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Drones = Assassinations = War Crimes


Journalist Scott Shane, with an assist from Mark Mazzetti, reports in the New York Times (May 22) on the decline in armed drone strikes. Perhaps, for all the wrong reasons, drone warfare is now under review–i.e., in the words of one national-security expert, these strikes are not worth the “long-term strategic costs.” Giving up this principal tool, Obama’s signature weapon of choice, is not on the table, only its selective use, so as not to invite charges that the US is horrifically guilty under international law for the vaporization of fellow human beings, and then, from “pilots” sitting in Nevada or New Mexico, 8000 miles away, the victims of presidential authorization at nomination parties Terror Tuesdays at the White House.

Who, in Summer ’08, would believe they were electing a moral monster, so cold-blooded as to revamp military operations through expanding the mission of CIA, assigning critical tasks to JSOC, and globalizing their paramilitary functions into both a doctrine of permanent war (the gist of counterterrorism) and avenue to maintaining political-ideological hegemony (the gist of counterrevolution) in a world that no longer corresponds to US claims of leadership in structuring the international system on lines acceptable to American capitalist expansion and, its twin, US military supremacy.

Obama is expected to reveal the justification for wholesale acts of political murder (now including that of four Americans—but who’s counting?) and the extreme terrorization of whole populations, through never knowing when the sustained buzzing overhead will strike without warning, this last a trick that the Nazis learned about psychological warfare during the London bombings, especially the unmanned aerial vehicles. If the US is skating on the thin edge of fascism in its creation of an hierarchical social order based on monopolization, the unrestrained growth of the military, and, through the political culture of militarism ensuring mass passivity and acquiescence (hardly a peep from organized labor, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, religious groups, students—all of whom played an important part in the civil rights struggle—on assassination as official US policy from the top), the use of armed drones is taking America over the edge.

Now partly disguised through liberal rhetoric and the stubborn loyalty to Obama of the Democratic party, the black community (an expression of racial solidarity Paul Robeson and Dr. King would have had no trouble seeing through), and assorted liberal groups, beginning with labor and environmentalists.

“Fascism” stick in the craw? Too bad, because given the preponderance of military spending, planning, and execution, coupled with the uncontested fact of wider disparities of wealth and power in America as never before, and the formation looks suspiciously one-sided, a business polity occupying a moral void, presided over by a POTUS responsive to ruling groups, at the direct expense of the poor, yes, black and white alike.

Obama’s fascination, joined by Brennan, and a national-security apparatus claiming drone assassination is moral because it obviates the need for more boots on the ground (Pentagon jargon), with antiseptic killing—down of course to leaving the victim a blood spat, disappeared, not one to worry about in terms of imprisonment—speaks volumes about the psychological authoritarianism callous to human suffering, not to say obliteration. The Oval Office has done its share in legitimating bestiality.

My Comment on The Times’s article follows:

Along with Savage, Shane and Mazzetti are among my favorite national-security reporters. Yet in this article I could not find the key word describing the armed drone strikes: ASSASSINATION. No wonder America’s ugly reputation in the world. Obama the assassination president, Obama enshrouding the program in secrecy (lest its illegality be exposed), Obama the killer of more children through so-called “collateral damage” than are killed through gun violence in America.

Oh those Terror Tuesday sessions off the Situation Room, selecting targets as though in a shooting gallery at a county fair. POTUS the Mars of War (while God is busy ministering to the victims). Almost as shameful as Obama’s personal authorization for targeted killings–these include zapping the funerals of the victims and first responders seeking to help the victims–are the reasons given for slowing down the number of strikes. Everything about the drones speaks to cynicism, cold-bloodedness, amorality, together adding up to an indictment for WAR CRIMES.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

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