24 June 2012

Some changes and a few random thoughts

Greetings to all again.
Yes, another post and it has not been weeks since the last one. 
I want to point out some new items here at the old corner. I have added a link to "Lolcats". Yes, internet cats/kittens. Well, it is my blog and I like cats. So, I figured, why not share, so there is now a new link to that site in the links section. The other new link is to an excellent site that I found some short time ago. I should have put up the link sooner, for that I apologize. The site "Bill the Butcher" is a wonderful site with commentary and some of the best fiction on the web in my opinion. Bill has a super imagination and his stories will make you smile, and think among the emotions evoked by his writings. 

Actually, one of his latest articles titled "Drone Pilot" got me off on another rant which follows. I highly recommend reading this story as it is a very good description of the drone wars the US is waging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else.

Bill's story got me to remembering an article I ran across in the very early years of drone usage. I have not found the article I wanted to quote, but a simple google search for "drones + medals" brings up many hits. True, many are duplicates, still, many are interesting to me. 
I found it most interesting that active duty and recently retired military people have little to no good thoughts about the drone pilots getting medals for, of all things, bravery. Yes, back in the early days of the drone, an Air Force (perhaps Air Farce?) general was complaining to some reporter that he was trying to figure how to award medals to the drone pilots. As if that was a major concern for the military. Apparently it was as the general seemed quite upset that this had not been addressed at that time.

On to the search results. Well, there are many "hits" for my simple search of "drones + medals".  One article mentioned the "clinical stress" of the drone pilots. That article says the main source of this "clinical stress" is NOT the actual killing being done. Nope, the main source of said "stress" is the long hours and "inadequate staffing". A few of these pilots did seem to have some form of PTSD, however that number was quite small and an actual number/percentage was not mentioned. The article further noted that the "alarming" aspect of "burn out" was among the sensor operators of the Global Hawk drones. Also, "34% of them reported burn out and 25% showed clinical distress, the study found".  Here is the link to the article if you wish to read it in total. overstretched-drone-pilots-face-stress-risk.

Another version, with different percentages for burn out and clinical stress is at the UK Daily Mail. The article, which does NOT want me to link to, was in the 19 December 2011 issue and has the byline of Jill Reilly. It is basically just a rehash of the above linked article with differing percentages. Sorry that I am unable to provide a direct link. Maybe the Daily Mail does not like a Yank from linking to one of their stories. Oh well, and so it goes.

Even NPR has a story on the stress of being a drone pilot. The link is; High levels of "burnout" in US drone pilots. This is also from December 2011.

For a different perspective, I give you the following link. Yes, it is by a US Marine, that did not influence my adding it here. Just because I was a Marine does not mean I support anything they do or say. This Marine, however does hit it squarely in my opinion. One Marines View on drone operators. You can decide if you agree with him or not. As always, your comments are most welcome.

More on the subject of medals for drone pilots is here. Medals for UAV "pilots". Along with these comes this one. Give that drone a medal.

Another view on medals for drone operators is here. Air Force "valor" for operating drones. It looks like among active duty military, not members of the Air Force necessarily, the awarding of medals for drone operators is going over much like the proverbial lead balloon. Ouch. 

Continuing with the drone subject, yes, it does seem as though this blog post IS droning on and on. Sorry for the bad pun, I could not stop myself. I'll try and keep that sort of thing under control.
The Washington Post has a rather long article on drones and the future of the Air Force. The story follows; Combat generation:drone operators climb on winds of change in the Air Force of change. This gives a decent over view, but I recommend the new book from TomDispatch titled "Terminator Planet" subtitled "The first history of drone warfare 2001-2050" by Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt. I have not read it yet, still saving to buy my copy. 

And, just when you thought it was safe to venture out of doors, here is an article from the good old Stars and Stripes news. It is a study by Bloomberg titled; "Drones most accident prone Air Force craft. Once again, the link gremlin will not allow me to give a direct link. I can inform you that it was written by Brendan Gregory for Bloomberg News and the date is June 18, 2012. Yes, very recent so it should be up to date. 

