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John Oliver did a segment on Drones everyone needs to see.

Originally published at the NAAIJ on Oct 1st, 2014. Check the NAAIJ for most recent updates

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Every so often I see ‘Independent’ publications like The Huffington Post or established outlets like The Washington Post make entire articles about the very relevant stories that the likes of Jon Stewart and John Oliver bring to us. Unfortunately those outlets prefer to focus on the quite obviously less relevant stories. Like what the latest talking head on FOX News said, Or what the latest thing Justin Bieber did was or exactly how Canadian our drunken, crack smoking Toronto Mayor is.

This segment on John OliversLast Week Tonight‘ is much more relevant and even made me have a ‘Holy Sh*t’ moment, and I’ve been paying attention to these issues for some time.

At the time of writing that segment, On YouTube alone, has 2,228,059 views.

Perhaps you noticed what I noticed. What Oliver has done is scour the Internet and discovered some absolute gems of extreme negligence and legal culpability on the US Governments Drone program. Now anyone that has been following these issues knows that the US Government routinely kills innocent women and children and otherwise ‘definitely not a terrorist’ non-combatant civilians. (Not at all unlike what Israel does to Palestine) But what Oliver has unearthed is a tacit almost candid admission that the US Government has next to no bloody idea exactly who it is it is killing — but they ‘are definitely an appropriate target’ — even if they cannot prove in any manner, shape or form that the people they just damn well killed have any tangible connection to Terrorism whatsoever!

You’re probably here because like myself you chose to remain informed and dig deeper into the issues. The US Navy 3-Star Rear Admiral depicted in the video is none other than Deputy Director for Global Operations (J-3) Adm. Stufflebeem. The full transcript of that Pentagon Briefing is available from the Yale School of Law (They are probably just as shocked as we are that someone was able to deem this ‘legal’)

I’ll recite an extended excerpt of the transcript here, going beyond what Olivers clip entails, but containing it in full:

Question: When can we expect the Pentagon to release either the photographs or the videotape of this site and some of the evidence that was gathered?

Ms. Clarke: I don’t know.

Adm. Stufflebeem: I don’t know either. That —

Question: May we make that as a request?

Ms. Clarke: You can certainly make that as a request.

Question: Do you have strike imagery?

Question: Admiral —

Adm. Stufflebeem: Yeah.

Question: I’m curious. You said you don’t know who was killed in this attack, whether it was civilians, Taliban, or —

Adm. Stufflebeem: I’m sorry.

Ms. Clarke: We don’t know exactly who it was.

Adm. Stufflebeem: We don’t know the identities of the individuals involved.

Question: But you’re convinced they’re Taliban?

Adm. Stufflebeem: We’re convinced that —

Ms. Clarke: We’re convinced it was an appropriate target, based on the observation, based on the information that it was an appropriate target. We do not know yet exactly who it was.

Question: And I’m curious. In this uncertainty, why would you attack this with a missile, as opposed to going in with a Special Forces team, perhaps surrounding the area, and trying to find out who was who, rather sending the missile? Wouldn’t that be a more proper way to do this, perhaps?

Adm. Stufflebeem: Well, if you — in fact you have a quick reaction force that is on standby, in close proximity, and where vehicles have stopped and congregated, and people have gotten out and are having a meeting, if you have a team that’s ready to pounce, maybe so.

If because of the location of where it is and because of the type of a system that you’re using to monitor these areas, you don’t have that, and you have the information that would lead you to believe that this — the time to be able take advantage of this would be now, rather than lose it — I think this was probably the best weapon that was available at the time in the location.

Question: Were you afraid these people were going to get away? I mean, you had them under surveillance. Why wouldn’t you just instead go in and make sure you know who’s who? It could be scrap deals, it could be Taliban, it could be civilians.

Ms. Clarke: I’d say, again, based on the information they had and the observations, they believed it was an appropriate target. And again, we’re somewhat at a disadvantage here, since it was not DoD per se. But they thought it was an appropriate target, and they used what they had at the time.

