Dear Readers! I don’t want to be making this post. I’m making it because I want to know (of myself) that I’ve publicly said what I say here. I’m sure I’m not alone in how I feel about the drones, about war, and about humanity’s inhumanity. Maybe we have not been been blunt enough in our statements to those less concerned. This post is not meant unkindly – but it is meant to be blunt.
(Disclaimer: My post doesn’t argue yes/no to the question of President Obama and advisers’ contribution of drones to Libyan assistance, except to make clear that I don’t like the development. My objection is tied to my deeply held conviction that humanity in general, and ‘mover/shakers’ in particular, are far too comfortable “staging wars” for reasons that have nothing to do with necessity, and everything to do with “manipulation and maneuvering” in a world-sized power-struggle. IF it had been announced that America would contribute drones restricted to surveillance capabilities, you’d hear little disagreement from me. I’ve posted a follow-up piece, restricted to the narrow question of “drones for Libya”. )
Earlier today I was working about the house with BBC internet radio keeping me alternately informed and entertained. Any momentary sense of ‘nothing to fuss about’ was knocked out of the water when news ran and I heard of this. I ran a quick browser search for a news post and found the article lead and link I share here:
By MARTHA RADDATZ (@martharaddatz) and KIRIT RADIA
April 21, 2011
President Obama has given approval for two armed American Predator drones to operate over Libya, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
(Readers are encouraged to go to the title link above and read the full article for more details on the initial announcement.)
My reaction to the announcement was quick and energetic. I had a choice – rant privately or share. I shared. I posted the following on Facebook:
“I am SICKENED at this plan. Wow! Aren’t we amazing – we can increase our marvelous efficiency at killing others by the most de-personalizing, objectifying, technology that we’ve so cleverly designed. I AM SICKENED!!! (next step – I’ll be writing and and calling my Washington reps and the White house on this.)
“I’ve often been described as ‘patient beyond normal’ but there are times when I can scarcely keep a “civil tongue”. This is one of them. I don’t care how much American economic ‘health’ is held by the military-industrial-corporate complex – this is ……… (those blue words!) Is this why we talk ourselves into brutality and insensitivity? Because we’re afraid of loss of associated industry?
“This development is NOT about “protecting civilians”. It arises out of someone’s strongly self-interested persuasion and someone else’s lack of critical thinking to ask fundamental questions. (Groups, not single individuals). There are unexamined beliefs and biases, as well as contradictions and hypocrisies, running throughout this decision.” (end FB post).
Venting on Facebook helped – a bit. But throughout the day I continued to feel deep disgust at this development. I detest humanity’s excuses for war. I detest “clear minded military strategic planning” on target location. I detest calculations of “acceptable collateral civilian loss” in matters of war. I detest that wars are dreamed and schemed, not by the people who do the work, but by hierarchical systems that keep planners in absolute safety while subjecting other bodies, minds, and hearts to the reality.
“For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity . . . to the future . . . in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs. . . .” (All Quiet On The Western Front, first pub. 1928. Chpt. 1)
I detest that media is used (and goes along) with intent to gain popular support for war, (media ‘persuasion’ was first used by policy design to persuade participation in WW1.) The result of media to persuade is that our youth, and youth of other countries, are sent out like pawns to kill one another off, while thoroughly smashing infrastructure of the location where these wars happen.)
“We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers—we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals. … … Comrade, I did not want to kill you. . . . But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. . . . I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony—Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?” (All Quiet On The Western Front, Chpt. 9, 1st publ. 1928.)
And I especially detest drones. So far, drones are the most monstrous war machine, ever. Distant, mechanical, deadly, unannounced, silent. I can’t imagine the constant heightened state of trauma chemistry coursing through the bodies of people living where drone strikes are a possibility.
(I’ve never lived where war is underway. I’ve had two full and long summers in the last several years of unwanted, unplanned, but unavoidable machine work to replace the foundation of my older house. It will take years for me to catch up on repairs from ‘collateral damage’. Some exterior house damage, much interior damage, and thoroughly wrecked landscaping is all ‘collateral’. Much repair will be done”small bits at a time each year”, and much by hand, due to cost. The first summer I reached daily levels of high stress (physiological symptoms) as I heard and saw the plaster crack, and wondered how bad the ‘collateral’ damage could be. The second summer was worse. By then I was so ‘sensitized’ to the trauma of the previous year that the sound and smell of diesel, along with more cracking and other damage, only heightened the trauma.)
And that’s only a single house! A house that didn’t fall down! And in a setting that had nothing to do with war!
But it was/is my “new” home (I moved some distance to live where I live now). Meant to be, planned to be, my place of comfort to trust, enjoy, and share.