The last (I know, finally he gets to the end of this subject) is; With its deadly drones, the US is fighting a coward's war by George Monbiot in the UK newspaper The Guardian. I agree that using drones and other robotic weapons is a cowardly way to fight a war. Here is another quote from Mr. Monbiot that catches the sentiment quite well. "Without risk, there's less restraint. With these unmanned craft, governments can fight a coward's war, a god's war, harming only the unnamed." Well put sir. 
I have one more item to add on drones for this post. I ran across this while doing my research for this rant. The United States Air Force (air farce?) does NOT like to call their drones "unmanned aerial vehicles" (UAV's). They prefer to use the label "remotely piloted aircraft" (RPA's). And as a better writer than I'll ever hope to be said, "a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet". 

One "extra" if I may. I want to thank a good friend by way of email and articles, Mr. Brian Cloughley (the link to his web site is in my links here).
Brian has contributed a new "name" for dear old Gobomber. No, not "Mr. Hopey Changey" that we already had here. Brian came up with DOBO. What is DOBO you ask? Well, it is Disney Owned Barack Obama. Hey, if he is going to feel out to the corporations, he may as well get his kids some entertainment value from the deal. 
And with that, I say a huge thank you to all those who stuck with me until now.
semper fi


Mike Whitney said...

Hi Charlie,

I like DOBO...I that ought to stick for sure.

I can't think of anything to add about drones more than you've already said...But, I would like to post this clip that I found over at WSWS...Here goes:

"....the scale and pervasiveness of lying in the current election campaign, remarkable even by the degraded standards of American politics, cannot simply be attributed to the subjective, personal characteristics of individual politicians. It is more fundamentally an expression of the vast and unbridgeable chasm that has opened up between the entire political system and the overwhelming majority of the American people. Under conditions of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the capitalist two-party system is impervious to the needs and desires of the people and incapable of offering any policies to address their economic distress.

The completely sclerotic and corrupt character of the political system, staffed from top to bottom by bribed toadies of the corporate-financial aristocracy, reflects vast changes in the social and economic structure of the United States that have taken place since the last great breakdown of American and world capitalism in 1929.

In the Depression of the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a representative of the American ruling class and unswerving defender of capitalism, presented himself as the protector of the common man and launched verbal attacks on the “economic royalists” of Wall Street far sharper than anything Obama would dare to utter. But Roosevelt was able to back up his rhetoric with significant social reforms, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, public works programs and the Tennessee Valley Authority. While these were carefully designed not to threaten the basic interests of the capitalist class, they did improve the lot of millions of people.

Today, no such reforms are on offer, fundamentally because of the vast economic decline of American capitalism in the intervening decades. From the industrial workshop of the world and the rising global economic power, the United States has deteriorated to the status of the world’s biggest debtor, with a shrunken industrial base and an economy based largely on financial speculation and parasitism. The most important social expression of this decline has been a colossal growth of social inequality, making the US the most unequal industrialized country in the world.

The decay of America’s industrial base and its increasing turn to financial speculation and manipulation have also produced critical changes in the ruling class itself, leading to the supremacy of a financial elite which derives its vast and ever growing wealth not from the production of useful goods, but from quasi-criminal speculative activities that are divorced from and detrimental to real production."

Oh well, kind of long, but I thought you might agree with the message.

I guess I could have shortened the whole thing to 2 words: We're screwed!"

Bill the Butcher said...

Thanks for the praise, Charlie. Much appreciated.

Nan said...

Medals for valor for frigging drone pilots? WTF?! Next, they'll be giving them Purple Hearts when those desk jockeys come down with carpal tunnel or hemorrhoids.

I think I've retreated into apathy when it comes to the current political system. It's so broken on a national level that I've more or less decided about all I can do is try to make sure no complete idiots get elected to our local county road commission or school board. In the fall, I will probably reluctantly vote for the lesser of the two evils for state and national office, but at this point it's coming down to figuring out how to define evil. Doesn't matter much which party holds the White House -- you know the military-industrial complex is going to roll merrily along and the US will be embroiled in stupid, useless wars somewhere on the planet.

charlie ehlen said...

