Monday, April 19, 2010

"Real American Values and the Reality of Robotic Warfare"

First published in Islam Times

(Islam Times) - Cindy Sheehan’s remarks to the “Challenging Robotic Warfare And Social Control”Conference in Hood River, Oregon
When I was asked to give this talk, I was also asked what my topic would be. My answer was: “You choose the topic, I can speak at length about almost any subject.” I have the gift of gab.
Anyway, this general subject of robotic warfare is very interesting to me. Recently, in a very ironic move, I was ejected from a Congressional hearing about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles when I was actually there to listen to the testimony. Just because I had a small sign reading, “Drones kill kids,” poised on my chest was no reason to kick me out. I was being quiet and had no intention of disrupting, as I informed the Congressman’s aide—but I got removed, anyway.
This particular topic of “Real American Values” is also very interesting. I guess, before we go any further, we should define two terms in the talk.
“Robotic warfare” is the subject of this conference and there are many people speaking here who are far more qualified to give you a technical briefing. I have mainly concentrated by opposition around UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), but I have seen ground based robotics at work, too.
According to a news story, dated July 16, 2009, Robotic Technology is working on a “long-range/long endurance” robot that will dine on human flesh. Instead of calling this one “ZOMBIE,” its working title is the: ENERGETICALLY AUTONOMOUS TACTICAL ROBOT, or EATR for short. Can you imagine an unstoppable monster attacking your neighborhood and eating anything that moves?
Now here comes the part where something a little less concrete needs to be defined: “Real American Values.” Hmm—how do we do that? Are there “values” that can be applied consistently across the length and breadth of this beautiful country of ours (and trust me, it is beautiful—I have crossed the length and breadth just this week—from California to the Southern Tier of New York State and back and from California to Dallas and then up here to Oregon)?
Well, the “values” of the group that are here exercising their freedom of speech to protest against this conference (and particularly me), seem to be decidedly contrary to the principles of we who are assembled here, today.
Firstly, how is our new-ish president faring with this issue—especially with the use of UAV’s?
Well, from 2004 to the end of 2008, there were 23 US drone strikes in Pakistan. On January 23, 2009, the brand-spanking new and “improved” resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave authorized his first lethal strike in Pakistan—killing about 30 people.
Since that day, just 16 months ago, 75 more terror strikes have hit Pakistan. These UAV strikes in Pakistan are performed by our CIA with cooperation with the Pakistani military and mostly launched from airbases within Pakistan.
Pakistan is now like the Wild West and our SlayStation program of Murder by Joystick is greatly enhancing this destabilization—yet many people on the American “left” still support the actions of the Nobel Laureate.
Currently, some “Real American Values” are that one life of a US troop is worth the lives about 200 innocent men, women and children, if we take a baseline of 5000 American troops killed and one million civilians—which are both low estimates.
These “Real American Values” also presume that our troops should be fighting in Iraq OR Afghanistan and that the murdering of the occupants of the tribal regions in Afghanistan/Pakistan is justified because somehow these poor and oppressed people might hop a plane over here to strangle one of us in our sleep.
Another thing is that as with this phony “War on Terror,” the very use of drone technology is a system of terror. Every innocent child that is killed; or every woman or old person that has his/her life prematurely stolen, creates hatred towards the U.S. How can anybody be so intellectually impaired, or propagandized (or shall we say “Fox-agandized) to the point that this is not just so fundamentally understood? How can one be so blinded by hatred, or fear to not recognize that humans have a primal need to NOT be occupied and an even more primal need to protect his/her family or community?
To illustrate my point about the willful and stubborn ignorance of the American news-o-tainment consumer, I want to tell you about an email that I received the other day.
After the usual rightwing salutation of “Hey Moron,” Jerry went on to tell me that UAVs don’t kill people and they don’t even carry weapons! I usually don’t even reply to such stupidity, but a reply that took a few seconds with pictures and articles proved my point and I haven’t heard from him since.
On the day my son was killed in Iraq, eight US troops were killed and over one thousand inhabitants of Sadr City, Baghdad. I am now being attacked using the despicable argument that if the US Army had been using UAVs the day my son was dead, he may still be alive. Like the 58,000 US troops during the Vietnam war crime that were that were covered with fighter jets and helicopters and were slaughtered anyway? I would trade places with Casey if I could, but this argument ignores the fact that this country, the one that is supposed to have values, sent him to die in a completely illegal and fully immoral war based on lies.
Casey was also killed in retaliation for Blackwater’s war crimes and for torture in Abu Ghraib—are these American “Values?”
The argument that the use of UAVs saves the lives of American Troops is one that can’t be supported, anyway.
Just one example occurred at the end of 2009, when our attention was being diverted to Tiger Woods and the Crotch Bomber, eight CIA agents were executed on a military base in Khost Province, Afghanistan in direct retaliation for drone bombings in Pakistan.
As with the tragedy of 9-11 most Americans would believe that this attack came out of the blue and was neither expected nor justified—it’s a cycle of violence that can more often than not, be traced right back to the US Empire.
Tragically, although there are some people in this country who abhor killing whether the person killed is brown, black, yellow, or white; Christian, Muslim, Jew or otherwise; most of our fellow citizens are either pathetically apathetic, or lack critical reasoning skills, like our friends who are here to protest us.
If we define “Real American Values” in a realistic way, then “YES” Robotic Warfare conforms to those values. Values where “the other” is held in, not only low esteem, but as less than human. Values where the conquest of land, resources, or wealth is the reason for such demonization of people so their slaughter will conform to our “superiority complex” ideas of “Mom, flag, apple pie and Chevrolet.” Ask our First People about “Real American Values,” if you can find one.
Millions of people have been killed directly, or indirectly by the murderous psychopathology of this US Empire—to me, using robotics, real troops, or dropping bombs from airplanes are all actions of a morally bankrupt nation with very few values.
Now, if you define “Real American Values” as those values that are totally based on myth, then “NO” Robotic Warfare is not in alignment with them.
You know these Mythic Values that I am talking about! The one that says that the US is a force for good in the world—the one that says that the US avoids “collateral damage—the one that says that we always fight fair, and after the fight, we ride off into the sunset with the pretty girl by our side.
Have we ever been this country? In my humble opinion a country built with forced slave labor and expanded on the virtual genocide of an original population was NEVER a country that had positive values.
How do we convince 80-90% of our fellow Americans that if we kill innocent people, the problem is worse? How do we convince these same people that we ARE killing innocent people?
After a couple of centuries of American Exceptionalism, the task is not easy, but I think the use of remotely controlled weapons should ring particularly cowardly if we the people declare that we do have “Values.”
This conference and the resulting “controversy” is a good start—and you know what our friends in Arabic countries say: “How do you eat an elephant—one bite at a time.”
Thank you

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