Click on boing boing for details.
Posts Tagged ‘Drones’
Drones don’t kill people. Governments kill people. Drones are not necessarily a problem. They have legitimate uses, including legitimate uses in war. The problem with killer drones is that they are a technology that makes it easy to commit acts of war and pretend that they are something else.
And of course surveillance drones are different from killer drones. They, too, have their legitimate uses. The issue is not surveillance drones versus other kinds of surveillance technology. The issue is how much surveillance we the people are willing to tolerate.
These are not technology questions. These are Constitutional questions.
Hat tip to naked capitalism.
[Update 12/27/13] The video below no longer works. Click on Unmanned: America’s Drone War to view the full film.
The documentary, Unmanned: America’s drone war, was released this week. You can download a copy from the Internet or view it here. It was powerful and disturbing on an emotional level, and at the same time made a case that the drone strikes benefit nobody except avowed enemies of the United States, and certain corporations who get billion-dollar drone contracts.
The movie highlights two drone victims. One is 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, who was selected by his village community to accompany tribal elders to a Grand Jirga, a meeting of village leaders, politicians, lawyers and journalists from all over Pakistan to discuss what to do about the drone strikes. He was killed while driving a car with another teenage a couple of weeks after the meeting.
The other is 67-year-old Momina Bibi, a 67-year-old grandmother and midwife who was killed while working in her vegetable garden. Her family testified about the drone strikes before Congress this week.
It has long been known that the killer drones often strike people who are not the intended targets. But it is also important to note that intended targets are not necessarily terrorists or militants. The film’s narrator said Tariq Aziz may have been fingered by an informant.
We Americans know little or nothing about the people of Afghanistan or northwest Pakistan. So our government relies on informants, who by definition are morally doubtful individuals, because what person would spy on his own people for the benefit of a foreign government?
Many prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are there because they were identified as Taliban by bounty-hunters. The American authorities evidently took the word of the bounty-hunters, without considering the possibility that they were random individuals, or personal enemies of the bounty-hunters, or people to whom the bounty-hunters owed money.
Why does the U.S. government continue a drone killing policy that has been shown to immoral, illegal and counterproductive? I think it is because the alternative to continuing the policy is for the people responsible for the policy to face the reality of what they have done. Confession and repentance are good for the soul, and until we Americans are able to do this, we are likely to continue on our bad path.
President Barack Obama’s commitment to warfare by means of flying killer drones and secret special forces may have accomplished what Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld failed to achieve in the Bush administration.
Rumsfeld sought to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome”—the reluctance of the American people, based on sad experience, to commit to long-term wars on the continent of Asia. The replacement of the military draft by an all-volunteer army was supposed to accomplish this, but, unfortunately from the standpoint of the administration, even members of a volunteer army have families, friends and neighbors who don’t want to see them go into harm’s way for no understandable purpose.
Under President Obama and probably under his successors, the United States is unlikely to become involved in long-term struggles in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead the prime tool of the U.S. military will be the flying killer drone. Nobody ever held a funeral for a flying drone, or wondered whether the drone was sacrificed in vain.
What can’t be accomplished by drones will be done by the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite force tasked with carrying out the execution of President Obama’s kill lists.
What JSOC can’t accomplish will be done by U.S.-armed local insurgents, as in Libya and Syria. While the latter have their own agendas, which aren’t necessarily the same as the U.S. government’s, this is offset by the fact that the bodies of dead insurgents won’t come home to the United States in flag-draped caskets.
Years ago I was a member of a prisoner adoption group for Amnesty International. We conducted letter-writing campaigns on behalf of prisoners of conscience, which were highly embarrassing to dictators around the world. One of the successes of my group was Jacobo Timmerman, a brave Argentine editor.
The response of the Agentine and other Latin American dictatorships was not to create death squads and arrange for their opponents to be “disappeared”, so there no longer were any prisoners to protest. As Stalin once said, “No person, no problem.”
Obama’s flying killer robots accomplish the same goal. Instead of grabbing someone and bringing them to Guantanamo Bay, his forces simply reduce the person to a bug splat with the killer drone. There are no embarrassing prisoners conducting hunger strikes. No person, no problem.
The problem with drone warfare is not the technology. If you have to fight a war, the drones are good weapons to have. They are not more lethal than the technologies they replace, certainly no worse than the bombing of “suspected Viet Cong strongholds” I was always reading about in the newspapers in the 1960s.
