Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Obscenity of Drones

Why is the subject of drone use in countries with whom the USA or UK are not at war not prominent in political discussion? A few blogs and internet news sources have carried good pieces on the topic of drone warfare, but only infrequently. I was heartened to see a video clip from a recent Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC where she asks a variation of that question. She frames it along the lines of "why isn't Mitt Romney bringing up the topic in his campaign speeches?" She admits to seeing the President's stance on the issue as being "hair raising" - which is as close as anyone on MSNBC is likely to get to criticising He Who Must Not be Criticised. That's why I stopped watching MSNBC.

Here's the clip from Rachel Maddow's show. For any passing reader without 7+ minutes to spare, scoot in to around the halfway point, after she stops talking about Paul Ryan.

I've looked around the net to see what others are thinking on this issue, found a Pew Poll SEE HERE which shows that in 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Americans are the clear outliers on this issue – 62% approve of the drone campaign, including most Republicans (74%), independents (60%) and Democrats (58%).

A 62% approval?.... of exercises which result in often killing unarmed civilians and children?.... in countries with which the US or UK are not at war? So....would this 62% be willing to accept reciprocal behaviour from other countries on the US or UK?

Some comments around the net state the view that, in a nutshell, "war is dirty, people will be killed". We are not at war - that is the crux of this issue. If drones had been available during World War II (doodlebugs were their precurser I guess) well then, perhaps the use of drones would have been acceptable as a form of self defence. Had that war been lost, Nazi rule would have spread world wide. War has not been declared.

This from
.....The United States government doesn't acknowledge that civilians have been killed in drone attacks. Making matters worse, aid workers, first responders and even locals tend to wait several hours before going to the scene of a drone strike to help the wounded, for fear of a second strike following.

Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of Reprieve, a nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom that sponsored the report, said the academics visited 130 places in Pakistan, talking to survivors, to create their report.
"Drone warfare is traumatizing the entirety of Waziristan," he said. "Of the 800,000 people in Waziristan, the vast majority are not extremists. These folks have these drones flying round and round over their heads, 24 hours a day. And it's causing serious psychological trauma." Among those victims, he said, are children.

Smith said, in addition to witnesses who talk about their trauma there are doctors who are treating people for those sorts of illnesses and an "exponential increase" in the use of psychiatric drugs for treating anxiety and depression.

"We're talking common sense. My mother was in London in 1944 when there were various drones fired overhead at London. She's 85 today and she still remembers very vividly the effect of these things coming down," Smith said. "That's the same thing that's going on in Pakistan today."

Mentioned in that piece was someone who lived through the London blitz. As a young child I lived through the blitz too, not in London but in Hull, an east coast port bombed regularly by the Germans. The experience possibly helps to understand and empathise with the ordinary people of territories being drone-attacked by the US/UK . Though very young at the time of World War II, I retain clear memories and shallow-buried fears. The sound of a siren still makes my blood run cold almost 70 years after. I remember blocks of houses disappearing overnight - their occupants, including some of my little firends, blasted to kingdom come. I remember, after being evacuated to live with grandparents, watching from an upstairs window at night, the far horizon red with the fires in my parent's home city after more bombings. Young as I was, I understood that the morning could bring devastating news.

People who consider current drone use to be just and necessary ought to "walk a while in the shoes" of those civilians who live in fear because of what we in the US and UK are allowing our governments to do in our name.

What about the people actually doing the remote killing?
Drone operators see their intended targets 'wake up in the morning, do their work, go to sleep at night,' explains Dave, another high-tech murderer who killed from an office cockpit at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base and who now trains new recruits to the cyber-killer corps at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base.

When instructed to kill someone he has stalked from the air for a prolonged period:
"I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy. I have a duty, and I execute my duty." When the deed is done, he points out, nobody "in my immediate environment is aware of anything that has occurred."

Another drone operator named Will insists:
"There was a good reason for killing the people that I did, and I go through it in my head over and over and over."

All very heroic, isn't it? (Irony)

I'll summarise in a single sentence.
Use of drones outside of a legitimate war is obscene


Anonymous said...

I agree with you totally and unconditionally. Horrific and inhumane. Need one add - where will it all end?

Wisewebwoman said...

It is appalling T. Hard to stomach. And particularly repellent for anyone, such as yourself, who lived through similar assaults.

We are completely effed up as a species.


mike said...

I am in agreement with your posting, Twilight, but drones in warfare do save soldiers' lives. Civilian lives have been lost regardless, whether the weapon delivery is manual or robotic. I contend that WAR is the issue, not the style of weapon delivery causing death. I think that drones are creepy and futuristic, but they are here and now. Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) are used for war efforts, espionage, surveillance, policing tactics on a government's own civilians, geographical observations (science), immigrant border crossings, etc. Drones from the macro to the nano scale are currently employed. For an interesting read, see:

Twilight said...

Sabina ~~~ Yes. If it continues unchecked, without any real war being declared, it'll probably end
with drones from elsewhere attacking the USA and UK.
:-( Maybe that'll be what it takes to waken the masses.

