Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Can a Drone Murder?

Can a Drone Murder?

By David Swanson
April 23, 2013

http://warisacrime.org/content/can-drone-murder

Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee hearing on drones was not your usual droning and yammering. Well, mostly it was, but not entirely. Of course, the White House refused to send any witnesses. Of course, most of the witnesses were your usual professorial fare.

But there was also a witness with something to say. Farea Al-Muslimi came from Yemen. His village had just been hit by a drone strike last week. He described the effects -- all bad for the people of the village, for the people of Yemen, and for the United States and its mission to eliminate all the bad people in the world without turning any of the good people against it.

The usual droning and yammering that preceded and followed this testimony seemed more offensive than usual. One witness summarized the general position of pointless witnesses who accept all common wisdom and have no information or insights to contribute:

If the drone strikes are part of war, that's fine, she said. But if they're not part of war, then they're murder. But since the memos that "legalize" the drone strikes are secret, we don't know whether they're perfectly fine or murder.

That's the common view of things. But to say it in front of someone who knows something about the killing from the perspective of the victims seems particularly tasteless.

The basic facts are barely in dispute. A single individual, President Barack Obama, is choosing to send missiles from drones into particular houses and buildings. Most of the people being killed are innocent and not targeted. Some of those targeted are not even identified. Most of the others are identified as run-of-the-mill resisters to hostile foreign occupations of their or neighboring countries. A handful are alleged to be imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threats to the United States. Many could easily have been arrested and put on trial, but were instead killed along with whoever was too close to them.

If this is not part of a war, apparently, then it's murder.

But if it's part of a war, supposedly, it's fine.

It's funny that murder is the only crime war erases. Believers in civilized warfare maintain that, even in war, you cannot kidnap or rape or torture or steal or lie under oath or cheat on your taxes. But if you want to murder, that'll be just fine.

Believers in uncivilized war find this hard to grasp. If you can murder, which is the worst thing possible, then why in the world -- they ask -- can you not torture a little bit too?

What is the substantive difference between being at war and not being at war, such that in one case an action is honorable and in the other it's murder? By definition, there is nothing substantive about it. If a secret memo can legalize drone kills by explaining that they are part of a war, then the difference is not substantive or observable. We cannot see it here in the heart of the empire, and Al-Muslimi cannot see it in his drone-struck village in Yemen. The difference is something that can be contained in a secret memo.

This is apparently the case no matter whom a drone strike kills and no matter where it kills them. The world is the battlefield, and the enemies are Muslims. Young men in predominantly Muslim countries are posthumously declared enemies once a drone has killed them. They must be enemies. After all, they're dead.

I wonder how this sounds to a young Muslim man who's taken to heart the lesson that violence is righteous and that war is everywhere at all times.

Do people who blow up bombs at public sporting events think all together differently from people who blow up peaceful villages in Yemen?

Don't tell me we can't know because their memos are secret too. Those who engage in murder believe that murder is justified. The reasons they have (secret or known) are unacceptable. Murder is not made into something else by declaring it to be part of a war.

War is, rather, made criminal by our recognition of it as mass murder.

*************

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and Facebook.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Binoy Kampmark: Dysfunctional Hagiography: Australia & Gough Whitlam's Death

Hagiography is the curse of the Australian Labor movement. It is a movement that searches for, and craves, mythical figures and myths. Such a phenomenon might be termed mummification, and detracts from closer examination. More>>

David Swanson: On Killing Trayvons

This Wednesday is a day of action that some are calling a national day of action against police brutality, with others adding 'and mass incarceration,' and I'd like to add 'and war' and make it global rather than national. More>>

Uri Avnery: Israel Ignoring “Tectonic Change” In Public Opinion

If the British parliament had adopted a resolution in favour of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the reaction of our media would have been like this: More>>

ALSO:

| UK MPs blow a “raspberry” at Netanyahu and his serfs

Byron Clark: Fiji Election: Crooks In Suits

On September 17 Fiji held its first election since Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup. With his Fiji First party receiving 59.2% of the vote, Bainimarama will remain in power. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: ‘Islamic State’ Sectarianism Is Not Coincidental

Consider this comical scene described by Peter Van Buren, a former US diplomat, who was deployed to Iraq on a 12-month assignment in 2009-10: Van Buren led two Department of State teams assigned with the abstract mission of the ‘reconstruction’ of ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Case For Using Air Power Against The Islamic State

There is an Alice Through the Looking Glass quality to the current response to the Islamic State. Everything about it seems inside out. Many people who would normally oppose US air strikes in other countries have reluctantly endorsed the bombing of IS positions in Iraq and Syria – not because they think air power alone will defeat IS (clearly it won’t) but because it will slow it down, and impede its ability to function. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Troubled Aftermath Of Scotland’s Independence Vote

A week can be a very long time in Scotland’s 300 year struggle for independence. The “No” vote last week that seemed to end the cause of Scottish independence for a generation, has turned out to have had an enormous fish hook attached, especially for the British Labour Party… More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The West’s Existential Crisis About What To Do With Putin, And The Islamic State

Say one thing for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At least he’s given NATO a purpose in life. Right now, that consists of being something that Barack Obama and David Cameron can hide behind, point at Putin, and say : “Go get him, tiger.” Just what NATO is supposed to do about Putin’s armed advance into eastern Ukraine is less than clear. But there is a lot of “steely determination” around in high places. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news