The drone wars

Last night I read an interesting article about the US process for ‘targeted killing’ of pretty much anyone. The photo at the end of the article, of a man with massive trauma to his chest and huge blood loss, was shocking. Even worse, as I scrolled down, the top of his head had been blown off, with sickening and predictable results. His liquified brains were gruesomely half out of his skull.

Drone strikes insulate those in power from the results of their actions in a way never before seen.

It is well known that military psychologists have spent years working out how to overcome man’s natural aversion to killing his fellow man. “Them & Us”, “It’s Them or Us” and group hatred are one way – killing those deemed ‘different’ in some way is far easier, compared to killing your peers.

Another factor noticed is the difficulty and risk.

If it is trivial to order something done, or to just press a button to “make it so”, then the power is more likely to be abused. Even having to cross the room to do something means it will be done less often. If you want to diet easily, move your food fridge & freezer into the garage. Requiring that little more effort to eat will mean you do less of it.

Distance plays a part too.

If it is easy to keep the result of your action remote from you, you are more likely to do something for the first time. Look at the ‘holiday effect’ where tourists act in ways they never would with the peer pressure of everyday life. Killing someone in cold blood with a knife takes a lot more courage than using a pistol, and less than choking. An odd exception to this is the sniper, who often has to look if only one way, into his targets eyes before blowing their brains out. The distance is shortened right down by the telescopic sight.

Finally, size, resolution & clarity have an effect.

A sharp, well-defined target that looks like a real high definition person is far harder to destroy than an 8 bit character on a small fuzzy green-screen with a 4 second delay beamed across the world by satellite. Police train on photo-real targets for this reason – to reduce the delay they might otherwise have when called upon to kill a child in the street. (We can argue about that being a good or bad point later.)

A drone run by someone else is, perhaps the ultimate example of how a ‘good’ person can be corrupted. Who hasn’t killed a ‘zombie’ or ‘alien’ or ‘infected’ in a computer game? Drones go even beyond that, as you the politician don’t even have to see the small screen killing – someone else does that part.

Obama seems to have no more difficulty than picking out one or two of the playing cards on his desk, and the missiles fly. Of course, there’s always another full deck the next day to choose from…

Were he required to at least justify in a short hand-written report, it might slow down the rate of unjustified killing. As far as has been reported, he doesn’t even require the effort of a signature to end even a fellow Americans life.

I’m writing this about 12 hours after the epic filibuster by Ryan Paul in the USA, who talked for over 13 hours in an attempt to get the US president to come out and explain just why he seems to think that he can legally kill an American on US soil with a drone strike without any warning or due process.

All I can suggest is that the USA is gearing up for civil and civic war. Obama wants to leave his options open – after all, far easier to just pick the card with Mr Paul on it than have to actually justify yourself to him…

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