The attack of Cupid’s arrows


Andrew Wehmann

It’s late at night and a man and a woman pass by the orange glow of a lantern-lit bazaar. The winged bowman Cupid flies above unseen. He spots the man and woman as they wait in line at a street vendor’s gelato stand.

Cupid strings his bow and then releases. He strikes with two arrows from his quiver, inspiring unbridled desire in his targets. The man and woman turn to each other, their glassy eyes beguiled by the little god’s spell. Why did Cupid choose to anoint these two as would-be lovers?

A drone attack happens much the same way, except instead of a fat baby with butterfly wings and a bow-and-arrow, a General Atomic RQ-1 Predator drone equipped with laser designated AGM-114 Hellfire missiles silently surveys at 25,000 feet.

The drone’s operator, a “pilot” massaging his joystick in Langley, Va., presses a tiny button and thousands of miles away everybody instantly dies in a flaming whirlwind. One more thing: The two lovers hit by the drone might be American citizens.

NBC News’ national investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff, broke the story about a confidential memo from the Justice Department outlining a vague set of qualifications that the executive branch uses to legitimize its policy on targeted killings of imminent threats.

One of the most controversial aspects of the document is its redefining of the word “imminent.”

According to Isikoff’s report, the document states that, “The condition that an operational leader presents an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

For reference, Merriam-Webster defines the adjective “imminent” as “ready to take place; especially: hanging threateningly over one’s head.”

The irony is of course that nothing is more imminent than a drone circling above one’s head. To the executive branch, imminent is anybody at any time.

“These strikes are legal; they are ethical and they are wise,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney when asked about the leaked document.

The consensus of television’s talking heads seems, as usual, to be to toe the line of the White House and the beltway’s national security klatch.

Many progressives have weighed the odds and surrendered foreign policy in favor of their domestic ends, saying that our dear leader President Obama would never abuse drone strikes.

Neoconservatives are barking their war cries behind the other tribe’s chief while at the same time whining, “If Bush had done this…”

The political opposition is coming from the civil liberties minded – some liberals and libertarians. What we should all be worried about is
blow-back.

As our empire has grown since 1945, so has the power of the executive branch. We have a president who presides over a kill-list comprised of enemies of the state: the robotically named “disposition matrix.”

At one time, the list was presumed to be populated with foreign combatants. This appears to be a false assumption.

The United States’ use of drone warfare and targeted killings already ignores the sovereignty of other nations. But now, President Obama has further opened the door that President Bush’s Patriot Act unlocked to ignoring our own Fifth Amendment – due process of law.

With the advent of targeting American citizens, can we assume that proscriptions and summary executions are the new normal? If China or other nations pass us by, will they think twice about using drones on the initial drone-wielders?

“A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both,” said author and political scientist
Chalmers Johnson in a 2007 interview with Amy Goodman.

“If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled … lose
its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.”

The Roman god Cupid lives on every February on the favorite holiday of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Will the Predator drones fly
for perpetuity?

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