I was one of those pesky little (mutable) kids that constantly asked “why?” much to my weary (cardinal) parents’ dismay. Now, the reporters creed of “who, what, where, when” still pales to the question of “why” in my grown-up mind, and I’m still in quest of the human variables that answer that question. It isn’t until we can identify our “whys” that we can fully entertain our options and make informed choices to change outcomes.
As Genevieve Hathaway told us here on the free blog portion of Planet Waves, “You have the ability to end any of the negative patterns Nessus represents once you see them for what they are.” Seeing negative patterns is the trick, and there’s a word for this activity: growth.
That was one of the reasons I was drawn to Eric’s fledgling website more than a decade ago. Finally! An astrologer who dug deeply into the esoteric, uncovering the subtle influences that colors our behavior while honoring the spiritual tug that asks us to lift our consciousness into a higher octave. More, he flavored it all with his deep love for humanity. I can always trust Eric for the energetic puzzle pieces that create our current reality, which is why I’m glad to follow his Friday edition. He does the heavy lifting, untangling the variables and answering part of my essential question: why are we experiencing in this particular way?
That’s the big picture of course, but he also covers each individualized energy signature, sign by sign, with uncommon intuitive skill, smoothing out the bumps on our personal path. If you haven’t thought about signing up for Planet Waves’ premium service, you should consider giving yourself that gift. You won’t be sorry, especially if you want to know “why.”
And ‘why’ is a good question for this kaleidoscope of a week, taking us from the mundane to the profound and back again with a shift of the lens. The concentration of Pisces energy informing this period has done a thorough job of unearthing complex politics, bewildering dreamscapes and for some of us, muddled emotions that are precisely represented as the dual-fish attempting to split itself apart. It can best be described as a week of revelation, consternation and confusion, punctuated by frequent calls of, “Yes, but …”
We started off last weekend with one of America’s big “eating holidays,” the Super Bowl. What might have prompted a deeper look at the stability of the electrical grid, or even how well New Orleans has mended itself since Katrina drowned it in a bathtub, fell back to a discussion of the Destiny’s Child reunion, Beyonce’s performance and — eventually — a comeback for the 9ers that gave sibling-coaches a nail-biting finish. Gun control and immigration sucked up oxygen for awhile. Then a leaked internal memo turned up from the Justice Department, codifying the use of drones and ‘unilateral force’ by the United States to assassinate those involved in terrorism, including US citizens, depriving them of due process. Let’s look at that one more closely, shall we?
Despite the controversial nature of sending drones across international borders to kill, representatives of both parties on the Senate Judiciary Committee are questioning the constitutionality and legality of targeting Americans. They are demanding access to classified opinions justifying such strikes on citizens. Drone strikes began early in Bush’s tenure, but their number has advanced under Obama in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. And while the public may question this policy, so far very few lawmakers have.
Meanwhile, the simmering backlash to drone use (and requisite collateral damage: read that innocent bystanders) as perhaps unlawful and certainly immoral, turned from a faint but consistent murmur from the left into a loud scold from Code Pink members. Carried out of the Brennan confirmation hearings by police, one protesting Pink lady effectively shut down the hearing until the audience could be screened and re-seated.
John Brennan is the Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and as such, a daily presidential adviser (as he was to Clinton). The Obama administration’s intelligence guru, Brennan is considered the architect of the American drone program. He has been nominated to replace Panetta as CIA chief. Previously nominated in 2008, he withdrew his name from consideration when his prior positions on torture and extraordinary rendition caused controversy. His nomination remains problematic, his attitudes unclear. For instance — clearly politically incorrect — Brennan has suggested that the US is at war with the religion of Islam.
And — oh shit, oh dear — he’s right. Or at least he’s right by implication, because as long as this nation considers itself superior to all others, with the resources of the world at its disposal, fully able to dominate by threats of military might or conquest, we are surely at war with all those who do not serve our “national interests.”
