Brennan was the architect of one of ‘the most highly unlawful and immoral practices the United States has ever undertaken’ – the U.S. policy of targeted assassination by drone
Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm wrote in The Guardian that Brennan was “a defender of torture, the architect of America’s drone program and the most talented liar in Washington”
Journalist Jeremy Scahill stated that Brennan was “for all practical purposes Obama’s assassination czar”
The Resistance has been caught up in an endlessly repeating state of reaction it cannot control. It’s the Trump trap. Donald J. Trump has achieved the largest audience of his career in his latest television role as the 45th President of the United States of America, and every new outrage causes a reflexive embrace of whomever the latest target of Trump’s ire is.
This is particularly true if that target is among the elite white males who make up the vast majority of the United States military and intelligence apparatus, both current and former. This collection of mature and widely respected national security state professionals constitutes a similarly large percentage of the guests – the “experts” – that are featured daily on our most popular television news outlets at MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, as well as the legacy networks at ABC, CBS, and MSNBC’s parent, NBC.
This reflex was clearly visible recently in the case of John Brennan, whom the Resistance-allied corporate press was already quite fond of. On August 17, Trump revoked the Obama administration CIA director’s security clearance in an apparent effort to insult and punish one of his most visible and vocal critics, who has been a frequent guest on the MSNBC cable tv network.
Said the ACLU of Trump’s move:
Trump’s revocation of Brennan’s clearance, and his threats to revoke the clearances of other former officials for the sole reason that they have criticized his conduct and policies, amount to unconstitutional retaliation. They are also part of a broader pattern of seeking to silence or marginalize critics, which includes forcing staff to sign unconstitutional non-disclosure agreements.” – Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.
The Local Reaction
Reaction in Sonoma County, California to Trump’s yanking Brennan’s security clearance at least occasionally mirrored the freakout heard in the national corporate press. The Raucous Rooster editor nearly choked on his grub upon hearing the apparent admiration for the man expressed on radio station KPCA-LP’s Two Mooks and a Mic show. KPCA is Petaluma’s new community radio station that launched early in 2017. ‘Two Mooks’ is a popular current affairs show on the air Fridays at noon that spends a good deal of time parsing the latest Trump debacles and analysing them through a local lens. These days the show’s hosts are planning on spending considerable airtime interviewing candidates for upcoming city council and mayoral campaigns in Petaluma.
“John Brennan is supposedly by reputation an incredible stand-up guy. He’s totally nonpartisan. He’s worked with Democrats, he’s worked with Republicans,” said co-host Jim Thomas.
Colleague Matt Maguire inserted a disclaimer that “this is one of those ironies – I’ve never loved the head of the CIA or the FBI, you know, because there is a Deep State out there and these guys are a part of it, but at least they have some integrity.”
“They’re the ones that at least put the country before politics,” concluded Thomas.
Perhaps that is true, but what is the nature of that country, and from where does that remarkable faith in the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community arise, given the long and sordid history of some of the agencies in question? The answer may depend upon how fond of secrecy and dishonesty you are, and how many thousands of innocent lives in far away places you’re willing to assume responsibility for taking.
Remarkably, Trumpwashing – the practice of rendering otherwise deplorable, even reviled former U.S. officials kinder, gentler and more trustworthy by way of publicly volunteering for the anti-Trump Resistance – appears to out-clean the best brand-name detergents when it comes to removing blood stains.
Few current or former U.S. officials have as much innocent blood on their hands as John Brennan. Only Barack Obama bears greater responsibility for the consequences of the decision to dramatically expand the U.S. drone warfare program. ‘Drone warfare’ is a euphemism for the targeted assassination of people we believe may be bad guys. The drone warfare program will be creating blowback for the United States for years to come thanks to its heavy toll on innocent civilians. Brennan also bears considerable responsibility for the U.S. allowance of the Saudi air war upon the Yemeni people. As even the Public Broadcasting System has begun to realize recently, Yemenis are well aware of where the bombs killing them came from and they do blame the U.S. government.
Reported Jane Ferguson for PBS News Hour recently, “Dr. Ali Al Motaa is a college professor. He did his doctorate in the U.S., but is a strong Houthi supporter: “The missiles that kill us, American-made. The planes that kill us, American-made. The tanks … American-made. You are saying to me, where is America? America is the whole thing.”
