Drones. Many folks know about them. Certainly if you pay attention to the news you probably hear or see bits about the US’s drones being used in attacks in Pakistan, possibly in Yemen, Somalia and Iran – although these last three to a lesser extent. Perhaps it might even seem reasonable that we attack using technology that negates immediate loss of life to Americans especially in a country (or four) that seem to house “terrorists”. There are some folks out there who even know about the US Congress passing a bill that orders the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) to open up airspace for drones by 2015. I’m sure there are many who don’t even know why this should be considered frightening.
The dramatic pieces of this, in my opinion, comes in the form of an attack in Yemen. One that assassinated an American citizen who was part of al Qaeda – Anwar al-Awlaki – without due process and without formal and public investigation. The truth is the lack of due process means we have just the US government’s word to take that he was a danger although it is my stance that him being a “threat” doesn’t matter. Not one bit. There was no war in Yemen the US was fighting, not a single whisper of Yemen’s danger to the US has been made mention of in our propaganda friendly media, and yet there we sent military drones to kill a man guilty of crimes against the US (note I did not say IN) without ever having met the burden of proof in a courtroom. The little discussed tidbit that seems to always be missing in the news is just how far that little “t” word goes to justify killing others.
An assassination committed by a government that occurs in DIRECT SUBVERSION of the laws that govern it should always warrant attention. Certainly more than the after the fact justification that was offered instead of the outrage at the lack of evidenciary support being given to any supposed charges before ordering a hit on an American citizen. Even if one wishes to think that this could not happen here, that this only happens to folks the government says is bad (heck, it’s not like “they’ve” ever lied to “us” before, right?) and aren’t on US soil, then I would have to kindly, gently ask them this: How do we know these people are a danger to anyone? What proof do we have?
Some might stipulate that these drones only attack terrorists – the bad guys who wrecked so much damage on 9/11 – that these are specific targets and the drones allow for less errors. No innocents, as defined (or not) by the US government will be killed. This has to be better than the open war of Iraq, Afghanistan, or the non-hostile bombings of Libya. Doesn’t it? Those drone attacks in Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, or even the mere accidental crash of one in Iran could all be summed up by talk of enemies of The State (to say nothing of the accidental crash into a SWAT vehicle).
This begs the question: Who are the enemies? Is it in every person who does something we don’t understand as the “if you see something, say something” campaign would have us believe? Behind every friendly face is there a bomb plot hatching? An inborn hatred of all that each of us represents? Is it so dangerous that the US government, whose powers are as far reaching as authorizing drones to kill those selected, can not possibly bring these individuals into court? To prove the irrefutable guilt of those sentenced to die NOT by a jury of their peers, but by bureaucrats?
The answer came in a recent decision by the Pentagon that says:
The Obama administration’s top Pentagon lawyer on Wednesday said that American citizens who join Al Qaeda can be targeted for killing and that courts should have no role in reviewing executive branch decisions about whether someone has met such criteria.
Let me repeat that last part: “courts should have NO role in reviewing executive branch decisions whether someone has met such criteria”.
Who do Americans then look to for protection from a government that is intent upon its own enemies? How does an entity that is FOR the people even have enemies? Surely, it can’t make a mistake like this again when utilizing “new” powers it has granted its self?
Some American politicians say that people at Guantánamo are terrorists, but I have never been a terrorist. Had I been brought before a court when I was seized, my children’s lives would not have been torn apart, and my family would not have been thrown into poverty. It was only after the United States Supreme Court ordered the government to defend its actions before a federal judge that I was finally able to clear my name and be with them again.
And after all is said and done the only question that remains is this: If the government can target citizens for killing, can use drones for domestic and foreign expeditions, when it holds its self to no burden of proof before putting citizens on secret lists with no chance for them to defend themselves – do we feel safer?