The problem with drone warfare is that it removes the constraints on waging war. In fact, drone warfare isn’t really like waging war as most people think of it. It is more like hunting prey, like Sarah Palin’s family shooting wolves from helicopters.
President Obama has recommitted the United States to a “war on terror” that will go on so long as there are people plotting to do harm to Americans. But there will be people plotting to do harm to Americans so long as children, old people and other bystanders are killed by American killer drones.
I never thought I would live to see the day when the President of the United States would claim the right to sign death warrants on his own sole authority. Even less did I think that a Democratic President who called himself a liberal would claim such a right.
President Obama claims the right to order “targeted killings” of terrorists on his own authority. “Targeted killing” is Orwellian language. According to the New York Times, Barack Obama defines a terrorist as any military-age male in a kill zone, unless there is intelligence demonstrating he is not. That’s not what I would call targeting. The President has justified the killing of unidentified people based on suspicious behavior, or based on proximity to such people, because “they are probably up to no good.” Drone strikes have been ordered on funeral services of people who’ve been killed by previous drone strikes.
Many of us Americans are all right with that because we assume that the only people who are going to be targeted for death are brown-skinned men with Muslim names. I think that is a naive assumption—aside from the consideration that brown-skinned men with Muslim names have as much right to live on this planet as white-skinned men with Anglo-Saxon names. It is also naive to think that killing tribal people in places like Yemen or Pakistan’s Waziristan region will make the United States safer, rather than merely more hated.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? This is from an article in England’s The Observer newspaper.
Amos Guiora knows all about the pitfalls of targeted assassinations, both in terms of legal process and the risk of killing the wrong people or causing civilian casualties. The University of Utah law professor spent many years in the Israel Defence Forces, including time as a legal adviser in the Gaza Strip where such killing strikes are common. He knows what it feels like when people weigh life-and-death decisions.
Yet Guiora – no dove on such matters – confessed he was “deeply concerned” about President Barack Obama’s own “kill list” of terrorists and the way they are eliminated by missiles fired from robot drones around the world. He believes US policy has not tightly defined how people get on the list, leaving it open to legal and moral problems when the order to kill leaves Obama’s desk. “He is making a decision largely devoid of external review,” Guiroa told the Observer, saying the US’s apparent methodology for deciding who is a terrorist is “loosey goosey”.
Indeed, newspaper revelations last week about the “kill list” showed the Obama administration defines a militant as any military-age male in the strike zone when its drone attacks. That has raised the hackles of many who saw Obama as somehow more sophisticated on terrorism issues than his predecessor, George W Bush. But Guiora does not view it that way. He sees Obama as the same as Bush, just much more enthusiastic when it comes to waging drone war. “If Bush did what Obama has been doing, then journalists would have been all over it,” he said.
via The Observer.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes a web log for The Atlantic, pointed out the problem with this.
Has there ever been a point since America’s inception when someone, somewhere, wasn’t plotting our downfall? I have great difficulty perceiving a time when this won’t be true. And so drone strategy comes to self-replicate. We bomb your village. You declare war on us for the bombing. We deem you a terrorist and bomb again. Rinse. Repeat.
The Obama administration considers any military-age male in the vicinity of a bombing to be a combatant. That is an amazing standard that shares an ugly synergy with the sort of broad-swath logic that we see employed in Stop and Frisk, with NYPD national spy network, with the killer of Trayvon Martin.
Policy is informed by the morality of a country. I think the repercussions of this unending era of death by silver bird will be profound.
via Ta-Nehisi Coates.
When I first saw this Tom Tomorrow cartoon, I thought it was funny, but I didn’t put it in a post because it was satiric, exaggerated and not to be taken literally. After all, flying American killer robots have only killed people in wedding parties in foreign countries, and then only occasionally and unintentionally. On the other hand it is U.S. policy to target mourners at funerals for those killed by other drones. Click on U.S. again bombs mourners by Glenn Greenwald, whose link is in my Best Blogs menu.
And as for the problem with use of military drones by American police, click on Congress Should Ban Armed Drones Before Cops in Texas Deploy One and Don’t Let John Yoo Talk You Into Domestic Drone Use by Police by Conor Friedersdorf.