John Brennan Kind of Country
There is a great deal more I hope the Resistance at every level will consider before continuing to shower respect and admiration upon the likes of John Brennan. Admittedly the man has not yet achieved the stature of a Henry Kissinger, Harry Truman or every other U.S. president in terms of moral culpability and innocent civilian body counts, but he bears considerable responsibility for the ongoing carnage in Yemen in particular.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “The US drone war massively expanded under President Barack Obama. Responding to evolving militant threats and the greater availability of remote piloting technology, Obama ordered ten times more counter-terror strikes than his predecessor George W Bush over the course of his term.”
It is not just that Obama has put more of a certain type of aircraft in the skies. The low-footprint nature of drone strikes – which can be carried out without having personnel in the country being hit – made it politically easier for the US to mount operations in countries with which it was not technically at war. Hundreds of strikes have been carried out in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, carried out by the highly secretive Central Intelligence Agency and Joint Special Operations Command at the Pentagon.
Brennan was passed over for nomination as CIA Director in 2008 due to widespread opposition over his role in condoning and covering up U.S. torture programs that began in the aftermath of 9/11, during George W. Bush’s first term.
Spencer Ackerman, writing for Wired magazine after Brennan was nominated for the directorship of the CIA in 2013:
Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law expert at the University of Notre Dame, sent out a statement urging the Senate to vote against sending Brennan to the CIA on the grounds that the drone program is among “the most highly unlawful and immoral practices the United States has ever undertaken.” Council on Foreign Relations scholar Micah Zenko doesn’t explicitly oppose Brennan’s nomination, but called the claim that the drone strikes haven’t killed civilians “preposterous and in no way supported by reality.” Brennan withdrew as Obama’s choice to head the CIA once before, in 2008, when he came under criticism for alleged involvement in the CIA’s Bush-era torture efforts. [emphasis added – RR]
Estimates of civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes by international human rights groups and other observers show at least 15% of those killed were not those targeted. Keep in mind that even those targeted have never been charged with any crime. The vast majority of the time their identities are unknown. According to Bureau’s drone warfare project website, the United States’ drone warfare programs have killed over 11,000 people, and nearly 1,600 of them were civilians.
In his only extensive comments on his administration’s drone warfare program in eight years as president, President Obama stated on that “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”
Director Brennan reiterated this comment on many occasions, yet it has always led to the unanswered questions about how it is then, that strikes so consistently yield supposedly unintended civilian casualties.
A 2013 Human Rights Watch study of six U.S. drone strikes in Yemen revealed that all six had resulted in unintended civilian casualties. In 2015, The Intercept’s Drone Papers revealed that the U.S. government’s own data showed that over 90% of drone strikes over one nine month period in Afghanistan resulted in unintended deaths.
Four U.S. Air Force whistleblowers from the drone warfare program told The Guardian in 2015 that the killing of innocent civilians by the U.S. drone was one of the most “devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world”. They called the drone warfare program a “recruitment tool” for ISIS.
In 2011 then-Homeland Security Advisor Brennan sad that there had not been “a single collateral death” from U.S. drone strikes. He made this statement just three months after the Pakistani government had vehemently complained to the U.S. about a U.S. drone strike in that country which had killed 42 civilians.
In 2014 it was revealed that Brennan’s CIA had spied on U.S. Senate staffers who had been investigating the CIA’s role in the U.S. torture regime initiated in 2001. Once caught by the CIA Inspector General, Brennan responded to a denunciation by Senator Dianne Feinstein by stating his agency had “in no way been spying” on the Senate Intelligence Committee or its staffers yet days later was forced to apologize to committee chairs for doing just that.
John Brennan is a proven liar and murderer who has never been held accountable for it, a man uniquely responsible for policies that have deprived thousands of Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis and others of their human and civil rights, all in the name of U.S. strategic interests. Brennan’s program of targeted assassination by drone is so fundamentally, transparently wrong that each and every strike helps guarantee us a growing supply of new enemies to fight far into the future.
The enemies of our enemies are not necessarily our friends. Embracing the undemocratic spies and warriors among us who are dedicated first and foremost to our national security state apparatus and only secondarily to our humane and democratic values is to support our continuing slide towards oligarchy and fascism. Brennan is no stand-up guy simply because he despises President Trump. In a just and democratic world we hope to one day build, he would be standing before an international human rights tribunal for crimes against humanity.[Full Squawk: The RR editor was intimately involved with the birth of Free Range Radio KPCA, Petaluma’s community radio station, on whose airwaves Two Mooks and a Mic and over thirty other shows may be heard. Tune-in via 103.3 FM or online at kpca.fm]