30 May 2018

“Surely the American People Would Never Let That Happen!”

Big Brother 11 Comments

I was telling my son about Obama’s “secret kill list” and W. Bush’s global secret prison network and realized I had made a whole video about it (that I then forced him to watch). I wouldn’t have my so do something without forcing you to as well:

It takes me a minute to get going but then I think it’s pretty good, especially if you are multi-tasking.

11 Responses to ““Surely the American People Would Never Let That Happen!””

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Can you clarify where anyone claimed they “had the legal authority to kill anyone on Earth without a trial?” None of the quotes from the NYT article says that – it seems to be your invention entirely. Typically when we wage war enemies don’t get the extraordinary attention of top administration officials, powerpoint slides, background research, etc. It seems like a GOOD thing that we have this AUMF and we could have just gone to war and shot them all to hell but INSTEAD we are carefully vetting who we target. It would be like in WWII carefully conferring about whether a particular combatant was an SS officer or just some kid in a Wehrmacht uniform and focusing the brunt of our military force on the former. This all seems like a good thing to me, assuming you value human life.

    In your sidebar on what “extraordinary step” means at around 7:30 or so you talk about being in a country that the US isn’t at war with, but you elide the fact that the AUMF is not geographically constrained. Why? That seems like an important point if you’re going to emphasize geographic boundaries!

    Certainly I agree with you completely on the black sites and torture. That’s going in the other direction. Instead of heightened care in targeting enemies in war to minimize pointless human suffering, the black sites and torture represent a stark departure from liberal values.

    At about 13:30 right now. I have no idea how many rounds of ammunition DHS needs. I completely support reporting to Congress on that though.

    I literally loled at “as the federal government is wont to do when buying weaponry”.

    So I think that’s two out of three for you, Murphy. Not bad.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      It’s late and I miscounted – that’s two out of four for you. You can do better than a coin flip!!!

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Since I mention that AUMF it’s incumbent on me to say that I don’t think that covers all the shit we’ve gotten into since. I mean I imagine it covers targeted strikes on ISIS given the terrorist associates language, but nothing like extended Libyan (under Obama) or Syrian (Trump) intervention. I do recognize all of this is a mess in the region and a terrorism AUMF could plausibly cover a lot, but even in that case I think it would be good practice to revise, define, and constrain action. We’re in a dangerous world but it’s not the world we were in in 2001.

    • guest says:

      “This all seems like a good thing to me, assuming you value human life.”

      Keep in mind that the point of the U.S. Constitution (ostensibly) is to protect U.S. citizens from its own government.

      Such an AUMF as you like would be practical in some situations, but since governments cannot be trusted – as you, yourself, alluded to in your references to Nazi Germany – we have a Constitution that restricts authorization for military action to Congress, except when the enemy is breaching our borders, and then only to defend against / repel the enemy.

      (I don’t know what was said in the ratifying conventions about migration across U.S. borders, but since I’m inclined to think that migration is different than an attempt to become a citizen, I don’t see people walking into the U.S. without permission as an attack. So, I would think there’d be no reason for the government to assume it must defend against an invation, in that case.)

      We also have a prohibition against standing armies (making the Coast Guard unconstitutional), and for funding an army for more than 2 years at a time (we are supposed to have state-level militias for purposes of vigilant defense, so as to prevent the Federal Government from being able to take our liberties).

      Our laws restricting government powers are not for protecting the guilty, or for adhering to “outdated” and/or “traditional” ways of doing things; Rather, they are there to protect us from our own government.

      We have an ammendment process that is intended to ensure that changes to the Constitution can only be made with extreme deliberation. And if that process is too slow for some, then that’s what secession is for – except, in an effort to be more practical than deliberate, our government prohibits secession “for the good of the country” / “national security” (or whatever).

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I agree with all of this except the unconstitutionality of the coast guard.

  2. Daniel Kuehn says:

    On “flying killer robots” – drones are just planes with pilots that telecommute. Lots of us telecommute. I probably will Friday because Caroline has her preschool graduation in the afternoon and I just have writing to do. NBD. It seems to matter a lot more how those killer robots behave than the fact that their pilots telecommute.

