Your View: Guest Column - Have drones become America’s death stars?

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 09:02 PM


Lawyers — believe it or not — have a wonderful, if not cardinal, rule of ethics that says they must “avoid even the appearance of impropriety.” Which means — refraining from doing something that looks wrong or immoral, even when it’s not. 
It’s as good rule because it helps the legal professional from being perceived as some view it — a school of circling sharks. I only wish the rule applied to the government, because this drone thing Obama’s letting the Pentagon do is giving the world a view of America that’s close to that George Lucas gave us of Darth Vader and his “Death Star” in Star Wars.
The parallels are disturbingly striking:  With satellite telemetry, a video I was sent last month pictured an attractive young man and woman seated before an impressive SI-FI array of computer screens, and manipulating joy sticks in both hands, working together to track down and ultimately blow to smytherines before our eyes  a passenger vehicle traveling through some (obviously) Arabian desert. The dialogue between the killing couple was short, dispassionate and airline-pilot precise and snappy.
The video I saw was likely a simulation, but international headlines are swarming now with reports of remotely-controlled American drones assassinating “enemies” (of the American empire?) all over the world, as often as not, involving the death of innocents (euphemized “collaterally damaged”) along with the targeted terrorists or other “guilty” but “untried” alleged criminals.
Of course we all know America and its allies have had secret militant agencies dating back decades, of the American C.I.A. and UK “M-16” ilk. Our allied cultures pretty much accept the covert killings carried out by 007 British and allied agents (e.g. James Bond, Jason Bourne , etc.) as “normal,” even “patriotic.” So, are these drone-killings different in either quantum or quality from the “courageous” secret agency underground killings we have for ages condoned and even cheered in our history, media reports … and in our movie theaters?
Here’s my take: There is a difference. Hand to hand combat, where lives are risked and taken in the actual theaters of war are one thing. But with “terrorists” there has never been a theater of war because terrorism is a tactic … not a nation or army.  American joystick manipulation in Nebraska to earth-orbiting satellite of sand dune death in the deserts of the Middle East is making America appear just as bin Laden would have us appear — evil infidel assassins of a dark and alien empire, deciding with God-like arrogance between the quick and the dead in foreign lands, killing them with cold deliberation from a safe distance with deadly cyber-machines machinated from a completely safe position in some remote, dark place that can be easily likened to the Death Star of Star Wars infamy.
And here’s my fear: As lawyers are judged for how they appear, America may become “justly” judged for how we now appear, and the problem with that is that America is no longer in sole control of our satellite-circling outer space. The North Koreans presently, and perhaps soon the Iranians as well, have the ability to launch nuclear warheads into that space and to robotically steer them our way with their own joysticks.
By giving the world the appearance of siding with the Darth Vader “Dark Side” with our deadly drones, are we not inviting those who perceive us as such to treat us as such?   Are we, in permitting our military leaders to joystick massacre masses of foreign citizens, in effect converting our previously peaceful and benevolent place on this planet into a seeming death star?

Robert R. (Dusty) Schoch is an attorney and writer living in High Point. His website is