by Revolution Newspaper | March 11, 2013
Last week drones—pilotless, remote controlled aircraft which have been used by the U.S. military and spy agencies to kill thousands of people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries—were suddenly in the news in a big way.
Eric Holder, Attorney General in the Obama administration, wrote a letter in which he refused to rule out the use of drone strikes within the U.S. in "extraordinary circumstances." Rand Paul, a right-wing senator from Kentucky, objected to the letter, and then spoke for 13 hours in a Senate "filibuster" (a maneuver to stall a vote) against Obama's nomination of John Brennan for CIA director.
Brennan is a leading architect of the Obama policy of murder-by-drone. Paul said he intended to speak "until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court."
Paul's focus was on the possible use of drone strikes within the U.S., not the ongoing use of drones to kill people outside the U.S. But Paul's marathon filibuster attracted a lot of attention, including sharp criticism from other leading Republicans like John McCain. Paul's filibuster also received support from some anti-war groups like Code Pink.
Some basic truth about drones and their use by the U.S. government needs to be injected into this debate.
- Drones are a key element of the wars the U.S. is waging in many countries. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that 4,756 people—many of them civilians—have been killed by U.S. drone strikes throughout the world. Lindsey Graham, another right-wing senator and an ardent supporter of drones, said "sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we're at war, and we've taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda." Small numbers of people in this country have protested the use of drones in the immoral, unjust wars the U.S. is waging, and many, many more need to. American lives are not more important than other people's lives.
- Drones are already used in this country, though at this point at least, 'only' to spy on people. In particular, 1,200 miles of the U.S./Mexico border from just east of San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico are patrolled by a fleet of Predator drones. Drones are also being used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency in North Dakota, Washington state, and Florida. The CBP has also initiated a "loan a drone" program with local police forces in several states. The Department of Homeland Security recently began distributing $4 million to local police departments to purchase their own drones.
- Drones are a new, sinister part of a much bigger apparatus of war, torture, repression, and spying used to enforce the interests of U.S. imperialism. These include enormous army, navy, and air force war-making capacity, nuclear weapons, a network of torture chambers that spans the planet, and much more. The entire package—and the system of capitalism imperialism it protects—needs to be opposed.
- No politician who objects only to one or another part of this war machine can be relied upon. Remember: They don't even claim to start from the interests of humanity. Instead they start from the premise that any crime is OK as long as the victim is not a U.S. citizen. What is urgently needed is a mass movement against the program of endless war, torture, repression, and spying that was initiated in the years of the George W. Bush regime and has intensified under Obama.
This article originally appeared in Revolution Newspaper in the March 17, 2013 issue.