You may have to show your papers when pulled over by Arizona law enforcement under the rubric of “reasonable suspicion,” but don’t worry about being asked for I.D. if you happen to be in a safe house, or tribal belt along the Pakistani border. Under a secret program,approved by the Obama administration, you can now be killed by a CIA drone attack even if the agency can’t verify you by name, or attest to your participation in extremism.
According to Blacklisted News, the CIA is now permitted to continue its program of ever widening drone attacks, an operation that was begun at the tail end of the Bush administration, and continues with the consent of President Obama.
Only, there is this important different: in the past, the CIA was limited to taking out only those on an approved list, but now anyone “deemed to pose a threat to the U.S.” is fair game, even if their identity is unknown.
To repeat, the CIA used to have a hit list of those they knew by name, and on whom they had collected intelligence. The agency has is now allowed to kill those whose names they don’t know, and by virtue of targeting an entire hiding place even those who may be innocent.
Apart from the obvious, and egregious ethical considerations, think about the hypocrisy here. In Arizona, a person getting pulled over on a routine traffic stop can now be arrested if he can’t produce proper documentation attesting to his citizenship, but there is no longer any requirement to be identified before being the subject of a missile strike overseas.
One official reportedly said “We might now always have their names but…these are people whose actions over time have made it obvious that they are a threat.” How is it possible to tell, during an air strike, who exactly is being struck? Does law enforcement randomly fire into a concert hall because there’s a mass murderer inside? Does that not make us the mass murderer?
Some might argue that this is the theatre of war, and that these extremists are the enemy, and that we are firing based on good intelligence. Understood, the folks doing the firing are working from intelligence, but is intelligence infallible? Was it not “intelligence” that provoked U.S. forces to invade, and occupy Iraq based on illusory weapons of mass destruction.
Also, can anyone making the argument that this is standard operating procedure on the battlefield come up with even one shred of evidence that the enemy is striking back? Has there been even one Pakistani or Afghan drone, or missile attack on U.S. forces in the region, or any other region? This might be a bit old fashioned, but is it combat if only one side is killing the other? Don’t at least two parties have to be involved for it to be a battle?
Some might say, too, this is a “war on terror,” a dual against an adversarial ideology; these are the folks who bombed the World Trade Center, and we need to attack at the root. If that’s the case, why not bombard Pakistan with the King James bible instead of using drones?
Here’s yet another minor detail: don’t we supposedly already have the guys responsible for 9/11 in custody? And, doesn’t their complicity in the World Trade Center bombings need to be proven in a court of law before we can willy nilly bomb their training camps, and hiding places to smithereens? What about a military tribunal? Aren’t they entitled to a trail of some kind? If not, why not quit spending $10 million each to build a drone, and bring back the firing squad.
More to the point: is it okay to simply open fire on those who are reasonably suspicious of involvement, or implementation of the mayhem that was 9/11? Whatever happened to a little thing called the Declaration of War?
However stunning word of the CIA now being able to kill extremists in Pakistan without being able to identify them is, there is about as much focus on this by the mainstream media as there is attention being paid to Congress considering extending unlimited detention. While many express concern about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan position on habeas corpus, few are speaking up about legislation currently being reviewed that will continue the controversial practice indefinitely.
When credible allegations were made about Dick Cheney’s secret death squads, the general response was horror, a Joseph Conrad kind of horror, too, but hardly a word has been heard on the subject since.
Can it be that we, as a nation, have become so hardened, and desensitized that even our horror has been neutralized, and our distinguished mainstream press acts as a silencer for the high crimes, misdemeanors, and continued transgressions of a government that left this country disgraced, and in disarray.
Moreover, this ongoing, technically illegal war in Pakistan not only permits intelligence agents to fire on anonymous targets with impunity turns, but it turns the clock back 800 years to a time when there was no Magna Carta, and no accountability for war crimes.
For any member of a U.S. intelligence agency to fire randomly at targets that don’t fire back, to plan and execute airstrikes in which civilians who may be extremists, or may just be innocent victims, and to do so with the blessing of their commander-in-chief can only arouse unspeakable outrage.
We need to see the same kind of national response to this administration going along for the ride and allowing random drone attacks of unidentified targets in Pakistan as we recently witnessed to the actions of the state of Arizona. As, in the end, a nation that has lost its sense of outrage is one that has lost its moral compass.
JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.