Monday, June 4, 2012

Obama's Kill List -- Why Drone Wars Are Dumb Wars

They say fortune favors the prepared. Lucky for us that CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin did her homework last year and produced the comprehensive book Drone Warfare:Killing by Remote Control just in time for breaking news of President Obama's “kill list.”

Peace activists often wonder if they are voicing their concerns into an abyss of indifference. When robotic killers emerged as the U.S. empire's weapon of choice, its citizens didn't seem to give a hoot. If that's how the President chooses to wage war, it must be smart – right?

Benjamin carefully delineates each of several reasons why drone wars are dumb wars in a well-researched and up to the minute account: they kill civilians in large numbers, which manufactures enemies in the form of bereaved family and neighbors; they demolish due process by rendering extrajudicial killing normal, even as applied to U.S. citizens and even as applied to minors; they are tremendously expensive, with their use creating its own markets; and proliferation is galloping ahead with no real prospect for regulation.

Since Drone Warfare's publication last month, mainstream media outlets have discovered the horrors of one man sitting in the highest office in the land poring over lists of names of alleged terrorists. The checks and balances written into the Constitution are nowhere in sight as the executive branch anoints itself judge, jury and executioner. Even those who persist in being enamored of the man currently inhabiting the Oval Office must feel their confidence falter when they consider that the power being abrogated goes with the office, not the person serving his term there. The New Yorker, the New York Times and The Nation are among those sounding the alarm.

Next on the horizon according to Bejamin's research will be not only unmanned but unflown drones, with no human operator involved once their pre-programming is complete. No longer will 19 year old joystick warriors or 35 year old re-tooled Air Force pilots hunch over screens in a trailer in the Nevada desert to pilot the Reapers, Hawks and Predators that generate huge profits for a handful of corporations. No longer will they consult with boots on the ground for the go-ahead to pull the trigger. Drones are on the way to becoming autonomous robotic killers who decide when they have spotted the right militant – or are those just shepherds? Mourners at a funeral? A mother running for cover with her baby?

At the end of the day it's hard to know whether to be more concerned about autonomous weaponized drones or the surveillance drones with creepy comic book names like Gorgon Stare that will soon be able to record high definition video of a globe's worth of human activity.

At the end of the book, there are rousing accounts of the many people worldwide who are raising their voices and demanding accountability for the use of remote control killing machines. Why not join in yourself?

Medea and other CODEPINK members in No Drones at the White House on June 1.


chrisrushlau said...
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chrisrushlau said...

I had to correct a typo.
I needed a day or two to recover some sense of orientation after I stopped by the library's periodical section last Thursday and saw the May 7 (or so) Time magazine with excerpts from Peter Bergen's book about killing Osama bin Laden. I scanned for a discussion of why he was killed and didn't find it. The play-by-play simply said that, after a woman was shot in the leg for placing herself between him and the US soldiers, and without his making any defensive moves, he was "dispatched" with shots to head and chest. Next subject, please.
There is no secrecy here, no conjecture about what might be visible in satellite photos or inferred from "human intelligence".
This is our murder