Monday, November 02, 2009

Three Drones are Better than One

Via Jonathan Schwarz


The U.S. government runs two drone programs. The military’s version, which is publicly acknowledged, operates in the recognized war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and targets enemies of U.S. troops stationed there. As such, it is an extension of conventional warfare. The C.I.A.’s program is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including in countries where U.S. troops are not based. It was initiated by the Bush Administration and, according to Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush White House, Obama has left in place virtually all the key personnel. The program is classified as covert, and the intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.

It seems obvious that one of the reasons for the popularity of using drones for assassination in Pakistan is that it doesn’t involve the deaths of U.S. soldiers. This must in part be driven by domestic politics for high body counts of U.S. soldiers make war unpopular and the Afghan War is already unpopular. So behold the cold calculated thinking behind the decision to escalate the use of drones by Obama who in nine and one half months authorized more drone attacks than W. Bush did in his last three years in office. On one side there is the desire of all leaders to retain and gain power (with war as the means) and on the other side there is the well known fact that large numbers of civilians including small children are slaughtered as a result of using drones. Guess which side won. It wasn’t the small children.

Let’s reduce this to the essentials. When it came to deciding between political self-interest and the lives of innocent civilians staying in power wins hands down. I doubt if much time was spent on deciding between the two. Certainly much less time than Obama’s little dog and pony show displaying his desire to appear wise and thoughtful right before he sends the next 45,000 or so troops to Afghanistan. Even if the Afghanistan War isn’t escalated the war would only shift to a different front with the same horrific results. Most of any fallout amongst our political class is due to disagreements on tactics and strategies. The wars themselves are never questioned, or rarely are, and will continue even as they are now on many fronts.

Recently I viewed a short video that appeared to be a rather lame propaganda piece. It shows some U.S. soldiers walking along in Afghanistan and as part of the winning hearts and minds plan a young soldier approaches a family in front of their hovel and introduces himself. “Hey, hi, like my name is Fred and I just wanted to say hey, hi, how ya doing?” Nothing could bring home the idea more than this video that teenagers with guns dressed up in battle gear are not going to bring social change to Afghanistan. Such insanity couldn’t be more forlorn or ridiculous. The scene with the soldier was ludicrous and bizarre to the point where you wondered where reality begins and ends.

Meanwhile behind this façade of “gosh golly gee whiz we’re just helping old Afghanistan women across streets” there is a steady drone of death in the background as the war of drones continues and escalates under Obama’s authorizations.

People often talk of changing other people. What in the world does that mean? Change what? Should people be bred to have three arms and four eyes? We complain that things need to change because someone is lording it over someone else yet in the end we who wish to change things in order to end one group from lording it over others is in itself an act of lording it over those who we wish to stop form lording it over others. I could go on but this is already asinine and maybe you see what I mean. I’m not asking people to suspend common sense because I don’t have to. We do it all the time. Liberals often are willing to overlook much just like their conservative brothers and sisters. This is part of the human condition not just the property of Republicans or Democrats. We too easily accept that our present reality is the only possible reality yet it is only one possibility out of countless others. What we accept as normal is more a product of our culture than any reflection upon reality.

People were horrified or alternately amused by the neocon who said we now make our own reality yet he was uncomfortably close to the truth. We do create our own reality. We do it all the time. The extreme right clings to Grandpa Reagan as if the old murderer embodied their vision of America. Liberals cling to the hope that Obama will mitigate some of the worst damage and who knows. Frankly I think it’s a pipe dream for by all the signs Obama has no interest in undoing any of the worst of W. Bush rather he seems to be expanding it. Further adding to the mix is that liberals aren’t all that disturbed when one of their favorite sons is bombing the hell out of someone as in the case of Bill Clinton and former Yugoslavia. If a Democratic president does it it’s because someone was really being bad and deserved it. Either that or it is just not discussed in politer circles. This is the folly of identity politics because identity politics isn’t about facts it’s about how people view themselves and its one way the ruling class keeps us enthralled and powerless through division.


At November 03, 2009 6:39 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

As my friend Nestor Kowalski would say,

"Who cares about Afghans as long as we have a public option!"

OK, I'm kidding. I don't know Nestor, and he probably wouldn't say that anyway. ;^)

I wish there was a way to do some serious polling on American attitudes regarding Afghanistan. I saw an article whose link I have since misplaced that said that a majority of Americans now believe the war there will drag on for years and that popular opinion won't have any effect.

At November 03, 2009 7:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jonathan,

You might find this article of interest regarding polls and Afghanistan. I think the public gets more things right than they are given credit for. Here's the link--

At November 04, 2009 5:44 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Do any polls ask people to state what they believe the actual objectves are in Afghanistan? I imagine many would say it's to find and kill terrorists, but is that the official stated objective? Perhaps it's something like "to make the world safe for democracy" or "we have to get them before they get us." I don't know that myself. Maybe it's just a case of "my country right or wrong" for most citizens. (Notice how the old cliches trip so easily off the--uh, keyboard.)

At November 04, 2009 5:03 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Mimi,

Last I heard it was to protect Marecuns from naughty and bad people.


Post a Comment

<< Home