Drones: The dark side of power

Event Date: 

Sun, Feb 16, 2014 - 7:15 pm

In a recent Al Jazeera op/ed, "Drones: The Dark Side of Power," Dr. Hatem Bazian analyzes the politics of drone warfare in the on going US "war on terror." Here's an excerpt:

In the science fiction universe of "Star Wars", the Death Star is a moon-sized space station capable of destroying an entire planet with a powerful weapon. As the Galactic Empire's ultimate weapon, it is used to destroy the home planet of Alderaan in "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" after Grand Moff Tarkin attempts to pressure Princess Leia to give up the location of the secret rebel base. She gives a false location, but Tarkin destroys Alderaan anyway. As an "ultimate weapon", the fearsome capability of the Death Star is revealed and it continues to be used as a weapon of choice.

In the real world of military strikes and the mounting losses of civilian lives in Arab and Muslim nations, in the United States' war on terror one of the many weapons of choice are drones, which can be deployed anywhere in the world, and their effects are immediately devastating. It is the indiscriminate killing of so-called targets of interest without the mobilisation or loss of US troops on the ground.

Added to this is the highly dubious tactic of "double taps", whereby a second strike closely follows the first strike, as people gather to help the injured. This makes the use of drones even more controversial because it increases the number of casualties to include rescuers. It also blatantly reveals the destructive power drone warfare. It enables President Obama to become "really good at killing people".

It is ironic that President Obama has been the direct beneficiary of both the anti-war and the civil rights movements, which allowed many generations to discover their inner power and harness it for positive change. The relationship of the struggle for human dignity led by the civil rights movement and the victory of President Obama should never be underestimated or underappreciated.

But this continuation and strategic escalation of the "war on terror" policies, in particular drone warfare, mars his legacy. I voted for President Obama in two elections hoping that he would uphold the legacy of the real "Jedi order" of civil and human rights advocates.

Read the entire op/ed at Al Jazeera.  Dr. Hatem Bazian is a co-editor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and director of the CRG Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, and a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at Berkeley.