Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Missing the point entirely

A little bit over a week ago Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports that humanized the victims of US drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. The reports presented case studies of the people who were victimized by the "surgical strikes" carried out by unmanned drones flying high overhead.

The debate in the media afterward, however, was restricted to two viewpoints - is it more humane to send troops into Yemen and Pakistan to kill suspected militants or to fire missiles at folks whom the US thinks are militants?

With the exception of the progressive media, and shows such as Democracy Now!, no one questioned whether the US had any right to invade the sovereignty of another nation and kill its citizens based on nothing more than a belief that someone was up to no good. No one questioned whether killing folks without some semblance of due process of law was right. No one questioned the notion that anyone who happens to be hanging out with someone the US thinks is a terrorist is fair game for a missile strike.

Even more obscene was the notion that the only thing that matters in the calculus of making the decision between troops and drones is the expected casualty rate of American soldiers. No one gave a second thought to the innocent men, women and children who have been victimized by drones flown by anonymous personnel sitting in an office in the United States. As far as they were concerned, they were nothing more than collateral damage - and, since they weren't Americans, they didn't matter anyway.

The real question is not about reducing potential American casualties. The real question is will anyone ever be held accountable for the gross violations of human rights caused by the United States? Will the people who "flew" the drones ever be held accountable? Will their military commanders ever be held accountable? Will the President ever be held accountable?

Pakistan and Yemen are sovereign nations. The US has no business flying lethal killing machines over their airspace. Just imagine, for a second, the utter outrage that would result from another country sending armed drones into US airspace to take out someone they suspected of plotting some type of terror attack. Just imagine the reaction of our elected "leaders" when innocent men, women and children who had nothing to do with any planned attack were killed, maimed or wounded as a result of a missile attack in a populated area.

This notion that we have the authority to go into any country and do as we wish to anyone we suspect of being a terrorist is a remnant of imperialism. This idea that the US can do as it wishes when it comes to the War on Everything Terror is the ultimate example of hubris.

The right to live is the most basic human right of them all. Even the most repressive nations have some type of mechanism for arresting, charging and trying those suspected of breaking the law. Those mechanisms may very well not be perfect but a framework exists.

But when the US decides to kill someone they suspect of being a terrorist, there is no mechanism to arresting, charging or trying that individual. There is no semblance of due process. Without so much as a hearing to determine probable cause, the president can order a drone strike. Even worse are the so-called "signature strikes" in which the person ordering the murder doesn't even know who he's killing. Check off enough boxes and you can claim that all signs indicate that John Doe is a terrorist and needs to be blown to bits. And what of those folks around him who had absolutely nothing to do with his alleged acts? They don't even merit a second thought.

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