While I believe President Obama has been a major upgrade over Dick Cheney, the Penguin-like Dark Knight to whom George W. Bush played a baffled and incredulous Robin, and while I believe Obama is less likely to start World War III than Bishop Romney and Private Ryan, who sealed their political nuptials by running down the gangplank of a battleship, laughing and waving ... still, I have major reservations about President Obama’s joystick-enabled Drone Wars.
It will be interesting to hear what the “smartest man in the room” has to say about the use of drones when he addresses the nation (and the world) on the subject. It seems to me that the U.S. is setting a very dangerous precedent by claiming that we have the “right” to assassinate people we don’t like with robots controlled by CIA spooks. What happens when Iran and other countries claim the “right” to assassinate people they don’t like with drones, and those people they don’t like happen to be Americans?
Heaven knows that we have given foreigners plenty of reasons not to like Americans. While Americans vehemently protest terrorist attacks against our women and children, the simple truth is that since 1948 the U.S. and its allies, particularly its two staunchest allies, Great Britain and Israel, have done many terrible things to create massive suffering for millions of innocent women and children in the Middle East. And while no one can accurately gauge the number of innocent people who died prematurely as a result, it seems to me that the numbers must now be in the millions.
How many Palestinians have died prematurely over the last 60 years, as a result of being rendered homeless and destitute? Homeless people often die prematurely. How many people died prematurely in Iran as a consequence of the CIA-inspired coup that established the bloody Shah of Iran as a U.S. puppet? How many Iranians died prematurely in the following purges? How many more died prematurely when the U.S. provided Saddam Hussein with money and weapons, knowing he intended to use them against Iran? How many Iraqis died prematurely because the U.S. supported Saddam, then went to war with him when he defied our leaders? It has been estimated that more than half a million Iraqi children died of starvation due to economic sanctions before the invasion of Iraq. Now millions of Afghanis and Iraqis have been either killed or displaced as a result of U.S.-led invasions of those countries.
Do we as a nation have the “right” to use drones to murder people who oppose us, after we and our allies did so many stupid, evil and terrible things to inspire that opposition?
I doubt that President Obama will be honest with the American public about the real reasons for all the mayhem. But there is a chance that he will at least start to cut back on the use of drones, because he knows that to keep using them sets a very dangerous precedent. But the U.S. has become addicted to the use of lethal force abroad, and it can be very difficult for junkies to kick their habits. So no matter what he says, the possibility remains that the U.S. will continue to rely on drones. And that means that one day Tennesseans may look up and see Iranian or Syrian drones attacking American women and children, like a scene from a Terminator movie.
Advanced weaponry makes the Golden Rule more important than ever. But the U.S. and its staunchest allies hypocritically insist that acts of violence against them are always “terrorism,” while their own acts of violence are always “defensive.” People in other countries are not fooled, and if we’re not careful we may have to consult drone alerts the way we now consult weather alerts, before venturing outside.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.