Posts Tagged ‘Drones’
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 NSA. The TSA. Domestic drones and all kinds of other crappy, police state programs. So 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.
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.
Posted on February 11, 2013 at 6.55 pm
Q. Is there a particular reason to be opposed to drone use vs. manned craft? I understand the opposition to BOTH, but I’m wondering what your stance is in particular to drone use that is more egregious than manned government aircraft. – zigziggityzoo, from tumblr.
A. Well, I’m not keen on the government using manned or unmanned aircraft to spy on and/or assassinate Americans here at home or conduct “kill list”assassinations abroad. That said, there are a few reasons I talk about drones significantly more often:
- A lot of people — a majority of Americans, in fact — are very ok with them being used in both the scenarios I just described. Unmanned drones can prevent U.S. casualties in the immediate situation, and that seems like a good thing at first glance. But it’s also a very short-sighted view which ignores the sentiments drone strikes are producing in places like Pakistan and Yemen: “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.” Blowback is a real thing, and ignoring it because drones seem like a safe and convenient option now is foolish at best.
- Domestically, it’s drones which are being legally “justified” by the Obama Administration for extrajudicial strikes on Americans. If a memo had leaked saying all the same stuff about manned flights, I’d feel the same way about that.
- There’s a significant political will on the side of simply not debating drone use, especially abroad. That’s a horrible idea.
- Drone warfare is bad for the drone pilots as well as their victims.As I’ve argued before, drone warfare does more than remove American people from the situation: It also removes American humanity. This is a form of warfare in which those who do the actual killing can be thousands of miles removed from their targets. It’s inherently callous and minimizes the psychological cost of hitting the kill button.
- On a final, practical note, 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. Like super tiny. The size of bugs, in fact. When it comes to surveillance, 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 literal fly on the wall.