The Ghost of George Orwell at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave
June 1, 2012
Gary Brumback / The Greanville Post
Commentary: "Murder: an intentional killing. Surrogate murder: An intentional drone killing. A difference between Mafia hit men and US drone strikes is that hit men have no Orwellian defense that makes "lies sound truthful and murder respectable." People at the White House and its West Wing are always trotting out Orwellian defenses. Orwell's ghost walks the corridors of the White House coaching its propagandists."
(May 25, 2012) -- Murder: an intentional killing. Surrogate murder: An intentional drone killing. A difference between Mafia hit men and US drone strikes is that hit men have no Orwellian defense that makes "lies sound truthful and murder respectable...."
People at the White House and its West Wing are always trotting out Orwellian defenses. Orwell's ghost walks the corridors of the White House coaching its propagandists. One of them, President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser was in prime Orwellian form when he gave a speech April 30 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.
He droned on and on about how efficacious, ethical, legal, and wise are the administration's deadly drone strikes on foreign soil. Such chutzpah! But it fools and frightens the American people, just as Orwell said it would. So let's take a look at the claims and counter the counter chief.
On the Orwellian Claim
Drone Strikes are Efficacious
How so? Because robots can't be killed? Are drones effective because every one struck on the ground is murdered or maimed? Hardly so. No, to be effective, drone strikes must achieve their objective and timely so; pursue the right objective; pursue a credible objective; be the best means available to achieve the objective; and avoid undesirable side effects and chain reactions.
Drone strikes can never achieve the objective of eliminating al-Qaida and ending terrorism against the US Drone strikes beg for retaliation, guaranteeing that al-Qaida or mutations of it will keep the US war on terror in perpetuity.
Eliminating terrorism by eliminating al-Qaida is not the right objective. An unachievable objective never is.
The objective isn't credible. Not everyone is fooled. Consider Paul Craig Roberts, a high-ranking official in the Reagan administration who rhetorically asks if the war on terror is a hoax designed to make Americans fearful and subservient. [See related story on today's post.]
Consider Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the antiwar group Code Pink. She was in the chief's audience and interrupted him to dispute his claims before being whisked away and handcuffed. [ See related story on today's post .]
Drone strikes aren't among the best means for eliminating terrorism. The best means would be those designed to end the US support of Israel's militarism and her illegal building of settlements; substantially reduce US military presence in the Great Middle East; substantially reduce welfare to the war industry; reduce dependence on foreign oil; and stop aiding corporate hegemony.
Drone strikes can never avoid the "collateral" killing and maiming of hundreds of non-targeted men, women and children or guarantee preventing possible retaliation some day worse than the attack on the twin towers.
On the Orwellian Claim that
Drone strikes are Ethical
By whose ethics and values, the administration's or those of civilization down through the ages? Throughout history and across very different cultures certain ethical values have remained constant, such as accountability, caring for others, excellence, fairness, fidelity, honesty, integrity, promise keeping, respecting others, and responsible citizenship.
Only an Orwellian claim could twist those universal values to justify drone strikes; could argue that the "principle of humanity," whatever that means to the administration "requires it to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering;" could cite abstruse principles of "necessity," "distinction," and "proportionality" as additional justifications; and could assert that the administration is "harnessing every element of American power— [including] the power of our values."
While acknowledging that many innocent, noncombatant men, women and children have been killed and wounded by US drone strikes, the Orwellian claim is made that the "administration puts a "premium—on protecting human life, including innocent civilians." Why didn't the chief counterterroris adviser go on to say what exactly this premium is and what limit if any the administration has set on the toll taken by drone strikes before it decides that they are no longer efficacious and ethical?
On the Orwellian Claim that
Drone Strikes Are Legal
One after another purportedly authoritative legal sources are cited to justify drone strikes. Why weren't counter arguments mentioned such as one by the US Representative Dennis Kucinich that "Drones [are] a direct hit upon [the] rule of law;" or one by Philip Ashton, the UN.Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings suggesting that in certain circumstances (e.g., when the CIA is conducting the strikes) US drone strikes may violate international law"?
Why doesn't the administration acknowledge that it is relying on legal loop holes to claim the legality of drone strikes; loop holes such as not declaring drone strikes to be an act of war since the Constitution requires Congress to declare war; and using the CIA because it somehow circumvents legal accountability?
On the Orwellian Claim that
Drone Strikes are Wise
Drone strikes are a wise choice, the Orwellian claim goes, because they are less constrained by geography; can be done more quickly; use robots; reduce the danger to innocent people in the targeted area; can aim precisely at targets; and strategically avoid troublesome consequences that can ensue from "deploying large armies."
Why was the issue sidestepped of whether a wiser choice in the long run would be to persistently pursue peaceful means to eliminating al-Qaida?
Only an Orwellian spokesperson would brag about the precautions taken to ensure that the use of drone strikes is a "standard bearer," on the insistence of President Obama, in the conduct of war, and would add that "if we want other nations to use these technologies responsibly, we must use them responsibly."
How can the administration be a standard bearer since it is lagging behind in drone technology? Jefferson Morley in a recent piece in Salon tells us that if we "want to know how drones will change America, look to the Jewish State -- where they're already widespread." He cites a top Israeli official claiming Israel is becoming a world leader in development and production of UAVs [that's drone talk]."
Never to mind, though, whether Israel or America; welcome world to the Devil's premium quality drones! Get them before their prices go even more stratospheric.
The transcript also reminded me of Hannah Arendt's phrase, "the banality of evil." Well, we have just looked it in the eye, but will it ever blink?
America's worse enemy is not al-Qaida, as treacherous as it may be according to the administration. America's worse enemy is her own powerful corpocracy, the Devil's marriage between corporate and political interests. The only way to end the administration's surrogate murdering is to end the corpocracy by organizing and unleashing two-fisted democracy power (see www.uschamberofdemocracy.com).
Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of The Devil's Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch. Gary can be reached at;
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