Sunday, 21 October 2012

is it the drones or the killings we oppose?

Two September 2 postings on the Peace Center Facebook page responded to an AUGUST 29, 2012 article by DOUG NOBLE, "Is It the Drones or the Killings We Oppose?"

Here is a link to the article at the website

Here are the two postings in reply:

September 2 Response to Doug's article from Brian Terrell: Thanks for sending your piece to us, Doug. I responded to some similar critiques of the “anti-drone lobby” in a Counterpunch article a bit more than a year ago-

A few quick responses to your article:

"So a continued focus on drones carries the danger of distracting our attention from the horrific, illegal and immoral, targeted killing of civilians, including women and children, which is the original motivation for our years of opposition and protest." You are addressing an "anti-drone" movement that does not place the drones in context with the killing that is going on. I have not encountered that movement and I do not believe that such exists. Every demonstration and campaign that I know of draws attention to, and not away from, "the horrific, illegal and immoral, targeted killing of civilians." (Your criticism surely does not apply to the resistance at Hancock Field!) Further, I question if it is possible in 2012 to make a protest of "the horrific, illegal and immoral, targeted killing of civilians" that is NOT a protest of the use of drones.

“We should perhaps return our attention to the killing itself. This would move us beyond the public fascination with technology and would expose the criminality of targeted assassination of civilians...” “Return our attention…” Has our attention to the killing ever wavered? As a defendant in two high profile anti-drone civil resistance trials and another one next week, I assure you that in the planning for these actions and the ensuing trials, the “public fascination with technology” has never been a factor and the focus continues to be clearly to “expose the criminality of targeted assassination of civilians.” The expert witnesses call to testify in our trials are not technicians but experts in international law and the law of land warfare. They have been witnesses to the killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Far from “blind(ing) us to a broader US enterprise of targeted assassination around the globe,” the drone protests have opened the eyes of many, our own included, to the broader US “enterprise.”

I am more than puzzled by what you list as the “good reasons not to focus our opposition on drones.” Doug, what you list here are reasons to redouble our efforts to focus our opposition on drones, not to back off! “The wizardry of drone technology has great popular appeal in the US. According to Pew Research’s latest polling, 62% of the US public enthusiastically approve of drone use for remote-controlled killing in the war on terror. The New York State Fair now has a popular exhibit providing children the simulated thrill of piloting a drone mission. The burgeoning drone manufacturing industry appears unstoppable, with nearly 50 companies developing some 150 different systems, ranging from miniature models to those with wingspans comparable to airliners. Law enforcement and security agencies will have $6 billion in U.S. sales by 2016, for domestic surveillance. Altogether, the drone industry’s lobbying group, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, claims 507 corporate members in 55 countries. There is virtually no Congressional opposition to the drone fever that has gripped the military, which is spending $4.2 billion on drones this year alone; one large bipartisan congressional committee is solely committed to promoting drone technology.” Are you saying “don’t protest drones because they are really, really, popular?” You are right, for example, noting that there is “virtually no Congressional opposition to the drone fever that has gripped the military.” There is virtually no Congressional opposition to the war in Afghanistan, nor to maintaining a nuclear arsenal, either and at one time, there was virtually no Congressional opposition to slavery! Is your suggestion that we hold off protesting drones pending Congressional opposition to them? Do you apply this to other issues? Is the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International so big, so powerful, that we should never raise our voices to oppose it? Are you suggesting that we must surrender our children to the “simulated thrill of piloting a drone mission” without protest?

I appreciate that you intend to “stimulate discussion” but I fear that you are addressing the perceived flaws of an anti-drone protest movement that does not exist. You critique a “limited focus on remote-controlled murder by drone technology,” but whom are you addressing? Is anyone in the anti-war movement protesting the technology without protesting the killing? The dichotomy is blatantly false. There are not “plausible arguments on all sides.” It is neither plausible to protest drones without opposing the killing (does anyone hold to this?) nor to protest the killing without opposing the drones. There are no “pros and cons of our drone opposition” for the anti-war movement to “further explore.” You offer no “good reasons not to focus our opposition on drones.”

The danger you perceive that a focus on drones might distract us from “the horrific, illegal and immoral, targeted killing of civilians” does not exist. There is however, a real danger that backing off on drones due to the “popular appeal” of “wizardry of drone technology” and lack of “congressional opposition” to them, will distract us from protesting the horrific killing we abhour. It would be helpful to discuss how we can more creatively and effectively oppose the drones (all we have done so far, all we are going now and planning for the future must be open to rigorous criticism) but the reasons you raise for questioning whether we should be actively opposing drones is only a distraction in itself. An anti-war movement today that does not oppose the drones has truly lost its way.  Brian Terrell

September 2 Response to Doug's article from Ed Kinane, I read your article yesterday. it raises questions we need to think about. I don't have your article in front of me now, so I may misrecall or misconstrue some things, but my sense is that you've framed your point as an either/or when in fact it should be a both/and. within any campaign there are levels of abstraction. thus those of us who go to ft benning every november and those of us who "cross the line" there, are focused on closing the school of the americas. but this in no way detracts or distracts from the larger struggle of opposing u.s. imperialism in latin america and elsewhere. in fact the anti-soa campaign is an excellent starter issue raising consciousness re imperialism. I see the drone campaign in a similar light: it's a great starter issue for helping folks further engage militarism. another analogy may be helpful (see my recent article "the drone and the bomb"): sure, of course we're against war, but I think historically it's been helpful to also rally people around opposing particular weapon systems (the Bomb and its nuclear descendants). in solidarity, friend, ed

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