When we Kill without Caring: Bill Moyers on the Downside of Drones (Video)

Bill Moyers on the downside of droning our enemies to death.

The blurb:

In a web-extended version of his broadcast essay, Bill Moyers gives examples of how indiscriminate killing by our military forces not only cuts down innocent bystanders, but drives “their enraged families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.” Bill says the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and President Obama’s prolific use of drones all share a “blind faith in technology, combined with a sense of infallible righteousness.”

Producer: Julia Conley. Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais.

13 Responses

  1. It might be said that the use of any weapons system that denies the possibility of hand-to-hand combat is less than heroic. Gone are the days when fighters are able to confront one another on land, on the sea and in the sky, warriors pitting themselves against one another until the final drop of blood is spilled and one or the other combatant resigns and retreats from the battlefield in defeat. I realise that this is “Patton-esque” but it nevertheless remains true, even more so since the beginnings of drone strikes, given that the drone operators are thousands of miles away.

    It is difficult to sway an enemy to the point of view of having lost when the supposed winner doesn’t even bother to show up for a one-on-one test of mettle. Indeed, it invigorates the enemy “over there” to remain resilient and resistant to the traditional ending of hostilities because of the social nature and perspective of fighting: it’s a matter of personal honour to defend one’s hallowed turf. When there is no honour and only horror, grudges and revenge are the driving motivations to continue any struggle, veneration be damned.

    Whether bombing Hanoi from miles in the sky or stealthily strafing Baghdad at supersonic speeds or indiscriminately obliterating targets seen only through a camera lens, the idea that the real enemy is being defeated is nonsense. As Mr Moyers points out, collateral damage occurs which has a ripple effect of creating even more enemies from those on periphery of the conflict. The purpose of warfare, that of reducing or eliminating the will to fight, is forgotten with the opposite effected: steeling the resolve of those whose honour has been impugned.

    And then there was Dresden* … learned lessons lessened …

    * link to en.wikipedia.org

    • “It might be said that the use of any weapons system that denies the possibility of hand-to-hand combat is less than heroic. Gone are the days when fighters are able to confront one another on land, on the sea and in the sky, warriors pitting themselves against one another until the final drop of blood is spilled and one or the other combatant resigns and retreats from the battlefield in defeat.”

      Indeed, and nothing illustrates your point better than the terrorist tactics used by Al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations in their consistent attempts to use everything from airliners as missiles, to suicide bombings, to truck bombings against targets ranging from US domestic facilities to Embassies abroad, and the always certain goal of causing mass civilian casualties.

    • While you’re patting yourself on the back for not voting “for this cold-blooded killer,” you’re conveniently forgetting that Bush ordered drone strikes as well…

  2. You could develop this point even more, and it really is central. When one’s character is on the line to either prevail or cave-in, it becomes a conclusive event. The character of the Droner and its commitment is presented for what it really is, hollow.

    It’s not just a “blind faith in technology,” as Moyer’s says, but a pernicious sort of laziness.

    Alternately, in response to a posting on this subject earlier from someone with a Special Forces background, many of these missions could be done by them. It’d be less economically effective, but not by a whole lot; there’d be the potential of “.5″ casualties (or some factor that could be quantified); and it’d be technically less effective in terms of 24-hr surveillance over time, etc.

    Still, I wonder if that wouldn’t be a more effective way of handling these things over the long run. It wouldn’t be a matter of giving the Bad Guys a fighting chance, but rather demonstrating how seriously we take these things; through using drones, in many cases, we are ironically demonstrating we do NOT take the matter that seriously.

  3. “Alternately, in response to a posting on this subject earlier from someone with a Special Forces background, many of these missions could be done by them. It’d be less economically effective, but not by a whole lot; there’d be the potential of “.5″ casualties (or some factor that could be quantified); and it’d be technically less effective in terms of 24-hr surveillance over time, etc.”

