happened in Iraq, where fossil fuel production was also nationalized before the U.S.-British invasion in 2003.

Ronen Bergman’s new book, Rise and Kill First, a must-read, documents the evolution of Israel’s policy of assassination, which was used by Israel to powerful effect in killing Iranian nuclear scientists and was the inspiration for the U.S. drone assassination program.

A “Politico” article https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/05/israel-assassination-iranian-scientists-217223 on the assassination of the Iranian scientists  gives a succinct summary of what the overall U.S. – Israeli war plan is likely to be, and how assassination fits into it:

“…a bold, five-pronged approach: heavy international diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, support to Iranian minorities and opposition groups to help them topple the regime, the disruption of consignments of equipment and raw materials for the nuclear program and, finally covert ops, including the sabotage of installations and targeted killings (assassinations) of key figures in the program.”

Evidence of the U.S. support for the assassination strategy is the reported approval of by the U.S. of Israel’s plan to assassinate the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s overseas activities, General Qassem Soleimani. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/u-s-gives-israel-green-light-to-assassinate-iran-s-general-soleimani-1.5630156

2.     In support of their Iranian allies, the U.S. and Israel use drones, tear gas, snipers and “butterfly bullets” against massed Iranian troops or demonstrating crowds an entire regional populations.

In this regar d, one can view the Israeli slaughter and/or maiming of Palestinians in the current Gaza protest as an intentional demonstration of Israel’s evolving technologies and tactics for controlling large groups of people outdoors. 

On May 18, 2018, UN human rights leader Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein reported that since the current Gaza protests began on March 30, 2018, 87 Palestinians had been killed, including 12 children, and more than 12,000 had been injured; 3,500 by live ammunition.  The most casualties on a single day appear to have come on May 14, the day the U.S. opened its embassy in Jerusalem; 60 Palestinians were killed and at 1,700 required hospital attention.

On May 14 and 15, Israel dropped tear gas canisters from drones in volleys that showed drone tear gassing has passed beyond the experimental stage when drones first used tear gas against Gaza protesters in March, 2018. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/in-first-israeli-drones-drop-tear-gas-to-disperse-palestinian-protest-1.5892756

 “Middle East Eye” reports that Israel has now developed three types of tear gassing drones, indicating a determination to keep perfecting this technology. http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israeli-drones-pose-new-threat-palestinian-protesters-1730935753

This image gives a sense of the emotional impact of drone tear gas attacks on those on whom the gas is falling.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8bDVryTTr0

The wide-ranging, sometimes lethal, impact of the gas is described in detail in this Aljazeera report, showing that gassing is a staple of Israel military policy. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/world-exposed-place-tear-gas-palestine-171226141202232.html

In the midst of the May 14 attack, Israeli snipers fired not only on people gathered to protest but people who had come to watch from a distance, medical aid workers and journalists. https://www.democracynow.org/2018/5/15/palestinians_mark_70th_anniversary_of_nakba

https://www.democracynow.org/2018/5/17/meet_tarek_loubani_the_canadian_doctor

The “butterfly bullet” represents another technological “advance”, a bullet that explodes on impact, doing catastrophic damage to the body compared to a regular bullet.   https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/palestinians-face-explosive-bullets-dangerous-gas-bombs-180501091514736.html

It is clear that Israel’s Gaza military plan goes beyond killing and injuring protesters to using gas and maiming to overwhelm medical systems and societal and family economies as wage earners are knocked out of the work force and families and communities must shift the energies to supporting the disabled.  

And, of course, the constant threat of drone attacks has proven devastating to civil society in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

3.   The U.S. and Israel send relatively small special forces into Iran for sabotage, kidnapping and murder, and to support Iranian allies, as is happening in Syria.

What Will Stop This?

Iran is better equipped to combat drone attacks than most other nations and populations now living under U.S. and Israeli drones.  But at the same time, it is clear that the U.S. and Israel, at the moment, have a great advantage in the number of drones they possess and in drone targeting and killing technology.  The U.S. and Israel are working extremely hard on information sorting and analysis that will dramatically increase their drone killing capability.

