Wednesday, October 10, 2012
We wouldn't accept or want a world in which Russia or China or Iran is claiming authority to kill alleged enemies of the state based on secret evidence of the executive branch alone. And yet that's the authority we're asserting.
Mary Ellen O'Connell, Notre Dame Law Professor
...we should ask whether drones are legal under international law; my view is that they are not. Of course, we should ask whether drones are counterproductive; my view is that they are.
Jennifer Gibson, Living Under Drones (2012)
But it's probably more reasonable to say that a deeply militarized mind-set and the global maneuvers that go with it are by now just a way of life in a Washington eternally "at war." Military actions have become the tics of an overwrought great power with the equivalent of Tourette's syndrome.
Tom Englehardt, The American Empire Project
If one of our untrustworthy "enemy" countries thousands of miles away unleashed remote countrolled drone strikes on our population, sometimes killing civilians, including elementary-aged children, what would we think of them? The United States has become precisely this to the people of North Waziristan, Pakistan. Stanford and NYU came out with a 9-month study last week detailing the costs (physical and emotional) of the United States government drone policy in the region. The findings are horrifying and embarrassing to all Americans:
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals.
In addition to the concrete killings and injuries, the people of North Waziristan live in constant fear, an important focus of the Stanford/NYU study (thus the name "Living Under Drones"):
But drones are a constant presence in the skies above the North Waziristan tribal area in Pakistan, with as many as six hovering over villages at any one time. People hear them day and night. They are an inescapable presence, the looming specter of death from above...
Parents are afraid to send their children to school. Women are afraid to meet in markets. Families are afraid to gather at funerals for people wrongly killed in earlier strikes. Drivers are afraid to deliver food from other parts of the country...
No one knows who is on the American kill list, no one knows how they got there and no one knows what they can do to get themselves off. It's all terrifyingly random. Suddenly, and without warning, a missile launches and obliterates everyone within a 16-yard radius.
This is one of those bipartisan issues (like uncritically aiding/abetting Israel & demonizing Iran, imprisoning a record number of our own citizens, "free" trade and establishing a surveillance state) that the Democratic-Republican establishment offers absolutely zero relief from. The past 4 years has been an acceleration of unjust killing in the so-called War on Terror:
Under Obama, the United States has launched 284 drone missile strikes in Pakistan and 49 in Yemen, according to independent groups that track reported attacks. That's up from 46 in Pakistan and one in Yemen under Bush. Strikes have also been reported in Somalia.
The justification for this kind of war is depressingly consistent with an instantly gratified and thrown-away culture like the United States that yearns for annual smartphone upgrades produced by disgruntled slave labor in China and all-you-can-eat buffets of industrialized food. We are fear-mongered and manipulated into indifferently accepting this dehumanizing state of affairs by corporate advertising and government edict (the Obama administration refuses to admit civilian drone casualties).
When Jesus of Nazareth told all people of faith and conscience to love their neighbors as themselves he surely had in mind the Roman Empire and her wealthy, power-hungry Jewish collaborators who oppressed the Palestinian underclass of which he was a member. Those of us living under the imperial dreams of America are thus called to be in solidarity with our Pakistani brothers and sisters living under drones. None of us can even imagine an existence of fear & paranoia with remote-controlled missiles incessantly flying over our heads.
As Martin Luther King told the thousands of marchers who had just completed the 4-day journey from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, this justice cannot go on for much longer. Why not? Because no lie can live forever. Because we will reap what we sow. Because the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Only the gospel of unarmed Truth and unconditional Love will save the world. Not the corporate message of militarized economic growth and unceasing entertainment. When we vocalize our objection to drones and tangibly make it part of our strongly pro-life political package (in the womb, against the bomb, out of the slum), we proclaim that American lives are not more important than others. This is a small step towards our process of being saved from a deeply narcissistic and narcoticized American way of life. After all, those of us who claim to live in the shadow of the cross cannot possibly forsake those living in the shadow of imperial death anywhere.
*For more info and opportunities to get involved, see CODE Pink and Drone Watch. CODE Pink is returning to the States today after a week-long journey to Pakistan to march and fast for the people of North Waziristan.