Class Warfare Blog

February 5, 2013

Even MSNBC Can “Drone On”

Chris Mathews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” defended the use of drones to target American citizens with the analogy “If an American were to have put on a Nazi uniform, what would you do?”

I will answer his question.

If an American were to have joined the Waffen SS during WWII, as say a Captain, I would treat him like any other Nazi Captain. Were we to encounter him on a battlefield I would shoot at him. If I killed him, it would justified as an act of war. If I were to capture him, I would try him for treason in a military court under the Uniform Code of Justice as is fully recognized by the international community in the form of the Geneva Conventions. It is called “due process.”

We have some experience at this. We captured spies for Nazi Germany in WWII, including double agents who were American citizens and we tried them in court.

What the drone program is is an unabashed widespread assassination program . . . an out-of-control assassination program. At one point in this country we disavowed the use of assassinations altogether to further out foreign policies and we have never before considered assassinating Americans.

Certainly I would not go after some low level opponent with a $4,000,000 Predator Drone and shoot $68,000 Hellfire missiles at him, when a bullet or a trial will do the same thing. But, hey, I am cheap.

One also has to ask about picking the targets. I kind of understand the targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi (or al-Awlaki), after all he was a Islamic clergyman who as a “propagandist” made really unfair videos saying nasty things about us and un-friending him on Facebook just wouldn’t do, but two weeks after we killed him we also killed his 16-year old son? Obviously the son was a terrorist mastermind who needed a $68,000 Hellfire missile shot at him. Reportedly we also allow some of our military “partners” to pick their own targets.

Is there any doubt this is out of control?

I have an idea! Let’s just not assassinate anyone.

Gosh, won’t that mean there are people out their plotting to do us harm and we are just letting them? Yes. It worked like a charm for the 200 or so years before 2001. Obviously the tradegy of 9-11-01 required us to make some improvements in our ability to anticipate such moves, but mass assassinations is not an acceptable practice in my mind. This is a lot like any kind of hatred or bigotry. Until you do something, you might have had impure thoughts, but you have broken no laws.

It is not about them, damn it; this is about us. What kind of people do we want to be? Upstanding people of high character who are willing take a little risk to preserve our principles, or sniveling justifiers of anything to “stay safe?”



  1. A Hellfire missile is actually a bargain compared to what a treason/terrorism trial would cost.
    I’m personally dubious about the drone program, but I don’t really see a trial as an alternative for someone who is in a country which will not extradite a person for a trial, such as Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc.. Just as was the case in WWII, there were trials for the spies caught in the US, but I doubt there were any for German spies who were safe inside Germany.


    Comment by List of X — February 5, 2013 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

    • Are you arguing that a bullet is cheaper than a trial? That is anarchy. My argument is that a trial is the agreed upon process to follow regarding a capture. And if we can’t capture them, then we must try to defeat them on the battlefield. We sent soldiers in after bin Laden and they had a shootout, fine. I am even fine that it was on foreign soil as I suspect the Pakistanis were harboring him. But the power of just throwing lightning bolts from the sky? At anybody we choose to when there aren’t the agreed upon norms of battlefields, like uniforms and identification papers, I do not like.

      Now people say they can do irrevocable damage if left to their own devices. And I say: except for the amazing clusterfuck of 9-11 can you point to any time in which they showed any effectiveness, and threat to us? Indeed, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, not random retribution.


      Comment by stephenpruis — February 6, 2013 @ 7:04 am | Reply

      • The wording in the WH legal justification of drone strikes (that no evidence is needed that the suspect is actually plotting anything) is really quite terrifying.


        Comment by john zande — February 6, 2013 @ 8:01 am | Reply

        • Yeah, and “imminent” means any old time. Truly amazing; they set limits which limit very, very little and then claim they have checks and balances. Also, a number of people have claimed President Obama has been involved in target selection, etc. This is never good, even if *in time of war*, he is the Commander in Chief. Commanders determine strategy, not tactics.


