Drones, Deaths, and Decisions

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: (AFP OUT) Comedian Larry Wilmore speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association annual
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: (AFP OUT) Comedian Larry Wilmore speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner on April 30, 2016 at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington.This is President Obama's eighth and final White House Correspondents' Association dinner (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Larry Wilmore pulled no punches during his monologue at last week's White House Correspondents Dinner. Standing less than 10 ft. away from President Obama, Wilmore compared the shooting ability of Stephen Curry's 'long range bombs' to the lethal drones of President Obama, which have killed thousands of innocents and many militants.

The reaction from the elites in the room was no surprise. Other than the gasps and "oohs," there were crickets. It was an uncomfortable moment. Everyone in the room knew the truth behind Wilmore's comment. If that room had been filled with human rights people, there would have been cheering, not oohing. Larry Wilmore did the job of true comedy. Like Len Bruce, Mort Sahl, and Dick Gregory, the greats before him, Wilmore spoke truth to power.

During Obama's presidency, we have seen a steady increase in the number of drone strikes deployed by the U.S. military. In 2011, unmanned aircraft carried out just 5 percent of the military's airstrikes; however, last year, drones carried out 56 percent of airstrikes. An increase in drone strikes makes sense when analyzing Obama's policy. He entered office with the goal of scaling down military operations in the Middle East. While we wanted fewer troops on the ground, the government determined we could not reduce our presence in the region. Drones were the answer to the problem. By patrolling the sky, our presence remains constant. While drones may have solved the military's issues, they have generated a human rights backlash. Washington Post's James Downie also noted that, "Obama's embrace of drones has led to a preference for killing rather than capturing terrorists." This leads to less intelligence from the captured and more radicalization.

Drones are not only deadly but they carry a lack of accountability. Because victims of blasts are vaporized, it is hard to know who died. Survivors struggle to find anyone in the blast. How many innocents have died, no one really knows? But it is in the thousands. The hunt is for the terrorist; however, the victims are often civilians. The terrorist's' best protection is in crowds and thus each strike is not singular. During a five-month period of Operation Haymaker, a strike campaign occurring in northeastern Afghanistan from January 2012 to February 2013, government documents show nearly 90% of people killed were not intended targets. Statistics such as this have fueled a heated debate over radicalization. Are our drone strikes creating more radicals? If so, drone strikes are counterproductive. Not only are we failing to eliminate current threats but we a creating more. On top of this, some argue local spotters often avenge those killed. These spotters rain hell down on their perceived enemy, which has nothing to do with America or any terrorist.

I often wonder about the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese in WW2. The first bomb was certainly debatable. A case can be made for the potential loss of American lives. Casualty rates for an actual invasion of Japanese islands would have been terrible. With such projections, our government justified the use of the bomb. Dropping Little Boy allowed our military to express its power without American loss. It showed the Japanese how deadly this new weapon was. The understanding was developed as instantly as the explosion. President Truman knew that, but why did he drop the second bomb on Japan? Did he think the Japanese did not know what happened to them in that mushroom cloud? Certainly our intelligence people knew what that first bomb did to Hiroshima. The reality of those who died and the survivors, who for the rest of their lives suffered from burns, was enough to understand the power of nuclear warfare.

I do believe the first might be at least debatable; however, I will never understand the second bomb. Not for me. Not even the militarists among us can justify the second bombing. It was wrong and wrongheaded. Vice President Biden should have addressed this issue in his remarks recently when he was in Japan. A side note is important to this explosion. Father Arrupe the eventual leader of the Jesuits (called the black, meaning color of garment as opposed to the white of the Papacy). He was in Hiroshima and survived the blast and became in himself a reminder of what atomic power really means. Father Berrigan and Pope Francis were two of his priests of the Jesuits.

This blog is about destruction from the air. This kind of military operation means that this power comes only to the powerful nations, the rich nations. My question is this: Larry Wilmore's comment ought to lead into a national debate of about the morality of the use of drones. I believe in time that drones will be outlawed by the international community. I believe they are wrong now as well. Thus, the joke of Larry Wilmore was not only a joke but perhaps a call to the decent to stop this droning business of extra judicial executions by drones.

Best to be sure the Russians, Chinese, and Saudis will not be raining drones strikes on all heretics and dissidents to them and their governments. Who pays the families for the losses of their innocent family members? Who even knows who dies or cares? President Obama stopped torture. Why not stop drones? Larry Wilmore's joke needs to be turned into a national debate. Given the reaction of the elites at this dinner, I doubt whether that is even thought about. The reverse ought to be normal.

The two candidates who can turn out large numbers in this election are speaking of a revolution. Do they or any other candidate want to stop the use of drones? Does Hillary? Is the question ever asked on morning and night shows? The answer is no. A custom not built on the truth is just a long lie. The USA is lying to itself that this weaponry called drones is appropriate machinery of war.

Larry's remarks came at a timely moment that was highlighted in the death of Father Daniel Berrigan of the Jesuit Order. He was the torch across nuclear weapons and built a movement of peace people around antiwar and anti-nuclear issues. He did it with his time, his life, his poetry and his brother Phil. Together they were the leaders of much more than the Catholic movement.