The only Congressional counter-force to war on Iran appears to be a group of led by Congressman Keith Ellison, who co-sponsored a bill that the House of Representatives approved on voice vote on May 24, 2018.   The bill says, simply:

“It is the sense of Congress that the use of the Armed Forces against Iran is not authorized by this Act or any other act.”

This legislation has not been approved by the Senate, and even if it were to, the executive branch is undoubtedly already taking some of the steps listed above to shatter the Iranian government.

To get around the language in the Ellison legislation, Bolton might argue that U.S. military actions in Iran are not direct attacks on the government of Iran but simply extremely limited actions against individuals and factions undertaken to support of rebel Iranians who are seeking to create “democracy” in their country.   The executive branch might also argue that it is taking action against “terrorists” operating in Iran, citing the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the get-out-jail free card that the U.S. has granted to itself to legitimize to the U.S. public its latest colonial intervention spree, that began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC (National Iranian American Council) Action, argued on the Defense One website that Congress “must now go further and shut down all the backdoors to a war with Iran…”Between Bolton’s desire for covert war to destabilize Iran and (Defense Secretary James) Mattis’ interests in stepped –up regional efforts, we could soon be facing a new Middle East conflagration.” https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/05/did-congress-just-shut-down-trumps-war-plans-iran/148613/?oref=d-channelriver

Drone Base Protests Key

Given the U.S. plans for Iran, we who protest U.S. drone killing must now add Iran to the list of countries under drone surveillance and likely attack. 

“NO DRONES OVER IRAN.”

PRODDING GOOGLE TO GO ALL IN FOR PEACE

TECH GENIUS POWERS WAR.jpg

Stephanie Rugoff, Marc Eliot Stein, Richie Marini, Nick Mottern and Janet Yip pose after leafleting Google employees at its New York City office, June 27, 2018.

On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, I was one of five anti-war workers who went to Google’s mammoth office in New York City to hand out flyers (see below) to Google employees as they went to work, praising the 3,000 + Google workers who pushed the company to stop building the killing technology of the Maven project and urging all Google workers to intensify the pressure on their bosses to get their company completely out of military contracting.

Probably only 20 % percent of those whom we approached took a flyer, but the Google work force in the building numbers about 2,000, and after 2 ½ hours we had given out 500 flyers, having run out once and having to get more printed.  We had a few brief conversations with curious, friendly employees.  At least three said they were among those who signed the 3,000+ letter to the bosses.   We also got a few nods of approval and thumbs up.

But for the most part, the Google workers, largely in their 20’s and 30’s, often wearing Google gear - headphones, backpacks and T-shirts - strode swiftly and purposefully past us, anxiously bee-lining for the front door, heads down, eyes ahead, not wishing to give the faintest indication that they saw or heard us as we asked them if they want to flyer. 

This may be everyday behavior for them, but it was disturbing to see so many people who were like automatons, possibly energized and guided by the contents of their nearly identically small, black rectangular backpacks, with or without Google logos.

It was particularly striking how many of them were wearing headphones or ear buds, far more than I have observed in the general population.

Before undertaking the leafleting we had an internal debate about the value of doing it since Google had already said it would drop Maven.  In an email discussing this, Richie Marini, of the national office staff of World Can’t Wait (WCW), quite well explains why we went ahead:

“I personally have no hesitation in doing such an outreach action as it's just that, outreach.  It's just about letting like-minded people know there are other like-minded people out there they can connect with in a variety of ways.  Even if it just means a few more people knowing about the https://www.knowdrones.com/ website, they may check in on that site now and again and/or share that site.  It's just more eyes and ears pointed our way -- even if it's just one more connection.  Eventually each of those one-off connections turn into a communication web in which information can travel.  When the number of connections reaches some critical value -- things (such as action) can then emerge.”

When we ran out of leaflets at about 10 am, we packed the drone model back into my car and talked over what we had just experienced and whether it was worthwhile.  We all agreed we were glad we had been there. In spite of the rejection of the majority of the workers, we felt our outreach was worthwhile because of the encouragement of the minority of the workers, and the seeming tension around our message.  We opined that there would be plenty of talking about the flyer inside the building.

