By Kathleen J. Hall
This is the age of drones, unmanned aircraft controlled from a continent and an ocean away that drop bombs on the people we believe are a danger to us.
We build them, arm them and aim them, and they hit their targets, among other things. If the Air Force has its way, members of the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines will soon be sitting in pleasant rooms, before panels closely resembling video games. You know the ones — the way to win is to take everybody else out, with a satisfying explosion of color and sound. Except that they will be firing actual weapons mounted on unmanned aircraft.
According to the New York Times, the decision on whom to bomb each week is made at the highest level, in the White House. Here, President Barack Obama receives the list of proposed targets, talks it over with advisers, mulls it over (“are there any schools near?”), and decides on the victims of the week.
Nothing in our Constitution, our history or our beliefs allows one man, even the president of the United States, to serve as prosecutor, judge and jury.
And who are the targets? Anyone we suspect of being a “terrorist.” And because not even the wonders of GPS can yet guide a drone to kill only one terrorist, we also kill whoever happens to be standing close by. Men of military age are counted as enemy combatants; women and children are that old standby, collateral damage.
And where do we target them? Although the United States has largely dispensed with formal declarations of war, we at least admit to war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has received the largest number of lethal drone strikes, and we’ve broadened the field to include Yemen and Mali.
Lethal drones are the face of America in the Middle East. And I doubt that more people love us as a result.
Rockwell Collins does about 60 percent of its business with the U.S. Department of Defense. When President Clay Jones spoke last year at Mount Mercy University, an audience member questioned Rockwell Collins’ military involvement. Jones responded that he knows some people hate us because we are so successful, and that they always will. He doesn’t think our foreign policy has any bearing on this; the most important thing is that we remain the only superpower.
I’m pretty sure that our foreign policy does affect how others feel about us. Could anyone be favorably disposed toward a country whose weapons have killed innocent family members, including children? What better way to create new terrorists?
Congress seems newly awakened to the significance of drone technology and promises investigations. Now would be a good time to tell your president, your senators and your representative that you don’t want drones to be the face of America.
l Kathleen J. Hall of Cedar Rapids is member of Workers for Peace Iowa and the Whittier Monthly Meeting of Friends. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org