A New Kind of War Is Being Legalized

There’s a dark side to the flurry of reports and testimony on drones, helpful as they are in many ways.  When we read that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose drone strikes that violate international law, some of us may be inclined to interpret that as a declaration that, in fact, drone strikes violate international law.  On the contrary, what these human rights groups mean is that some drone strikes violate the law and some do not, and they want to oppose the ones that do.

Which are which? Even their best researchers can’t tell you.  Human Rights Watch looked into six drone murders in Yemen and concluded that two were illegal and four might be illegal.  The group wants President Obama to explain what the law is (since nobody else can), wants him to comply with it (whatever it is), wants civilians compensated (if anyone can agree who the civilians are and if people can really be compensated for the murder of their loved ones), and wants the U.S. government to investigate itself.  Somehow the notion of prosecuting crimes doesn’t come up.

Amnesty International looks into nine drone strikes in Pakistan, and can’t tell whether any of the nine were legal or illegal.  Amnesty wants the U.S. government to investigate itself, make facts public, compensate victims, explain what the law is, explain who a civilian is, and — remarkably — recommends this: “Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”  However, this will be a very tough nut to crack, as those responsible for the crimes are being asked to define what is and is not legal.  Amnesty proposes “judicial review of drone strikes,” but a rubber-stamp FISA court for drone murders wouldn’t reduce them, and an independent judiciary assigned to approve of certain drone strikes and not others would certainly approve of some, while inevitably leaving the world less than clear as to why.

The UN special rapporteurs’ reports are perhaps the strongest of the reports churned out this week, although all of the reports provide great information.  The UN will debate drones on Friday.  Congressman Grayson will bring injured child drone victims to Washington on Tuesday (although the U.S. State Department won’t let their lawyer come).  Attention is being brought to the issue, and that’s mostly to the good.  The U.N. reports make some useful points: U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes (targeting rescuers of a first strike’s victims) are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can’t legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; and — most powerfully — threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life.  However, the U.N. reports are so subservient to western lawyer groupthink as to allow that some drone kills are legal and to make the determination of which ones so complex that nobody will ever be able to say — the determination will be political rather than empirical.

The U.N. wants transparency, and I do think that’s a stronger demand than asking for the supposed legal memos that Obama has hidden in a drawer and which supposedly make his drone kills legal.  We don’t need to see that lawyerly contortionism.  Remember Obama’s speech in May at which he claimed that only four of his victims had been American and for one of those four he had invented criteria for himself to meet, even though all available evidence says he didn’t meet those criteria even in that case, and he promised to apply the same criteria to foreigners going forward, sometimes, in certain countries, depending.  Remember the liberal applause for that?  Somehow our demands of President Bush were never that he make a speech.

(And did you see how pleased people were just recently that Obama had kidnapped a man in Libya and interrogated him in secret on a ship in the ocean, eventually bringing him to the U.S. for a trial, because that was a step up from murdering him and his neighbors? Bush policies are now seen as advances.)

We don’t need the memos.  We need the videos, the times, places, names, justifications, casualties, and the video footage of each murder.  That is to say, if the UN is going to give its stamp of approval to a new kind of war but ask for a little token of gratitude, this is what it should be.  But let’s stop for a minute and consider.  The general lawyerly consensus is that killing people with drones is fine if it’s not a case where they could have been captured, it’s not “disproportionate,” it’s not too “collateral,” it’s not too “indiscriminate,” etc., — the calculation being so vague that nobody can measure it.  We’re not wrong to trumpet the good parts of these reports, but let’s be clear that the United Nations, an institution created to eliminate war, is giving its approval to a new kind of war, as long as it’s done properly, and it’s giving its approval in the same reports in which it says that drones threaten to make war the norm and peace the exception.

I hate to be a wet blanket, but that’s stunning.  Drones make war the norm, rather than the exception, and drone murders are going to be deemed legal depending on a variety of immeasurable criteria.  And the penalty for the ones that are illegal is going to be nothing, at least until African nations start doing it, at which point the International Criminal Court will shift into gear.

What is it that makes weaponized drones more humane than land mines, poison gas, cluster bombs, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and other weapons worth banning?  Are drone missiles more discriminate than cluster bombs (I mean in documented practice, not in theory)?  Are they discriminate enough, even if more discriminate than something else?  Does the ease of using them against anyone anywhere make it possible for them to be “proportionate” and “necessary”?  If some drone killing is legal and other not, and if the best researchers can’t always tell which is which, won’t drone killing continue?  The UN Special Rapporteur says drones threaten to make war the norm. Why risk that? Why not ban weaponized drones?