At the end of our sidewalk debriefing, Janet Yip, from Refuse Fascism, summed up perfectly – we had achieved our goal of calling on people to take personal responsibility for what they are doing.

In addition to Richie, Janet and I, those participating were Stephanie Rugoff, also from the WCW national staff and Marc Eliot Stein, who is on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.

***

THANK YOU 3,000 + GOOGLE EMPLOYEES who have called on Googles’ leaders to state that “neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” https://static01.nyt.com/files/2018/technology/googleletter.pdf

This led Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene to announce on June 1, 2018 that Google will not seek to continue its work for the Pentagon on Project Maven after the current contract expires in 2019.  Maven intends to engage artificial intelligence in analyzing images from drone video cameras, aiding in target selection.

But, there is still a way to go to get Google out of the war business.  Google could and should stop Maven work now.  And, as far as we know, Google is still competing for the lead Pentagon contract on JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) a project that would dramatically expand the Pentagon’s use of cloud computing, particularly in integrating artificial intelligence into military operations. It would be used, for instance, to increase the killing capacity of the U.S. drone war program.

Since 2010, when the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism started keeping track of U.S. drone casualties in 2010, the Bureau reports that U.S. Predator and Reaper drones have killed between 7,584 and 10,918 in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia alone. All were killed without trial, a violation of international law and conscience. U.S. drones have also attacked in Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Philippines and attacks are intensifying dramatically in Afghanistan.

Google is a leader in AI (artificial intelligence) and AI gives drones and other weapons the capability to kill automatically, using facial recognition gear.  One might think that removing human pilots from control of killer drones would ease consciences of drone operators. But “The Wounds of the Drone Warrior”, in the June 13, 2018 New York Times, suggests that being responsible for taking a life can have long-lasting, damaging impact on human mental health, regardless of where one sits in the “kill chain”.

Speaking of the remorse of a drone operator, the Times reported:

“’…it’s still weird taking another life,’ he said.  Distance did not lessen this feeling.  ‘Distance brings it through a screen,’ he said, “but it’s still happening, and it’s happening because of you.”

This, of course, is recognized by those signing the Google petition and the petition of the Tech Workers Coalition, urging that Amazon, Microsoft and IBM employees also take a public position against war-related work. https://www.coworker.org/petitions/tech-should-not-be-in-the-business-of-war

We, who have been working to stop U.S. drone killing and for an international ban on weaponized drones, ask that you:

Thank you again for taking a stand against technology that will dramatically increase killing in war.

Nick Mottern – Coordinator – Knowdrones.com nickmottern@gmail.com

Marc Eliot Stein – Coordinating Committee, World Beyond War

Debra Sweet – Director, and Richie Marini, National Office Staff - World Can’t Wait info@worldcantwait.net

"The catastrophe of this war has proved the sensitivity of the system of modern civilization evolved in the course of centuries.  Now we know that we do not live in an earth-quake-proof structure.  The build-up of negative impulses, each reinforcing the other, can inexorably shake to pieces the complicated apparatus of the modern world.  There is no halting this process by will alone.  The danger is that the automation of progress will depersonalize man further and withdraw more and more of his self-responsibility.

"Dazzled by the possibilities of technology, I devoted crucial years of my life to serving it.  But in the end my feelings about it are highly skeptical.” - Albert Speer, chief of Nazi weapons industry, in his memoir Inside the Third Reich.

References: 

https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2018/04/google-pursuing-pentagons-giant-cloud-contract-quietly-fearing-employee-revolt/147407/

https://gizmodo.com/google-plans-not-to-renew-its-contract-for-project-mave-1826488620

https://www.coworker.org/petitions/tech-should-not-be-in-the-business-of-war

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/magazine/veterans-ptsd-drone-warrior-wounds.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/technology/google-letter-ceo-pentagon-project.html

https://worldbeyondwar.org/thank-you-to-google-employees-who-reject-the-business-of-war/

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/21663/its-official-contractor-owned-mq-9-reaper-drones-will-watch-over-marines-in-afghanistan

 

GERMAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LEASING DRONES THAT CAN CARRY WEAPONS

 NO DECISION YET ON WHETHER THEY WILL CARRY WEAPONS.

