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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Until stained by global murders, she was our beloved “Old Glory”

Before the Drones
By Carolyn Bennett

We loved our flag. We called her “Old Glory.” 
We were proud. Before she became advertiser for fast foods and automobiles, before conspicuously consuming fake “patriots” bought her to adorn their SUVs,  we were proud to see her wave. 

Proud to serve her and the good for which we believed she stood. We loved our flag. 

Honored until the zealots, liars and murderers took up residence, dug in, and laid claim to careless minds distractedly laying down dollars to consume the latest gadget: until sheep became chattel to an ethos of violence, we loved our flag.

We (at least some of us) are now shamed and ashamed, saddened and outraged by the endless, unconscionable flowing of blood at home and across the world in the name of our flag, in our name. We have been reduced to stunned ambiguity in relating to our once-beloved, now tainted “Old Glory.”

Wrapped in irony they burn her: burn in protest, burn to purify our “Old Glory.”  

Yet the violence does not end. It just digs in.

U.S. ethos of killing costs

Despite the world’s opposition to mass murder, despite the stain on U.S. reputation for using,  selling and setting the mold of mass murder, officials of the United States continue ─ flouting all laws and moral principles ─ to engage in and increase targeted killings in several countries of Africa and South Central Asia, without deference to any judicial process.

An extensive report published in September recalls that after the events in the United States on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration began a global “campaign of ‘targeted killing’ against suspected members of Al Qaeda and other armed groups”; then under the Obama government, murder rose to new heights: “‘targeted killing[s]’ of alleged enemies have [escalated dramatically].”

Cold-blooded murder
Among the worst stains on Old Glory: U.S. remote-controlled killing

This month’s report on U.S. drones on Pakistan by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) and Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law) is titled:

Living under drones: death, injury, and trauma to civilians from U. S. drone practices in Pakistan

From the executive summary and recommendations
Excerpt, editing with brief comment by Carolyn Bennett

In the United States, the report said, “the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.”

[Footnote: The U.S. publicly describes its drone program in terms of its unprecedented ability to “distinguish ... effectively between an al Qaeda terrorist and innocent civilians,” and touts its missile-armed drones as capable of conducting strikes with “astonishing” and “surgical” precision. See, e.g., John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The Efficacy and Ethics of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy, Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-efficacy-and-ethics-us-counterterrorismstrategy.]

his narrative is false, the writers affirm.

Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and reviews of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and Global Justice Clinic presents “evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current U.S. drone strike policies.”

The report documents new and firsthand accounts of the negative consequences of U.S. policies on civilians living under drones.

eal threats to U.S. security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by U.S. drones, the report finds.

While it is understandable that the United States protect itself from terrorist threats and that attention be paid to the harm "terrorists" inflict on Pakistani civilians, there is  compelling evidence of U.S. harm to Pakistani civilians together with  negative
consequences for U.S. interests ─ that warrant redress. The current U.S. policies “to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated,” the report writers advise.  

In my opinion, this recommendation is entirely too mild as it stops far short of saying what it should say
that the United States should alter its methods in foreign relations, cease provocation and mass murder.

In the language of academics, the writers conclude  mindlessly, at least timidly, as they must know that the public is preoccupied and mass media and federal Washington are owned and operated by the weapons industry: “It is essential," they write, "that public debate about U.S. policies take into account the negative effects of current policies.” What "debate"? Who are the debaters? Where is this debate? When is it?

This report tells some of us what we already know.

There is a stain on our flag caused by mass murder (not only) abroad: the execution of an entrenched, callous, deeply flawed U.S. foreign policy

Only with serious attention to substantive matters, only with a return of sanity will we begin establishing renewed pride in our “Old Glory,” and all that that means for a truly caring people among peoples of the world.

Sources and notes

“Living under drones: death, injury, and trauma to civilians from U.S. drone practices in Pakistan,” September 2012,  http://livingunderdrones.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Stanford_NYU_LIVING_UNDER_DRONES.pdf

Further excerpt from “Living under drones”


“The practices employed, and legal frameworks articulated, by the United States today … set dangerous precedents for future engagements, including for other countries and armed non-state actors.

“We are in the midst of a significant period of drone proliferation, pushed forward on the one hand by governments and militaries; and on the other, by manufacturers seeking to expand markets and profits.” [The Pentagon in September 2012 “had given approval for drone exports to 66 countries.”]

“Unchecked armed drone proliferation poses a threat to global stability, and, as more countries and non-state actors obtain access to the technology, the risks in the spread of U.S.-style practices of cross-border targeted killing are clear.”

Suggested Citation:

Old Glory

Old Glory is a common nickname for the flag of the United States, bestowed by William Driver, an early nineteenth century American sea captain.

Circa 1820s, Old Glory [measuring 10x17 feet, heavily constructed and designed to be flown from a ship’s mast, with 24 stars and, symbolic of its nautical purpose, a small anchor sewn in the corner of its blue canton] was made and presented to the young sea Captain William Driver by his mother and some young ladies of his native Salem, Massachusetts.

The captain always kept the flag with him; and he reportedly first hailed the flag ‘Old Glory’ when he left harbor for a trip around the world (1831-1832) as commander of the whaling vessel Charles Doggett. Old Glory served as the ship’s official flag throughout the voyage. (Wikipedia note, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Glory)


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