Joan Walsh on droooooooones and wrestling with her unbearable guilt of being Joan Walsh:
There are (at least) two issues here: The use of drones generally, and their use to kill American citizens. Some values should apply to both. No doubt drone warfare is sometimes preferable to traditional combat – but can’t we debate when, and why? Isn’t it possible that removing the risk of losing American lives by using unmanned predators will make it easier for decision-makers to risk the lives of those who aren’t Americans? Shouldn’t we know more about when and why drone strikes are launched, as well as who’s been killed, at the cost of how much collateral damage, most important, the number of “non-combatants” — innocent people – who are killed?
On the question of targeting U.S. citizens: I’m proud of the extraordinary rights we enjoy as Americans, and I don’t know why so many people shrug at the notion that the president can abrogate those rights if he decides, based on evidence (which he doesn’t have to share) that you’re a terrorist. When it comes to Anwar al-Awlaki, who renounced his citizenship and made many public commitments to al-Qaida, those questions don’t keep me awake at night. But don’t we want assurances that the evidence against every citizen who winds up on that list is just as clear? Don’t we want more oversight, even after the fact?
Did I miss the part where American military action only started killing non-combatants on January 21, 2009? Did I also miss the part where IEDs keep blowing off arms and legs and shearing off chunks of our soldiers’ skulls, creating a huge number of folks coming back home with truly awful injuries? We’ve had this debate about people being killed in military action since this whole American experiment began, folks. Here’s the thing, if we’re going to be over there doing this kind of thing, and right now that’s the policy, I’d rather see drones than boots on the ground. You can go on and on about targeted killings of US citizens at a coldly impersonal distance without due process, and yet we’ve got 300 million devices in the country called “firearms” that quite often end up doing just that. Due process is not always exercised in those situations either, guys. People where you live can get killed guns without warning. Maybe there’s an investigation, maybe there’s even a trial. But there are plenty of times where who pulled the trigger is never found, and the killer never brought to justice.
Where’s your outrage over that? Did I miss the part where Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the only US teenager ever killed for bullshit reasons? You know what else is a “targeted killing of American citizen?” Any cops who draw their weapon on someone and pull the trigger, and guess what, they don’t always shoot the right person. There’s oversight in those situations, but not always. I’m a hell of a lot more worried about that than I am what’s going on in Waziristan, people. If you’re going to perpetually scream “DROOOOOOOOONES YOU OBOT” at me, go to the nearest large metropolitan police department and make sure you personally solve every homicide that comes in the door.
Otherwise, have a darkened Superdome full of seats.
It is not endemic to the Obama administration, or Obama foreign policy. Steve M. nails it:
But if you’re especially outraged at targeted killings of American citizens, if you think they’re more horrifying than everything else that’s been done in the wars we’ve fought, that strikes me as a sense of non-combatant privilege. Many of us — maybe only many white Americans? — not only assume we’re entitled to due process, we expect never to be on a battlefield. In other words, we expect never to be in a situation in which due process doesn’t apply.
To me that’s a sense of privilege. So I see what’s wrong with the drone program, but it’s a subset of what’s wrong with war. Some Americans expect to be shielded from this sort of suffering at all times, and are shocked that a few Americans aren’t.
War is hell. The Pentagon is in the business of conducting said warfare in the most casualty-efficient way possible that still achieves the goal of ending the metabolic processes of The Bad Guys. The problem isn’t drones, the problem is the perpetual war machine that’s predated this President for a very, very long time. We’re screaming about al-Awlaki’s kid when My Lai, the bombing of Dresden, and Nagasaki and Hiroshima happened. Let’s face it, for America, that’s effing progress. We still need to move forward and I’d like to see drones not have to be used at all (because we weren’t in Af-Pak at all anymore) but let’s not pretend that President Obama somehow has the most blood on his hands of a US President, either, shall we?
Thanks. Sorry to ruin your Sunday.