The President of the United States is taking “full responsibility” for the inadvertent deaths of two Westerners,Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, killed by a US military drone that targeted an al Qaeda compound site.The Intercept is posing a very powerful question: Will an apology ever come for the other innocents around theworld that have died as a result of our drone usage?
Remember when President Obama ran as the alternative to GOP unilateralism? Yes, it was probably important that he defeated both John McCain and Mitt Romney. I also understand that keeping friends like George Mitchell and Zbigniew Brzezinski is slightly better than John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz. So with that in mind let me state that this President’s drone initiative is a disaster of epic proportions and it is emblematic of a foreign policy much like Bush II.
There are four factors to analyze when discussing the drone policy.
Drones are ineffective. For one, the targets are suspects, and the basis for our Western law is to question suspects, not murder them, regardless of geopolitical myth-making. Another definition in question is the word “terrorist.” We label apply the label “terrorist” as irrationally in 2015 as we did communists in 1960. It has become a code for carrying out whatever we wish, as seen with the Bush Doctrine.
Aside from the strategic flaws of drones are the sheer misapplication and incapability of their accuracy to hone in on a specific target and destroy it. “Switchblades” are not able to make cognitive decisions and their accuracy component is not proportionate to their technology in other areas.
Howard Zinn said about smart bombs, “they are very dumb.”
In other words, the drones kill innocents, the very thing they are specifically supposed to prevent, or so we thought. This argument that holds that terrorists use women and children as shields is based on faulty logic. When you make this argument you are presupposing that basic civilian life in a foreign land or tribal territory should automatically be arranged and maintained in an order conducive to a US attack. You also presuppose that drone accuracy is superb when terrorists are alone and isolated, which is not the case.
We are not good at using them, they work poorly, and they infuriate the Arab world. The only positive statement made by drones is the indirect presentation that the US can’t just assume invasion or occupation anywhere in theworld with foot soldiers.
We again need a targeted effort by citizens to combat the use of this fatal device. My good friend, Lawrence Davidson, once wrote a piece on torture, and he has convinced me that it does not work.
If Bush policies of torture do not work, how can a drone policy that moves beyond that extreme work? The drones are counter-intuitive even if they are a perfected version of Bush’s sloppiness overseas.
There exists a ban placed on political assassinations dating back to the ’70s and it is still on the books. International lawyers and United Nations members also condemn the use of drones. Internal intelligence documentation cites theuse of drones as highly dangerous and in blatant violation of global order and strategic conventions.
When world opinion and humanitarian law throws a yellow penalty flag at the United States, we keep playing, like a superpower would, and that is a dangerous way to play. We don’t have the right to murder suspects any more than we have the right to detain and waterboard them. We don’t have the right to occupy countries any more than we have the right to invade them.
President Obama does not have the law on his side, only power and a fabricated “just war” theory. Enter theactivists like Medea Benjamin, who knows that modern warfare cannot be just, because it is not even legal. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, we do not have legal rights, we only have moral responsibilities as a superpower, as a nation and as citizens.
Drones are the culmination of previous supreme international crimes and Western forms of terrorism of past administrations dating back to President Truman. They do not mark a more sophisticated or stealth war plan to limit or reverse civilian deaths. We cannot mistake Obama’s sensitive rhetoric as groundbreaking either, for his use of drones is not out of compassion, but of hegemony. It is not done out of a legal framework, but a structure of power. How is it that our goodness is manifested in robots murdering innocent people, or at worst, suspects?
I think it is safe to say drone usage is immoral. For the most part, ineffective and illegal policies are immoral when state power is exercised in conjunction with all three measures of debate in question. We are killing people for prestige and economic standing, and that is hardly something to be proud of. Henry Kissinger used to enunciate flatly that the law does not apply to the superpower, so morality is irrelevant.
We need to use common sense and utilize intellectual self-defense. For the most part, our hypocrisy in fighting terror is obvious to all paying close attention. We support awful regimes and we have done our part to remove some secular portions in Near East societies and have replaced them with fundamentalists, ruling clerics and dictators to hasten a surreal world. The real world is not a video game of good vs. evil, and drones make this simple outlook much more dangerous. People are resisting this everywhere, and rightly so.
Citizens need to unite and articulate an engaged response to drone usage. We must continue in our responsibility as intellectuals to engage in attempts to shift policy and policy attitudes. President Obama is a politician, for that is his job and livelihood. He will stay loyal to that side for years to come as a Washington and global insider and elite member of society, and then later as a speaker and a writer.
His life after the presidency, I suspect, will be like Jimmy Carter, at least attempting to formulate substantive contributions. But do not look for him to feel guilty or responsible with drones as president. We must feel the guilt and we must be responsible and channel our dissent in order to slow down US policy.