By David Swanson, Remarks in London, England, July 2, 2014.
Thank you to Bruce Kent and the Movement for the Abolition of War and to Veterans For Peace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Thank you to the Stop the War Coalition and everyone else for helping spread the word.
In 8 days, on July 10th Mary Ann Grady-Flores, a grandmother from Ithaca, NY, is scheduled to be sentenced to up to one year in prison. Her crime is violating an order of protection, which is a legal tool to protect a particular person from the violence of another particular person. In this case, the commander of Hancock Air Base has been legally protected from dedicated nonviolent protesters, despite the protection of commanding his own military base, and despite the protesters having no idea who the guy is. That's how badly the people in charge of the flying killer robots we call drones want to avoid any questioning of their activity entering the minds of the drone pilots.
Last Thursday a place in the U.S. called the Stimson Center released a report on the new U.S. habit of murdering people with missiles from drones. The Stimson Center is named for Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War who, prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor wrote in his diary, following a meeting with President Roosevelt: "The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. It was a difficult proposition." (Four months earlier, Churchill had told his cabinet at 10 Downing Street that U.S. policy toward Japan consisted of this: "Everything was to be done to force an incident.") This was the same Henry Stimson who later forbid dropping the first nuclear bomb on Kyoto, because he'd once been to Kyoto. He'd never visited Hiroshima, much to the misfortune of the people of Hiroshima.
I know there's a big celebration of World War I going on over here (as well as big resistance to it), but in the United States there's been an ongoing celebration of World War II for 70 years. In fact, one might even suggest that World War II has continued in a certain way and on a lesser scale for 70 years (and on a greater scale in particular times and places like Korea and Vietnam and Iraq). The United States has never returned to pre-World War II levels of taxes or military spending, never left Japan or Germany, has engaged in some 200 military actions abroad during the so-called post-war era, has never stopped expanding its military presence abroad, and now has troops permanently stationed in almost every country on earth. Two exceptions, Iran and Syria, are regularly threatened.
So it is altogether appropriate, I think, that it was the Stimson Center that released this report, by former military officials and military-friendly lawyers, a report that included this rather significant statement: "The increasing use of lethal UAVs may create a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars."
At least that sounds significant to me. Continual wars? That's a pretty bad thing, right?
Also last week, the U.S. government made public a memo in which it claims the right to legally murder a U.S. citizen (never mind anybody else) as part of a war that has no limit in time or space. Call me crazy, but this seems serious. What if this war goes on long enough to generate significant enemies?
Last year the United Nations released a report that stated that drones were making war the norm rather than the exception. Wow. That could be a problem for a species of creatures who prefer not being bombed, don't you think? The United Nations, created to rid the world of war, mentions in passing that war is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Surely the response to such a grave development should be equally significant.
We've grown habituated, I think, to reading reports that say things like "If we don't leave 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground we're all going to die, and lots of other species with us," and then experts recommend that we use more efficient light bulbs and grow our own tomatoes. I mean we've become used to the response not remotely fitting the crisis at hand.
Such is the case with the UN, the Stimson Center, and a good crowd of humanitarian law experts, as far as I can tell.
The Stimson Center says of murders by drone, they should be "neither glorified not demonized." Nor, apparently, should they be stopped. Instead, the Stimson Center recommends reviews and transparency and robust studies. I'm willing to bet that if you or I threatened massive continual or widening death and destruction we'd be demonized. I'm willing to bet the idea of our being glorified wouldn't even come up for consideration.
The United Nations, too, thinks transparency is the answer. Just let us know whom you're murdering and why. We'll get you the forms to do a monthly report. As other nations get in on this game we'll compile their reports and create some real international transparency.
That's some people's idea of progress.
Drones are, of course, not the only way or -- thus far -- the most deadly way the U.S. and its allies wage wars. But there is this minimal pretense of ethical discussion about drones because drone murders look like murders to a lot of people. The U.S. president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks whom to murder, and has them and anyone standing too close to them murdered -- although he also often targets people without knowing their name. Bombing Libya or anywhere else looks less like murder to many people, especially if -- like Stimson in Hiroshima -- they've never been to Libya, and if numerous bombs are all supposedly aimed at one evil person whom the U.S. government has turned against. So, the United States goes through something like the 2011 war on Libya that has left that nation in such a fine state without it occurring to any military-friendly think tanks that there's an ethical question to be pondered.