Friday, March 21, 2014


Nedra and I saw a documentary on the use of drones in warfare. It was a very unsettling experience.  The photographs and films of dead children and the sight of them in hospitals with their healing wounds and lost limbs makes it difficult to accept the term “collateral damage” as anything less than a rationalization that some critics would condemn as  evil.  If it is terrorism to us when a suicide bomber blows up a bus or hotel, it is an act of terrorism to civilians in Pakistan who are sacrificed as “collateral damage” in an effort to assassinate a person on a kill list.  It is also disturbing for those who believe in the importance of law.  To be placed there by an anonymous informant (often the way espionage picks up information) who cannot be challenged in a court of law makes it hard to distinguish from what used to be called “kangaroo court” justice.  The use of kill lists also invites a similar tit for tat response to these killings. Do those who do this not think of the capacity of vengeance among the survivors and neighbors of the “collateral” dead?   What about the psychological effects on those who kill at a distance and do not see their victims, but learn of the collateral dead through TV or newspaper accounts (if they are publicized in their neighborhoods)?  I recall reading Howard Zinn describing his work as a bombardier in WWII.  As the war was coming to an end he was sent on two last minute missions.  One was in southern France.  The other was in Czechoslovakia.  In both cases he dropped the bombs on the targets. When he returned he was told that these were successful military missions with little collateral damage.  A few years later he was in Europe and decided to visit those towns.  He learned to his horror that he killed some 2000 civilians in France as well as German soldiers who had fled Hitler’s losing army and were hiding in what they thought was a safe area until the war ended.  He also learned that some 800 civilians were killed in Czechoslovakia.  He also learned, from a later search of war records that the mission to southern France was added on to bolster the record of a commanding officer who hoped for a promotion.  I have no way of verifying Zinn’s account, but I do not doubt its likelihood because war is rarely clean and ethics are set aside or interpreted  to satisfy rationalizations that argue that these means are essential for survival, honor, or justice.  What worried me most about the documentary on the use of drones is that they are cheaper to make than fighter planes and many countries are now making them.  The technology to target them is also not so sophisticated that other countries would lack the skills to make them. I hate to think what it would be like for those drones to be in the hands of dozens of countries or even home grown terrorist groups who do not like Jews, African Americans, liberals, illegal immigrants, union organizers, Muslims, gays, Tea party extremists, fanatical fundamentalists, Wall Street tycoons, and billionaires perceived as robber barons.  Both the extreme left and the extreme right are vulnerable to those who make their own kill lists.  I hope we once again bring back “a rule of law” and not this murderous philosophy of by-passing the court protections written into our constitution. 

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