Sunday, December 29, 2013


Now that Roger Ebert is no longer with us, my favorite film critic is Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant, an aficionado with interesting things to say about all kinds of movies, from La Notte to Die, Monster, Die!. I feel sympatico with him because we traveled in more or less the same Los Angeles film buff circles back in the '70s. Apparently, he and I even attended some of the same Filmex screenings, although I don't recall meeting him. An editor by trade, Erickson combines a thorough awareness of his medium's history with a professional's technical savvy. Perhaps best of all, he also knows more than a thing or two about the real world -- a refreshing change from those '70s-era movie buffs who could talk about nothing but movies. (At one point, I almost turned into one of those guys.)

Erickson has written a review of Robert Greenberg's new documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, a film I've not yet seen. (But I will soon: It is being streamed gratis for a limited time.) The review brings up quite a few points about Obama's drone program which should interest the political animals who read this blog. I presume that a few long-ish excerpts are permissible...
According to the evidence and testimony presented here, the U.S. military flies constant drone missions over Pakistan, blowing up individuals, vehicles and groups of people based not on reliable intelligence but on tips from questionable sources, and sometimes not even that. Because everything about the program is a classified secret, when information about suspected terrorists turns out to be false, nobody can be held responsible. The docu asserts that, as has been the case with some instances of wrongful detention and torture, civilians are sometimes targeted because a paid informant wants to keep the American $ dollars rolling in. Even worse, a former American drone operator-pilot tells us that he quit because it was not uncommon for his superiors to stretch the definition of 'identified terrorist' to include most anyone found out at night, or congregating in a suspicious manner.
More galling than the innocent loss of life is the attitude of U.S. spokesmen that continue to insist that civilians are never targeted and that the tribal meeting was a terrorist gathering. This goes all the way up the chain of command, to top generals that parrot P.R. talking points about the way the program is conducted and boast about the efficacy of the strikes. Listening to them one would think that the combat was like an episode of TV's N.C.I.S. -- terrorists are on all sides but the vigilant drones are making a real difference. They might as well be paid shills for the drone industry. Drone Wars has more than one clip of President Obama coming forth with what this docu claims are the same evasive untruths -- that all the strikes are done with precise intelligence, and that the few civilian deaths have been tangential accidents. The disc extras state that there have been 340 drone missions since 2004, and 881 civilian kills.
The official story doesn't jibe with convincing testimony that the drone commanders shoot at almost anything that moves. Men carrying rifles aren't hunting, they're terrorists. Kids in a car at night are terrorists. Sealing the deal is the repeated assertion that drone strikes in civilian areas are often followed a few minutes later by a second strike. Assumed to have the purpose of killing the rescuers of the first strike victims, these are commonly called Double Tap Strikes.
The missions are creating thousands of recruits for whatever radical Islamic organizations promise to strike back against the United States. Back home, the drone programs are a win-win choice for politicians and the military. Because no American soldiers are harmed, the President's use of drone strikes has not been given heavy scrutiny -- grievous errors won't even make the front page of the paper.
It occurs to me that the title of Greenberg's documentary may carry a double meaning. Since drones are a cowardly way to fight a war, Unmanned may refer to the process of eunichization. The drone is the weapon of a military without balls.
We are making enemies faster than we can kill them.
Off-topic again, sorry. But you may want to read this link to a Noam Chomsky interview. His opinion closely matches yours, i.e. that the NSA program's real goal was/is to control the populace (to put it maybe a bit too succinctly).
Now on-topic: You said "The drone is the weapon of a military without balls." That's an interesting perspective. I sort of feel the same way about tasers - i.e. "the tool of police departments without balls."
To clarify previous comment: Cops no longer have to learn people skills. They don't have to try to manage the situation. They don't have to take risks or even get close to argumentative or unruly people. They can just bark an order, and if the citizen doesn't immediately comply...ZAP ZAP ZAP. Doesn't matter if the person may be deaf or disabled. Tasers are non-lethal, didn't you hear? They are painless (for the cop). No pesky investigations as would be for a gun. Just ZAP ZAP ZAP until they are still. Then cuff'em.

"Unmanned" cops are cheap to hire, too.
I was in the Air Force for a time. I know what kind of people are responsible for these types of programs. They only see their own careers, and I would gladly see them hanged. I've become particularly harsh towards these fools in recent years. If they cannot see how despicable their involvement has become by now then they are beyond redemption.
Michael, that was my argument from the beginning. (By the way, tasers were originally developed by the CIA. Few people know that.) Non-lethal weaponry lowers the threshold for use. A cop has to think before firing a gun. A cop -- if he is sane -- has no desire to fire a gun. But use of a non-lethal weapon such as pepper spray or the taser requires far less second-guessing.

Now, I think these things should be available to the police, and to the citizenry. But both training and legal penalties should dissuade the police officer from indiscriminate use.

This'll have to be brief because the blood rushes to my head whenever I think on this's all just so obscene.

"America's Drone Wars" - Exactly when was war declared? War wasn't a unilateral matter last I heard.

In defense of tasers:
cops still use lot's of people skills (or not depending on their quality)

I've had to call the cops in when tasers have come in quite handy. Picture this: Thanksgiving day, you have to go the ER. You are sitting in the lobby, minding your own business (with a room full of others that are doing the same, including a half a dozen children) when a guy arrives that is drunk and high on cocaine, demanding to be seen without registering, demanding sexual services from one and all, SCREAMING obscenities that only the truly out of control asshole can string together, slobbering, belligerent and spoiling for a fight and with a criminal history that includes bestiality (killed the dog AND the chicken) and a host of others. Yes, in that situation, the taser is a friend. This man is beyond "people skills."
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