FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lament of the Drones

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Frogs in the marsh mud drone their old laments.

— Vergil, Georgics

It is wonderful how a new weapon can rejuvenate a word that has long been something of a dullard.  The reinvigorated word is “drone.”

In days of yore among its more accustomed uses was to refer to a deep humming sound or monotonous speech.  It has now been promoted to one of the most discussed pieces of armament in the modern arsenal.  And a wonderful addition it is.  Its importance was highlighted by Senator Rand Paul (R. Ky.) who, in a refreshing moment of historical significance, engaged in a filibuster of the old fashioned variety.  Instead of saying he was filibustering, he actually filibustered and in so doing brought badly needed attention to the use of drones in modern warfare.

One of the drone’s problems (although this was not addressed by the Senator) is that like the bastard child, it is not always clear to whom it belongs and that may eventually lead to awkward international moments.  The sorts of moments to which I refer were most recently on display following drone strikes that took place in Pakistan in early February. On March 4 a New York Times headline read:  “U.S. Disavows 2 Drone Strikes Over Pakistan.” March 5 the headline was:  “Pakistan Rejects U.S. Disavowal of Drone Strikes.”  Pakistan did not want to take credit for these strikes even though, apparently successful, they killed two senior commanders of Al Qaeda together with seven other people who may have simply been incidental beneficiaries of the strike.

Senior Pakistani officials gave all the credit for the strikes to the United States but in an unusual display of military modesty, the United States declined to take credit.  A spokesman for the United States who spoke anonymously (because the drone program is secret and anonymous speech keeps it secret) insisted on giving all the credit to Pakistan.  The official said:  “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”  (Those words are not meant to suggest that the military is moribund although it is not altogether clear what they do mean.) The Pakistanis were not pleased at being given credit for the strikes. That is because Pakistanis (whom we have favored with 330 drone attacks in the last five years) do not like manna from heaven when delivered by drones.

The United States did not want to take credit for the drone strikes even if it deserves the credit since it is not at war with Pakistan and there is little justification for going around using drones in countries with which it is not at war just because there are people in that country whom we consider enemy combatants whom we hope to kill employing drones.

The Pakistanis said the United States’ modesty about the successful strikes was “a distortion of the facts” and suggested the purpose was to dilute “Pakistan’s stance on drone strikes.”  That stance is officially one of not being appreciative of drone strikes by the U.S., believing that these strikes infringe on their sovereignty and are a violation of human rights.  (There is apparently a way that the United States can launch drone strikes in a country with which it is not at war without violating that country’s sovereignty.  In a discussion of drones that was reported in the New York Times we are informed that lawyers analyzing the legality of drone strikes in friendly countries explained that Yemen has “granted permission for Drone strikes on its soil as long as the United States [does] not acknowledge its role, so such strikes would not violate Yemeni sovereignty.”  Go figure.)

Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster pertained not to the use of drones in foreign countries but in the United States.  Its purpose was to obtain assurance from the administration that it would not use drone strikes to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil even if it considered them enemy combatants.  In the manner of a dentist dealing with a stubborn tooth, he was finally able to extract such an assurance from the attorney general of the United States.

Not everyone is as concerned with drones as Senator Paul.  An editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal observed that the use of drones is limited to “the remotest areas of conflict zones like Pakistan and Yemen” (with neither of which countries are we at war) and went on to conclude that a U.S. citizen designated an enemy combatant could be targeted if found in the United States, presumably, although not articulated in the editorial, by a drone strike.   The writer suggests that if U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, an acknowledged terrorist, killed by a drone strike in Yemen had been living in Virginia, he could have been targeted there.   The writer pointed out that that’s what happened to the Nazis who landed on Long Island during the Second World War.  They were, said the writer, captured and executed.  One minor fact was left out of the editorial.  The Nazis were tried before they were executed.  The Journal obviously considers that a minor fact and its omission from the editorial is of no moment.

It is nice to know that we won’t use drone strikes on American soil.  Perhaps some day we won’t fly drones over countries with which we are not at war.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney based in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 22, 2017
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Louisa Willcox
Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tom Udall Back Tribes in Grizzly Fight
John Stanton
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Robert Fisk
Did Trump Denounce Qatar Over Failed Business Deals?
Medea Benjamin
America Will Regret Helping Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen
Brian Addison
Los Angeles County Data Shows Startling Surge in Youth, Latino Homelessness
Native News Online
Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights
Stephen Martin
A Tragic Inferno in London Reflects the Terrorism of the Global Free Market
Debadityo Sinha
Think Like a River
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail