Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Drones and Zero Accountability Government

We are living in a nightmare that makes Philip K. Dick's dystopias look cozy in comparison.

By now, everyone is aware of the killing done by U.S. drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Most people now understand that these attacks frequently result in civilian deaths and constitute war crimes.

Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

Some people have even started to recognize that the threat of drone proliferation goes far beyond the killings-du-jour; what kind of world will we live in when every human space is subject to aerial robotic surveillance?

The U.S. government puts forward justifications for its killings with drones (and any other means it chooses) that don't even rise to the level of "inside-out logic."

The U.S. president defends his drone killings with statements that wouldn't pass the straight face test, the Turing test, or the Eva test.

And the New York Times publishes accounts of the U.S. drone killing program based on an airy tissue of sourcing that falls apart on the merest inspection. Consider:
"These efforts have been extremely precise and effective," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the program's covert status.
In other words, we can know all about these killings, provided we're prepared to believe the statements of a person we can't confirm exists about a program which is not acknowledged to be happening.

Libertarians would point out that this is precisely what happens when we rush to establish government without thinking about what it will take to assure that that government remains accountable.

Theologians would point out that this is an example of the problematic human relationship to truth: we are far too ready to repeat unfounded assertions that some person or other, in some far off land, did or was suspected of doing something, without any real way of knowing the truth. (See: The Ninth Commandment)

Any way you look at it, we've built ourselves a nightmare. How are we going to wake ourselves up?

Related posts
Now that it is available online, every American should read the Justice Department memo approving the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki. Let's face it: the Obama administration and the rest of the U.S. government know that they have a big problem: they want to go to war against anyone they suspect is an enemy -- and skip the rule of law. They wish that a miracle could happen and everyone would just let them do it.

(See A Layman Reads Obama's "Targeted Killing" Memo )

Even if the current Obama administration approach of releases were to succeed in bringing about the release of everyone at Guantanamo, it would not have begun to address the wrong that has been committed.

(See US to its Humans Rights Violations Victims: "Shut up and take what you're given!" )

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )