Author Jeremy Scahill Examines the Ugly Reality
By Jay Powell
Thursday night, Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater” gave a preview of his new book “Dirty Wars” to a full house at Hoover High School auditorium in City Heights a community that is home to many refugees from countries torn by war.
With a large scale model of an armed Predator drone provided by Veterans for Peace as a backdrop, a good portion of his talk focused on the use of drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs to assassinate suspected terrorists in countries thousands of miles away.
The next morning, to no one’s surprise—no coverage by the UT-SD of the event. But there was a feature article about US Navy drones and copters program. Near the end reporter Jeanette Steele noted that “even though the military has seen the effectiveness of land-based Predator drones in making surgical strikes … some Americans have started to oppose the idea of ‘killer’ drones on moral grounds.”
Scahill described some of the targets and effects of those so-called ‘surgical strikes’ in countries ranging from Yemen to Pakistan to Afghanistan and Somalia. Many innocents and relatives of suspects have been killed.
Yes, the moral issue and the constitutional issues are more than troubling. Scahill noted that 70% of self-proclaimed liberals support political assassination, which means really that they are okay with the President and his designees serving as judge, jury and executioner without any constitutional due process review for both foreign nationals and US citizens suspected of terrorism. Apparently, a vast majority of Americans are willing to cede our constitutional protections of due process in exchange for the promise of national security.
But this raises the question, just on a practical scale, if the issue is advancing our national security and one of the key measures is to be “changing (ie, winning) the hearts and minds” of the residents of these countries which are supposedly home to terrorists intent on killing Americans, then we need to know if this approach is “working”. Doesn’t look so good on that front.
Scahill spoke about the role of journalists in helping us evaluate this issue. He dedicates his book “For Journalists –those imprisoned for doing their jobs and those who have died in pursuit of the truth.” He noted a specific case of one journalist who has been jailed in Yemen for reporting on one of these “surgical” strikes on a remote Bedouin village in 2009. He noted that his pardon, called for by an outcry of his countrymen, was denied at the express request of President Obama. The journalist had discovered that the cover for the strike– that it was a Yemen strike to eradicate a “known terrorist”—was a fabrication.
In visiting the site, in seeing the carnage of scores of innocents killed and maimed he discovered parts from a US Tomahawk cruise missile, launched from a US submarine.
So not so many hearts and minds won over there.
He provided more and more stories of documented cases of what used to be called “collateral damage” and of deliberate killing of relatives just because they are relatives. Again, using this technology to assassinate, supposedly to advance our security. But the result is a less secure world exemplified in his subtitle, “The World is a Battlefield”.
Ultimately, this is a choice we are collectively allowing to happen. It is symptomatic of operating from fear instead of both our hearts and minds. It is an extraordinary waste of lives and finite resources. The cost of one Predator could build the CenterLine bus rapid transit stations in City Heights.
Scahill closed his talk with a discussion of the recent Boston bombings. Let’s not jump to conclusions about the motives of those who committed this heinous act. Lets get the facts. He gave examples of bad coverage like New York Post running sensationalized pictures of young people who had nothing to do with the bombing, inflaming a militia-type (more like a mob) mentality motivated by fear. Examples of fine journalism and covering those running towards the bomb site to help.
One in particular, Carlos Arrendajo –who lost his son, a young Marine early in the invasion of Iraq — helping save a life. Scahill asks: if we can tell those stories (of bravery, of the best of the American spirit) why can’t we — why aren’t we –telling the stories of those being attacked from rooms full of radio panels in the name of our security thousands of miles away? Why aren’t we questioning this choice being made in the name of making us more secure?
We need to first change our own hearts and minds.
Jay Powell, a member of Veterans for Peace, San Diego, Huge Thompson Chapter:“When I was a kid going to school in Hollywood in the 60’s I would stop in at Reginald Denny’s hobby store after school. All the neat radio control scale models hanging from the ceiling were fascinating. What I didn’t realize until doing a Google search on drones recently was that actor Reginald Denny had actually started Radioplane in the 40’s to create remote control target drones to help train pilots in WW II. Later his company was purchased by Northrup. Now San Diego is vying to be the drone capital of the world. Yes, it is just an aircraft operated remotely. But it does matter a lot about who is flying it and why.”
SDFPs Autographed Copy of the book!