Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control | Medea Benjamin

From the introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich

"In many ways, drones present the same moral issues as any other action-at-a-distance weapon: They allow warriors to kill at a minimal risk to themselves, thus lowering the human cost of aggression. Thus the ancient contempt for archers, as recounted in The Iliad, where the Greek chieftains deride the Trojan prince Paris for his reliance on the bow and arrow. Real men are not afraid of hand-to-hand combat; only cowards attack from a distance, often hiding behind trees or rocks.

Drones are of course the ultimate action-at-a-distance weapon, allowing the aggressor to destroy targets in Pakistan or Afghanistan while “hiding” thousands of miles away in Nevada. But this alone does not make them uniquely pernicious: Missiles and aerial bombardment can also be launched from great distances, by individuals who need not see the extent of the violence they inflict. If we are to end war, we need to take aim at all the weaponry that makes it possible and even inviting – guns, artillery, fighter planes and bombs—and at the industries that manufacture them.

But in this remarkably cogent and carefully researched book, Medea Benjamin makes it clear that drones are not just another high-tech military trinket. In fact, it is hard to even claim that their primary use is “military” in any traditional sense. Drones have made possible a program of targeted assassinations that are justified by the U.S. “war on terror,” but otherwise in defiance of both international and U.S. law. As Benjamin documents, it is the CIA, not the Pentagon, that operates most drone strikes in Western Asia, with no accountability whatsoever. Designated targets, including American citizens, have been condemned without evidence or trial-- at the will, apparently, of the White House. And those who target the drones do so with complete impunity for the deaths of any civilians who end up as collateral damage.

One of Benjamin’s most disturbing revelations has to do with the explosive expansion of the drone industry in just the last few years, to the point where 50 nations now possess the devices. Drone Warfare sketches out the nightmare possibilities posed by this insane proliferation. We cannot only expect drones to fall into the hands of “rogue” nations or terrorist groups; we should brace ourselves, too, for the domestic use of surveillance drones and even armed drones at the Mexican border and possibly against American civilian protestors.

In anyone else’s hands, this could be a deeply depressing book. Fortunately though, Medea Benjamin is not just an ace reporter; she’s one of the world’s leading anti-war activists. Drone Warfare ends with the story of the global anti-drone movement, in which she has played a central role. At the end of this book, you’ll be inspired – and you’ll know exactly how to get involved!"

Order the book here.

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