The Empire Strikes Back (Against the Defenseless)

I remember as a kid being asked, “If you could push a button for a million dollars, but someone in China would die, would you do it?”   I had to really think about that.  There is no way I would consider actually “killing” someone, but pushing a button, and never having to see that person’s face, witness his pain, or know his story as a fellow human being might be different.  When my friends and I pondered that question, I thought about that person having a family, and a life.  What if someone could push a button and do that to me?  So if they didn’t have the right to do that to me, how could I do it, even to a stranger?  Some of my friends had different opinions, saying, “Who cares?  You’d never know the person.  Maybe they were dying anyway… besides, it’s a million dollars!” 

I didn’t have the words to articulate what I know now: that every living, breathing human deserves to live.  That pushing a button to kill someone on the other side of the world is still killing.  And that brings me to drones.

Our warmonger-owned media would love for us to adopt the thinking that some anonymous human on the other side of the world doesn’t matter.  But that is operating from the false assumption that we are not interconnected, and that killing is okay if you don’t have to watch the person die.  A tidy, sanitized death that we don’t have to witness... except we don’t get the million dollars; the warmongers do.

They would like us to believe that the people being killed are “terrorists,” because somehow the fact that they have been thus labelled justifies their murder.  But what makes a terrorist?  For the sake of the drone program, any male over 18 years of age in the strike zone is a terrorist.  So if our government deems you deserving of death via remote control, and your 18-year-old son is home at the time, he is now considered a terrorist too.  Comes in pretty handy when they are counting “civilian” deaths.  Conveniently, this 18 year old is no longer counted as a civilian.  It has nothing to do with terrorist activity, or even knowledge of terrorist activity; it’s all about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Drones have only an 80% accuracy rate.  If that doesn’t sound so bad, think about how comfortable you would be if the drone was pointed at your next door neighbor.  You are no longer a person if the drone hits your home and kills your family; you are now “collateral damage.”  Every instance of collateral damage means a funeral, means orphans, means people burying their babies, and the trauma of a community dealing with a murder.  In this case, the murderer is not being held accountable.  And for those people who allude to the sanctity of life while protesting abortion, please know that fetuses die in our unethical wars too.

We have a great deal of invisible privilege living here in the U.S., because we don’t have to live in a war zone.  Nobody deserves to wonder if they are going to be killed in a car bombing that day, to be constantly vigilant, to wonder if soldiers are going to kick down their door and drag away their father, or brother, or son to be “interrogated,” yet that is the reality in the countries we are invading and occupying.  This is what we create.  Yet somehow, we call them the terrorists.  The same people who say they don't trust the government don't seem to question the government when it deems a random person across the world as a terrorist.  That is the luxury of living in America.

More people have been upset about the drone program targeting American citizens, but I am upset about the drone program targeting anybody!  Who are we to play God?  If you want to murder someone, at least have the guts to do it to his face, not shoot a missile from the other side of the planet and take out his family and friends.  What kind of cowardice have we produced, and who are these inventors of death, who make their living finding increasingly cold-hearted ways to take the lives of others, while removing themselves conveniently from the situation?

Brandon Bryant, a former drone pilot, now suffers from PTSD.  He quit the drone program, after witnessing the death of a child as the result of a drone he fired.  And that was just a vague camera image in infrared.  He did not have to hear the screams, or see the fear and pain in the child’s face, or witness the grief of the families of the dead.  Nevertheless, the knowledge of his own role in this moral outrage has ruined his life.  As aggressors, we also pay the price of this senseless killing, and it is a blight on our social conscience.  As Howard Zinn would say, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”  And make no mistake, these are innocent people, even the ones labelled as terrorists.  Isn’t it supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty?”  Have they been brought to trial, have they had a chance to defend themselves, or is this the New American Way… judge, jury, and executioner?  

The Obama administration admitted yesterday that four U.S. Citizens had been killed by drones, one of whom was specifically targeted.  While not excusing the one who was targeted, were the other three an accident?  Why are we doing this?  Today, the President promises to CURTAIL the drone program.  A new classified policy guidance signed by Pres. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones: countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.  That is not enough.  Every human being on this planet deserves to not be murdered, and a drone murder is still murder.  This must be discontinued.  This is not a video game; it’s human life.  Would it bring you comfort if you were cradling the body of your dead child to be told we had “curtailed” drone attacks?

If you agree with me that this is irresponsible and inhumane, please click on the links below, which will take you to petitions.  Feel free to add your own links if you are aware of other petitions.  As a conscientious American, I cannot defend the drone program in any form.

To ask for further scaling back of drone operations, via Codepink:

To ask for the suspension of the Customs and Border Protection domestic drone surveillance program:

A petition asking for the suspension of drone strikes on suspected terrorists:

Here is the link to information about the book, "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control" by Medea Benjamin:


  1. I am big fan of combat aircraft. Not that I like air combat and war in general (in video games, I do), but military aircraft are still awesome. Maybe they should only use Drones or any UAVs only for surveillance purposes.

  2. I guess it depends on the excuse used for the surveillance. If they're spying on people that's not okay either. I think if people are going to go to war, they should be forced to look in the face of the person they are killing; we take it way too lightly when we can kill by remote control. Imagine if we had all the money we have put into developing military craft and used it to improve cancer treatment, for example, or education. Thanks again Gowtham for setting up this page for me... you rock!!

  3. Yeah using drones to attack people makes you a coward. However, spying on terrorists and potential threats doesn't seem to be a bad thing. For instance, Osama's compound in Abbottabad was under surveillance for months with the help of satellites and drones to confirm his existence and then 2 teams of SEALs were sent to kill him.

    I do wish we could use all the money spent on war for more sensible expenditure like education, medicine, and science.

    P.S: You don't have to mention, Romy.

  4. I guess the part that troubles me is 1) I think we should have given Osama bin Laden a trial instead of assassinating him, especially since our government is who put him in his power, and 2) who decides who is a terrorist? Our government has a nefarious history, via the FBI and CIA, and now the bloated, unnecessary Homeland Security, of spying upon activists, protesters, or anyone who speaks out against government policy. Some of my biggest heroes... Howard Zinn, George Carlin, John Lennon, and many more, have FBI files several inches thick. I agree that the drones could be a useful tool in surveillance, if they were using it to keep an eye on people who were an actual threat to human lives, rather than a threat to their corrupt, greedy Empire.

  5. I might sound a bit callous here, but I honestly think assassinating him was the right thing to do. First of all, he opening admitted that he was the architect behind 9/11 and also responsible for the killing of 1000s of people, let alone the brain washing and forcing children to become suicide bombers. So he has already been found guilty.

    I think the SEALs had complete control over the compound. The White House claims that Osama was shot while resisting arrest, which i think is complete B.S. But it was the best thing to do. If the SEALs arrested him, it would have lead to more complications, like the Taliban and other terror groups would have used all their might to save their skipper by doing all sort of grave things. And I don't think the U.S. government is particularly immaculate. They are the ones who put him in place, but I don't think there could have been a better end to Osama than this, since he was reluctant to surrender and face trail.

    You can enter the police record by doing something not so harmful like carrying an ounce of cannabis and also doing something like killing 1000s of people. But they are not the same. So I don't encourage you comparing people Howard Zinn, George Carlin and John Lennon to Osama just because they have FBI files. :)

  6. It certainly is complex and a tough call. I'm not comparing Howard Zinn, etc. to Osama bin Laden; my point is that the American government likes to play fast and loose with the term "terrorist." Worse yet, they have the authority now to imprison and assassinate without trial for suspicion of terrorism. Look what is happening to Bradley Manning; it's unbelievable. Anyone who disagrees with foreign policy could be deemed a terrorist, and that's not okay.

    Entering the police record and having an FBI file are not the same. In this country, having an FBI file means they are watching you, and our government is spending a scary amount of money to spy on ordinary people, and the misnamed Patriot Act is making it easier for them to do so.

    Where do we draw the line between a terrorist and a dissenter? Or an occupy protester, or a union rights or peace activist. The definition of a terrorist seems to be whatever is convenient for the government to get people to keep their mouths shut. And now we push a button and remote-control kill those who have been deemed terrorists; no trial, and a deplorable lack of accuracy. You're right, it is cowardly.

    By the way, I always appreciate your comments!


Father's Day

I spent this last Father’s Day in silent, burning rage at my dad, and it’s taken me three months to sort it out enough to write.