Wow, thank you for this. Yes, at least FDR had some real human decency. We are extremely short of that quality among the political class of America today.
"We're screwed". Yes sir, that sums it up very neat and tidy for sure. So true, but also why we need to fight with all we have to end the bullshit.

charlie ehlen said...

You are very welcome. Your "Drone pilot" was the extra "push" I seem to have needed to post my rant. Thank you for that.

charlie ehlen said...

I understand the apathy as a response to politics of the USA today. I am not sure if I will vote for president myself. What choices will we have?
I will vote for other offices though. I may be able to influence the lesser offices, probably not, but at least there is less money flowing into them right now. Offices like city council and maybe even state offices still may reflect real values and may not be totally bought off yet.
Notice, the qualifier, "yet". Yes, I can see, unfortunately, when even the lowest office will be bought and paid for. What have we allowed ourselves to devolve into?
I wish like hell I could be the least bit positive.

john francis lee said...

' Unlike traditional pilots flying manned aircraft in a war zone, the pilots operating remote drones often stare at the same piece of ground in Afghanistan or Iraq for days, sometimes months. They watch someone's pattern of life, see people with their families, and then they can be ordered to shoot.

' Col. Kent McDonald, who co-authored the report, says the Air Force tries to recruit people who are emotionally well-adjusted, "family people" with "good values."

' "When they have to kill someone," he says, "or where they are involved in missions and then they either kill them or watch them killed, it does cause them to rethink aspects of their life."

' McDonald describes it as an "existential crisis." '

Yeah. What have they been doing wrong? Should they stop killing other people and their families? Or start killihg their own families ... and others', right here, in America?

What is this guy talking about?!

I guess he means he's going to have to start recruiting in prisons, hiring ex-mafia hitmen, and gang bangers?

No problem, as Mike Whitney points out, the down and out will soon be corporate America's most 'popular' product.

Read about Camden New Jersey in Chris Hedges latest.

This is quite a post, Charlie. I'll be working my way through your references for awhile. Thanks for focusing me on the human side on 'our' side.

john francis lee said...

' Soldiers who operate the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are now eligible for the award of the Aviation Badge, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal, according to Army Times newspaper.

' The Distinguished Flying Cross is ... is awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement.

' The Air Medal is awarded for heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service.

' There are three degrees of Aviation Badges ... The Basic Aviation Badge is awarded upon successful completion of advanced individual training in a designated career field or military occupational specialty, and to warrant officers upon successful completion of the tactical UAV operations technician and assigned the relevant military occupation specialty. '

So in either of the first 2 cases they're labelling murder from the safety of the barca lounger 'heroic', and in the last they're labelling murder from the safety of the barca lounger a mere 'designated career field or military occupational specialty'. It's degenerate and perverse no matter which tack you take.

The stress these folks are under has got to come from knowing that they're nothing but cold-blooded murderers, and that they're gonna punch the clock again tomorrow anyway. The violence and danger at the front has got to mask that realization, to cloak it in necessity, an "it's them or me" story. These guys ... it's just kill 'em all, 'suspects' and families, at absolutely no risk to themselves. Cold-blooded murder. That would crush my spirit as well. I wonder how many of the record number of suicides in the military are among unmanned aerial vehicle operators.

john francis lee said...

From Bill's poem ...

  Killing the bad guys. It’s easy.
    Press a button and they die.
  Yes the rockets fly out, there’s a flash and a puff of smoke
    No mess, no blood to deal with, no smell of burst open guts
  No sound of screaming.
  You look at a screen. You press a button. The bad guys just die.
  And they deserve to die
    Because the enemy’s evil, cowardly and sly
  And sneakily crawls on his belly
  While my drone flies missions for freedom
    Bravely in the sky.