Elsa Rassabach reports:

German parliamentarians of the CDU, CSU and SPD decided yesterday (June 13, 2018) to approve leasing Israeli Heron TP drones that can carry weapons. The opposition parties (Left, Green and the right-wing Alternative for Germany) opposed the leasing.

Per the majority decision of the Budget Committee yesterday afternoon, the Heron TP drones may at this time be used only for reconnaissance like the Heron 1 non-weaponizable surveillance drones that Germany has deployed in Afghanistan since 2010 and in Mali since 2014. (Since 2010 German pilots have been trained in Israel to use the IAI Heron drones, working closely with the leasing contractor Airbus, the German-French weapons manufacturer that also has the contract to develop and build a “Eurodrone" by 2025).

Yesterday the SPD parliamentarians basically stuck with the position they took a year ago: a) refusing weapons for the drones until after a full investigation of the implications of weaponizing them, and b) allowing use of weaponizable drones but for reconnaissance purposes only.

The formal agreement of yesterday between CDU, CSU and SPD regarding lease of the Heron TP drones states:
1) no munition may be purchased;
2) there can be no training regarding use of weapons;
3) Both 1) and 2) could be reversed following hearings, parliamentary debate and vote about whether and under what conditions the German-Israeli drones could be weaponized.

The hearings would not take place until the German Defense Ministry formally requests to purchase weapons for the drones. As we want to keep the weapons off the drones, we hope such a request will not come soon. We need to be prepared that the hearings could happen soon or not for years.

You in the US helped immensely on our extensive lobbying and letter-writing campaign over the past weeks to try to persuade parliamentarians that the hearings, debate and vote about ever weaponizing the drones must be carried out BEFORE weaponizable drones are leased. We asked the SPD to further delay the decision to lease as they did in June 2017. Our position was supported by some leading German media and NGOs. It was widely supported by SPD members and by many SPD parliamentarians, but they did not prevail within the SPD. Unfortunately, they went ahead to lease the weaponizable drones without requiring that the hearings first be held.

We met with a leading SPD parliamentarian in the Defense Committee yesterday, and he emphasized how important the hearings are to the SPD: they must be public, held in the full parliament, and televised.  There may be regional debates as well.

These would be the first parliamentary hearings ever held in any NATO member country to critically explore use of weapons on drones — an historic first. We need to keep up the dialogue and pressure to try to ensure that the hearings are significant and fully investigate all significant issues re: armed drones.

THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERY ONE OF YOU WHO WROTE LETTERS!

The SPD parliamentarian yesterday mentioned the many letters from the USA. Your letters were thoughtful, compelling and brought many new and unique insights based on US experience.  They provide a good basis to request (as we do in all meetings with German parliamentarians) that US and UK drone experts, whistleblowers, and also drone victims, medical doctors and legal experts be among the witnesses called to testify in any hearings regarding weaponizing drones.

It would be great if your letters could be posted online.  This would be an important resource going forward to build for effective hearings. 

In solidarity,
Elsa from Berlin

Here are press reports about yesterday's decision:

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israel-and-Germany-green-light-billion-dollar-killer-drone-deal-559938

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-military-drones/german-parliament-committee-backs-israeli-drones-leasing-plan-idUSKBN1J92IY

http://www.dw.com/en/german-army-can-lease-arms-capable-israeli-drones-lawmakers-say/a-44212763

https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-lawmakers-approve-e1-billion-drone-lease-from-israel/

Why an Israeli drone? See this: https://www.defensenews.com/industry/2018/05/31/german-lawmakers-cite-nsa-and-facebook-scandals-in-rejecting-us-drone-tech/

https://digit.site36.net/2018/04/30/german-countdown-for-armed-drones/

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201804151063587204-germany-weapons-drones-surveillance/

Commentaries on the German decision and a link to all the letters that were written to the parliamentarians will appear in the next issue of this bulletin.