The retired U.S. general gives a reluctant endorsement of the lethal U.S. drone program.
Prior to receiving a standing ovation before an elite crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival, retired U.S. General Stanley McChrystal gave a blunt endorsement of the U.S. drone war: "We should be using drones a lot."
It seemed like a straightforward affirmation of the Obama administration's use of predator drones, but an interesting thing happened as soon as the words left his mouth: He walked them back. "We need to understand what drones are not."
Few people are more intimately familiar with the secretive and highly lethal program than McChrystal, who, as head of the military's Special Operations Command, oversaw a dramatic escalation of drone strikes in Afghanistan prior to his infamous departure from the military for trashing the Obama administration in an interview with Rolling Stone. Now, as the drone wars face increasing media scrutiny, it appears that McChrystal also has his doubts.
"I hope we won't be a country that uses [drones] to the exclusion of" trained personnel on the ground, he said. He noted the importance of U.S. forces living in foreign countries and learning the local languages. To hit home his point, he described a chilling account of the wrongful execution of a civilan farmer in Afghanistan by a U.S. drone strike. "We fired a missile and killed him and found out he was a farmer," McChrystal said. After the assassination, McChystal replayed the event to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a laptop who told McChystal the farmer was engaged in routine irrigation work just prior to the missile strike--an activity the U.S. military should've been familiar with. "You have to know these sorts of things," McChrystal told the crowd.
McChyrstal seemed to suggest that the war on Islamic militants couldn't be fought solely from the skies, which should be worrying for non-interventionists observing the U.S. drone war in Yemen. According to a blockbuster article by The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan in May, as many as 21 missile attacks were launched on suspected al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen since January and the unforeseen ramifications of those attacks have been significant:
An unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population. The evidence of radicalization emerged in more than 20 interviews with tribal leaders, victims' relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen where U.S. strikes have targeted suspected militants. They described a strong shift in sentiment toward militants affiliated with the transnational network's most active wing, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
"The drone strikes have not helped either the United States or Yemen," said Sultan al-Barakani, who was a top adviser to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
It's long been known that the CIA and the U.S. military have been deeply involved in coordinating the drone attacks in Yemen. However, with the concerns McChrystal conveyed today it sounds as if a larger on-the-ground contingent is necessary to prevent the kinds of mistakes and blowback so common in the Afghanistan drone war experience. If we can't fight al-Qaeda solely from the skies, where will that lead us in Yemen?
Floyd Landis, a former teammate of the cyclist’s, just won more than $1 million in a legal case against Armstrong. Here are his thoughts on the suit, cycling, and his onetime rival.
At 5:19 p.m. on Friday, April 30, 2010, Floyd Landis hit send on what would prove the most consequential email of his life. Addressed to the then-CEO of USA Cycling, Steve Johnson, the email bore the subject line “nobody is copied on this one so it’s up to you to demonstrate your true colors….” It went on to detail, year by year, how Landis and other members of the United States Postal Service team had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and methods to dominate the sport of cycling and claim victories at the sport’s premier event, the Tour de France. The email, later included in Landis’s 2012 affidavit for a United States Anti-Doping Agency (usada) investigation, clearly implicated many of his former teammates—most famously, the seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong (who declined to comment for this article).
From Putin to Flynn, the highlights of the former FBI director’s conversations with President Trump
Thursday evening, after a long legal battle, the Department of Justice turned over to Congress a set of memos written by FBI Director James Comey about his interactions with Donald Trump. And within about an hour, predictably, the memos had leaked to the press.
The documents are a fascinating read: a window into Comey’s mind at the moment of his encounters with the president-elect and then president, unmediated by either time or Comey’s consciousness of being an author writing for a public audience, unlike his new book A Higher Loyalty. In general terms, the content of the memos hews closely to what was publicly known about them, first via a Columbia Law professor with whom Comey shared them; then from Comey himself, in blockbuster congressional testimony in summer 2017; and more recently from his book.
It only took five minutes for Gavin Schmidt to out-speculate me.
Schmidt is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (a.k.a. GISS) a world-class climate-science facility. One day last year, I came to GISS with a far-out proposal. In my work as an astrophysicist, I’d begun researching global warming from an “astrobiological perspective.” That meant asking whether any industrial civilization that rises on any planet will, through their own activity, trigger their own version of a climate shift. I was visiting GISS that day hoping to gain some climate science insights and, perhaps, collaborators. That’s how I ended up in Gavin’s office.
Just as I was revving up my pitch, Gavin stopped me in my tracks.
In 2003, Congress passed legislation to eliminate sexual assaults against inmates. One young man’s story shows how elusive that goal remains.
Three years ago, the young man who would later be known as John Doe 1 shuffled into the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. The town of 11,000 residents, which sits in the remote center of the state, houses five prisons, and over the years, it has earned the nickname “I Own Ya.” John, who was 17, had already gotten over the initial fear of going to an adult prison—he had spent several months at a county jail near Detroit and an intake facility in Jackson—but he also knew he would be spending longer at this lonely outpost, a minimum of three years for a couple of home invasions. It was still wintery in April, and his state-issued jacket was poor protection against the drafts coming through the broken windows, shattered by men who had passed through before. “It was pretty ragged,” he recalled recently, “a tear down.”