For those who refuse to accept that the Kellogg Briand Pact bans war, for those who refuse to accept that international law bans murder, don’t we have a choice here between banning weaponized drones or watching weaponized drones proliferate and kill?  Over 99,000 people have signed a petition to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org  Maybe we can push that over 100,000 … or 200,000.

It’s always struck me as odd that in civilized, Geneva conventionized, Samantha Powerized war the only crime that gets legalized is murder.  Not torture, or assault, or rape, or theft, or marijuana, or cheating on your taxes, or parking in a handicapped spot — just murder.  But will somebody please explain to me why homicide bombing is not as bad as suicide bombing?

It isn’t strictly true that the suffering is all on one side, anyway.  Just as we learn geography through wars, we learn our drone base locations through blowback, in Afghanistan and just recently in Yemen.  Drones make everyone less safe.  As Malala just pointed out to the Obama family, the drone killing fuels terrorism.  Drones also kill with friendly fire.  Drones, with or without weapons, crash.  A lot.  And drones make the initiation of violence easier, more secretive, and more concentrated.  When sending missiles into Syria was made a big public question, we overwhelmed Congress, which said no.  But missiles are sent into other countries all the time, from drones, and we’re never asked.

We’re going to have to speak up for ourselves.

I’ll be part of a panel discussing this at NYU on Wednesday. See http://NYACT.net

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  • gozounlimited

    Another type of war waged against the ignorant …..homicide bombing for Weather Manipulation Technology… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlFwEFtrZ_8

    • gozounlimited

      We might also include genetically modified mosquitoes injected with a payload of dengue and yellow fever in the homicide bombing category.

      With the introduction of the Aedes aegypti mosquito to various parts of California, an invasive species of mosquito known to carry yellow fever and dengue, residents are being told “If it gets away, it will change the way we live in California.” “You may not be able to sit on your patio and enjoy a cup of coffee during the day without getting bit.” Even though the Aedes aegypti lives in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America and cannot establish itself without feeding on infected primates, we should expect to experience chills, back pain, severe headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue, high temperature, jaundice, bleeding and, eventually, organ failure.

      Then on the other hand we are told…. just because the mosquito can carry the yellow fever and dengue fever viruses, doesn’t mean it’s already infected (no payload). According to NBC San Diego, none of the mosquitoes that have been trapped and tested by health officials in California’s Central Valley carried the diseases. (Only the terrorist threat there of.)

  • Tonto

    These humanitarian appeals to address war, and the new scientific methods of war -miss the point-. Yes, new drone warfare technology is out of the closet. Will addressing this relatively new technological war advancement reduce the ever-increasing-brutality of new scientific methods for war? Obviously not.

    And why is it so obvious? Because neither the public nor the enemy are shown the latest technological weapons. Those are always waiting to be sprung on humanity by scientists that are behind the scenes in secret locations, armed camps, inventing and building the latest scientific weapons of war.

    This is why historically these sorts of humantarian movements are so utterly ineffective. They -miss the point-. —>>Science is the devil.<<— This humanitarian approach has the effect of de-sensitizing humanity to their natural human outrage surrounding these outrageous scientific weapons of war.

    These things are never truly outlawed. God forbid! If that were to happen, then the really evil countries would have a monopoly on the scientific weapons of war. So, WE HAVE TO HAVE THEM, AND THE SCIENTISTS THAT MAKE AND INVENT THEM TOO!

    SCIENCE IS THE DEVIL.

  • Tonto

    These humanitarian appeals to address war, and the new scientific methods of war -miss the point-. Yes, new drone warfare technology is out of the closet. Will addressing this relatively new technological war advancement reduce the ever-increasing-brutality of new scientific methods for war? Obviously not.

    And why is it so obvious? Because neither the public nor the enemy are shown the latest technological weapons. Those are always waiting to be sprung on humanity by scientists that are behind the scenes in secret locations, armed camps, inventing and building the latest scientific weapons of war.

    This is why historically these sorts of humantarian movements are so utterly ineffective. They -miss the point-. —>>Science is the devil.<<— This humanitarian approach has the effect of de-sensitizing humanity to their natural human outrage surrounding these outrageous scientific weapons of war.

    These things are never truly outlawed. God forbid! If that were to happen, then the really evil countries would have a monopoly on the scientific weapons of war. So, WE HAVE TO HAVE THEM, AND THE SCIENTISTS THAT MAKE AND INVENT THEM TOO!

    SCIENCE IS THE DEVIL.

