Here are 7 reasons why drones are scary and awful

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 4.41 pm

Thanks to Rare for publishing my latest:

By now you’re likely aware that our government has an extensive drone campaign in the Middle East and North Africa. Targets are selected personally by the President using a secret “kill list,” and though drone strikes are currently on the decline in Pakistan, they’re unlikely to go away entirely (particularly in Yemen) during Obama’s presidency.

But why do drones get so much attention? Bombs and planes have been around a long time—what makes drones so special?

Here’s seven reasons why drones are such a big deal:

1. Drones offer scary new surveillance capabilities. People are pretty much a fixed size. You can’t make a manned aircraft smaller than the person manning it. Drones, however, can be tiny. Super tiny. The size of bugs, in fact. When it comes to surveillance (and potentially assassinations), this makes drones much more of a threat than manned aircraft. You won’t miss the chopper hovering outside your window; you will miss the fly on the wall.

2. Drone warfare is bad for the drone pilots. Dropping bombs by remote control allows drone operators to be thousands of miles removed from their targets. It’s inherently uncertain and minimizes the very real psychological cost of hitting the kill button. Said one former drone operator, “We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.” When the American military is already suffering from a tragic suicide epidemic, adding the psychological strain of drone warfare can only make matters worse.

3. Speaking of the victims, the ratio of civilians to terrorists killed may be as high as 50:1. In Pakistan, a major target for US drone strikes, as few as 2% of those who die by our drone strikes are high-level terror suspects. As for the other 98%, it’s difficult to determine who’s a civilian and who isn’t. That’s because the Obama Administration classifies every male from 18 to 60 who is killed as a terrorist, regardless of evidence. This “guilty until proven innocent” rule gives the President free reign—all while pretending that every kill is a success. Many of these men are simply poor farmers in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some estimates put the civilian to terrorist kill ratio as high as 50:1!

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in , ,

Culture War Neighbors

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 3.20 pm

Thanks to ReKnew for publishing my latest:

The first time I was aware of meeting a gay person, I was 18. I took a summer job waiting tables, and it turned out two of my coworkers were attracted to people of the same sex. One, a waiter in his 40s, fit every stereotype on Will and Grace. The other was a girl maybe five years older than me. She had model good looks, a sweet personality, and a girlfriend.

When I realized my coworkers were gay, my immediate reaction was worry. They’d find out I was a Christian sooner than later. Was I supposed to tell them the church I attended prohibited same-sex relationships? That seemed really awkward. But if I didn’t tell them, was I ashamed of my faith?

Every shift we were scheduled together, I was concerned about how I could both honor God and have good work relationships. But as one lunch rush led to another, I realized my coworkers weren’t particularly interested in my opinions.

They were interested in whether I’d help them when they were swamped.

They were interested in picking up a shift for me if I needed time off.

They were interested in being decent to their coworkers and giving their tables a nice experience at our restaurant and making good tips—just like me.

Scurrying to refill drinks, polishing silverware and sweeping floors, begging the cooks to hurry up on that new batch of bread, we were neighbors.

If I’d worked at that restaurant longer than a few months and had a chance to get to know those two better, the day may well have come to share my convictions. But for the time I was there, it was enough that they knew I was a Christian, and that a Christian could be their neighbor.

Read the rest here.

Posted in , , ,

Thanks to Rare for publishing my latest:

The rule of law has always been integral to the American system. It hasn’t always been followed, of course, but as Glenn Greenwald has noted “even when this principle was being violated, its supremacy was also being affirmed: resoundingly and unanimously in the case of the founders.”

Unlike some European monarchies, where laws could be changed on the mere whim of some dictatorial—or even insane—ruler with absolute power, our founders sought to design what John Adams called, “a government of laws and not of men.”

And while the results certainly weren’t perfect, the goal was admirable: To guard liberty by building our government on impartial law, not the caprice of one person.

But what do you do when enforcing the rule of law could be bad for liberty?

That’s the dilemma we find ourselves in today, particularly due to a new, headline-making bill backed by Senator Rand Paul.

Paul is backing the “ENFORCE the Law Act,” which has already passed the House. It’s designed to strengthen the rule of law by allowing Congress to bring suit against anyone in the executive branch who refuses to follow or administer laws already on the books.

Now, at first glance, this sounds like a good idea for enforcing a major constitutional function of the presidency: “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” And it’s not like the rule of law couldn’t use some help these days. The law is anything but king—and it hasn’t been for a long time, as each new NSA revelation makes painfully clear.

Politicians regularly ignore the rule of law for their own convenience… and at our expense. This need for accountability is basically the argument Sen. Paul has made:

[Congress writes] laws and [the President] is just deciding willy-nilly if he likes it he enforces it, if he doesn’t, he won’t enforce it, and we really think he needs to be chastened, rebuked, and told that he needs to obey the Constitution.

Reasonable enough, right? The President shouldn’t have the arbitrary power to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce and which he doesn’t.

So why is Paul catching flak for his decision?

Read the rest here.

Posted in , , ,

« Older Entries   Newer Entries »