Posts Tagged ‘Predator drones’

An American exception for drone strikes?

February 26, 2013

President Barack Obama and his nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, William Brennan, steadfastly refuse to say whether they believe the President has the right to kill Americans on American soil even if they have not been charged with any crime.   The closest they will come to answering the question is to say they have no intention of killing Americans in the United States at the present time.

Obama and Brennan definitely should answer the question.  But if you think the President should be able to order the killing of anyone, anywhere in the world, based on his personal judgment of national security, why should an exception be made for American citizens?  Are we Americans some sort of master race who are obligated to respect each others’ rights, but can do as we like to people of other nations?

Here is the answer given by Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Price for his nonviolent struggle against white rule in South Africa.

I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion … … that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu

Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.

I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.

Desmond Tutu –

Now I don’t think it would be an advance if the United States government came to hold the life of American citizens as lightly as it holds the lives of people living in the killing zones of Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, which I think this is a distinct possibility.

Rather the point is that if you and I think we have a right not to have our lives snuffed out without knowing the reason, we ought to recognize that people of other nationalities, cultures and religions are just as human as we are, and have the same right.


Missing the point on drone killings

February 25, 2013
G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton

He had … … the trick of dismissing the important part of a question as if it could wait, and appearing to get to business on the unimportant part of it.  Thus, he would say, “Whatever we may think of the rights and wrongs of the vivisection of pauper children, we shall all agree that it should only be done, in any event, by fully qualified practitioners.”

==G.K. Chesterton, The Flying Inn

I heard a version of this kind of argument the other day when I was talking about drone killings to an Obamaphile friend of mine.  My friend, whom I regard as both an intelligent person and a decent human being, argued that for President Obama to order the killing of people by precision flying drones is better than the alternative.  The people in the target areas are better off, he said, than if the United States was dropping napalm and cluster bombs or invading with troops.

Considered as a technology, flying killer drones are of course no worse than other weapons technologies, except they allow the illusion that killing is easy, safe and without consequences.  The question is whether in a supposedly free country, the President should have the power to draw up death warrants and order killings at his sole discretion, like Yuri Andropov in the days of the old Soviet Union.

V.I. Lenin once wrote:  The scientific definition of dictatorship means nothing less but this: power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules.   If a head of state has the authority to sign death warrants as his sole discretion, what does he lack to fit Lenin’s definition?  If this is accepted, not only President Obama, but every President for the foreseeable future, will lack nothing to exercise the power of a dictator.

U.S. priorities and Big Brother’s technologies

September 21, 2011

The United States lags other developed countries in high-speed Internet service, green technologies, high-speed rail, fuel-efficient cars and buildings.  But there are some fields in which we do lead—the Big Brother technologies of war and surveillance.

The United States military is attempting to create biometric IDs for the entire populations of Afghanistan and Iraq.  What other country is attempting anything this ambitious?  The United States has pioneered unmanned aerial vehicles, the predator drones, which can fly themselves and target not just a city or a house, but an individual human being.  And this is just the vanguard of a robot army which will operate on land, sea and in the air.  What other country has anything to match this?

We Americans have not lost our Yankee ingenuity.  It is just being devoted to new priorities.  Christian Caryl wrote in the New York Review of Books that the U.S. aerospace industry has ceased research and development on manned aircraft, and is devoting its entire resources to improved pilotless vehicles.  Foreign companies may get ahead civilian aircraft technology, but the United States will maintain its lead in flying killer robots.

Click on Army Reveals Afghan Biometic ID Plan and Iraqi Biometic Indentification System for background information on biometric ID.

Click on Predators and Robots at War for Christian Caryl’s excellent article in the New York Review of Books.

Click on Flying Killer Robots Over Pakistan for my earlier post on this subject, and more links.

Flying killer robots over Pakistan

April 6, 2011

Double click to enlarge.

A war fought with remotely-controlled flying killer robots is nonetheless a war.  This kind of war creates a dangerous illusion of impunity.  Somebody in a trailer park in Nevada operates flying drones in Afghanistan or Pakistan that kill people in Afghanistan or Pakistan, including, inevitably, innocent civilians.  That person, unlike a warrior on a battlefield, may expect to never suffer any personal consequences.  But many of the would-be terrorist attacks have been in retaliation for killings by robot drones.  Sooner of later one such attack will succeed.

Remember that candidate Barack Obama stated during the 2008 presidential deabtes that he would use flying drones to attack Taliban and al Qaeda locations in Pakistan, to which candidate John McCain said attacks on the territory of a sovereign ally were a bad idea.

Obama’s campaign adviser on this issue was P.W. Singer, whose groundbreaking 2009 book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st century, made him a prophet of robot warfare, which he said is only in its infancy.  We should not be surprised that President Obama makes such extensive use of robot drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.

Robot technology offers many advantages, such as for surveillance and transportation, but it is dangerous if we think we can substitute machines for warriors. We cause our enemies to think we are not only cruel but cowardly; they not only hate but despise us.