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US Drone Warfare Is ‘Vigilantism Conducted by Robots’

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Flickr Photo by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem)

A survey reported yesterday indicates opposition to the United States has risen among Pakistanis in the last couple of years. More Pakistanis now view the US as “the enemy” than in past years. This is largely a result of the presence of US personnel in the country and how opposed Pakistanis are to drone strikes. Now The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), which has been analyzing the US’s “covert war on terror” extensively, has posted an interview with Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, who suggests the objections Pakistanis have toward the US put America at war with Pakistan.

Kucinich contends if Pakistan “resents” America’s help, actions by the US then become clear acts of “aggression.” He adds the Pakistan government and the US “have a very famous double-game going and our two nations are constantly faking each other out.” The two countries have “carried the double-game to an art form where [they] can’t tell what is real anymore.” This is a result of “no transparency or accountability,” which makes it impossible for a country to “assert non-cooperation.” And it makes everything “so murky” that the only conclusions that can be drawn about relations come from the facts on the ground—facts that “include a lot of dead civilians.”

He calls the expanded assassination program, which lacks very minimal legal justification (if any), a journey into moral depravity.

International law means nothing, laws of war mean nothing. I am not assigning that condition to any one individual, but I am saying that the programme itself bespeaks an approach which depraves moral law, the constitution, and international law. That sets us into an endless cycle of violence.

The “endless cycle of violence,” as Kucinich understands, is preserved by a US government that since 9/11 has “set international law aside.” In fact, “declarations of war have basically vanished” and been “replaced by an administration’s assertion of the power to declare a global war. And that has been buttressed, that was under the Bush administration, now under the Obama administration it is the derogation to the executive of the power to strike at any nation at any time for any reason.” This is what lawyers like Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have said—the real issue with the drone war is flouting of the rule of law and the state-sanctioned killings that are occurring away from the battlefield.

Congress is a complicit enabler in allowing the Executive Branch of the US government to advance this standard:

Congress, unfortunately, has been slow to claim its responsibility under the US Constitution, ‘the power to declare war’. When the Constitution was written the war-power was bifurcated in this way. Under article 1 the Congress founders wanted to restrain what they called ‘the dog of war’ by putting it into the hands of a legislator whose constituents would be affected by it, and would therefore have to face the people at some point.

The result of Congress not doing its duty is America is currently exporting American values through drones that include “summary executions, no rights to an accused, no arrest process, no reading of charges, no trial by jury, no judge, only an executioner.” Because this is what America, in effect, is doing. Military-age males are being killed and reported as “militants,” when they have been afforded no judicial process. Kucinich is certain there will be blowback as a result.

He does not think the Obama administration has yet to make a clear case for how drone us has contributed to US security:

As a matter of fact it could be, the argument could be made that it makes us less safe because instead of dealing with the one person that we are killing, we are going to be dealing with all their friends and relatives down the road. We are creating, every bomb that we drop, every missile that we launch, there are sure to be reprisals. And the reprisals, you know, there is no time-date set here, there is no time limit.

Kucinich chides the media for not engaging in a better effort to uncover who is really dying in drone attacks. He states:

It’s not bad form to kill civilians, it’s only bad form to talk about it. That’s the problem. Let me say that there has been a tradition of American journalists in modern times to serve as the spear carriers for the government. They may look like pens but these are the spears of supernumeraries who have reporters’ cards. It’s what happens when you have fewer and fewer newspapers, and newspapers that are tied to large corporate interests. And a lack of enough institutions in the major media who are willing to serve as an effective counter-balance.

The question of what America would do if China, Russia or Iran sent a drone over the US is critical to Kucinich. It is one that Obama administration press secretary dodged or refused to answer when ABC news correspondent Jake Tapper asked him this question earlier this month. The administration has also been unwilling to openly address the reality that a precedent is being set by the expanded use of drones.

“What is the legal authority for the government to conduct extrajudicial killings, where did this come from?’ Really, where did this come from? Says who?” Kucinich asks. None of these questions have been satisfactorily answered, despite the speeches given as a substitute for real transparency. And for that reason, Kucinich wrote a letter and convinced twenty-five members to sign it. He wants answers about the legal justification for drone strikes, especially “signature strikes,” which are strikes launched against targets that engage in certain “patterns of behavior.”

Like Nation journalist Jeremy Scahill, he considers drone executions to be “murder.” He draws an analogy, “If someone shot a grocer and his defense was ‘it was a targeted killing’ he would be put on trial for his life. But we are told that these targeted killings are somehow to be considered apart from any legal system.”

It is all morally perverse and incredibly depraved. The administration is consciously using the proliferation and revolution in robotic technology as a cover for illegal wars of aggression abroad. It is nothing but an “Orwellian exercise of semantics” to say America is not at war in Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen. And as Kucinich concludes at the end of this exceptional interview, America is creating a world where there is “carnage everywhere.”

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."