Posts Tagged ‘Drones’

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.

A Word on the Government Shutdown (or, Let’s not alienate 800,000 people from the cause of liberty)

Posted on October 2, 2013 at 11.48 am

In the wake of the government shutdown, I’ve noticed many libertarian types cracking jokes about how we’d love it if the shutdown were permanent — if the “non-essential” employees stayed permanently furloughed.

And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. Politics creates some of the most absurd situations we ever encounter in real life, and sometimes you just have to make fun of stuff. I’ve even engaged in a little of this myself (but then, who wouldn’t when it involves Ron Swanson, amirite?). Plus, we do actually want the government to be a whole lot smaller, and on a gut level, this feels like a step in the right direction.

But an unintended consequence of all this joking is how off-putting it can be to those who are actually, you know, furloughed. By most estimates there are about 800,000 government employees temporarily out of work right now — only about 20% of the federal government’s total payroll. And, given that they possess natural human feelings of wanting a livelihood, they don’t really like it when we say we want their jobs to disappear.

This is understandable. If I said, “I’m worried that I might not be able to keep my job,” and you replied, “Hahah, good, I hope your job disappears forever,” I would probably not be your biggest fan.

So that’s why I think it’s so important for us (libertarians, conservatives, civil libertarians of all stripes — anyone who wants a significant cut in any part of government activity) to stop a second and say:

We don’t want you to be unemployed.

We want you to have a job you like which will take care of your family.

We just think that your current job does things which would be better done by the private sector, not the government. You might even make more money if it were, and we’re 100% in favor of that. 

So when we post memes and quotes and commentary apparently rejoicing in the government shutdown, it’s not because we think you aren’t valuable. It’s a rough, political-humor way of saying, “We think there are better ways for you to use your skills and expertise than working for the government, and we’d like to have a national debate about that.”

It’s a lot like how saying “I don’t think we should be involved in this war” doesn’t mean “I want all these soldiers to be thrown out on the street to starve.” It means, among other things, “I wish these soldiers could be here at home working in civilian jobs instead.”

Second, it’s also important to note how crude a measure is the government’s designation of “essential” vs. “non-essential” employees really is. For instance, a friend of mine works in press and social media communications in a House office. I’d say her work is essential, because it’s important for a Representative to stay in touch with constituents via the press and more direct communication online. Especially with big debates going on — and given that, constitutionally, the House is in control of the money — we need people getting the word out about what’s happening on the Hill. The government disagrees, however, and my friend is furloughed.

By contrast, you know who’s happily chugging along at work right now? Everything sucky: The NSAThe TSADomestic drones and all kinds of other crappy, police state programsSo those 800,000 people who have been sent home? They’re not necessarily the people we actually want sent home.

All that said, I’m not suggesting that we have a “No Memes Allowed” rule when talking about the shutdown. Memes are for the internet; and the internet is for memes; and let’s all be funny. But let’s not let our funniness get in the way of communicating what we actually think about this situation — and the fact that we do want these 800,000 people to have jobs.

“What’s wrong with our drone program?” — a quick explanation starting from scratch

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 10.51 am

I posted this link and quote on my personal Facebook page and got a reply from a fairly nonpolitical friend. He wasn’t aware of the drone program at all, and was wondering about the context of the strike the Senate testimony in question described. I wanted to give a quick but comprehensive overview of the whole drones program, and this (with a few tweaks and sources added) was the result. Feel free to use it to explain what’s wrong with our drone program to anyone you know who is likewise uninformed.

Our government conducts an extensive droning campaign across the Middle East and North Africa. Targets are selected personally by the President using a secret “Kill List” (I know this sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, but it’s not — the story was originally broken by the New York Times.)

Fewer than 2% of those who die by our drone strikes are high level terror suspects. As for the other 98%, it’s difficult to determine how many are civilians and how many are low level terror operatives. The reason is that the Obama Administration classifies EVERY male from 18 to 60 who is killed as a terrorist, regardless of whether there is any evidence of guilt at all. This “guilty until proven innocent” mindset allows them to kill with impunity and claim that they are conducting targeted killings on a terrorist population, when that is simply not the case. Many of these men are simply poor farmers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some estimates put the civilian to terrorist killed ratio as high as 50 to 1.

But it gets worse. Even putting aside the dubious classification of many of the male victims, our drone strikes also kill a high percentage of women and children. We’ve even deliberately targeted wedding celebrations. And the most horrifying part: There’s a technique called “double-tap droning,” which is where we send a bomb on a target, wait a few minutes, and then circle back around to kill the first responders as they rush to help our victims. It’s a truly diabolical tactic.

In short, the bombing this Senate testimony is talking about is not an isolated incident, and it was not a mistake. Our drone warfare is a shameful, inhumane program which creates more enemies than it kills.