    • wunsacon

      >> SCIENCE IS THE DEVIL.

      [facepalm]

      Going back to the stone age isn’t going to make the world more peaceful and less brutal. Instead, with fewer resources and more people, your prescription would, if followed (which isn’t bloody likely since Pol Pot’s rule didn’t turn out so great), lead to more war and greater brutality.

      >> ever-increasing-brutality

      If it’s not actually becoming less brutal, it’s probably the same. Christopher Columbus chopped off natives’ hands for not finding enough gold, to motivate the others. This religious person did unthinkable things to the population of 200,000k+ Arawak who eventually disappeared from Hispaniola. Look up a Brazen Bull. Think about what “drawn and quartered” means.

      • Tonto

        We’re a very long way from the Stone Age, wouldn’t you agree? So how you’re seriously suggesting I’m suggesting that’s the desired outcome -is fabulously beyond me. So try and make some sense when you respond to my posts.

        And if the likelihood of ending human habitation on the planet sometime in the near-term future, (either by accident or due to someone letting loose with something very nasty on purpose), is somehow less brutal for YOU, then you’ve simply got your priorities locked-into super-selfish mode. Life is a party. But there are some certain rules of etiquette that must e followed; like, don’t fuck it up for the future, Einstein.

        So pull your head and your iPhone out of your ass. That iPhone thing in your hand that was made with Chinese slave labor is not a Star Trek transporter that is capable of getting you out of this place in a fraction of a second.

        It’s really just a classless expression of your commonplace idea of status, like a pair of Nike sneakers. You look mighty foolish playing with that thing and downloading ring tunes to impress all the other classless, swooning, tech-idiots. Oh, it’s so cool!

        Yeah, sure it is. The Hoola Hoop was cool too, when I was in third grade in 1958. But it really didn’t make anyone’s life better either. The Stone Age was more sustainable. But there’s no chance of bringing this poisoned world back to that pristine era.

        We have to deal with what’s going on out there today. And when we look at it, seriously, it is obvious, science IS the devil.

        • wunsacon

          >> We’re a very long way from the Stone Age, wouldn’t you agree? So how
          you’re seriously suggesting I’m suggesting that’s the desired outcome
          -is fabulously beyond me.

          If you actually believe “SCIENCE IS THE DEVIL” (w/ all-caps in your original), then I infer you might like to attempt to reject all fruits of scientific achievement from generations past. You could possibly live your preferred lifestyle by living out in a very rural setting.

          And you follow on with comments like this which, in the absence of contrary statements, seem to corroborate my earlier inference:

          >> The Stone Age was more sustainable.

          No, it was not “more sustainable”. It was just *earlier* in the game. Those Stone Age savages put us on this current path. Fast-forward a few thousand years of reproduction by these top-of-the-food-pyramid animals and you have more savage behavior. Regardless of how much science and technology they developed along the way, we’re just as savage as we’ve been pretty much all along.

          >> But there’s no chance of bringing this poisoned world back to that pristine era.

          So, what do you want then? A moratorium on learning new things about our world and how to apply them? Keep growing the population without technological improvement and you’ll end up with more war and more brutality.

          If you ask me, the way to turn things around is with a one-child policy or similar measures. Fortunately, in most of the educated world, birth rates have already declined. If we spread XO laptops to kids around the world, they’ll take interest in more than rearing another litter of humans who grow up to work in shitty conditions to survive because their neighbors parents also did the same thing and thus collectively created a glut of labor for land owners to exploit.

          >> So pull your head and your iPhone out of your ass. That iPhone thing
          in your hand that was made with Chinese slave labor

          STEM yields far more than iPhones. And slave labor has been around in China and everywhere for a lot longer than today. More generally, your gross oversimplifications don’t help me understand whatever position/policies you’d like to promote.

          People killed each other (more brutally) long before tech got to where it is today. They did from the very beginning. To put it politely, your conclusion that “SCIENCE IS THE DEVIL” seems “irrational” to me.

          • nate

            he believes science is the devil, yet he uses the internet. I imagine he also has a tv, telephone, motorized vehicle, microwave, stove, fridge, washer and dryer, heating and ac, glass windows, power tools, stereo, cd’s, electric light, lawnmower…what a clueless moron.

          • wunsacon

            >> You make a scientific humanitarian argument that has been similarly made
            for three-hundred years, while there have been ever-increasing
            scientific threats to the habitability of the planet.

