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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Death by Drone

David Cole, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown, raises some good points in today's Washington Post about our government's use of drones to kill American citizens.

His basic point:  While perhaps some of our citizens need to be killed without due process for the greater good (i.e. keeping the rest of us fat dumb and happy in our American lifestyles), the government of a free country at least needs to acknowledge that it carried out the killings.  Our government isn't even doing that, and hasn't done it in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen Al Quaeda leader we droned off in September 2011.

At the end of the article he gives what is most likely the government's justification for refusing to take responsibility for the killings:  The countries that permit us to use their airspace to carry out these killings have given us that permission on the condition that we don't admit to them.

So I admit it's a dilemma, and I'll also admit that I don't have enough information to balance the pros and cons of the policy.  If the government knows for a fact that the only way to stop Al Quaeda from blowing up a few American cities with nuclear bombs is to kill a few citizens, and if the only way to kill those citizens involves making agreements with other countries that we won't acknowledge the killings, then perhaps the policy is justified.  A shame, a departure from the principles on which our country was founded, but possibly justified.

But the question remains:  Why exactly do we find ourselves in this position?

And one possible answer is: Because we have permitted corporations to dictate our foreign policies for way too long.

You might not have seen that coming, but here's my point:

I actually can't point to anything specific.  Osama Bin Laden hated us because of our policies relating to Israel, and I honestly don't know what the right answer is on that one, and I don't know whether our policy on Israel is dictated by corporations.  But much of our policy -- including the propping up of dictators over the years for the sake of oil, bananas, you name it -- has been dictated by corporations.  Those policies are why many people in many countries around the world hate us.  And that's why we have no credibility when we make tough moral decisions involving other countries, like Israel.

The goal after 9-11 should have been to change that.  But we are just making it worse.  The Iraq war was dictated by corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton, salivating at the chance to get in there and rebuild a country that we were going to destroy.  It had nothing to do with the morally-justified "war on terror."  The Iraq war led to Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib, which caused more people to hate us.  In other words, ever since September 2001 -- when much of the rest of the world already had ample reason to hate us -- we have just just been throwing more fuel onto the fire of hatred.  The drones are simply one more example on a long list.  Not only are they causing us to lose further credibility abroad, but, as evidenced by Cole's piece, they are also causing thoughtful U.S. citizens to start to wonder what this country is coming to.

Cole gives a link to an article that gives a link to the Government's memo justifying the practice.  Amusing how just because the memo happened to be leaked to NBC, NBC has put its watermark all over it.  NBC has no proprietary right in the memo, as far as I can tell.