CODEPINK activist Medea Benjamin has a worthwhile piece to read following Rand Paul’s 12+ hour filibuster marathon yesterday. As Benjamin observers
The biggest flaw, however, was Rand’s refusal to strongly condemn the way drones are already being used overseas and to blame CIA nominee John Brennan for being the mastermind of a nefarious program that has led to the deaths of so many non-American civilians and spread anti-American sentiment globally. While mentioning many of the problems related to drone strikes in places like Pakistan and Yemen, Rand Paul stuck to the issue of killing Americans with drones, and even more narrowly, killing Americans with drones here on US soil…
While [Sen. Paul] questioned the use of signature strikes overseas…he did not call on the government to stop them. He did not ask the government to stop the practice of hitting the same area twice, often times killing rescuers who are trying to help the victims of the first strike. He was not asking the government to take drones out of the hands of the CIA, a civilian agency that is supposed to focus on intelligence gathering. He did not ask for an accounting of civilian casualties overseas, and that the US publicly acknowledge when it kills civilians. Although he mentioned the case of 16-year-old US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki… he did not demand a response from the government.
Besides having nearly tripled my tweet count yesterday during the filibuster, I noticed that most people tweeting about the issue of drone strikes were also doing so in opposition to their use against US citizens. There was virtually no discussion about the issue of drones having already killed 4700+ Muslims abroad – instead people were more concerned about the potential use of drones against US citizens (I am doubtful that tweeters were indignant about the killings of Samir Khan, Anwar Al-Aulaqi, and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, as I never saw any of these three names come up). When I pressed one such individual about her selective indignation, she replied (with surprising honesty)
In an exchange with another individual, I commented that the brazen disregard that the American government and its electorate share for the lives of Muslims is something that has been nurtured through decades of propaganda, two prolonged wars in Muslim countries, and a general dehumanizing of Muslims that has translated into widespread and pervasive institutionalized racism domestically. Specific to the issue of drones, I found a fascinating blog post a couple of months ago detailing an exchange between Joshua Foust (a noted drone-proponent who tosses moral considerations aside for strategic ones) and the author, who opines
So the empire and its white adherents not only want to be able to make the decisions to selectively bomb people all over the globe (mostly brown). Condemning that violence is not allowed because, first, the US has the right to bomb whomever it wants (of course, we knew that really, but nice to see that in a tweet), and, secondly, we are all brown terrorists anyways and so have no right to complain. But more broadly JF ultimately revealed the racism that underlies drone attacks (or any other violence perpetrated against peoples the US is at war with). Other people’s (specially brown and black) lives are cheap and they can be bombed, maimed and their dead not even worth counting. And ultimately they don’t even have a right to complain. Because they have no agency; they are filth.
And in reality, this is what yesterday’s discussion across the Twitterverse was playing out to be: a fundamentally racist discourse about how it’s not okay to kill white people, but it’s okay to kill brown people. By ignoring entirely what should be the central discussion on the issue of drones – that is, the extrajudicial killings of 4700+ people abroad – commentators are buying into either one of two fallacies, a) that when the government says its targets are legitimate on the basis of their “terrorist” activities, we should be grateful for its vigilance and never think to challenge the verisimilitude of such claims b) that it is okay to kill brown people as our government has indulged in doing for at least the past two decades.
Neither of these delusions (hereby summarized as the obsequious citizenry and the racist imperialist delusions, respectively), augur well in any political or moral context. Moreover, both of these pathological fantasies are highly problematic insofar as they inherently justify the complete disregard for international law that is so easily (and repeatedly) evinced in the discourse on drone strikes abroad.
Americans would do well to stop buying into whatever narrative is being sold to them on mainstream news in between Viagra ads and beer commercials.
UPDATE: Times piece reveals how deeply this racism runs
On Tuesday morning, the committee’s Democratic chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, said the White House had agreed to give the committee access to all Justice Department legal opinions on the targeted killing of Americans. Two such opinions were briefly shared with senators at the time of Mr. Brennan’s confirmation hearing last month; officials said the remaining two were made available on Tuesday.
But the administration withheld the opinions governing strikes targeting non-Americans that the committee has also sought, arguing that they are confidential legal advice to the president. As a result, the detailed legal rules for a vast majority of drone strikes, including so-called signature strikes aimed at suspected militants whose names are unknown to the people targeting them, remain secret even from the Congressional intelligence committees.
Committee will move forward only once they know how American citizens are being targeted, but could care less about the business of killing brown people in foreign countries.