Current Magazine

Drone Strikes and School Shootings… NOT the Same Thing!

Posted on the 08 April 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki

(Preface: Sometimes I think I should just start recording these rants and putting them up on YouTube instead of these long-ass chunks of text on here, but ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat, so here goes.)

Marine Corps RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehi...

Marine Corps RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle launches from Speedbag Airfield (Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery)

Any time innocent people, including women and children, die from violence is tragic regardless of circumstance. But state-ordered drone strikes as part of military operations are not the same as random psychos going on rampages in classrooms. The two issues are not one-and-the-same.

That’s right, I said it. Take away my progressive stripes now if you must (and I’ll just shake my head at your absurd notion that I must fit perfectly into a cookie-cutter mold). I don’t care.

The simple fact of the matter is that if people, including those on the left, opposed to drone strikes seriously want the government to re-evaluate or abandon its use of military drones, they need to use and publicize only the most serious arguments. That means actually using reason, logic and smart analysis to delegitimize the drone wars – something that will not be accomplished by vilifying public debate in the wake of the Newtown school shooting as hypocritical when drones are killing kids abroad.

But regardless of your views on drones and the war on terror or guns and gun control, they are not one and the same issue. If you want to be taken seriously, no matter which side of whichever debate you’re on, get serious and get smart. You’re not helping either cause by artificially crossing two different streams.

This little rant comes in the wake of a drone air strike ordered Saturday as part of operations against the Taliban near the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. The intended target, a suspected Taliban commander, was killed, but his family was in the house, too.

And it was almost like clockwork – as the news reports filtered out into the social media world, it did not take long for people to start conflating drone strikes and gun violence.

But, again, while innocent deaths are equally tragic, the two are not the same thing. They are not the same issue. And the military launching a drone at a combatant who chose to put his own family at risk is different from a gunman opening fire in a movie theater, a Sikh temple or an elementary school. (I mean, seriously, why does this have to be explained?)

After all, there are plenty – plenty! – of completely valid, intelligent arguments against the use of drones even abroad. Like that it’s potentially creating a new generation of terrorists because of the collateral damage and displacement. (There! I just gave you a freebie! Use it!) Yet those fall by the wayside because, hey, it’s easier to just mix and match our debate topics and compare one thing to another no matter how silly the blend. Sadly, this happens in other hot topic issues of the day, too – for instance, marriage equality, like the handful of Republicans and conservative pundits who think they’re right to compare same-sex marriage to bestiality – umm, no, not the same thing. I’m no more or less forgiving to them when they play that shit.

Now, I’m not trying to whitewash the decade-plus of American and allied presence in Afghanistan. I fully realize that foreign military occupations in any country are not always or necessarily just or justified. And Lord knows we’ve had our share of mistakes and misdeeds in Afghanistan, giving the anti-occupation combatants a nationalist angle, as well. And the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is inefficient on a good day and notoriously corrupt. But then I think about what the Taliban stands for, what it did in Afghanistan during its few years of misrule, and I can’t in good conscience say, “well, you know, the Taliban, they’re not so bad” and simply write their armed resistance off as a bid to free their country – no, they want to enslave it as they did from 1996 until 2001.

And there’s an incomplete self-righteousness here, too.

After all, even as they lambasted the government and military for using weapons (that’s what a drone, in this case, anyway, is – a weapon), there is no word from these people about the immorality of that commander or the Taliban in general for using families as human shields and recruitment tools when their guys, holed up with their kids, do get killed by drones. It’s ridiculous.

But what makes it shameful is using the comparative lack of outcry over victims of drone strikes in war zones abroad to try and attack any debate on or initiative to address gun violence domestically. President Obama’s call for new laws such as background checks at gun shows (how dare he even suggest that!) get lampooned, as even as he urged that we must act and try “if there’s even one life that can be saved” stateside, civilians got caught in the lopsided crossfire between U.S. and allied forces and the Taliban.

Because all of a sudden, conducting war operations abroad must obviously mean that any attempt to respond and address random violence here is inherently hypocritical. (If so, then why bother with laws prohibiting and punishing murder in general? Should we not skewer the government for daring to prosecute murderers domestically when they take other people’s lives abroad?)

Yes, that’s right, we have no right to consider violence prevention strategies, which may or may not include stricter federal gun control, unless we stop applying violence in war operations abroad.

Bitches, please.

I just don’t understand how you can seriously blur the very obvious lines separating the drone issue in war zones abroad from debate on gun control or gun violence prevention and safety. And do so with a smirk on your face, saying “Ha! Take THAT, gun control activists. Guess your Obama’s not such a perfect guy, after all, huh?” (1. Way to go for a random cheap shot by conflating two different issues. And 2. Who said he was perfect? For many people supporting him, myself included, he was just the better option.)

Let me break it down for you all one last time:

Scenario A: A Taliban commander in Afghanistan goes back to his family home, even though knows the seriousness of the situation given that he’s part of the Taliban armed resistance and cannot claim naivete. Intel confirms his location, and in a bid to hurt the Taliban’s capability to operate in the are and potentially kill more troops, a drone strike is launched. It kills him. Sadly, he had his family there, so they’re all dead. This is an issue of collateral damage from the war on terror and anti-terror operations abroad.

Scenario B: A young man shoots his mother with her own gun in the morning before moving on to the local elementary school and gunning down, for still unknown reasons, little kids and their teachers. It was just a random Friday morning at school. Whatever his motivations were, it couldn’t have been a preemptive strike against these six-year-olds to prevent further bloodshed. There was no war going on until that morning, when he brought war to that school. This is an issue of gun violence domestically, mental health and access to guns.

Scenario A was a combat strike targeting a combatant in a war zone; Scenario B was a mass shooting targeting schoolchildren and their teachers at a school. Innocent casualties in Scenario A were unintentional, referred to (perhaps a bit coldly) as collateral damage; innocent casualties in Scenario B were deliberately, if perhaps randomly, targeted by their assailant.

Death by violence is still death by violence, but do you see, yet, how the two differ? If you don’t, then either I’m totally inept at making my point or you’re just stubborn and dense. (For the sake of my ego, I hope it’s the latter.)

On drone strikes, if you want to applaud Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as even I did initially, okay – his filibuster was all about domestic drone use. It’s actually relevant and connected, then. (But if you do so, you still would have to concede that Sen. Paul’s apparent passion against drone use still does not seem to extend to combat or anti-terror operations, as evidenced by his lame follow-up to the epic filibuster.)

But please don’t take the news story about the drone strike abroad and pretend to be aghast that there is nationwide outrage over an elementary school shooting but barely a peep about a strike on a terrorist and suggest that it invalidates any and all debate on the matter of preventing mass shootings.

It’s off-topic and it’s bullshit. Feel free to give yourself that pat on the back for being contrary and logging your obligatory criticism of the Democratic administration. But I hope you don’t expect me to reward you or follow suit. (If you do, sorry to disappoint. Actually, no I’m not.)

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog