Drones aren’t “humane weapons”!

And the argument that they're more surgical than ground warfare obscures any discussion of peaceful alternatives

Topics: Drones, MSNBC, Chris Hayes, Angus King, Al-Qaida, Afghanistan,

Drones aren't "humane weapons"! (Credit: Reuters)

In my years reporting on the intentional narrowing of political vernacular to guarantee specific outcomes, I have encountered no better example of Orwellian newspeak than that which now dominates the conversation about America’s drone war. Given that, it’s worth reviewing the situation because it is so illustrative of how militarist propaganda operates in the 21st century.

As you know if you’ve paid attention to recent news, drone war proponents are currently facing inconvenient truths. This month, for instance, they are facing a new United Nations report showing that President Obama’s escalation of the Afghanistan War — which is defined, in part, by an escalation in drone airstrikes — is killing hundreds of children “due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force.” They are also facing news that the rise in drone strikes is accompanying a rise in al-Qaida recruits, proving that, in predictable “blowback” fashion, the attacks may be creating more terrorists than they are neutralizing.

Drone-war cheerleaders will no doubt find this news difficult to explain away on the merits. And so many are trying to change the linguistic foundation of the discourse from one rooted in fact to one rooted in a sophistry that narrows the public’s perception of available choices.

Sen. Angus King’s, I-Maine, comments justifying the drone war last week exemplify the talking points.

“Drones are a lot more civilized than what we used to do,” he told a cable television audience. “I think it’s actually a more humane weapon because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people.”

Designed to obscure mounting civilian casualties, King’s Orwellian phrase “humane weapon” is the crux of the larger argument. The idea is that an intensifying drone war is necessary — and even humane! — because it is more surgical than violent global ground war, which is supposedly America’s only other option. As New York Times columnist David Brooks summed it up: Drone strikes are great because “they inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative.” Or, as one drone-war defender put it on Twitter: “Drones? 160,000 pairs of boots on the ground? Hmm.”



In a country whose culture so often (wrongly) portrays bloodshed as the most effective problem solver, many Americans hear this now-ubiquitous drone-war argument and reflexively agree with its suppositions. Having been told in so many ways that killing is the best and only possible policy prescription, most simply assume that our only national security choice is between drone wars and ground wars — between different forms of preemptive violence, and nothing else.

The failure to question such an assumption represents what can be accurately described as a fundamentalist religion. After all, if faith is the belief in something without proof, then refusing to question martial assumptions represents a theology of militarism. And it’s not just any such theology, but one so willfully blind that it will not allow the realities of blowback and civilian casualties to shape its catechism.

It will not permit, in other words, a discussion of what MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calls the other alternative.

“We can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks,” he suggests.

By deliberately ignoring this particular option, drone-war proponents who employ choice-narrowing language are the militarist dogma’s most destructive evangelists.

At a moment when we should be having a broader conversation about alternatives to permanent war, they are preventing that conversation from even starting. In the process, they are precluding America from making more prudent, informed and dispassionate national security decisions, the kind that might stop us from repeating the worst mistakes of our own history.

David Sirota

David Sirota is a senior writer for the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>