Destruction of home environments, and community infrastructure, is extremely and deeply traumatic to the people who live where it is happening. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfire, floods, and landslides are terrible events for those who experience them.
But the horror of natural disaster pales in comparison to the same kind of destruction delivered by human calculation and design. We spent the entire 20th Century reading, writing, discussing “man’s inhumanity to man”. The topic was an old one when we inherited it. By now, we should understand. By now, we shouldn’t need to keep talking about it as if we’re helpless to change our hearts, thoughts, and behavior.
IF we convince ourselves “humans will always be thus”, that there’s no way for us to be but to brutally disregard sanctity of life, then we indeed cannot pretend we’ll leave any quality legacy to future generations. We’re lying to ourselves if we believe we can use brutality and disregard for ‘collateral suffering’ and create “peace”. We also lie if we believe it’s acceptable to ‘save ourselves’ while creating or ignoring suffering that results from our actions. I’ve offered this Buckminster Fuller quote before; it fits this article’s theme also: “We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.”
I believe ‘sanitized’ war media is a mistake. If we’re going to slaughter others, we need to be honest about what this means. But I’ve decided – I can’t spring a graphic ‘bodies’ photo on an unsuspecting reader. So the photo I use with this blog shows the drone, but not the bodies.
We have achieved worse than nothing of value by developing drones. Howard Zinn was a WW2 bomber pilot. He later became aware of the impersonal nature of his delivery of massive devastation and agony to people he had no reason to dislike, much less hate, much much less want to kill. The awareness changed his life. He shifted to study of social/political human dynamics. He worked to share what he learned, and to inspire honesty about how ‘power-quest’ dehumanizes all of us. “Zinn said his experience as a wartime bombardier, combined with his research into the reasons for, and effects of the bombing of Royan and Pilsen, sensitized him to the ethical dilemmas faced by G.I.s during wartime.” (Wikipedia on Zinn)
At least he had to risk being shot down!
It’s not the ‘drone operators’ (“pilots”) who most concern me. It’s the ‘back room strategists’. The back-room strategists have no commitment to seeking and guiding toward societies and policies that genuinely uplift humanity and life. Buckminster Fuller: “Politicians are always realistically maneuvering for the next election. They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers.“ He might easily and logically have included dictators, royalty, heads of mega-corporations, holders of centuries-long family-heritage extreme wealth, and the International Monetary Fund as ‘always realistically maneuvering to maintain power’. ‘Always maneuvering to maintain power’ has been ‘humanity’s way’ for at least 2,000 years. The rest of us do not analyze and ‘speak truth to power’ to these entrenched hierarchies, nor to ourselves. In classic co-dependent behavior, we fear risking our relationship to this power.
They can say they commit to a genuinely uplifting human social structure. They can make excuses, and offer explanations, as to why brutality must be used to “protect” and “to bring peace”. In truth, they’ve been seduced by power – power of command, power of wealth, power of prestige, and the ‘game’ of strategy that goes with these powers.
The can ‘spin’ their cause any way they like; they will never convince me. It’s not only the strategists, the rest of us have responsibility in decisions about war. If we don’t re-think our acceptance of this kind of “leadership”, we cannot possibly hope, as said above, to offer a bright and optimistic legacy to generations to follow us.
I am fully aware that the human ‘power play’ flaws I describe can be, and are, found in various countries around the world. Americans happen to have developed the drone, but that doesn’t mean other strategists, in other countries, including those we call ‘enemy’ are not equally hypnotized by the thrill of power.
The satisfaction of “doing something meaningful and/or grand” by strutting brutal power in our world is, fundamentally, no different today than it was one, or two, thousand years ago. Technology has changed, but human commitment to a world of shared respect and wide-spread common weal has not budged one inch forward.
Buckminster Fuller also said: “Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. . . . Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe.“
There are many ways for individuals to enjoy sharing their talents and creativity for the common good. Those who believe “power-over” is the only way they can experience “a life well lived” are asleep to this, yet it lies within their potential. (In his way, this is what Howard Zinn demonstrated – proof of ability to make this shift. See Howard Zinn, Wikipedia link above and dedicated Zinn legacy site here.)
My Best (to ALL of us!!) –MaggieAnn
(See also: Lions and Lambs, A Call to Extreme Idealism; and Torches Passed, Radical Challenge from the 20th Century.
(BBC reports later – Libyan government official response emphasizes potential for civilian losses to drone attacks. This may be predictable as a ploy, but it’s also within realm of truth. In effect, ‘moral high ground’ has – on this point – been shifted. The ‘game’ continues – as does bloodshed, misery, and devastation. Civilians do not even qualify as pawns; they, their homes, their schools, serve as board on which the game is played.)