Monday, July 30, 2012

Mothers Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Drone Pilots

The New York Times is trying to tell us something. "Look, I'm not your conscience," it seems to be trying to say. "I'm not responsible for getting everything ethically right: that's your job. I just lob stuff up for you to react to. Have you got a pulse? REACT!"

Let's start with the title of the article that appeared on the front page of today's Times. When a major newspaper uses the term "kill shot" in a headline without irony -- without quotation marks, as I just used -- it screams out for us to say "WAIT A MINUTE! We don't talk about killing and injury so glibly!" (See Elisabeth Bumiller, "A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away".)

Drone pilot console

Moving on to the first paragraph, we are reminded that the nation's newspapers long ago abandoned any pretense of judiciousness in reporting about the combatant status of the targets of the U.S. military and the C.I.A. The people in the story are "insurgents" and "militants" -- apparently because the military says so. The words "alleged" and "reported" and "suspected" are nowhere to be seen. And that's why we, the readers, need to mentally supply those words and restore some semblance of reality to the story.

The story goes on to report that drone operators might feel empathy for the people they follow with their video eyes ... but, on the other hand, they claim they don't lose any sleep over the attacks they carry out ... and yet they do know that it's more than just a video game ... at least when commanders "beat into their crews" the message that it's not just a video game.

Is that all clear?

Anyone trying to get a moral bead on the issue of drone operation could be forgiven for getting dizzy. Perhaps the most honest sentence in the whole article is this:
In his 10 years at Creech, he said without elaborating, "I've seen some pretty disturbing things."
Figure it out, reader!

The U.S. military is desperately trying to beef up the ranks of its drone pilots - to meet a "near insatiable demand for drones." There's only one way that's going to happen, and that's if we let our young people think that it's okay to sign up. The world of military service is more abstracted and foreign than ever. If ever there was a time that young people needed guidance from others about what military service might mean for them, that time is now.

The New York Times is putting us on notice -- this is where the real battleground is -- at the recruiting station. It's not the job of The New York Times -- or any other part of the media -- to pass judgement on the state of the world. Their job is just to tee up the issue. It's up to us, on the other hand, to face those issues head on, and to do something about them.

JOIN OTHERS NEAR YOU to oppose drones! See the full state-by-state list on the No Drones Network website.

Related posts

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

(See "Everything Is Witnessed": Searching for "the Guilty" in GROUNDED )

We need to do several things for our young people. First of all, we need to show them pictures of war and explain: "This is what real chaos looks like." And then we need to ask, "Still think this sounds appealing?"

(See The Few, the Proud ... and the Chaos)

A big Hollywood production of Ender's Game is scheduled for release on November 1. It's a perfect opportunity for us to ask: Are we happy seeing our schools turned into "Battle Schools"?

(See "Ender's Game" and the Militarization of Youth: Can We Talk About This? )

Ames serves a largely Spanish-speaking community. Is the militarization of Ames anything other than a signal of what the Democratic party means by equitable treatment for immigrants?

(See The Militarization of Ames: The Real Meaning of the DREAM Act )