Drones Abroad and at Home: Why We Should Care

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
– C. Little

Chicken Little got it wrong. The sky isn’t exactly falling, but it does pose lethal threats. Those threats are near and long term, domestic and international. They entail surveillance and terror.

Weaponized unmanned drone aircraft – the Predator, the Reaper, the Global Hawk – have no crew on board. Hence no head, no heart. These drones are amoral robots exquisitely designed to spy and to kill, to maim and to demolish. Out of the blue, their 500-pound bombs and Hellfire missiles strike like lightning bolts.

Stateside technicians piloting them see their human targets as through a soda straw. Their computer screen vision is severely constricted. Their cultural understanding is distorted by American exceptionalism and prevailing Islamophobia.

Further, the pilots’ moral vision tends to be compartmentalized. How could it be otherwise? Military training features “killing and blowing up things.” Recruits are dehumanized, the better to dehumanize the “enemy.” They are programmed to follow orders without question. Extensions of the drones, they too become robotized.

In their illegality, their immorality and their inhumanity, these death squads play the devil. In executing non-combatants without judge or jury – without due process – these vigilantes and their chain of command play God.

Why should we care?

Out of self-interest – whether narrowly or broadly defined. Drone technology – cheaper and more nimble than jet aircraft or nuclear weaponry – rapidly evolves and proliferates.

Currently, the US and Israel are on the very cutting edge of drone design and deployment. For fear of being arms race losers, dozens of other nations are also acquiring drone technology. Some use drones to intimidate domestic dissent or to suppress tribal minorities.

Drones become dark angels exacting revenge. Not all nations look fondly upon the US and its “interests.” Given the resentment generated by promiscuous drone strikes, this hostility and dread triggers blowback. The world is not made safer.

Drone strikes are classified, anonymous. Often, they defy investigation. Often, the victims can be neither named nor counted. But we know drone strikes occur in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, as well as in Muslim areas of Africa and the Philippines. And who knows where else.

Thanks to the US nuclear arsenal, the leaders of every nation have long been forced to defer to the US. Now, in the face of the US drone fleet, they must doubly do so. Opposing the world’s most militarized nation – one that claims the obscene privilege to assassinate whenever and wherever it chooses – is imprudent.

Chickens come home to roost. Will we be next? Drone targets won’t always be the poor, the defenseless, the non-Judeo-Christian. Nor will the targets always be “them” or “over there.”

With billions in contracts and research grants, the US drone industry is burgeoning…and busy lobbying. The FAA is mandated to expedite domestic drone use. Conveniently, much of the US population think drones are “cool” and “save lives.”

Thanks to pro-drone mainstream media hype, the public is already de-sensitized to extrajudicial execution. Opting for a delusional security, they tolerate, even welcome, creeping surveillance at home. Think NSA.

Police and intelligence agencies drool at the prospect of using these toys – initially unweaponized – here. Whether we trust the President and his advisors, whether we embrace the Pentagon and Homeland Security agenda, must we keep ceding unaccountable power to them?