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The Drone Goes On


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June 03, 2016 23:30 EDT

It can only be hoped that one day America will choose to actually live by the standards enunciated by its president in Hiroshima.

There is new evidence that humans have the capacity to never learn from their mistakes. Last week brought news that President Barack Obama celebrated the death by US drone of the top ranking Taliban leader in Afghanistan and then authorized the sale of billions of dollars of weapons made in America to Vietnam. So, again, here we go again and again.

For a president often described as cerebral and a reluctant warrior, Obama is sure playing the killing fool card in America’s game of drones and international military monopoly.

The “take out the leaders” plan has repeatedly failed to achieve any sustainable objectives in America’s strategic killing campaign in the Middle East, Libya and Afghanistan. The list of announced “terrorist leaders” buried in the sand keeps growing. Yet, somehow, so does the supposed threat from the routinely headless hordes.

This time is already no different, as the newly-christened Taliban leader seemed to somehow resist the clarion call of Jeffersonian democracy while vowing to continue military operations and a continued drive to expel Western influence from Afghanistan, both literally and figuratively.

So, a new head appears, takes on mythical proportions, and the drones rev up for another kill. Good for the military budget, great for CNN and its ilk, and a “banner day” for the War on Terror, but not so great for those living in the far-off lands blighted by war, both theirs and ours.

Then, just when you think we will never learn anything from past failure, we get further damning evidence that we will never learn anything from past failure. Introducing additional US weapons into developing countries in strategic and troubled regions of the world has never yielded anything but the increased capacity to kill and torture more humans. These sales almost always come with an escalation of US strategic planning, training and armed conflict made in America to serve US interests alone.

Vietnam and Japan

This time the “lucky” country is Vietnam. The Vietnamese get America’s latest infusion of killing machines. But the list is long and the results are almost always disastrous—Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Argentina and Chile, to name a few. The only winners are the American arms merchants and the American “strategic planning” industry that does its level best to ensure that the killing fields we create are in someone else’s land.

After the stop in Vietnam, the Obama road show headed for Japan. There, seemingly without the slightest nod to irony, the US president delivered an impassioned speech in Hiroshima about the horrors of war and the imperative of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. But that speech was so much more; it shone a brilliant light on the moral bankruptcy of those in the human gene pool for whom delivering death and destruction remains the highest calling. President Obama looked the world in the eye and called for a “moral awakening”:

“Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself…

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well…

The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell….

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

(Note: This speech is worth reading in its entirety as a foundation for measuring action against ideal.)

After Hiroshima, President Obama hopped back into Air Force One and headed home to authorize more drone strikes and finalize more arms sales. I cannot be the only person in the world who heard the soaring words in Hiroshima and seeks to measure both President Obama and his nation against those words. By any measure, America and its president continue to fail. It can only be hoped that one day America will choose to actually live by the standards enunciated by its president in Hiroshima, and one day actually live by the moral precepts that we so glibly preach to others.

Falling on Deaf Ears?

Obama gave a great speech. I hope he pauses to read it to himself the next time he is about to authorize new death dropping from the sky in far off lands to indiscriminately kill those in its path. I also hope that America’s merchants of death and those who finance their operations pause to read the speech as well. If Obama stops authorizing, and if they stop selling for one day, that could be one day without American death dropping from the sky. It could also be the first day of a new moral awakening.

If, however, President Obama’s speech falls on his own deaf ears and the deaf ears of those in America’s killing culture, it will serve as a fitting end to Obama’s inspired audacity of hope that is slowly slipping into oblivion, to be replaced by the audacity of audacity.

*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Boscorelli /

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