            No one’s solving the sustainability issues because: Problems cannot be solved at a same level of awareness that created them. And, unfortunately, humans aren’t very smart. (Look at the intersection of the Religious Right with climate skeptics and pollution enablers.) Humans just happen to be smarter than the other species and are thus populating the globe while wiping out less-powerful predators and consuming non-renewable resources. And with their success comes hubris. (“God created us.” “We’re exceptional.” Blah blah blah. … Every country claims “god” is on their side. … Hell, every Sunday I see athletes on the telly imply that their deity helped them score points over the other team!) With that hubris, they make stupid decisions without understanding and thus without protecting against the risks.

            Shorter version: Basically, people are pretty stupid. They’re not interested in science. And they’re full of themselves. And the species is possibly doomed as a result.

            (If it is though, there’s a chance a lucky few (Elon Musk, Richard Branson, James Cameron?) might fly off-world (S.S. Botany Bay anyone?) and avoid the disaster.)

            Still, “doom” is not guaranteed. As a curious observer, I hope to live long enough to see our species’ choices once we pass the “‘artificial’ intelligence event horizon” (aka “singularity”). Will likely be either stupendously good or calamitously bad, with little likelihood of anything “inbetween”.

          • Tonto

            Your rhetorical response is lacking in persuasion. I don’t care how brutally people get killed. It’s just not in my human nature. I don’t even care that kids are brutalizing each other psychologically on the Internet so severely, that they are pushing each other to suicide. All that is minor. Kids are stupid, born to stupid parents, and prone to suicidal conduct. I don’t care. I don’t care, because it’s not important in the grand scheme of things.

            I am concerned that literally all people on the planet are going to be wiped out by science, all at once, if over some period of time as seems likely right now. And humanity is going to die at the hands of these countless SCIENTIFIC DEVILS.

            You have failed to address this point twice now. Let’s see you rhetorically reiterate your bland response about allowing technology another chance at making a better world for everyone. It doesn’t seem to matter to you that this has been the spiel of science and technology since the Enlightenment and continues on today with almost countless scientific ways that the world could rapidly dissolve into an uninhabitable planet due to the “wonders” of science.

            You make a scientific humanitarian argument that has been similarly made for three-hundred years, while there have been ever-increasing scientific threats to the habitability of the planet. Fukushima obviously does not even impress your foolish sense, that science has all the answers.

            Science has no answers. Science has no more answers than did witchcraft or any other complex shamanry. And science is no different either.

          • wunsacon

            >> Fukushima obviously does not even impress your foolish sense, that science has all the answers.

            Science had the answers for Fukushima. The business hot-shots, shareholders, and non-scientists just don’t listen to them. Thar’s yer problem right there, son.

            The problem isn’t science. It’s the public’s lack of knowledge and appreciation thereof.

            >> I am concerned that literally all people on the planet are going to be
            wiped out by science, all at once, if over some period of time as seems
            likely right now.

            I’m worried about that, too — the dangerous or deadly application of scientific advancement. I do think there’s a non-trivial chance military scientists develop sentient weapon systems that destroy most of the world and probably their creators, too. Rather than build robots that are “3-laws safe”, my uneducated guess is that the bulk of R&D money thrown around the world at developing robots is in the context of potential military applications. Why would it surprise us if an industry working to build deadly robots actually succeeds?

            But, screaming “SCIENCE IN THE DEVIL” is a gross distortion and pins the threat counterproductively on a “root cause” that provides so much else that’s beneficial.

            >> Science has no answers. Science has no more answers than did witchcraft
            or any other complex shamanry. And science is no different either.

            Scientific (observation-based) inquiry does yield results. Unfortunately, results differ according to who’s observing, who’s reasoning based on those observations, and, often, who’s paying them. By my inquiry and reasoning, the “problem” some of us “civilized” humans find in other humans is the same problem I find in all species I observe on this planet: a propensity to use their advantage to the extinction of rivals. The challenge for us humans who want to avoid the fate of other species (incl extinct human predecessors) is to convince our fellow apex predators to be “satisfied with less” of overall economic output and exercise much greater restraint in their use of force (“legally” and military) in taking stuff from everyone else. Until that day, then I agree with Gandhi: “Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea.”

            So, the problem, dear Tonto, lies not in the tech but in ourselves.

          • Tonto

            “Science had the answers for Fukushima.”

            You just met the Einstein criteria of insanity. You are insisting on doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different outcome. Science had the answers for clean, safe nuclear energy too. How’d that work out?

            “Scientific (observation-based) inquiry does yield results.”

            So does witchcraft!

            I have repeatedly made my speech about the categorical nature of the infinite complexity of reality, and how, those who attempt to understand and control the infinite complexity of our reality will always end up with disasters liked the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia, because with increasing complexity comes the sure failure of technological solutions, in no small part part due to our human nature.

