To Drone, or Not to Drone?

Decent folk don’t need Dick Cheney to describe something as “a good policy” to know it’s probably a bad idea. But just in case they missed the point the first time around, the former VP was on television last week to hammer it home for them.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Cheney brushed aside calls for “checks and balances” against the Obama administration’s controversial drone program.

“I think it’s a good program,” Cheney told the host. “I don’t disagree with the basic policy that the Obama administration has pursued in that regard.”

Readers will recognize drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as the weapon of choice used by Nobel Peace Prize recipients who wish to carry out extrajudicial assassinations of United States citizens abroad… and to lay bloody and horrific waste to hundreds of innocent children by raining missiles down on their heads from the high heavens.

Never mind all that, grumbled Cheney. The president “is getting paid to make difficult, difficult decisions.”

In sum, the man who told the world that invading US troops would be greeted in Iraq as “liberators” has assured us that it’s ok for another man, one who personally oversees a “kill list” before unleashing remote control murder machines abroad, to make tough military decisions on your behalf… because he is getting paid a lot of your dollars to do so. They just don’t want anyone to keep track of what they’re doing, is all. On that last point, members of both parties are paid to be in conspicuous agreement.

Are you feeling safer yet?

Of course, as anyone with a spine well knows, it’s not making the “difficult, difficult decisions” that counts; it’s getting them right… or at least not murderously wrong, that’s important. Any scoundrel of the hoi oligoi can choose to, say, invade a foreign country on a false premise… or to bend at the waist every time a special interest group whispers the words “Blackwater” or “Monsanto” or “Unmanned Systems Caucus” softly in his ear. Indeed, moral malleability is practically a job requirement. And for the truly sociopathic, these decisions might even come easily, automatically… as if not a thought was given to their outcome or human consequence.

As it turns out, Obama himself seems capable of understanding that, at least in certain cases, scorching poor, forsaken villages on the other side of the globe with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles is probably less than neighborly conduct. In fact, the “leader of the free world” said as much at press conference in Asia just last year.

“…[T]here’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” the president solemnly declared.

“So we are fully supportive,” he then added, “of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.”

Mr. Obama might want to get out a map (here’s a helpful link, sir). His Weapons of Aerial Destruction are currently, as we type, cutting lines across the skies over (as least) Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. As far as we are aware, these are countries roughly located “on this earth.”

If, as the president asserted, “Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” then what are we to make of the rights of those innocent people formerly living in the above mentioned areas, whose bloodied remains now stain the dirt whence they came? Is pre-meditated murder somehow less painful for the victims’ families if it is delivered by a RQ-1 Predator drone? Is it somehow less “murderous” if the act is carried out by a gutless bot wearing a US military uniform or in possession of a CIA clearance card? Do the bodies still count if the assassin answers to a chain of command that ends with the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize?

The issue clearly appears to be a confusing one for Obama. “To drone, or not to drone?” Hmm… this must be what Cheney meant by “difficult, difficult decisions.”

Unperturbed, the president marches to the age old Mantra of the Militarist: When in doubt, proceed!

Since taking office, Obama has upped the ante on Bush’s UAV program, increasing total missions flown to date six fold. According to analysis conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), current through January of this year, the Obama administration has executed at least 312 drone strikes, including a couple of operations carried out over Yemen on Christmas Eve which killed at least seven people.

Observed blogger Kevin Gosztola at the time:

There was no ceasefire from the Obama administration during the holiday. In fact, it appears they waited until Christmas Eve on purpose to conduct a couple strikes as there had not been action in the covert drone war in Yemen for well over a month.

In earlier wars, there may have been some kind of a truce because most of the soldiers and their families would be celebrating Christmas, however, characteristic of drone warfare, the drone pilots who carried out the order to fire upon suspected militants were nowhere near the area of the strike. They were completely detached and, depending on where they were when they directed the flying killer robot to attack, they were likely able to go home and see their family on Christmas Eve.

On the body count question, Obama’s “targeted killing” operations have so far resulted in the deaths of between 473 and 893 civilians in Pakistan. Of these victims, 176 were children. They had names like Syed Wali Shah, a seven year-old boy, and Maezol Khan, an eight year old girl. Between 1,270 and 1,433 innocent people were reported injured in the attacks.

Of course, precise numbers are notoriously hard to come, due both to the nature of the strikes themselves and the bureaucratic opacity shrouding operations. This is especially true in Yemen and Somalia. In the former state, the BIJ estimates anywhere between 42 and 135 strikes carried out since 2002. Total death estimates range from 374 to 1,112 people.

In their 2012 report, Living Under Drones, researchers at Stanford University found that, lo and behold, the tale served up to the American public with regards to the administration’s expanded drone program was, well… flawed.

“In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling ‘targeted killings’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false…

“Publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best,” says the report, adding that targeted killings and drone attacks undermine respect for international law.

Is it any wonder then that the Cheneys and Obamas of the world would rather their heinous operation be kept under wraps, far from the prying eyes of the public and the dreaded “checks and balances” they might seek to impose?

Needless to say, the families of slaughtered civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere know far more about the horrors of living under America’s predator drone program than do Americans themselves. Don’t feel left out though. If these criminals have their way, (and there is good reason to believe they will) their robots of death will be patrolling the skies over your backyard soon enough… if they aren’t already.

[Ed. Note: When the last administration started the drone war almost 10 years ago, hardly anyone said anything. And then when the current administration continued and expanded it to target U.S. citizens abroad, the outcry a reasonable person might expect, didn’t happen.

Now we have drones patrolling our skies in North Dakota, keeping an eye on potential cow thieves. And the Dallas Police Department’s SWAT team has a 50 lb. drone with the capability of carrying a 12 gauge shotgun or a 40 mm grenade launcher (though neither’s been installed…yet).

And just yesterday, there are reports of House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, saying that the President doesn’t have to disclose to the public when he targets and executes an American citizen with a drone. As she eloquently told the Huffington Post, “It just depends.”

As you probably know, the FAA has cleared the way for 30,000 drones to patrol American airspace, watching, recording and transmitting the images of your daily life back to some data storage facility. Leaving a record of your activities in your backyard, trips to soccer games with your kids and even walking your dog.

This is not what we want from our government. I can only assume that you feel the same way. If you do then sign our petition and tell the White House, Congress and John Brennan we have seen enough of their drones.)

Joel Bowman

Original article posted on Laissez-Faire Today

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