Saturday, January 18, 2014

Drone Killings: Come Clean

Lots of people are trying to deduce the extent of U.S. drone
killings. Why doesn't the U.S. just come clean?
How are we going to make progress in ending the menace of drones in the next few months -- i.e. in the first half of 2014?

We are going to have to carefully assess our audience, our messages, and where we put our time, energy, and resources. We need to be alert to what's happening in the broader culture.

It is also important that we are honest with ourselves about the moment we are in.  Is there adequate awareness of the issue? Have people started to become dissatisfied with what the government is doing? Are people ready to embrace the alternative(s) we are proposing?

Awareness: "What's a drone?"

In 2013, a much larger portion of the American public woke up to drones and what's being done with them.

Nonetheless, there are still people who ask, "What's a drone?"

NYC campaign by Essan Attia
My belief is that we will have a continuing need for building awareness.  I believe that it is important to the movement to find ways to increase awareness as efficiently as possible - i.e. using high-leverage communications mechanisms.  We need to accomplish as much as we possibly can without using up all our time, energy, and resources on this part of the campaign.

For instance, I wonder about: in a city like Chicago, would we be better off organizing a big teach-in? Or putting 100,000 stickers on lampposts that say "Drone Strikes: Out of Control"? Which would build more awareness?

Dissatisfaction: It's not just the secrecy ... it's the secrecy, the evasion, the lying, the spying ....

The heart of the campaign, in my opinion, should be find the Obama administration's greatest area of vulnerability with the public and focus on that.

Alternate caption: Same Spying, Different Day
Clearly, the public is outraged by NSA surveillance. Obama's weak response to this is leaving people more and more dissatisfied.  From every indication, this situation is going to worsen with each passing day.

The deeper impact is that people are realizing, "I've got zero protection from government surveillance -- they know everything about me -- and everything they do is a secret."  This pair of complementary realizations -- surveillance and invasion of privacy on the one hand, and secrecy and deceit on the other -- is likely to create a spiraling sense of cynicism and dissatisfaction.

The movement to stop drone surveillance and warfare can take advantage of this sentiment with a simple demand such as "Drone Killings: Come Clean!" This would play into the opinion that Americans already hold about the government: they're hiding the truth from us, and the truth is probably pretty bad.

Jan 16, 2014 - Congress keeps secret drone program in hands
of CIA
. We think. We don't know for sure. Because
the measure is included in the classified annex to the
budget bill. (Or so it is rumored.)
And they are hiding the truth.  The United Nations has called for a full accounting of U.S. drone killings. The U.S. government is stonewalling.

The more the government refuses to "come clean" -- and they will refuse; it's in their nature -- the more dissatisfied members of the general public will become.

Imagine if every candidate who was campaigning for a House or Senate seat in 2014 was forced to take a position on the question, "Do you endorse the call for the Administration to come clean about its record of drone killings?"  It's a simple yes or no question.  If the answer is yes, then we have an ally.  If the answer is "no" -- or even "it depends" or "I don't understand the question" -- then the candidate is saddled with the label "sides with the Administration on hiding truth about drones."

NOTE: the fact that a large number of people have labored to do the best possible job of assembling the facts of the US drone killings despite U.S. government concealment -- see, for instance, this startling infographic illustrating drone strikes in Pakistan -- does not diminish the need for the U.S. government, itself, to come clean and publish the full and authoritative facts.  Rather, it serves to emphasize how shocking it is that the government continues to duck this obligation!

And, of course, we will make it clear that the reason the Administration is hiding truth about drones is that they don't have a satisfactory answer for how decisions about drone strikes are made.  As we have known all along, we need the public to think about how crummy the whole drone program is, and then they will be ready to be on our side. The best way to get them really thinking is to shine a spotlight on the secrecy, evasiveness, and deceit involved in the U.S. drone program.

Embracing the Alternative: Ground the drones

We are not yet at the point that enough Americans are dissatisfied with the solutions being offered by the government.  But we could get there soon.

When people realize that the U.S. government doesn't have an acceptable answer to the question "Who decides?" . . . and when they realize that the U.S. government will never "come clean" about its drone killings  . . . they'll be ready to listen to the proposal offered by the movement against drones.

My expectation is that, when that time comes, our proposal will be: GROUND THE DRONES!

By that time, it will be the only proposal people will view as trustworthy.

Related posts

A new U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.

(See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?)

One thing's for sure: there's a whole passel of advisers talking to Barack Obama every day about how things are progressing in key districts like the Illinois 12th. (And the Michigan 1st. And the Minnesota 8th. And ... ) I'd like to be a fly on the wall when they tell him the candidate is complaining about the latest anti-drones campaign there. ("Why the hell are there protesters at my appearance in Carbondale with signs that say, 'When will the DEMs stop being the party of Drone Execution and Murder' ???")

(See DRONES: Let's Give Obama a Political Choice He Can Understand in 2014

If the public will join us in asking the question "Who decides?" about drone executions, I believe they will rapidly come to realize that they are utterly dissatisfied with what the government is saying.

(See Who Decides? (When Drones are Judge, Jury, and Executioner) )

One issue that has a key place in the midterm elections in 2014, I believe, is surveillance.  With each passing day, I am hearing more and more people say that the surveillance issue is something that a wide spectrum of people are deeply upset about. That includes people on the right as well as people on the left -- people who don't usually talk with each other, much less work together for positive change!

(See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?)