"I want the US government to stop killing people in countries around the world. I want it to stop terrorizing populations. I want it to stop incinerating children. I want it to stop using war to give corporations money and Americans a false sense of security. I want it to stop creating anti-American violence in the name of fighting it."

"Bloodless Liberals" by David Mizner

Every week or so, I return to this essay. It makes the point that the Deleuze quote I posted a few days ago was making: human rights are nothing in and of themselves; we must create the situation for them to have meaning and that’s much more difficult than waving around human rights law to stop violations.


HRW’s argument presupposes that the slaughter of a dozen people was wrong only if it violated international law, and that, conversely, it was right if it didn’t. But all sorts of horrors are legal. “Signature strikes” — in which the US targets unidentified people who, viewed from the sky, seem like terrorists — are responsible for many, if not most, of the hundreds of civilian drone deaths, yet they’re not necessarily illegal. Likewise “double-tap” strikes in which the US tries to kill rescuers. Likewise attacks on weddings and funerals.

I want the US government to stop killing people in countries around the world. I want it to stop terrorizing populations. I want it to stop incinerating children. I want it to stop using war to give corporations money and Americans a false sense of security. I want it to stop creating anti-American violence in the name of fighting it.


David Mizner, “Bloodless Liberals”

A thought-provoking piece about how we talk about drones.

"International law defines a combatant and thus a legitimate target in terms of direct participation in hostilities and an imminent threat. It’s more complicated than that, as I’ll show later, but this is enough for Chamayou to fire off two key questions: How can anyone be participating in hostilities if there is no longer any combat? How can there be any imminent threat if there are no troops on the ground? The drone, praised for its forensic ability to distinguish between combatant and non-combatant, in fact abolishes the condition necessary for such a distinction: combat itself"
"When you ask Sadaullah or Karim or S. Hussein and others like them what they want, they do not say “transparency and accountability.” They say they want the killing to stop. They want to stop dying. They want to stop going to funerals — and being bombed even as they mourn. Transparency and accountability, for them, are abstract problems that have little to do with the concrete fact of regular, systematic death.’"

From Madiha Tahir’s ‘Louder than Bombs’ about drones in Pakistan



In effect, drones are supposed to introduce a new, intrinsically ethical symmetry to asymmetric warfare: they save ‘our’ lives and ’their’ lives. They combine the power to kill and to save, to wound and to care, a weapon at once humanitarian and military – ‘humilitaire’, as Chamayou has it. (Others have made a case for the humanitarian uses of unarmed drones, but their arguments are a far cry from military applications).

Yet if this new military power saves lives, Chamayou demands, what is it saving them from? His answer: from itself, from its own power to kill. And if this seems the lesser evil, in Eyal Weizman‘s terms the ‘result of a field of calculations that seeks to compare, measure and evaluate different bad consequences’, then we need to remind ourselves, with Hannah Arendt, how quickly ‘those who choose the lesser evil forget … that they chose evil.’

"Some media outlets reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Others reported that the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All of them reported that three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day–Mammana Bibi, a grandmother and midwife who was preparing to celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid… Not a militant, but my mother."

Our family are not your enemy. In fact, the people you killed had strongly and publicly opposed al-Qa’ida. Salem was an imam. The Friday before his death, he gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qa’ida’s hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but regrettably, it was his last.

Our town was no battlefield. We had no warning – our local police were never asked to make any arrest. My young cousin Waleed was a policeman, before the strike cut short his life.

Your silence in the face of these injustices only makes matters worse. If the strike was a mistake, the family – like all wrongly bereaved families of this secret air war – deserve a formal apology. To this day I wish no vengeance against the United States or Yemeni governments. But not everyone in Yemen feels the same. Every dead innocent swells the ranks of those you are fighting.


Farea al-Muslimi is the Yemeni who testified in front of a Senate subcommittee today about the impact of drones. That had to be the most awkward handshake in history.

"Of late, riding the subway in Brooklyn, I have been having a waking dream, or rather a daytime nightmare, in which the subway car ahead of mine explodes. My fellow riders and I look at one another, then look again at the burning car ahead, certain of our deaths. The fire comes closer, and what I feel is bitterness and sorrow that it’s all ending so soon: no more books, no more love, no more jokes, no more Schubert, no more Black Star. All this spins through my mind on tranquil mornings as the D train trundles between 36th Street and Atlantic Avenue and bored commuters check their phones. They just want to get to work. I sit rigid in my seat, thinking, I don’t want to die, not here, not yet. I imagine those in northwest Pakistan or just outside Sana’a who go about their day thinking the same. The difference for some of them is that the plane is already hovering in the air, ready to strike."

Teju Cole on drones

This ominous, discomfiting, illegal, and immoral use of weaponized drones against defenseless strangers is done for our sakes. But more and more we are seeing a gap between the intention behind the President’s clandestine brand of justice and the real-world effect of those killings. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words against the Vietnam War in 1967 remain resonant today: “What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them?” We do know what they think: many of them have the normal human reaction to grief and injustice, and some of them take that reaction to a vengeful and murderous extreme. In the Arabian peninsula, East Africa, and Pakistan, thanks to the policies of Obama and Biden, we are acquiring more of the angriest young enemies money can buy. As a New York Times report put it last year, “Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

Assassinations should never have happened in our name. But now we see that they endanger us physically, endanger our democracy, and endanger our Constitution. I believe that when President Obama personally selects the next name to add to his “kill list,” he does it in the belief that he is protecting the country. I trust that he makes the selections with great seriousness, bringing his rich sense of history, literature, and the lives of others to bear on his decisions. And yet we have been drawn into a war without end, and into cruelties that persist in the psychic atmosphere like ritual pollution.