An Open Letter to Illinois Senator Mark Kirk responding to his call for U.S. Special Forces to attack a flotilla of ships that will sail to Gaza
Senator Mark Kirk
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
June 29th, 2011
Dear Senator Kirk,
We are Illinois residents writing to you from Athens, Greece. Just before leaving the United States, we wrote to inform your office about our intent to sail on “The Audacity of Hope,” as part of the US Boat to Gaza project. In our letters, we explained why we were traveling to Gaza. We told you of our previous experiences living among Palestinians who lack access to basic necessities, such as clean water, because of the blockade. Referring to Gaza as the world’s largest open-air prison, we mentioned how hard it has been for people to rebuild after previous lethal assaults, especially the Operation Cast Lead attack which ended, after 23 days, on January 18, 2009. According to B’tselem, the foremost Israeli Human Rights Organization, Operation Cast Lead caused the deaths of 1,389 Palestinians in Gaza. Of those, 344 were children. Of the 13 Israelis who were killed, four were soldiers killed by friendly fire.
Knowing that you and your staff care deeply about the consequences of unemployment, poor education and dangerously limited health care delivery, we pointed out related statistics affecting people in Gaza where 45% of the population is unemployed and hospital administrators are sounding the alarm because they are running out of crucial medicines. Half of Gaza’s 1.6 million people are under age 18.
TED is… TED is…. OK, I’m actually having a seriously hard time defining this… thing. And the site isn’t very helpful. So, as far as I can gather, TED was a conference in 1984, that brought together people from the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries for the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries people. It’s become a non-profit (owned by the Sapling Foundation), which holds double-annual conference, traditionally held in Long Beach and Palm Springs and Edinburgh, Scotland (but they’d rather say “Edinburgh, UK”, mind you). The goal of TED is to “spread great ideas”, they call those “ideas worth spreading”.
My second article in the drones series is now online at Al Jazeera.
In April, the British Ministry of Defence published a study which for the first time gave serious consideration to the moral, ethical and legal aspects of the drone wars. The study advises defense planners that ‘before unmanned systems become ubiquitous’ they must ‘ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely.’ The report is particularly concerned that the low risks of using drones were enabling policy makers to consider military action in places where they would otherwise be hesitant: ‘the use of force is totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability,’ it suggests.
The conclusions of the report are sobering. So is the fact that it was produced by a British military think tank rather than a US Congressional committee. In the US, the media and political establishment are still romancing the drone with the kind of giddy attention that sometimes borders on the inappropriate. In a May 10, 2009 segment on the Predator drone, Lara Logan of CBS’s 60 Minutes was positively breathless. Two years later, at a New America Foundation conference on drones, Professor Thomas Nachbar of the University of Virginia School of Law declared drones ‘fun’ and argued ‘against more transparency’ in their use.
Drones are attractive to US militarists and their courtiers because they are politically liberating. In their battle against public opinion and institutional inertia, politicians have often found technology an ally. The drones must therefore be understood in the context of a long-standing US desire to develop the technological means for achieving global Pax Americana. And for a century, airpower has been a key component of this vision.