Droning on about American Drones
A commentary on Medea Benjamin’s new book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control:
Killing individuals (and whoever is near them) via drones (“unmanned aerial vehicles”) has become the primary substitute in U.S. public policy for capture/imprisonment/torture. As Medea Benjamin documents, the United States has avoided detaining people, only to murder them with a drone days later.
And U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently explained at Northwestern University Law School that it is perfectly OK for a president to kill anyone anywhere. And drones allow a president to do this without any supposed risk.
War is not made legal by making it resemble assassination. And assassination is not made legal by calling it war.
Drones turn out to have the power to eliminate the Fourth Amendment. The way this works, of course, is that first people who don’t look or talk like us lose their rights.
Expert observers believe the vast majority of drone victims are not the individuals who were targeted — which is not to suggest any moral or legal case for killing those who are targeted. Drones have even killed Americans in “friendly fire.”
Noor Behram, who photographs drone victims, says, “For every 10 to 15 people, maybe they get one militant.”
Benjamin also points out that the majority of strikes are not even meant to be targeted at known individuals. Rather, they are targeted at unknown people whose “pattern of life” appears to fit that of “militants” in the eyes of the drone operator.
Prior to September 11, 2001, the U.S. ambassador to Israel went on record saying, “The United States government is very clearly on record against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”
[Yet no drone] victims are given trials. The person choosing to use the drone is judge, jury, and executioner.
“From 8,000 miles away in Nevada,” writes Benjamin, “a drone pilot can watch an Afghan as he lights up cigarettes, sits talking to friends on a park bench, or goes to the bathroom, never imagining that anyone is watching him.”
Drone “pilots” suffer extremely high rates of stress and burnout, according to the Air Force. Pilots who actually fly in planes often do not see what they kill. Drone pilots sometimes watch a family for days, feel like they’ve gotten to know the people, and then blow them all up, and watch the suffering. Drone “pilots” working in the United States can commit suicide.
Meanwhile, Congress has approved 30,000 drones for U.S. skies. … The CIA, the Joint Special Operations Command, and Blackwater (or whatever that mercenary company calls itself this month) are used to keep drone wars more secretive and less accountable.
[Excerpts of an article by David Swanson]