Still, while many of us consider an assassination list that includes American citizens a matter of presidential overreach, and the use of weaponized drones in an international setting unconstitutional — and although making the moral case against either seems effortless to me — not all of us see it that way. To get a glimpse of the “whys” and “wherefores” then, we have to turn this issue inside-out and look at it from the point of view of the empire. Yes, that would be OUR empire, the one the Establishment serves.
We are, like it or not, still at war, although we’ve stopped using Dubby’s favorite phrase — War On Terror (WOT) – having replaced it with the oft-repeated assertion that we’re at war with al-Qaeda (a catch-phrase for jihadists or Islamists.) We are, for all intents and purposes, a nation AT war with anything that shakes our international dominance (Afghanistan notwithstanding as our last remaining declared war). As long as the mythology of our superpower status and superior military continues unchallenged, then it’s within the Executive’s tool-bag to push the envelope, create a hit-list of probable enemies that might threaten our national security, and consider them expendable. The president is simply using the extra-judicial powers given to him IN TIME OF WAR to protect the homeland.
Those who would agree with that include millions in the military and Pentagon, a quarter-million worker-bees in Homeland Security, thousands of military contracting companies and their employees, and the entirety of the conservative party; that’s just for starters. All those who cheered bin Laden’s demise, who had no problem with crossing international borders to pick him off and think he deserved no hearing or trial fall under that heading. Include all those who consider armed drones a worthwhile and effective replacement for actual boots on the ground, guarding against loss of blood and national treasure, across the political spectrum.
Polls show that the majority has no problem with drone use — 47 percent approves it with 31 percent undecided — although we have had so little discussion on the topic that the majority may not know the price paid, either by those who have been killed or by the nation, which has earned a significant amount of international ire and contempt. Do drones and death go hand in hand? We don’t like to think about that too much. That’s another of those “Yes, but …” topics.
Iran’s recent release of footage it claims came from a captured American drone reminded me of grainy black-and-white televised pictures of American pilot, Francis Gary Powers, after his CIA U2 spy-plane was snagged by the Soviet Union in 1960. When he went missing, the Eisenhower administration released a statement that a “weather plane” had experienced difficulties and crashed. Powers was, of course, guilty of covert recon and espionage by the USA, yet our national response was outrage that he was being held prisoner. Right was on our side, after all. This was the Reds we were talking about, and we had been convinced that they wanted to kill us all! It was a cold war, then. And it’s a cold one now, fought with a joystick from a safe spot back home.
Worth noting is that over 50 countries have drones. So far, we’re the only ones using them as weapons. I’ve heard several people list the wonderful things drones might do for us in the future. I’ll grant them, the drone is only as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as the operator — much as, I believe, America is only as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as her laws. And it is rule of law we’re discussing now, with matters of due process and habeas corpus most likely due to be thrashed out in our weakened and limping court system in the near future.
As long as we’re in war-mode — WOT, if you will — there can be no NORMAL going on in the nation, nor can we expect a normal response from any political figure. As long as we are held captive by a newly-limited but almost impenetrable military-industrial complex, we will not let go of our international ambitions. So long as we consider ourselves under attack — engaged in up to and including activities of the thought police — we’re dangerous to ourselves and others. Inside-out, indeed. Upside-down. Insufferably myopic.
While I — perhaps you — considered this topic the most potent of the week, not everyone considered it a big deal. Late in the week our attention was deflected into a discussion of why unflattering pics of Beyonce were removed from the web, and distracted by conjecture at Fox and Friends about the possibility that Hillary Clinton had a facelift. We also got the bad news that USPS will no longer deliver First Class mail on Saturdays, a first look at how austerity measures will hand off opportunity to privatization, the public good ignored. Perhaps drones could deliver the mail, when they aren’t spying or killing.
Of all the happenings this week, the one I think describes our current zeitgeist — described earlier as “yes, but …” — is the dilemma presented by one Christopher Dorner, an ex-member of the Los Angeles police department who snapped and declared jihad on cops everywhere, and their families. Dorner killed one officer and two other people at a stop light and is now the object of a gigantic manhunt over several states and into Mexico.
