When a Drone Flies Over Waziristan, Does It Make a Sound? For sure, dead children don’t
By Robert Naiman,Truthout | Op-Ed -
Early in the Iraq war, I heard a radio story that interviewed a woman whose son had been deployed to Iraq. She said something that pierced my heart: “I just have to trust President Bush when he says that this war is necessary.”
She wasn’t saying: I sincerely believe in my heart that this war is necessary. She was saying: I have to believe this, because the alternative belief that the President has put my boy in harm’s way for no damn good reason is just too awful for me to contemplate, and I need to get through my day.
On the one hand: I take it as obvious that we can’t have a properly functioning Schoolhouse Rock democracy if there are a whole lot of people running around saying: “We memorized in Church that whatever government officials say is Jesus, Mary, and the Saints.” If we want to have a functioning democracy, we need more people to say: I have heard what the government official said. I’m curious to know: what evidence was offered for that? Are there plausible alternative views? What’s the evidence for them?
On the other hand: if you have no empathy for this woman, then you have a heart of stone.
I try to keep this woman in mind as I work to goad people into to doing a little something to help reform U.S. foreign policy, because while I prefer to play on the field of facts, evidence, logic and argument – it’s the only field I know how to play on – I’m keenly aware that there are a bunch of people running around saying things that clearly come from somewhere else.
There are a lot of people who say that they support the current policy of drone strikes. It doesn’t seem likely that much of this support is based on a careful weighing of the evidence: until now, the government hasn’t produced any evidence in support of its key claims in defense of the policy, such as its claim that civilian deaths have been “exceedingly rare,” or its claim that the drone strikes are narrowly targeted on top level terrorist leaders. So it’s not clear what evidence drone strike supporters would have been weighing to make their judgment.
Rather, it seems more likely that support of the current drone strike policy is based on convenient belief. It’s convenient to believe that the drone strike policy is narrowly targeted on top-level terrorist leaders and has killed few civilians, because the alternative belief, that our government has cavalierly killed many innocent civilians for no good reason, is pretty awful to contemplate.
And this convenient belief sets up a powerful barrier against the fair contemplation of evidence.
So let us put to the side for the moment the broader questions of whether the current policy is just, wise, and fully complies with international and domestic law.
Let us consider instead the following much narrower question: is the current policy under any kind of effective control? Is it being carefully supervised by knowledgeable, responsible, attentive and conscientious grownups?
I claim that I have a little piece of new evidence that powerfully illustrates that it is not. Read more…