    This hype about drones qua drones deeply bothers me because it suggests people aren’t very focused on the missions those drones are running and are instead really focused on catchy phrases like “flying killer robots”.

    • Rory says:

      I think terminology like “flying killer robots” is like marveling at “self driving cars”. Are the cars truly “self driving”, at least now? The answer is no – currently they’re always accompanied by a human driver unless on a closed course, and privately owned “self driving cars” usually come with many warnings that you cannot trust them to actually self drive (a la Tesla). Sure it’s hyperbolic but I think it’s meant to emphasize the direction of technology – one visualizes a near-term future when we’re at a level of sophistication literally portrayed in popular science fiction culture.

      That being said I while you’re right that it matters how said robots are used, I have a hard time believing that increasingly divorcing the decision makers from the realities of warfare creates a positive environment for the liberal principles you mentioned above. For example, was seeing footage of the Vietnam war on national TV shocking because it was just so much worse than other wars, or because to that point the vast majority of Americans didn’t even have to process what war actually consisted of? And which had more effect (fear of personal safety aside): seeing it on TV or living it? I’m not quite sure why this notion is deeply bothersome. It’s not that there’s necessarily an indictment of the gravitas or ethics of individual drone pilots, it’s that moving toward Ender’s Game discourages empathy and an appreciation of real world consequences amongst everybody.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I think that’s one factor, but drones also help you target better and frankly just be patient in missions. I ran the casualty numbers shared by Glenn Greenwald and I think Amnesty International for drones vs. conventional warfare, so it wasn’t some trumped up administration number, and the drones were much better at targeting militants and avoiding civilians (again, using standards that Greenwald and AI accepted classifying them).

        Those numbers may have changed (I’m not even sure they’re still collecting them) but it’s suggestive of the net effect of all of these factors introduced by the new technology, and that has to be what we focus on, not that the pilot telecommutes.

        • Rory says:

          That’s a good point and I wasn’t familiar with AI’s numbers so I’m glad you mentioned it. Nonetheless I stand by my pessimism/concern. Just as it’s hard for me to imagine an increase in warfare if we lessened the separation between the decision makers and actors, e.g. decision to wage war was made by democratic vote of all members of the armed forces rather than Congress, it’s hard for me to see how drones give us less warfare and destruction than we otherwise would have. Perhaps this death and destruction is now more accurately focused on those who “deserve it” (which I acknowledge is a good thing) but that is of only marginal comfort when the entire conflict may be unnecessary or illegitimate. Put another way does there exist a war where a majority of detractors would flip if you eliminated most or even all collateral damage? It would be one less thing to protest, certainly. Meanwhile the decision to wage war in the first place now has the selling points of less domestic casualties and our soldiers now have a reduced incidence of PTSD because the people they napalmed are now merely on a screen instead of screaming in front of them.

  3. Harold says:

    You managed to get a bit of karaoke in at 1:40!

    “AUMF: ” That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

    The wording of the AUMF appears to limit authorisation to those that carried out ir helped the 2001 attacks. I am sure many people will be surprised that this is now apparently being interpreted to authorise attacks against people not related in any realistic way to those attacks. Some musings. Is there any way for the Supreme Court to interpret these words? Or have they done so and found them to authorise everything claimed for them? As you say, how is it that the American people seem to have handed over this power? Would the people who passed this have done so if the wording made it clear that this power would extend as far as it apparently does?

    “I was telling my son about Obama’s “secret kill list” and W. Bush’s global secret prison network…” Appalling as these things are, this makes it sound like a problem of the past that has now ended with the passing of the Bush and Obama presidencies.
    Can we have an update on how things have changed under Trump? My understanding is that things have escalated. Trump certainly openly talked of bombing the hell out of people and killing entire terrorist families during the campaign so this should not be a surprise if it is the case. He has scaled back oversight of strikes further down the chain of command with his “total authorization” of the military and civilian casualties are apparently much higher.

  4. JimS says:

    Great. Are you going to show up at my home now and make me eat all my vegetables and do my homework before I can play or watch TV?

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