The “At War” Excuse

Micah Zenko at his CFR blog writes:

Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking to the Easley Rotary Club in Easley, South Carolina, offered a standard defense of drone strikes: “It’s a weapon that needs to be used. It’s a tactical weapon. A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is now armed.” Graham also noted that without drones it would be hard to attack terrorists groups along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, where “terrorists groups like the [Haqqani] network and Al-Shabaab are residing, very remote regions.” Forget that Al-Shabaab has never been reported to be in that region, Graham also maintained that the drone program “has been very effective.”

Graham then added:  “We’ve killed 4,700. Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

That was a bold confession.  That is a number that is higher than many estimates.  Graham slipped up.  He was not supposed to let on that the murder rate by the United States was so high.  He will get a slap on the wrist by his bosses.

His final sentence in that statement is interesting:

Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

The ends justify the means.  But let’s go deeper.  Graham assumes we are at war.  Is this true?  It is true in the same sense that a school bully who beats up his peers is engaged in a fight.  During a fight it is important to work hard to win.  But the bully is in the wrong.  He violated the person and property of his victim.  The victim has a right to fight back.  The victim is not in the wrong.

It is true that the United States is at war.  But when we invade a country that never attacked us first, that makes the United States the perpetrator.  Yes war requires fighting.  But that is irrelevant.  Because the United States started the war.

“We’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”  The United States trains, and supports, Al-Qaeda.  And then we betray them. And we also “take them out.”

But they are the enemy!  Only because we have made them to be.  Leave them alone.  Bring the troops home.  Stop adding to Empire.  It is the antithesis of limited government.

“Between government in the republican meaning, that is, Constitutional, representative, limited government, on the one hand, and Empire on the other hand, there is mortal enmity. Either one must forbid the other or one will destroy the other.” -Garet Garrett

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