DRONE WARRIORS: Say Hello to the DoD’s $125,000 Ostrich Feather

by Joe Scarry

In ancient Egypt, there was a highly-developed idea of how to assess the deep meaning of thoughts and acts during life. “The critical scene depicting the weighing of the heart, in the Book of the Dead, shows Anubis performing a measurement that determined whether the person was worthy of entering the realm of the dead (the underworld, known as Duat). By weighing the heart of a deceased person against Ma’at (or “truth”), who was often represented as an ostrich feather, Anubis dictated the fate of souls.” (Wikipedia)

The US Department of Defense has replaced the ostrich feather with $125,000.

A recent report in The Fiscal Times says the drone pilots are being induced to re-enlist with bonuses of $125,000. Apparently, even though the military is moving as fast as it possibly can toward robotic killing, it still can’t get the small number of people it needs to come volunteer and operate the controls. (“The service trained 180 new pilots in fiscal year 2014, while 240 retired, according to data provided to The Los Angeles Times.”)

The situation is likely to become especially dire, now that drone operators are coming forward and saying what many have been suggesting for a long time: it’s not worth it.

Hey, we live in a free market economy, and some people think that means everything has its price. It shouldn’t be surprising that the military thinks it can buy off drone operators.

The US government has done us a favor: they’ve said what they really think the conscience of a drone operator is worth.

Now it’s up to us to do something about it.

Related posts

Operating drones and other robotic killing machines still requires some human operators. And despite all their hopes to the contrary, the military establishment has discovered that human operators have consciences.

(See THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Drone Pilots Speaking Out)

With drones, people become just dots. “Bugs.” People who no longer count as people . . . .

(See Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt? )

“Once the boat went to full pressure, there was really no other option.”

(See In Whose Machine Will YOU Be a Cog? )

Posted in American Military Culture, The New Peace Movement | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Drone Pilots Speaking Out

by Joe Scarry

I have written over and over again that people who want peace and an end armed conflict need to push back against the “dronification” of war.

The people who want to perpetuate (and worsen) the state of perpetual war that we have become embroiled in lovedrones — maximum killing, maximum terrorizing subject populations, maximum overlordship — all with a minimum of asking for the consent of the US general public.

“Hey: there are no ‘boots on the ground’! Isn’t that what you wanted?”

(Out of sight, out of mind . . . . )

It turns out there was just one little problem with their scheme.

Operating drones and other robotic killing machines still requires some human operators. And despite all their hopes to the contrary, the military establishment has discovered that human operators have consciences.

“Have we forgotten our humanity in the pursuit of vengeance and
security?” Former Drone Operators Speak Out Against Drone Killings

Two years ago, I attended the CODEPINK Drones Conference in Washington, DC, and saw the ex-drone operator Brandon Bryant speaking out about how killing people with drones is wrong. At the time I thought, “How many more are there like him . . . ?”

Now, three more former drone operators have come forward to blow the whistle on the US drone killing program.

At the end of March, 2016, there will be another major US mobilization against drone warfare. Now I’m wondering, “If there are four, is it possible there are even more? Could there be ten . . . ?”

I encourage everyone to read the stories of the courageous drones whistleblowers, and share this information widely.

It’s not just about them; it’s not just about drones. It’s about whether the people can wrest back control of the killing power of the state from those who think they’ve found the way to conduct 24/7/326 permawar with no opposition.

Related posts

In my opinion, the reason to focus on drones is this: when we focus on drones, the general public is able to “get,” to an unusual extent, the degree to which popular consent has been banished from the process of carrying out state violence. (Sure, it was banished long ago, but the absence of a human in the cockpit of a drone suddenly makes a light bulb go off in people’s heads.) It takes some prodding, but people can sense that drone use somehow crosses a line. And that opens up the discussion about how our consent has been eliminated from the vast range of US militarism.

(See “Why focus on drone attacks?”)

The U.S. military is desperately trying to beef up the ranks of its drone pilots – to meet a “near insatiable demand for drones.” There’s only one way that’s going to happen, and that’s if we let our young people think that it’s okay to sign up. The world of military service is more abstracted and foreign than ever. If ever there was a time that young people needed guidance from others about what military service might mean for them, that time is now.

(See Mothers Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Drone Pilots)

Anyone who cares about stopping drone killing should take a friend and go see Good Kill, and then do it again, and again.

(See GOOD KILL: Struggling to Bring the Truth of Drone Killing Out of the Shadows )

Today we live in a different world. Without the draft, the people have “checked out.” It is like Rome … the legions do the work of empire and the people are kept happy with bread and circus. (Or Starbucks and “Dancing With the Stars,” if you prefer.)