          Comment by stephenpruis — February 6, 2013 @ 8:23 am | Reply

      • I am just stating it as a fact that a bullet is cheaper than a trial (because you’ve brought up the cost of missiles and drones), though I am not arguing that we should therefore always use bullets instead of trials. My point is that in some cases a trial is not possible: if you can capture the accused American alive (whether arrested on US soil, extradited to US, or captured in Afghanistan in a battle), then yes, we should do a trial. Same thing if it’s not an American but someone accused of a crime committed on US soil. However, you can’t always expect to capture a person alive in every situation, especially in a hostile country. Even in the US, on the friendliest territory you can imagine, the police still kill multiple people in hostage situations every year, and those people don’t get any trial. Just recently, there was a hostage situation in Alabama where a hostage-taker was killed. And in place like Yemen or Afghanistan, I’d think it is close to impossible to capture a wanted person without any additional bloodshed.
        Here’s a good extended version of the same argument written by someone else:


        Comment by List of X — February 6, 2013 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

        • One point I probably didn’t make well, is “so what?” They defected . . . so what? Do they have critical secrets they will reveal, like a disgruntled baseball player after a mid-year trade telling his new teammates all of his old teams signs? In most of these case these people are no real threat to us, yet we expend a great deal of effort to take them out. If they do get killed or caught we have remidies in place. If not, let them enjoy life in Yemen or wherever.

          Even when it comes to the leadership of “al-Queda” I do not approve a assassination. Especially not this way. Extrapolate the practice into the future. Satellites in orbit with high powered lasers can take out anyone they can see. Is that the kind of future we want, where people with guilty consciouses can’t expose their faces to the sky?


          Comment by stephenpruis — February 7, 2013 @ 9:38 am | Reply

          • I definitely don’t support a drone attack on someone who hasn’t been or isn’t involved in violent crime, or on someone who can be arrested without bloodshed. I accept the drone attacks as lesser of the evils in cases where a conventional military attack would otherwise be required. There is a huge gray area between the two situations.
            But mainly, I think the question should be whether we should be even be involved in a war/attacks/operations against someone, rather than what is the most appropriate way to kill the people on the other side.


            Comment by List of X — February 7, 2013 @ 11:23 pm | Reply

            • I agree with that! Often the option of “doing nothing” is not on the table because we have a military which glorifies “capabilities.” You want something done, our military has a “can do” attitude. So, great efforts are made to be able to do things we maybe really shouldn’t be doing.

              And if you just look at our recent history with Iran, in 30 years we went from being a country Iranians loved to one they hated . . . and it was all our fault being a country whose military exist primarily to carry out corporate warfare.

              Loved your latest list! Fabulous!


              Comment by stephenpruis — February 8, 2013 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  2. Georgie threw out any and all U.S adherence to the Geneva Convention…. which, coincidentally, the US used post-WW2 to prosecute (and hang) Japanese POW’s accused of, wait for it, waterboarding!


    Comment by john zande — February 6, 2013 @ 6:21 am | Reply

    • I cannot believe we are still *debating* the use of torture. That debate is over. The debate we need is why we didn’t enforce the treaties we signed and bring the culprits to justice (not the low level smucks at Abu Graib (sp?) but the folks who ordered it done.


      Comment by stephenpruis — February 6, 2013 @ 7:07 am | Reply

      • That one’s easy to answer. It didn’t fit into President Cheney’s larger narrative.


        Comment by john zande — February 6, 2013 @ 7:13 am | Reply

        • I cannot think of Dick Cheney (Chee-knee) without thinking of the character The Penguin, played by Burgess Meredith, on the old Batman TV show. I expect DC to laugh ; hreh, hreh, hreh. Put a top hat and long cigarette holder on him and Cheney is a dead ringer. About as moral, too.


          Comment by stephenpruis — February 6, 2013 @ 7:17 am | Reply

          • My eyes nearly popped out o their sockets at the 2009 inauguration… him in all black, gloves, black hat, and in a freakin’ wheelchair. It was Dr. Evil!


            Comment by john zande — February 6, 2013 @ 8:21 am | Reply

            • Hreh, hreh, hreh! And I’ll bet the tip of his cane has a poisoned needle in it (or is a shotgun he can aim at people’s faces)!


              Comment by stephenpruis — February 6, 2013 @ 8:25 am | Reply

  3. […] Even MSNBC Can “Drone On” ( […]


    Pingback by Targeting US Citizens? MSNBC’s Audience Says Yes, Please. | THE SCARECROW — February 7, 2013 @ 10:35 pm | Reply

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