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ We are almost there, WWW - almost there.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ I agree that drones would save military lives - in a declared war such as World War II (or III as it will be next time). It's their use outside of that which I see as being obscene, mike.

And yes, I agree that the root problem is WAR itself.

As you say they're here and we have to deal with that. The technology involved has a variety of uses, for good as well as ill. Most technology can be used either way.

Thanks for the link by the way.

When thinking about drones I'm always reminded of the sci-fi novel DUNE
where there are described little "hunter-seeker" weapons:

“From behind the headboard slipped a tiny hunter-seeker no more than five centimeters long. Paul recognized it at once – a common assassination weapon that every child of royal blood learned about at an early age. It was a ravening sliver of metal guided by some near-by hand and eye.”

The ultimate sophistication of drone technology?

mike said...

I think that the definition of war changed significantly during the Bush-Cheney administration after September 11, 2001. Bush declared war on terrorism regardless of boundaries. The US invaded Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9-11-2001, against the UN council vote, which led to tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian losses. Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by a covert US invasion a decade later. The US destroyed uranium centrifuges in Iran via digital instructions in a cyber virus. Boundaries are no longer significant, nor is a declaration of war against a particular country. Americans, in particular, seem to have no problem with the justification and rationalization of these Bush stated to the constituency, "are you for us or against us?" It's an irony that laws created to address the US' war on terrorism through Homeland Security are now being used against average US citizens' freedom. The US has some unusual karma that has been created, particularly by justifying and ignoring the killing of civilians as a necessary expense of counter-terrorism for the safety of US citizens.

Anonymous said...

There is no way this can be justified. That some Americans try to justify it makes it clear to me we are doomed. (God is not mocked.) But I don't think it is "America's" fault, but rather certain individuals, 99% men, who grew up playing war and video games and are having fun playing them as adults. Woman did not play war. We do not want to play war. Why do these men get to decide all of our fates?

James Higham said...

Yes, remote killing is exactly what the dark side has been angling for and humans as robots too. To be opposed with all vigour.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Your explanation that war's definition was changed, unilaterally by Bush/Cheney does help to make sense (if sense can be made at all) of why these atrocities against civilians and children go on and on with little opposition.

US actions since Sept.11 2001, a tragedy waiting to happen, have been way out of proportion. It has been used as an excuse for grabbing power in lands where oil reserves are plentiful.

As you say, mike, there's karma. What goes around comes around, and there will be a price to pay, one way or another, eventually.

We ordinary citizens are powerless, apart from our ability, for as long as the internet remains open, to speak our minds in writing, and hope that others listen/read and think about things they might never have stopped their busy lives to consider.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~~ There's truth in what you've said. I guess it goes back to Yin/Yang - rather than male/female though, and the proportion of Yin to Yang in one's psychological makeup.
But your point about playing war games, particularly in modern times is a good one. Computer war games must feed the Yin in a person far more strongly than ever playing cowboys with toy guns did decades ago.

It's true that mostly men decide our fates, with the help of some women with a lot of Yin in their makeup.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~~ For once we are in complete agreement, James. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

"I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy. I have a duty, and I execute my duty." When the deed is done, he points out, nobody "in my immediate environment is aware of anything that has occurred."

Funny how that little statement sounds a lot like the attitude of a someone playing a computer game.

Also interesting how so many of these incredibly popular games are highly realistic war games.

So the guy being quoted above has probably been unknowingly training and preparing to clinically kill masses of people for most of childhood & young adulthood.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~~ Yes - thank you for pointing to that - I hoped someone would, because that's how it struck me.

R J Adams said...

Honesty, integrity, dignity, humanity - all no longer relevant in today's world. The Nazis began the destruction with their treatment of civilians in WWII. We (the British) fought against their tyranny to preserve those ideals, and we won. The Geneva Conventions embodied them, as best possible in warfare, to ensure civilians were protected.
Then, along came Bush2 with no perception of such ideals. Mastery of the world, at all costs, was his only standard - and those of his evil sidekicks. Blair sold out his own nation for the legendary pieces of silver and allowed the British people to be dragged into the mire of murder, tyranny, and torture. A mire the American people en masse are quite happy to wallow in.
America believes it can take the world by force, as a rapist subdues an unwilling victim. But tyrannical civilizations have never succeeded for long, and this one is already teetering on the brink of collapse. My hope is it doesn't take Europe down with it, but I fear it might.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ I share your views on this, RJ, though have to add that without the USA's help Britain would not have prevailed the Nazis in WW2 - we owed them and I guess Blair, much as I didn't admire him, must have felt under an obligation to the US in ways we cannot share.

Another argument thrown back at Brits on this score is that the creators of the British Empire were none too kindly to the countries they took over, in spite of some background good they did, so we have no room to criticise on this.

That was then though, the world was a different world. This is now. We should all, US and UK have learned lessons by now, and it appears we've learned nothing, and even slipped back some, from those days.