Do you rememeber the videos of beheadings in Iraq. I haven't the 'interest', or the stomach, to watch one ... but the seem to be there still ... cnet.com.

Google: 'Iraq beheading on TV'

I remember at the time thinking about beheading someone, video or no. There's no doubt at all about what you're doing. I cannot imagine being unbloodied after severing someone's jugular vein. You certainly haven't done anything 'by accident', 'inadvertantly'.

At the time I contrasted that image with 'collateral damage'. 'Accidental' murder. How many people were beheaded in Iraq? How many were 'accidentally' murdered? And how many murderers, dressed in three-piece suits in White House conference rooms, were 'excused', on that basis - 'accidental murder' - to murder again - habitually, routinely - on that basis. 'Accidents' that happened like clockwork. Were predictable before hand.

Who is the more debased murderer? The one who knows exactly what he is doing, who undertakes his murders individually and bloodies himself in the performance of his act?

Or the man who murders unseen strangers wholesale, repeatedly. Claims it was an accident. Again, and again, and again ...

john francis lee said...

Speaking of gobomber and dobo ... I've started calling him obama-fay, 'cause it rhymes with LBJ and that enables me to ask

  "Hey! Hey! Obama-fay!
    How many kids dja kill today?"

I think that ofay, or o-fay, is/was a term black people use/d for the white man, so in a way it fits Obama. too. He's half-white and half-black and it seems to be the white half that's so blandly capable of doing all the damage.

From Chris Hedges again ...

"America may have an African-American president, but the faces and races of political leaders are no impediment to the ruthless cannibalizing of the country by corporate capitalism."

Corporate capitalism ain't headquartered on the black side of town.

charlie ehlen said...

Your comments bring up many great points/ideas.
Yes, funny how the drone jockeys get medals for "bravery". Just how "brave" is it to bomb/kill by remote control? How "brave" when you are thousands of miles away from the bombing/killing and are safe as if at home? If this is the new definition of "bravery" then count me a coward. Hell, I only came under small arms fire a few times. Thankful that VC did not have aircraft. An airstrike by an F-4 was an awesome thing from a distance, even more so up close. I'd rather have been far away, but was not. Things change, what was once bravery is now something else. Language evolves.
Actually, some things do not change. Cowardly actions then are still cowardly now and in the future.
The drones make killing easier and that is NOT good for any of us.

john francis lee said...

Yesterday I read Killer Drone Attacks Illegal, Counter-Productive, Charlie, then this morning The Government’s Pseudo-Secrecy Snow Job on Targeted Killing. I wrote to Marjorie Cohn, a law professor and along with Jeanne Mirer one of the authors of the first and to the ACLU, via a throw-away web form, asking essetntially - How can we bring these criminals to justice?

Marjorie Cohn actually wrote back, saying "... it won't happen until another country prosecutes under universal jurisdiction", and I have to believe that's right. Obama-fay won't even answer the ACLU, and IF they somehow did get into court the federal courts would hop to the aid of the criminal murderers all the way to the Supremeroos.

So ... Pakistan. Seems to me. They ought to be able to go before the ICC in the Hague with a slam-dunk case of War Crimes and Criminal Aggression against Obama-fay. Their 'problem' is their military and political class have sold them out to 'us', the US, to bomb and murder as we please in return for cold cash, but they must be pretty fed-up with that by now in Pakistan.

What wee need is a means to encourage and show solidarity with the Pakistanis against their and our rogue, murderous regimes.

charlie ehlen said...

Yes, Pakistan has the best argument to take to a court. The thing is, the "leadership" of Pakistan is in so deep in the pocket of empire I don't see the Pakistan government doing much at all. If they did, it sure would be very interesting, and the outcome may not be what empire wants. If only...........
I wish I could be more positive.

john francis lee said...

We Americans and the Pakistani people are in the same boat, Charlie. Both the we and they seem 'reconciled' to following our leaders. Nothing can be done ... it's a 'leadership' problem.

We both have to do what it takes to change the leadership. Regime change needs to be the priority both here and there.