Other instances of clearly very innocent people being executed en masse by the US Government is evidenced by this Dec. 2013 case as reported by DemocracyNow.

“Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going toward the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports.” Turning a Wedding into a Funeral.

Or this report from the UK Telegraph that details no less than 168 children and as many as 775 innocent civilians executed by the US Government for happening to live in the wrong Country.

“In an extensive analysis of open-source documents, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.

The strikes, which began under President George W Bush but have since accelerated during the presidency of Barack Obama, are hated in Pakistan, where families live in fear of the bright specks that appear to hover in the sky overhead.

In just a single attack on a madrassah in 2006 up to 69 children lost their lives.

Chris Woods, who led the research, said the detailed database of deaths would send shockwaves through Pakistan, where political and military leaders repeatedly denounce the strikes in public, while privately allowing the US to continue.

“This is a military campaign run by a secret service which raised problems of accountability, transparency and you have a situation where neither the Pakistanis nor Americans are clear about any agreements in place and where the reporting is difficult,” he said.

“All of this means that when things go wrong there is simply no redress for the families of those who have been mistakenly killed.”

The research, culled from more than 2,000 news reports, leaked documents and witness statements, show how the drones gradually moved from a rarely used tool, beginning with a single strike in 2004, to a frontline weapon of war.” 168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign

If you would like to learn more about the potent illegality of America’s War on Terror. A documentary film by Jeremy Scahill entitled ‘Dirty Wars‘ is a great primer on the subject.

This is the trailer for ‘Dirty Wars’

Nigel Todman is an Independent Journalist, Technical Consultant, Social Activist, Web Developer and Computer Programmer from Ontario, Canada. Add him to Facebook and/or Follow him on Twitter E-mail: veritas [at] vts-tech [dot] org [PGP]

 

Conservative Party mocks Democracy in Canada. Blatant Contempt of Parliament

Originally published at the NAAIJ on Sep 26th, 2014. Check the NAAIJ for most recent updates

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UPDATE: 09/26 Calandra has given an Oscar level apology in which he states he will almost certainly repeat his behavior .. But he is sorry. See bottom for full text of that apology as well as video. Noticeably absent from his apology … is Canadians! He apologizes to The House, The Opposition and his fellow Party Members.

Canadians have never been very enthusiastic about politics. But the Conservative Party has taken Canada to embarrassing new lows and the world is taking notice. Multiple publications from The CBC, Macleans, The Ottawa Citizen, The Huffington Post, Canada.com, and many more have stood up and pointed out this latest blatant disregard for Democracy and candid Contempt of Parliament at the hands of the Conservative Party. Specifically the Parliamentary Secretary for the Prime Minister, Paul Calandra. The last time the Conservatives were found in Contempt of Parliament was in 2011.

According to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd Edition from the Parliament of Canada website. Contempt of parliament is defined as follows:

The House of Commons enjoys very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of its contempt power. In other words, the House may consider any misconduct to be contempt and may deal with it accordingly. Instances of contempt in one Parliament may even be punished by another Parliament.[119] This area of parliamentary law is therefore extremely fluid and most valuable for the Commons to be able to meet novel situations.

Throughout the Commonwealth most procedural authorities hold that contempts, as opposed to “privileges”, cannot be enumerated or categorized. Speaker Sauvé explained in a 1980 ruling: “… while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred”.[120]

The United Kingdom Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege attempted to provide a list of some types of contempt in its 1999 report:

* interrupting or disturbing the proceedings of, or engaging in other misconduct in the presence of, the House or a committee;

* assaulting, threatening, obstructing or intimidating a Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties;

* deliberately attempting to mislead the House or a committee (by way of statement, evidence, or petition);

..

* without reasonable excuse, refusing to answer a question or provide information or produce papers formally required by the House or a committee;

..