The president’s allies were looking for vindication—but were led astray by their reliance on a closed information system.
Samuel Johnson once stood talking with James Boswell about a theory expressed by a certain Bishop Berkeley that the external world was made up entirely of representations. There was no reality, only beliefs. Disgusted, Johnson said: “I refute it thus!”—and aimed a kick at a nearby boulder.
The point being: You can believe what you want, but if you ignore the rocks, you’ll badly hurt your toe. The Republican world would do well to take this story to heart.
It’s another familiar story that conservatives have built themselves a closed information system. The system generates and repeats agreed fictions, and people are rewarded according to their ability to internalize, repeat, and embellish these fictions.
Fifty years on, Enoch Powell’s speech remains a subject of controversy and condemnation. But some of its themes are alive in Brexit Britain.
On April 20, 1968, Enoch Powell, a leading member of the Conservative Party in the British parliament, made a speech that would imprint itself into British memory—and divide the nation with its racist, incendiary rhetoric. Speaking before a group of conservative activists, Powell said that if immigration to Britain from the country’s former colonies continued, a violent clash between white and black communities was inevitable. “As I look ahead,” Powell said, “I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood,’” an allusion to a line in Virgil’s Aeneid. He maintained that it would not be enough to close Britain’s borders—some of the immigrants already settled in the country would need to be sent “home.” If not, he declared, attributing a quote to one of his constituents, “in this country, in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”
How Philip Glass went from driving taxis to becoming one of the most celebrated composers of our time
At age 12, Philip Glass started working in a Baltimore record store owned by a man he called Ben. Ben was, in fact, Glass’s father, but he and his brother, Marty, both referred to him by his first name because they didn’t want anyone to know they were his children. Of course everyone still knew who they were.
Even before working in that small record store and spending countless evenings with Ben, learning to sort the good music from the bad, Glass knew he’d become a musician. He took flute lessons; his brother studied the piano. Now 81 years old, Glass is one of the most lauded composers of the 20th century. He has an honorary doctorate in music from his alma mater, the Juilliard School, and has won a National Medal of Arts, the Society of Composers and Lyricists’ Lifetime Achievement Award, and multiple Golden Globe and Academy Awards. I spoke with him about those early days in his father’s record store, the scariest moments from his time driving taxis in New York City to make ends meet, and how young people today should seek jobs that grant them independence.
The gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl has left many Indians wondering what it will take to stop sexual violence.
Indian law prohibits the identification of a rape victim by name or appearance without explicit permission from the survivor or their next of kin. Yet for the last three months, the name and face of an eight-year-old child, raped and murderedin the small town of Kathua in January this year, circulated widely in the Indian media.
Perhaps her details were published due to early confusion over the nature of the crime; she had been missing for days before her dead body turned up. Perhaps it simply seemed like an acceptable mistake in the case of someone from a marginal community of nomads, impoverished Muslims with little social clout. Yet the slip resulted in an unforgettable shock for many Indians this month, forced to confront the use of rape as a political crime, and the question of what, if anything, has changed for Indian women despite years of feminist advocacy and anguished protests against sexual violence.
New polling finds that their support for the president remains strikingly high. But are they mortgaging the future of the faith?
With two alleged extramarital affairs looming over the presidency, white evangelicals are doubling down on their support for Donald Trump. But the near-term political gains their support is yielding may come at a high cost for the future of the faith.
A new survey released this week by PRRI, where I serve as the CEO, finds white evangelical support for Trump remains strikingly high, with 75 percent holding a favorable view of the president and only 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. This level of support far exceeds his favorability among all Americans, which is at 42 percent. Among all non-white evangelical Americans, Trump’s favorability is only 36 percent.
This is hardly the first time white evangelicals have chosen to weather a Trump scandal. Despite revelations of taped boasts of sexual assault during the 2016 campaign, moral equivocation about white supremacy during his first year as president, and a host of other controversies, white evangelical support for Trump has steadily increased over time. While his favorability never reached 50 percent during the 2016 primary season, by the early fall of 2016, it jumped to 61 percent. Until this week, the highest level of support from white evangelicals PRRI had measured was 74 percent, shortly after his inauguration. Since the start of his presidency, there have been minor fluctuations, but overall his favorability with this group has never dipped below 65 percent.
The coffee chain is initiating racial-bias trainings for its employees in the U.S.—but, so far, not for those around the globe.
Starbucks is embroiled in one of its largest scandals to date after two black men were arrested for trespassing in a Philadelphia coffeeshop when they were waiting for a business associate without immediately making a purchase. Video of the incident, which shows police handcuffing 23-year-olds Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, quickly went viral, and a protest was organized. Starbucks issued an apology for what it called a “reprehensible outcome,” announcing that more than 8,000 U.S. stores would be closed next month for a day of racial-bias training.
But when I asked Starbucks if racial-bias trainings were being considered for any of their other global markets, a spokesperson told me the company is focusing on the U.S. trainings first, adding: “Once completed, training materials will be shared with teams around the world, as we work to understand how these important issues impact us on a global scale.” Company-wide trainings aren’t currently being set in motion.