(See Not Your Father’s Antiwar Movement )

Posted in American Military Culture, The New Peace Movement | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

December 7, 2015: A day that will live in … [FILL IN THE BLANK]

by Joe Scarry


Donald Trump in front of “Make America Great Again!” banner
on Pearl Harbor Day (December 7) 2015 (Image: Getty)

Yesterday, a possible nominee as the Republican candidate to become the next president of the United States proposed banning Muslims from the US. “I think that we should definitely disallow any Muslims from coming in. Any of them. The reason is simple: we can’t identify what their attitude is.” (See Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigration to the US.)

Two things are possible:

EITHER this will be remembered as the moment the US caved in completely to fascism;

OR this will be the big wake-up call to US people, and the beginning of the dismantling of the post-9/11 nightmare.

What’s it gonna be, people?

Related posts

I wonder if, years from now, we will be thinking back to today and feeling surprise at how little we thought about some of the developments in our world, and in our country, and how we talked about them even less. Someday will I have to explain to my kids, or to my kids’ kids, why it was that “people just weren’t talking about it” . . . ?

(See Why Weren’t People Talking About It? )

Thinking about the Holocaust Museum’s depiction of the reliance on brutality and intimidation during the Holocaust, all I could think of was the repeated use of similar tactics by the U.S. military against prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo.

(See Holocaust Museum: “Those Nazi Bastards!” )

It looks like foreign affairs are about to take center state in Election 2016.

(See Election2016 after Paris: It’s time for someone to show leadership)

The United States is like that alcoholic family member, for whom every circumstance is an excuse to hit the bottle. Except, with the US, the bottle is violence.

(See It’s Time for the United States to Stop Hitting the Bottle)

I’m glad that we’re starting to debate drone warfare, but I’m concerned that Americans are stuck at the surface of the problem — the technology, the politics — and not getting deep enough into the psychology that allows us to tolerate the injury being done to others.

(See Does America Need a Spiritual Awakening?)

Posted in World War II, World War III | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, “We are ALL ‘hibakusha’?”


by Joe Scarry

Participants in the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima

I have just returned from the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima.

The big lesson from this gathering is: “We are ALL hibakusha!” What does this mean?

Hibakusha is a word that has traditionally been used to refer to people affected by the nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagaski.  It is now being broadened to recognize the many additional victims of acute affects of nuclear radiation (including fallout from tests and radioactivity from mining and processing). In fact, we are all subject to the impact and threat of nuclear radiation spread indiscriminately by nations and corporations.

So . . .

(1) It’s a massive threat – take it seriously.  The #1 lesson for me of this conference is the global nature of the threat posed by nuclear radiation, and the state power that lies behind it. We learned about people in places as diverse as Central Europe, Western China, India, Southern Australia, the islands of the Pacific, Japan, the U.S. Southwest, and Iraq being harmed by the release of nuclear radiation.

(2) Don’t be distracted. I was reminded once again that one reason this threat persists is that it requires concentration to understand the scientific underpinnings of it. That requires hard work. It issooooo much easier to just turn on the TV and watch a soccer match. Prevailing against this threat will require us to stand against an “entertainment culture” that tries to convince people, “Just don’t worry about it!”

(3) Spread the word. We have a tool that we can use: social media. Spread the word.

More broadly, from this gathering I came to understand the following five aspects of the situation we face with respect to the threat from nuclear radiation:

* Relationship to “technology” – Over and over, we see it asserted that “We have the technology to use nuclear radiation safely.” People fail to admit the limits of “technology.”

* Treating people like they don’t matter – Over and over, we see groups of people subjected to nuclear radiation. They are treated like they don’t matter. (See GLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: The Result of the “People Who Don’t Matter” Mindset )

* Invisibility – Advocacy in this area faces a special difficulty: because nuclear radiation can’t be seen, extra work is required to make it understandable and build support for stopping it. (SeeGLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: Doing the work to render the invisible visible)

* Human nexus – We must take special care to address this problem from the standpoint of the lives harmed by it.

* Government failure – Consistently, we see government fail to protect people from nuclear radiation.

* Irreversibility – The release of nuclear radiation is so profound, in part, because of the practical impossibility of fully reversing it.

I will write more about each of these points in detail, and add links here as I expand the discussion. I welcome comments!

In addition, here are 10 specific takeaways — issues and circumstances that people need to know about and share with others.

HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, “We are ALL ‘hibakusha’?”
(Please retweet this message!)

Related posts

Here are additional posts from my time at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima in November, 2015, plus my thoughts as the event approached, and a list of my blog posts on eliminating nuclear weapons and related topics.

(See Nov 21-23, 2015 in Hiroshima: World Nuclear Victims Forum — I’ll Be There )

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 2015). Let’s do something about it: make a nuclear ban a reality.

(See TIME FOR A NUCLEAR BAN? On the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki )

There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

Posted in End of the Empire, Nuclear Weapons, World War II | Tagged | Leave a comment

Marshall Islands: Can social media trump empire and entertainment?

by Joe Scarry

The Marshall Islands are a perfect example of the “global hibakusha” phenomenon that I learned about at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima.