* divulging or publishing the content of any report or evidence of a select committee before it has been reported to the House.[121]

In the case of Members, the Joint Committee also considered the following types of conduct to constitute contempt:

* accepting a bribe intended to influence a Member’s conduct in respect of proceedings of the House or a committee;

* acting in breach of any orders of the House; and

* failing to fulfil any requirement of the House, as declared in a code of conduct or otherwise, relating to the possession, declaration, or registration of financial interests or participation in debate or other proceedings.[122]

Just as it is not possible to categorize or to delineate every incident which may fall under the definition of contempt, it is also difficult to categorize the “severity” of contempt. Contempts may vary greatly in their gravity; matters ranging from minor breaches of decorum to grave attacks against the authority of Parliament may be considered as contempts.

You can watch the actual exchange here.

This CBC article covers the responsibilities of the Speaker of the House (Andrew Scheer, Also Conservative) and his response to the incident. In the conclusion of his response to these recent absurdities he states the following:

I also ask all Members to heed my request of last January 28 (Debates, p. 2204), when I asked Members:

“to consider how the House can improve things so that observers can at least agree that question period presents an exchange of views and provides at least some information.

The onus is on all Members to raise the quality of both questions and answers.”

Essentially .. the Conservatives could answer serious questions about their criminality or what exactly in the hell they are doing to Canada by reciting Harry Potter or invoking the Bible — And the democratic process in Canada is just utterly powerless to stop it? Really!?

Which has many Canadians wondering, If absurd exchanges like this are within the rules of the House of Commons. Then, Perhaps it is time to change those rules. Indeed the NDP has proposed a motion to do exactly that. How are Canadians supposed to participate in an informed democracy when you’ve got a party like the Conservatives in power that essentially provide you with nothing but talking points from attack ads on their opposition and no information whatsoever on what they are doing to Canada or why.

It would seem the NDP agrees with my assessment of the situation, And has put out a call for support for the motion at ndp.ca/fixQP. Full text of the request for support follows:

“Question Period needs answers too.

Add your name to back our plan to fix QP.

Day after day, Tom Mulcair puts serious questions to the Conservatives in Parliament, on the issues that matter to you.

But instead of serious answers, we keep hearing talking points, platitudes and partisan attacks.

On September 26, Stephen Harper’s lead spokesperson offered a tearful apology in the House—after his outrageous non-answers on Iraq sparked national outrage.

Tears are not enough.

We’ve put forward a plan to stop the political games. Our plan empowers the Speaker to ensure Canadians get real answers from their government.”

The full text of the motion itself:

That Standing Order 11(2) be replaced with the following: The Speaker or the Chair of Committees of the Whole, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or repetition, including during responses to oral questions, may direct the Member to discontinue his or her intervention, and if then the Member still continues to speak, the Speaker shall name the Member or, if in Committee of the Whole, the Chair shall report the Member to the House.

UPDATE 09/26

The Parliamentary Secretary for the Prime Minister, Perhaps ordered to say so in light of the international media coverage , Has given the following apology. I have quoted it verbatim here:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker. I would like to unconditionally, unreservedly apologize to this House for my behavior the other day. I allowed the passion and the anger at something which I read to get in the way of appropriately answering the question of the leader of the Opposition. For that I apologize to you and this entire House and my constituents. I’m fairly certain there will be other opportunities in this House where I will be answering questions … that you don’t appreciate. I don’t think this will be the last time that I will get up an answer a question that doesn’t effectively respond Mr. Speaker. Despite what people think about ‘kids in short pants’ this was my response. And uh, I take full responsibility. And I apologize to the Opposition, To you, and to all my colleges”

Nigel Todman is an Independent Journalist, Technical Consultant, Social Activist, Web Developer and Computer Programmer from Ontario, Canada. Add him to Facebook and/or Follow him on Twitter E-mail: veritas [at] vts-tech [dot] org [PGP]