“Can you tell us why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed? Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities?”
Those were the words of Medea Benjamin, a reporter who was present at Obama’s May 23, 2013 speech on national security, in which he heavily discussed the use of drones in the U.S. government’s “War on Terror.” As Obama discussed the urgency to eradicate terrorist organizations through any means, Medea Benjamin spoke up. Continuing to say:
“[Can you] apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.
I love my country! I love the rule of law! The drones are making us less safe.
And keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantanamo is making us less safe. Abide by the rule of law.”
All of this was said as she was being forced out of the building.
Obama says that “America cannot strike wherever we choose,” but he failed to acknowledge the contradictions behind such a statement. He failed to acknowledge the innocent lives–children–that were killed as he authorized the testing of drones. Those lives were not terrorist threats. Obama, along with the CIA, had a choice, and that choice was to take lives.
Too much power is being held in too little spaces. What constitutes a terrorist threat, who determines it, and who decides the appropriate actions are all administered by a small select group of people. By this point, more than a handful of innocent people have been labeled as “terrorists,” and tortured as such. Once they were proven innocent, torture may have ceased, but no compensation was given, neither was a formal apology from the U.S government. So killing innocent lives, along with torturing innocent people, is what Medea Benjamin is referring to as not abiding by the rule of the law.
Those people who are in power see themselves as being above the rule of the law. It permeates all of their actions, and lately, we are seeing occurrences of blatant abuses of power. The Obama administration being charged of war crimes, the covering up of Benghazi, the IRS scandal, Wiki-leaks–and those are just what have been exposed.
Obama–along with so many other advocates of drones–miss the point. It’s not about terrorism or self-defense; it’s about making blatant contradictions, lying to our faces, and no attempt to right wrongs. It doesn’t matter what good drone use may serve in a war against terrorism, because in my mind, the casualties that occurred will continue to haunt me. A discourse on drones transcends beyond weighing the pros and cons of war to something much bigger: the moral condition of humanity.
When we think of the causalities of drone strikes, we can’t just emphasize those 4 Americans who died earlier this week, we also need to value those Pakistani, Yemenese, and Somalian lives as equal to those of Americans. When we start seeing foreign lives in the same way we see Americans, then maybe a discourse on drones won’t have to happen, because drones would be obsolete.