So, the President May Kill Anybody He Pleases, Right?
By Robert Higgs
Among the many cock-and-bull stories set afoot by the Bush
administration during the lead-up to its attack on Iraq was the
one about the now-infamous
drones of death. Later, it became sufficiently clear that
this alleged threat had no more substance than the others the
administration and the lapdog mainstream media had served up to
a credulous public.
the ludicrously primitive Iraqi drones had no capacity
whatsoever to harm the American public, the lethality of U.S.
drones is another matter.
drones equipped with
missiles now provide the U.S. government with a means of
flying over territory that U.S. ground troops dare
not penetrate, observing activities on the ground, and killing
people there with, shall we say, a minimum of due process.
November 2002, for example,
News reported: "America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
carried out an attack in Yemen that killed six suspected members
of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, according to US
officials. The men died when the jeep they were travelling in
was hit by a missile fired from an unmanned CIA plane – believed
to be a Predator drone, the US sources said."
forces have also used the Predator actively in Afghanistan and,
most recently, in the Waziristan region of Pakistan. Today, I
account of a drone attack near the town of Miramshah in
North Waziristan that is reported to have "killed at least 14
people and injured 12 others," including "at least six women and
Afghanistan, such aerial attacks, not always by drones, of
course, have created a ticklish dilemma for the Karzai
government as it pretends to be a real government, rather than
the U.S. puppet it actually is. Official protests have become
increasingly vociferous, though I have seen no evidence that the
U.S. forces intend to change their operations in response.
awesome power the president and, with his authorization, his
subordinate officers possess: they can kill people at will,
including those persons’ wives and children, with no risk
whatever of receiving return fire or other retribution. Surely
this is the long-sought culmination of the Republican’s quest to
establish "law and order."
leads me to remark on this matter, however, is not its
technological nuts and bolts or its connection with
master-puppet relations in southwest Asia, but rather the
complete insouciance with which the American public greets
reports of deaths by drone. I do not exaggerate if I say that
the general reaction is "ho-hum." Well, the average American
says, that disposes nicely of another "bad guy." The gratuitous
murder of the bad guy’s family members, neighbors, and other
innocent persons in the vicinity appears to create no blip on
the average American’s moral radar screen. Perhaps Americans do
not consider Yemenis, Afghanis, and Pakistanis to be real human
beings whose right to life we are obliged to respect?
by drone simply another occasion when the president, having
labeled a set of actions as a "war," believes and acts as though
he has carte blanche to dish out death and destruction willy
course, reports of drone attacks usually refer to militants,
Taliban forces, or al Qaeda members. To this information, we
might well respond: yeah, who says? If we are content to assume
that U.S. intelligence agents, who nearly always get their
information from collaborators in the target territories, really
know whom they are targeting, then we are certainly easily
satisfied. One does not have to make an extensive survey of U.S.
government claims about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other
places in southwest Asia over the past seven years to see that
for the most part the U.S. commanders, from the Commander in
Chief on down to the sweatiest noncom on patrol, are either more
or less clueless or the biggest liars on the planet. I do not
rule out that they are both.
upshot is that the people who cooperate in getting to the point
at which someone pushes the button to send the Hellfire toward
its selected target may in fact not know for sure whom they are
about the kill, or how many others will be killed along with
this ostensible "enemy" or who those others are.
launching into a massive geopolitical inquiry, we might
well pause from time to time to ask, What are U.S. forces doing
in Afghanistan and Pakistan anyhow? Surely they are not there to
capture or kill the persons responsible for the crimes of 9/11,
because they have already proved beyond all doubt that they are
incapable of doing so (as Osama bin Laden’s videos periodically
remind us). They are, however, all too capable of diverting
their energies from that objective toward unrelated goals, such
as attacking and occupying Iraq.
Americans find ourselves, then, observing with extreme moral
disengagement as the president and his subordinates murder
persons whose identities remain uncertain along with assorted
others whose only crime is being in the same area as the
targeted individuals – after all, the Hellfire, which makes
a very big blast, can scarcely be described as a surgically
precise killing instrument.
the president’s use of this remote-control-execution device
apparently has no geographical limits, because, as he assures
us, the "war on terror" has none. Today, a dirt road in
Waziristan; tomorrow, the Santa Monica Freeway. It will be
interesting to see, when drone attacks are carried out in this
country, whether the American public gives a damn.
Robert Higgs [send
him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the
and editor of
Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His
most recent book is
Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of
Government. He is also the author of
Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy,
Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11
Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.
2008 Robert Higgs
"comments" below to read or post comments
Be succinct, constructive and
relevant to the story.
We encourage engaging, diverse and meaningful commentary.
Do not include personal information such as names, addresses,
phone numbers and emails. Comments falling outside our
guidelines – those including personal attacks and profanity –
are not permitted.
See our complete
Policy and use this link
to notify us if you have concerns about a
comment. We’ll promptly
review and remove any inappropriate postings.
Send Page To a Friend
accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this
material is distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
the included information for research and
educational purposes. Information Clearing House
has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator
of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)