Droning On

War and surveillance have changed with the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Weaponized, they can target someone on the other side of the earth; miniaturized, they can be guided through an open window to spy on people in a room. Like the opening of Pandora’s box, they are fraught with danger for all of us.

With his drone policy, President Obama has violated sovereign borders of countries with which we are not at war, launched attacks outside combat zones—illegal under international law—and assassinated at will. It is inevitable that we will one day be in the crosshairs. Proliferation of drones has already begun in less-than-friendly countries.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2,956 people have been killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan—a nuclear power with which we are not yet at war—in the past 10 months. Only 150 were named militants; 175 were confirmed to be children.

At a time when the Defense Department is militarizing local police, laws against nationalizing local law enforcement become meaningless. When the lines to your right to privacy have already been grievously blurred, the ACLU predicts that “all the pieces appear to be lining up for the eventual introduction of routine aerial surveillance in American life.” And the Air Line Pilots Association is worried about the safety of our airspace.

All of this is happening even before the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act would effectively allow intentional propaganda campaigns aimed at U.S. citizens.

So far, drones are wildly popular with the public. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 77 percent of liberal Democrats like Obama’s drone policy. After all, fewer soldiers coming home in body bags is a good thing, right?

Stop to consider this: just as we’ve moved from world wars to more limited wars (many more in the last half century), now we’ll move to constant warfare conducted in secret at the discretion of one person, an unaccountable president. And those liberal Democrats can rest easy. It won’t even be called war.

Susan Lamont is a local peace and social justice activist and writer.

Medea Benjamin, author of ‘Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,’ appears at Book Passage in Corte Madera on June 22 at 5:30pm, Copperfield’s Books in Sebastopol on June 26 at 7pm, Occupy Santa Rosa in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square on June 27 at noon, and Christ Church United Methodist on June 27 at 7pm.

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