    Ironically, your statement cited above contains within it the very reasons why Special Forces could not accomplish the job with anywhere near the precision, cost-effectiveness, and saved lives of drones. These operatives of Al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations and forces are operating in extremely rugged territory. Drones operate on “real-time” intelligence; Special Ops Forces would be operating on intelligence that is less than “real-time.” There is also the problem of another possible “Blackhawk Down” incident, something none of us would want. Finally, drones have resulted in far fewer civilian casualties than any “boots on the ground” encounter would have. Imagine a fire-fight with terrorists embedded in the civilian population of a town or village.

    With the use of drones we are demonstrating that we take targeting terrorists, with the fewest possible civilian casualties, very seriously.

    • When you don’t have any skin in the game you don’t have any skin in the game.

      There are flaws in my thinking, put the essential point stands. SF could/should be supported by drones and it’d hardly diminish their personal presence; it’d enhance it by the magic with which 8 guys can get to X on his home turf, put him against the wall, and then disappeared (Powerful Mojo, them folks have); versus Them with Their X-Box and Gadgets, where Their Fighters kill a man and his extended family based on associations, then relax from their video game with an evening in Las Vegas.

      Having SF there for symbolic reasons is what you can question as naive on different levels, but that argument gets back to heart of the ideas raised.

      We sent in SF for OBL rather than just blowing the compound away—along with the evidence that gave closure to the hunt. We put more importance on his scalp than with these other guys: it was personal and important and we where committed.

      With these other people there is danger (?!) of acting like our actions are driven merely by economics. Perish the idea this could be the case: were it so, it would demonstrate how Americans know the price of everything but the value of nothing. We should think carefully before we chose to give the world even more evidence that’s what we stand for.

    • Drones don’t operate on real-time intelligence, because some pimply idiot at a console in New Mexico knows nothing about the society he’s blowing up, any more than he did last year when he was playing video games in his parents’ basement. The Green Beanies at least try to learn something about the people they’re dealing with.

      Of course, if American didn’t declare its right to control everything that happens everywhere on Earth, it would be much less of a handicap for us that we are, from the leadership down to the classes the grunts are recruited from, xenophobic morons and if anything are worse now than during World War 2. Even if such a right existed, which I think is absurd, it would come with the sacred responsibility for our entire polity to know everything possible about the societies we molest when we put military installations in over 130 countries. This website continually runs stories about American ignorance in just one region of the world.

  4. The man has a way with words.

    ” “blind faith in technology, combined with a sense of infallible righteousness.”

    Here he distills a significant period of a Nation’s history into a single sentence.

    • That’s why America was isolationist until the minute we had the power to be on top of the world. The assumption of internationalism was that we could share power with other nations. But Americans have never wanted to share. We’ve always hated diplomacy, balance of power, alliance politics, etc. We only want to deal with the outside world when we have a monopoly of power. Now that this monopoly is naturally eroding, we’re going crazy trying to either hold onto it or go back to isolationism.

  5. -
    we need to call it what it is

    it is murder – it is not war

    another example of technology

    getting ahead of morality

    why the hell are we so good

    at killing people and causing misery

    and so lousy at sorting things out,

    without resorting to this brutality

    the memo i got, said > ‘thou shall not kill’

    did you all get a different one ?
    -

  6. Anyway, the genie is out of the bottle. All the technology mags have suddenly started running cover stories about civilian applications of drones.

    Well, civilians in America are too broke to buy drones built by the ripoff artists of the military-industrial complex. Actually, everyone’s too broke for that.

    So the drones will be built in China, just like I warned everyone years ago, and then it will be outsourced to really poor and messed-up countries – the very ones America and Wall Street seem to demand the right to screw over. Soon, they will cost less than your monthly cell-phone bill.

    Do we all see how this turns out? DARPA is working on stuff scarier than Terminator, robot fish, robot insects, the ability to infest everything in normal life with spies and killers, and all of it will get copied in a few product cycles by people whom we’ve exploited.

    It’s too late to stop drones, or to repair the international law we’ve dismantled. We’ve thus lowered the moral threshhold for molesting people in foreign countries such that ever more-trivial causes, like resource shortages or intellectual-property violations, will be good enough reason.

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