“During the early years of the Cold War from 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons at its Pacific Proving Grounds located in the Marshall Islands,[21] including the largest nuclear test ever conducted by the U.S., code named Castle Bravo. ‘The bombs had a total yield of 108,496 kilotons, over 7,200 times more powerful than the atomic weapons used during World War II.’ With the 1952 test of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb, code named ‘Ivy Mike,’ the island of Elugelab in the Enewetak atoll was destroyed. In 1956, the United States Atomic Energy Commission regarded the Marshall Islands as ‘by far the most contaminated place in the world.'” (Source: Wikipedia article – “Marshall Islands: Nuclear testing during the Cold War”)

As I thought about the atomic testing carried out in the Marshall Islands, I started to recognize the major features of  the “global hibakusha” phenomenon.

Just a few “dots” in the US Pacific Empire

There would be no the “global hibakusha” phenomenon if not for empires that roll roughshod over everything that gets in their way. (See GLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: The Result of the “People Who Don’t Matter” Mindset )

If there is any question in anyone’s mind about how the US came to the conclusion that it was entitled to decide what to do in the Marshall Islands . . .

The Marshall Islands in their Pacific setting (Source: Wikipedia)

Continue reading

Posted in Nuclear Weapons, World War II, World War III | Tagged | Leave a comment

It’s Time for the United States to Stop Hitting the Bottle

by Joe Scarry

It is common for people who have an alcoholic in the family to dread the holidays.

They try to imagine the joy and celebration, but in their heart they know what’s really coming is just the next episode of drunkenness.

The United States is like that alcoholic family member, for whom every circumstance is an excuse to hit the bottle. Except, with the US, the bottle is violence.

Barack Obama addresses the nation this evening. He will respond to the attack in San Bernardino that is now being characterized as an act of terror, and linked to ISIS.

For a brief moment, it occurred to me that, on this second Sunday in Advent, as people across this majority Christian country await the coming of the Prince of Peace, the President would go on television and say, “What we are not going to do is respond with more violence.”

But then I quickly reminded myself: Remember who and what you’re dealing with. Remember the reverence in which this country holds violence. Remember that an addict doesn’t magically give up their drug.

What are we going to do . . . ?


Norman Solomon summed up Obama’s speech last night (“Obama’s Speech, Translated into Candor”): ” . . . As much as we must denounce the use of any guns that point at us, we must continue to laud the brave men and women who point guns for us . . .” (emphasis added).

Obama perfectly expresses the psychotic incoherence of US society.

Again I ask, What are we going to do . . . ?

Related posts

Anyone who has had to write a speech knows that the hardest part is to land on the main idea. Once you’ve got that right, the rest practically writes itself.

(See “The way to respond to ISIS is not through violence.” )

It’s way too easy to launch U.S. missiles. (Maybe if it were a little more costly, challenging, or painful to carry out these attacks, they would at least require someone to give an explanation that makes sense first.)

(See AMERICANS: Happy As Long As They’re Blowing Something Up )

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position — willalways be in the position — to say, “No” ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will nevergive up its nuclear weapons, becauseit has the power and the rest of the world doesn’t?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

Why are people such doubters?  Don’t they believe the U.S. knows what it’s doing?

(See Want to Understand How U.S. Is “Helping” Iraq? Watch this video . . . )

Posted in American Military Culture, Barack Obama, End of the Empire | Tagged | Leave a comment

Flashback: Reviews of “Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom”

by Elaine Scarry

Below are links to reviews, interviews, excerpts, event info, and related material for Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom by Elaine Scarry, my sister.

“That we have escaped disaster so far is a near miracle. Scarry’s remarkable contribution should inspire us to abolish this colossal folly.”

Noam Chomsky

“. . . urgent and lucid . . . [a] prolonged rallying cry of a book.”

Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

“ Elaine Scarry is right: Americans live in a thermonuclear monarchy.”

Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

“Scarry’s assault on the reigning complacency about nuclear weapons rests on her belief in the capacity of an interpretation to reconfigure the world.”

Nathan Schneider, Chronicle of Higher Education

“Thermonuclear Monarchy is a work of deadly serious political science by an analyst dwelling on the constitutional implications of giving a democratically elected president sovereign-like autocracy.”

Nick Smith, Engineering and Technology (U.K.)

“Scarry’s book requires any thoughtful reader to revisit the basic postulates and the deepest human purposes of our system of government.”

Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law, Harvard Law School


Thermonuclear Monarchy:
Choosing Between Democracy and Doom
by Elaine ScarryPurchase on Amazon
Publisher page

“A really remarkable work, ranging across ethics, law, and politics to pose genuinely radical challenges to the confused and potentially lethal systems that pass for democracy in our world.”

Rowan Williams, master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury

Continue reading

Posted in books, Nuclear Weapons, The New Peace Movement, World War III | Tagged | Leave a comment