Tuesday, July 3, 2012

U.S. Drone Killing: "Without Dissent From the General Public"?

In an unprecedented op-ed piece that appeared June 24, 2012, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter took the United States -- and, in particular, the Obama administration -- to task for its "cruel and unusual record" of violating human rights. He described a course of action that "began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public" (emphasis added).

Mass demonstration against U.S. drone killings - Chicago, May 2012
(Image: Reuters)

Jimmy Carter concluded his piece by saying,
As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

This resonated with a recent statement by David Cole:
In Power and Constraint, Jack Goldsmith attributes Obama’s counterterrorism policy not to indecision but to a national consensus that the status quo he inherited was legitimate.

(See "Obama and Terror: The Hovering Questions" by David Cole, New York Review of Books, July 12, 2012.)

Those of us who spend a lot of time protesting drones and other aspects of U.S. militarism and rights violations may find it difficult to accept the proposition that there has not been dissent from the general public, and that there is any kind of "national consensus" that what Obama is doing is legitimate. However, I think that what both Jimmy Carter and David Cole are pointing out to us is important: we have to raise the dissent to a level where it cannot be ignored.

There is a groundswell of opposition drone killing and drone surveillance. We have to work to translate it into undeniable, un-ignorable mass protest.

This is an election year. We do have to invoke the ultimate sanction against a sitting president whose violence we condemn: no 2nd term.

Congress does have the power over U.S. war-making. We have to tell every member to reign in the drones, or clear out and make way for someone who will.

REMEMBER: it doesn't rise to the level of "dissent from the general public" until it gets so loud that people in power are getting really uncomfortable.

Related posts

It seems clear to me that if Congress does not take steps to influence the President's behavior with respect to the NPT opportunity, and does not take steps to reduce nuclear weapons on its own in the months immediately thereafter, it will be high time for the people of the United States to recognize that "it's up to us" -- and us alone.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

There was a lot of noise in Chicago during the NATO Summit. But one message we managed to get through -- at least to some people -- was that people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many other places are being injured and killed in their names ... and that if that bothers their consciences they can get active and do something about it.

(See Making Drone Killing 100% VISIBLE in Chicago!)

Now comes the messy part. We need many more people to engage with with the emotions aroused by drones. This is going to involve many different groups of people, engaging with this topic in many different ways: churches and faith groups . . . young people . . . . The point is: the discourse on drones is going to get out of our hands. It isn't always going to go the way we want. But the important thing is that many, many people are going to be talking about it in the ways that feel appropriate to them.

 (See Democracy vs. Drones)