From Air-Conditioned Bunkers

The mainstream media, which serves the elite who own them, hastened to promote a rush to judgment about Muslim “fanatics” recently attacking our embassies and “interests”. In order to continue to embrace the myth that portrays the U.S. as the “good guys”, we necessarily must overlook the “fanatical” drone warfare the U.S. is conducting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places which have killed far more innocent civilians than died in the embassy attacks. The word fanatic obviously connotes irrationalism, which Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Codepink and Global Exchange, argued, in her Atlanta talk at the Friends Meeting house 9/17/12, characterizes U.S. drone warfare, both in its rationalization and in its blindness to consequences.

Benjamin cites polls that show 70% of the U.S. population think the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. That the war continues, or was even contemplated in the beginning, reflects a lynch mob mentality cynically exploited by the infamous war industry and minions in congress. People were naturally upset at the murderous 911 attacks. Reaction went in the lynch-mob direction due partly to our education system which has deliberately chosen a mind-deadening testing emphasis over critical thinking. Those who were positioned to make critical decisions at the beginning, far from feeling trapped by that mentality, were major proponents of the authoritarianism behind it. I speak of Bush-Cheney and company of course. Presumably Obama feels trapped by the mentality and thus believes it politically necessary to wiggle out of the quagmire ever so slowly, but this may be over-charitable. Since 70% of the electorate wants out of an endless war just what makes it politically necessary? Could it be the ideological faction of the profit-making 1%?

Politicians often utilize “tough on crime” rhetoric, or demonize official enemies to manipulate the electorate and enhance their reelection prospects. Calling for diplomacy isn’t seen as macho enough, too vulnerable a position for most politicos. Yet casualties of war, on the U.S. side, eventually become problematic. Thus the appeal of drones. None of our guys get killed, who cares about collateral damage? Only effete bleeding heart liberals who it is imagined are too few to worry about. These namby pamby sissies it is thought by real men, are aiding the enemy when they point out that drones are one of Al Qaeda’s chief recruitment tools.

In a manner of speaking, drones are piloted. Pilots are sited remotely in air-conditioned bunkers in the good ol’ USA, going home for dinner with the family after a hard day watching the video screen, playing with the joy stick. To be fair many of these military workers suffer agonizing guilt over the sometimes horrific consequences of their play stations. When one operator pressed his launch button he then, too late, noticed two kids wheel onto the scene on bicycles. The total number of drone “kills” are estimated between 2,400 and 3,200: Civilians 480 – 828, children 175. These figures are ambiguous because one of the drone targets considered legitimate(!) is a militant or combatant, defined as a male of military age. Two other criteria are considered for drone pilots to launch an attack, (one every four days currently): are you on the president’s macabre “hit list”, put together every Tuesday at the White House? Are you engaged in “suspicious” activity? Suspicious activity has included weddings, men with guns (virtually all men in Afghanistan in these times), and a party of elders attempting to resolve conflict in a village square, an Afghan tradition apparently unknown at the play station (50 killed). Obviously citizens transformed from innocent bystander to widely dispersed pieces of torn flesh leave rather angry relatives – terrorists to the non-critical thinker. Mark Twain, in his depiction of the Hatfield/McCoy feud might have hoped to have more of an impact on education but sadly the testing faction, so far, seems to be secure in its domination of the subject. Well, with a large populace of the willing-to-follow-orders and believe- anything-on-Faux-News, there’s a lot of money to be made. There’s a circular argument in play: we need more drones because of the increase in “militants”. Drone killings create more militants… etc; There are currently more than 10,000 drones, up from about 50 at the time of 911. Another circular argument, sort of, happens when the industry that produces drones fires up their lobbyists. By the way; the U.S. is number one in something these days, for those whose self esteem is tied in with the nation state, arms sales abroad, not to mention disturbing facts like U.S. military spending exceeding all other nations put together. Feel safe yet?

Speaking of suspicious activity, where does the authority come from to engage in state terrorism? Our esteemed Attorney General has stated that the Constitution does not guarantee Judicial Process, but rather Due Process, a process that happens every Tuesday in the White House when the president spins the bottle or however he decides who to go after this week. This is, he claims, due process. Does the AG remember Jim Crow? the process of the lynch mob? If his definition justifies drones how does the lynch mob not also constitute due process? Is this the change we were told we could believe in? At least as U.S. citizens we are safe, right? Um… it seems that due process, the AG Orwellian kind, applies to whomever the president decides it applies to. A U.S. citizen, Cleric Anwar Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki (don’t quote me on that name), was killed by a drone in Yemen the day before the Democratic Convention began in Charlotte. Two days later, his 16 year old son, sitting around a campfire on a hill, also a U.S. citizen, killed at a sleep-over while grieving his father’s death. More suspicious behavior.

Another nice things about drones is the belief, or pronouncement, that if there are no U.S. troops on the ground there’s no war so the War Powers Act is irrelevant, just in case the congress ever takes a day from meeting with lobbyists and fund-raising to fiddle with that little ol’ Act. It seems that presidents consider one of the perks of office to have live video war games on a scale any gamer would kill for.

The sponsor of Medea Benjamin’s visit to Atlanta, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC) has a membership that is aware of the real world repercussions of these games and has been attempting since before the invasion of Iraq, to intervene in a call for sanity. Their website might be a means for concerned citizens to join them. As a footnote, Medea Benjamin, along with representatives from international peace groups, are at this writing, in the very scary, very volatile Pakistan, risking all to walk in an anti-drone peace march, in defiance of the lunacy that seems to dwell in the empire.

Illustration by author, Tom Ferguson
Tom Ferguson

Tom Ferguson

Tom is a painter, a cartoonist, a musician, a thinker and more. View some of his web sites:

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