            Scientists are surely clever enough to recognize their inventions will always be misused. Science in the hands of humanity is like a loaded gun in the hands of children. We are not gods. This planet is a one-off opportunity. It is not the petri dish of scientists.

            These scientists are devils, thinking they can destroy the planet in their pursuit of scientific fame and fortune. Their pursuits are 100% immoral. Take it somewhere else. I and a lot of other people live here too.

          • wunsacon

            >> >> “Science had the answers for Fukushima.”

            >> You just met the Einstein criteria of insanity. You are insisting on doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different outcome.

            Not at all. Many scientists said Fukushima shouldn’t have been built where/how it was or maintained how it was. Corporate profits overruled them.

            Ironic that you’re quoting Einstein.

            >> So does witchcraft!

            Religion didn’t create all the things Nate pointed out you’re using. Religion also didn’t create MRI machines, a working blood donor system, vaccines for serious illness, or a quality of life not experienced even by the kings and queens of countries even just a 100 years ago. You can fail to acknowledge the obvious and important differences in output from science vs. other belief systems and superficially compare them as you just did. But, by doing so, it tells me you’re rather irrational and that further discussion is pointless.

            My attempts to reason with you are proving unproductive. So, I’m going to spend my time on other matters. “Sorry” in advance for not replying further.

          • Tonto

            True to human nature, you have failed to be logical in this discussion. You have a belief system, that can only be likened to a suicidal religion. And you AGAIN failed to answer my very specific question that demonstrates the insufficiency of your absurdly faithful reliance upon the -religion of science- to solve all the problems science is ultimately responsible for creating. As for your “reason”, you have used your keyboard to type lots of words, but you clearly have demonstrated no ability to reason. Rhetoric is not reason, except as it is in the illogical assumption that the preponderance of evidence uttered, leads to the scientific truth. This is why there is nothing truthful about science. All science is merely an approximation of the latest beliefs about how the infinite complexity of reality can be described and exploited today. But, things are always changing in this infinitely complex reality we share. And the “scientific” you worship, is becoming to mean little more than the dangerously-ignorant-gamble it truly is.

            Science is the devil.

        • wunsacon

          >> You make a scientific humanitarian argument that has been similarly made
          for three-hundred years, while there have been ever-increasing
          scientific threats to the habitability of the planet.

          No one’s solving the sustainability issues because: Problems cannot be solved at a same level of awareness that created them. And, unfortunately, humans aren’t very smart. (Look at the intersection of the Religious Right with climate skeptics and pollution enablers and anti-abortionists. Or, look at RomneyObamaCare.) Humans just happen to be smarter than the other species and are thus populating the globe while wiping out less-powerful predators and consuming non-renewable resources. And with their success comes hubris. (“God created us.” “We’re exceptional.” Blah blah blah. … Every country claims “god” is on their side. … Hell, every Sunday I see athletes on the telly imply that their deity helped them score points over the other team!) With that hubris, they make stupid decisions without understanding and thus without protecting against the risks.

          Shorter version: Basically, people are pretty stupid. They’re not interested in science. And they’re full of themselves. And the species is possibly doomed as a result.

          (If it is though, there’s a chance a lucky few (Elon Musk, Richard Branson, James Cameron?) might fly off-world (S.S. Botany Bay anyone?) and avoid the disaster.)

          Still, “doom” is not guaranteed. As a curious observer, I hope to live long enough to see our species’ choices once we pass the “‘artificial’ intelligence event horizon” (aka “singularity”). Will likely be either stupendously good or calamitously bad, with little likelihood of anything “inbetween”.

    • alanh

      Science is not the problem. Knowledge, technological advancement unto itself is never a bad thing.

      It is when this knowledge and technological capability is abused by TPTB, or abused by those in power in general when it becomes problematic.

      It would be a more fitting analogy to refer to those truly in power, the Illuminatists & Old Black Nobility, as ‘the devil’ as they technically worship Lucifer above all other deities (incl. Adonai), and are responsible for orchestrating the majority of abuses of science & technology we see before us.

      But to blame science or knowledge itself for their misconduct, and subsequent misconduct of their ‘useful idiots’ in our government & military, is downright absurd.

      • PCMcGee

        Blaming science is just as absurd as blaming tptb, illuminati lucifer worshipers. The Stanford “prison” experiment made it utterly clear: power corrupts, absolutely power corrupts absolutely. When a technological solution allows us to operate efficiently and equally, perhaps we will be wise enough to embrace it.