On October 6, an unmanned drone flew deep into Israeli territory before it was shot down. The drone, now thought to have been sent by Lebanon, who acquired it from Iran, raises awareness of the sanctity of a nation’s airspace. As the violation of airspace has traditionally been seen as an act of war, Israel sent warplanes over Lebanon the next day. This brings to light how calloused and disrespectful of the air space of other countries we have been where we indiscriminately kill our enemies on their soil.
Drones are now our favored weapon of choice and we unleash them on suspected “terrorists,” without the permission of sovereign countries, throughout the Middle East. Moreover, we assume unto ourselves the right of surveillance of all potential adversaries on their soil. We get away with this because we are the “town bully.” Such would be acts of war if done on stronger countries. According to the Washington Post we have “secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents” (Under Obama, an Emerging Global Apparatus for drone killing, by Greg Miller, Dec. 27, 2011).
The paper reported, “Senior Democrats barely blink at the idea that a president from their party has assembled such a highly efficient machine for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists.” What is worse, “officially, they are not allowed to discuss” this most secretive activity although it is not denied.
President Barack Obama can argue that he did not invent this sophisticated “killing machine.” George W. Bush was the first to use it but he limited its use to Pakistan “where 44 strikes over five years had left about 400 people dead.” This is true, but Obama has amplified its use by at least four times the number of strikes and death and proliferated the death to several additional countries in northern Africa and the Middle East and the above numbers are conservative, the paper revealed.
The fact that such killings have included American citizens raises a serious constitutional question as well. Past presidential candidate, Ron Paul, said it best, “American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced” (An Unconstitutional Killing, New York Daily News, October 2, 2011).
The latest drone, the Phantom Eye, uses a hydrogen-fueled propulsion system capable of remaining in the air for four days without refueling, and potentially flying at about 65,000 feet, thus vastly increasing the surveillance capabilities of our military (Boeing Phantom drone has 1st flight, by W. J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2012). It has a 150-foot wingspan, perhaps the largest of the drones, but others come as small as a humming bird. Should our government be able to see everything?
No wonder we are especially hated in northern Africa, the Middle East and in Pakistan. A poll last June revealed that “about 74 percent of Pakistanis surveyed regard the U. S. as an enemy,” up from 64 percent just three years ago. The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project revealed that “only 17 percent support our drone strikes” and that this activity fuels the hatred. Has it occurred to this administration that for every alleged al-Qaeda that we kill we potentially create dozens more? This is a recipe that guarantees perpetual enemies and thus perpetual war. Surely, they know this. Are we not facilitating the strength of the Taliban? The increased foreign aid to “buy back” good will in Pakistan has not worked.
Two additional concerns emerge. First, drone warfare makes war too easy. So instead of making it difficult to engage because mothers will lose sons and sisters will lose brothers, and politicians will lose votes, there are no consequences. We just label a few people terrorists, blow them up, and there is no “body bag” coverage on the nightly news—actually no coverage at all.
Second, it sanitizes war. It is like playing a video game from some structure in Nevada. No one from our side gets killed or hurt. Our players do not have to see any blood or witness the sounds of human agony that result. The “video players” from 8,000 miles away can kill and be home with their families by five o’clock for supper, oblivious to the hell that they have inflicted on others. It is virtual war for us, much like the video game “Modern Warfare II,” and we play it so well.
We have violated the air space of probably a dozen countries and killed their people. If they did not fear us we would presently be at war with most of them. Then we wonder why they hate us. When they are stronger they may one day send drones to spy and kill us.