After I heard about Mr. Dorner’s regrettable behavior, I learned that he’d left behind a ‘manifesto’ which is generally a good place to look for ‘why’ questions, so I read it. According to Dorner, as a new officer he witnessed an event involving the use of excessive force and reported it. He alleges that his charges were investigated and dismissed, but that he had “crossed the Blue Line,” and was soon forced out, his “good name and reputation” sullied. The record Dorner left is full of charges of corruption and racism, disturbing events that occurred within the department as he sought to clear his name, and after a bit you understand that it had all become too much for him.
Did he start out that way? Was he always this reactive, this nihilistic? Who knows? His friends continue to call him an intelligent, rational man. But what we MUST acknowledge is that some, if not all, of his story may be true — probably IS true — even if his actions are unacceptable. CNN’s Don Lemon, a man of color, spoke to the perception within the black community that cops were not their friend, and who can argue that? Ultimately, Dorner has made potent enemies, and I doubt he will get out of this alive. I suspect there will be a death-by-cop assassination when he’s found, in retaliation for what he did earlier this week. Will it be deserved? Yes, but …
WOT goes on all around us, all the time. Our emotional response to it rarely meets the higher standards of our conscience, the rational psychology of conflict resolution, perhaps not even the moral — or legal — precepts of our constitution. My hopes for a less than punishing outcome to all this were summed up last weekend by two guests of Bill Moyers. Vicki Divoll is a former general counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former deputy legal adviser to the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, and Vincent Warren is Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. This exchange came at the end of Moyer’s joint interview on drones and democracy:
BILL MOYERS: What’s your greatest concern about this next four years in terms of the issues we’ve been talking about?
VICKI DIVOLL: We need Congress to step up and do its job. Which is to conduct oversight of this president and all presidents, the presidency, not just President Obama, in order to get some of these issues, in fact it’s a golden opportunity to do it while you have a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President. It’s harder if you have a Republican President because it looks partisan.
Here the two sides could work together. In fairness to President Obama, presidents don’t like to acknowledge the giving up of power, no president does. On their watch they don’t want to be the guy that shrunk the job. But I do think that the Senate, in particular, because it’s still in Democratic hands, has a golden opportunity to get some of these things back under control so that when the next president comes in we’ll have some laws and some standards that we can follow.
VINCENT WARREN: I very firmly believe that President Obama, that he’s our best chance that I can see for the foreseeable future to do exactly what Vicki said, would be to shrink that pie of presidential power. He’s inherited more from George Bush and George Bush took more than anybody else. If he doesn’t do that, the next president will have more power than the previous two and that we’ll be back on this show in four years talking about how we’ve slipped even more and that there’s more egregious policies. And we will be looking at the ramifications for these policies. I want to see that change. And it’s going to take people here in this country to be able to make that happen.
So this is where we find ourselves. Yes, our problems are complex and difficult, our old shopworn mythologies still gripping us and the circumstances of our lives leaving us little time to exercise our duty as citizens and activists. It’s certainly easy enough to pick a side and get spun up, but harder — always harder — to summon wisdom and empathy, to look for a way to meet all the needs at hand, to find just solutions. Easier to just say, “Yes, but …” and let someone else do it.
Only this time, we can’t. The next step is ours. That hero we’re waiting for is us. To end the War On Terror that encourages a growing misuse of authority, to recreate this nation — not as a self-gratifying empire but a self-sustaining democracy — it will take all of us working together. In order to accomplish such a task, we can’t be like Chris Dorner, ineffective against the wrongs he’s witnessed, shotgunning his frustrations at inappropriate targets.
We have to work at the top of our game, supporting grass roots movements and a growing consciousness of renewed ethics. We have to create a new way to replace what no longer works, using our collective voice to push this president toward his own true north. We will never bring about peaceful solutions until we begin to speak that language, insist on those precepts; until we ARE peace. And there’s no buts about it.