Saturday, February 15, 2014

DRONE LOVE: If the Chicago Tribune Represents American Public Opinion, the Republic is in Trouble

Tribune Tower gargoyle
It's reasonable to ask what the titans of media who sit high atop the Tribune Tower think of the rest of us. Sometimes they let us know loud and clear.

Everybody needs to read the editorial that appeared in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. The editorial appears online under the title "America's drone program needs to keep flying." The title of the editorial in the paper edition that showed up on people's doorsteps on Friday was "Drones in the cross hairs." (More on that discrepancy below.)

The editorial represents the worldview of the editorial board of one of the major newspapers in the country. What it says is alarming, and it should serve as a call to action to thinking people throughout the country.

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Here are just the high points -- or should I say, low points -- of what the Tribune is saying.

(1) For the Love of Drones

To the people at the Tribune, moderating the drone program amounts to putting "drones in the cross hairs." For them to use this language betrays a profound confusion about the nature of injury.  Not to mince words, it is deranged to talk about drones or the drone program being "in the cross hairs," and to compare drones or the drone program to people who are injured by drones (and all other manner of U.S. military force).

(The Tribune editorial board also speaks of U.S. anti-terrorism programs "strangled by red tape.")

It is not coincidental that the same editorial board smirks at the fear and pain that might be experienced by actual people: "we imagine he is avoiding rooftops and other open-air venues" . . . "nervously glancing at the skies" . . . .

This syndrome -- in effect letting the machines take over -- is a danger that social critics long ago warned against.  (See A Modest Proposal: Debate the Drones)

(2) Due Process (NOT)

The editorial board at the Tribune has completely lost sight of the notion of due process, of the idea of a nation of laws.

How else can you explain their absorption with the idea that administration officials can and should make decisions about executions? They deride what they see as a "saunter to judgement" -- by implication insisting, "We need a rush to judgement!"  They actually print the words, "What's taking so long?"

Not only has the Chicago Tribune abandoned the idea of courts of law, now they're even dismissive of the ersatz process that the Obama administration has substituted for the courts: "We can't think of a more dangerous prospect than U.S. drones tangled in bureaucracy . . . ."

Sadly, the Obama administration has been successful in dodging due process. (See Eric Through the Looking Glass) Not satisfied, the Tribune insists on throwing the last shred of caution to the wind.

(3) Drone Effectiveness (?)

The fulcrum of this entire, sad discourse is the suggestion that drones are "effective."

The sub-title of the editorial is "The value of this anti-terrorist weapon" and the text refers to the drone killing program as "[o]ne of America's most effective anti-terrorist programs." However, the editorial offers no specifics in support of this assertion; it points to no proof of this claim.

And how could it? The facts of the drone program are secret.

That's why the most important thing we could be doing right now is to demand that the Obama administration come clean with the full details of all drone strikes to date. (This is what the United Nations has called for.)

Until that happens, the American public will continue to be subjected to the assertion that drone killing is "effective" with zero facts to back up the claim.  (See Drone Killings: Come Clean)

(4) The Global "Battlefield" and (5) The Case of the Disappearing Sovereignty

One could go on and on about all the things that are benighted about the Chicago Tribune and its editorial board's ideas about drones, law, security, and international relations. I'll conclude by pointing to just two more.

The editorial jingoistically touts House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers' recent pronouncement about how individuals are "removed from the battlefield" by U.S. counterterrorism operations. This is a reminder to us that a whole swath of our government and power elite consider the world a battlefield, and have abandoned any notion of the law of nations or the need for a declaration of war before engaging in hostilities.

And so perhaps it should not be surprising -- though I find myself astonished -- that the Tribune editorial berates Pakistan and Afghanistan for voicing opposition to the U.S. drone program. (As if they should have any say about what happens in their own countries!)

I won't try to capture here the smug, imperialist tones of the Tribune. You have to read it for yourself.

(See How About a REAL (Tea) Party? SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY BASES! )

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It is startling to reflect that, on the day before this editorial appeared, the very same Tribune editorial page featured a cartoon by Joe Fournier, entitled "Thinking Outside the Drone," which had these crystal clear words:
OBAMA: As we both know - it's wrong to kill U.S. citizens with drones . . .
HOLDER: and illegal
OBAMA: and illegal . . .
The Chicago Tribune: deranged and forgetful . . . .

Related posts

Since a jury just got done saying NO! to the efforts of the Cook County State's Attorney's attempts to use the Illinois terror statute to foment fear and repress dissent . . . and since February 11 was designated "The Day We Fight Back" against state surveillance, repression, and intimidation . . . and since the media is broadcasting a fresh threat by the Obama administration to assassinate a U.S. citizen using a drone strike . . . and since the Illinois primaries for every seat in congress fall just a few weeks away (March 18), it seems like a good time to ask all the members of the Illinois congressional delegation -- current and prospective -- Hey Illinois pols! Where do you stand? (On U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations)

A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people - including Sangeen Zadran -- a "senior militant commander" who was "implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier." Or so we are told by the U.S. media. Will we ever learn the real facts?

(See September 5 in Pakistan: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)

We will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed using drones when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color . . . .

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )