By Vincent Aldazabal
American drone strikes in the Middle Eastern countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are the newest additions to the repertoire of politically sanctioned instruments of American terrorism.
President Obama has long since dropped the rhetoric of his predecessor’s propaganda campaign of American decreed “War on Terror,” and instead is consistently asserting that American drone warfare against those with suspected terrorist ties is simply the “right thing to do.”
Amnesty International has declared Obama’s military campaign as war crimes and cites 4,000 civilian deaths, nearly a quarter of which have been children. Amnesty International also has made clear that these death tolls are probably underestimated due to the increasing difficulty in accounting for American destruction in these regions.
The practice of anonymous killing via unmanned drones has created a culture of unaccountability from the persons controlling the machines to the leadership initiating their use. Any inability to absorb the war crimes being perpetrated at the current moment is reflective of the obfuscation of particular historical patterns of presidential wartime violence against civilian populations. More significantly, if we are willing to mount a domestic resistance to such crimes, we must look to the valiant efforts of anti-war dissidents in the experiences of World War I, World War II and Vietnam.
When looking at the critiques that Sen. Robert Lafollette produced on the rhetorical justifications of Woodrow Wilson, which led up to the U.S.’s entrance into WWI, we are given a solid pretext to the development of American domestic opposition to the hypocrisies of Western imperialism.
Wilson stated that America would be “making the world safe for democracy,” yet Lafollette believed this was a false pretense and creating double standards in the aggression of the United States and its allies compared to that of the Axis Powers.
Lafollete pointed to the fact that while the U.S. supported the U.K and France’s right to adequate military defense, they would not have to terminate the crippling imperial policies in India and Africa, respectively.
Lafollette was right to be suspicious, as his critiques were proven valid in the release of the Nye Report in 1935.
The Nye Report was the strongest force in creating a new, reinvigorated body of anti-war American dissidents. The most poignant example was in the growing force of Pacifism amongst American citizens. When angered by the revelations released in the Nye Report, 500,000 students opposed American involvement in World War II on Pacifist grounds and demanded “scholarships not warships.”
Honoring Robert Lafollette’s legacy of dissent was perhaps most vocalized in the American experience of the Vietnam War. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of American men — war veterans and civilians alike — publicly condemned the war, and young women and men of the Student Nonviolent Coalition Committee were also audible voices of dissent.
It is essential to recognize the effect public opposition had in bringing an end to the tremendous loss of both American and Vietnamese life as a result of the schemes of Washington.
This past summer, the Obama administration disclosed its withdrawal policy related to Afghanistan, beneath which a more elusive political impulse is buried.
According to the editorial board at USA Today, Afghans are being ordered to “step up their game,” as a terrorist threat that now stretches “from South Asia to the Sahel” is becoming more of a threat to overall hegemony.
Drone strikes are the cause of enormous sources of both psychological and physical destruction. Their current use will only continue to exacerbate the despair that breeds an all-too-familiar, unquenchable thirst for vengeance.
The logic of the need for American public dissent is simple: We must be able to connect the themes of our own personal, collective and national levels of trauma to the trauma ravaging those on the other side of the world. For if we don’t, our humanity and democracy very may well remain enslaved to the illusion of security given by self-righteous displays of violence.