Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.6

A couple days ago NBC released a Justice Department memo on drones, the government's way of saying yes we can kill you if you are an American citizen, happen to be overseas, and we even think you are a terrorist. That seems to be all any of the talking heads want to talk about now. That is unless you include The Washington Post who thought it fitting they publish an article about Michelle Obama's ass. Seriously.

One would think I would be all ready to rant about the drones, rights, and what you could probably call legal assassination but one would be wrong. Instead of writing this to vent I'm writing to try and rationalize why I don't feel that way. The only reason I can come up with is that for almost half my life this country has been in one form of war or another. For my generation the deaths of 3,000 people is the defining moment of our lives and for all practical purposes my sister's generation hasn't known anything but war. Maybe more important than that is we have lived with the Patriot Act the whole time. What gun control does to the second amendment pales when compared to what the Patriot Act did to the rest of the Constitution.

The notion that drone killing isn't who we are or what we do doesn't work the way it does with torture. The drone is a totally predictable evolution of the American way of war. Clinical, antiseptic, death from above delivered with nothing but a sound reminiscent of a snowmobile engine. Perfectly packaged for the evening news to show just before they report on how terrible the drone wars are.

So I just don't know why the whole thing doesn't bother me more. Am I just being cynical to the ninth degree? Is it the images of what I saw in the streets of New York ten years ago? Maybe it's the subtle feeling I sometimes get that, no matter how much I love it, technology will be the end of us all one day. I honestly have no idea so for now I guess you could say it bothers me that it doesn't bother me.

Time ran a very good cover story on drones that contains a very real warning. "The moral ambiguity of covert drone strikes will clarify itself very quickly if another country claims the right under international law to strike its enemies in the U.S. There may come a day when the U.S. bitterly regrets the precedents it has set." Just try and imagine the American reaction to a Chinese drone flying over San Francisco. It isn't all that far fetched because the Time article mentions a drone Grumman is developing that will stay in the air for weeks at a time.

A literary mind might feel the need to issue a more personal warning than Time by using a quote by George Orwell. But the book 1984 was written over sixty years ago, the year itself is almost thirty years ago, so people might only understand it in an quaint abstract sort of way. Something a little more timely is called for.

Skynet isn't as fictitious as it once was.

2/7 update - I did more thinking on this but I'm going to write an additional post rather than doubling the size of this one. I did want to that one of the major reasons this has even become an issue is John Brennan's confirmation hearing today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee or, as I prefer to call it, the gang of cranky old men. Brennan, President Obama's counter-terrorism chief and the man who ran the drone wars, is nominated to be head of the CIA.

Something to think about this morning, Senate Intelligence Committee, that's a political oxymoron if there ever was one.

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