“If the American public is ready to condone mass assassinations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we should apply our logic fairly and be ready to stomach them here at home.”
According to a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report released on August 11th, 2009, the US has put 50 Afghan drug traffickers on a “kill or capture” list. This shift in America’s counter-narcotics drive in Afghanistan is designed to cut off the flow of money to the Taliban. Drug dealers who have proven links to the Taliban are placed on the “joint integrated prioritized target list” and can be shot on sight.
Despite debatable claims from two American generals who testified before the US Congress that this policy of assassination is legal under the military’s rules of engagement and international law, this “shoot now, investigate later” policy quickly raises the question of who has proven links to the Taliban and why, if the links are so clear, the drug dealers could not be brought in for investigation and a trial.
From pre-emptive strikes, to illegal occupations, to unlawful detentions, to torture, to illegal cross-border drones strikes, to the use of depleted uranium munitions, to you name it, the US has been operating in an “anything goes” military mentality for years. To ask that Afghan drug dealers be afforded some semblance of due process, that their ties to the Taliban be articulated and proven to the public, is clearly asking for too many democratic reforms in the U.S.’s nation building experiment in Afghanistan. The policy of extra-judicial executions blatantly looks past Western officials’ own accusations that President Karzai’s brother, Wali Karzai, and numerous other officials in his administration have been heavily involved in drug smuggling.
What is more, the media, political analysts and U.S. forces are once again assuming that there is some sort of inherent legitimacy to a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the problem lies with strategy alone. And so the people of Afghanistan are largely left out of the process of finding a solution for the very serious problems facing their homeland. They may be given the option to vote in farcical U.S. touted elections, but many Afghans feel that there is little to gain by casting a ballot in favor of Karzai’s corrupt regime or his competitors. According to a recent article featured in Al Jazeera, Ahmed Khan, a Pashtun tribal leader, believes the entire process is inconsequential:
Whatever happens, it’s all the same. Even the leading two challengers to Karzai were once members of this post-Taliban government. Whether they are part of Karzai’s government or running against him, they are all part of the same group of people. This is about America’s presence in Afghanistan and prolonging it for as long as it is necessary for them.
The elections aside and for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the U.S. presence and counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan are legitimate. How would the American public feel about implementing the same policies consistently when the Unites States’ War on Terror and the War on Drugs collide here at home?
At least one U.S. oil executive has recently pled guilty to conspiracy for buying oil stolen from powerful Mexican drug cartels that have tapped Mexican government pipelines. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has acknowledged that the drug cartels have extended their grasp to the theft of oil, and the Mexican police estimate that at least $46 million worth of oil has been smuggled to unnamed U.S. refineries. One-hundred and forty nine bank accounts have been frozen this year in connection with these crimes and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is scheduled to return $2.4 million of assets seized from US companies to Mexico’s tax administration.
Given the ties between Texas oil companies and what some people have described as “Mexican narco-terrorists”, its time we recognize the truth in the words of Edward Peck, former U.S. Chief of Mission in Iraq (under Jimmy Carter) and ambassador to Mauritania; “And so, the terrorist, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.“
If the U.S. government were to use its own definition of terrorism and its own rubric for determining sufficient cause for military action and assassination, then it would follow, logically, that Predator and Reaper drones would not only be useful for assassinations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They would work well to monitor and target American oil executives and their corporate sanctuaries here in the United States. There would be no need for laborious trials and expensive lawsuits to prosecute the American oil tycoons and their Mexican counterparts. A young, technologically savvy Air Force cadet could safely and easily operate a MQ-9 Reaper drone from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, using the drone’s “hunter-killer” capabilities and Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to take out strategic and precise targets in Texas.
As it stands, The United States is using drone surveillance planes domestically, but not for keeping tabs on the oil industry’s ties to the drug cartels. Drones track people crossing into the country across our northern and southern borders. Determined workers, many of whom are coming from Mexico, are often trying desperately to feed their families, but they risk their lives when they cross into the U.S., under the gaze of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that can detect their every move. These same “eyes in the skies” apparently show no compassion when a migrant dies of exhaustion, dehydration and/or starvation in the attempt to cross the line into what is often perceived as a land of freedom and economic opportunity. Meanwhile, corporate oil executives can count on the U.S. to give them a slap on the wrist or even look the other way when, with no remorse, these wealthy CEOs provide revenue to gangsters and terrorists involved in the drug war.
In the interest of clarification, I don’t think drone warfare or any other type of violence is the solution for the underlying societal problems leading to corporate profiteering, drug cartels, militarism or extremism. I am only pointing out that if the American public is ready to condone mass assassinations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we should apply our logic fairly and be ready to stomach them here at home. Before criticizing groups like the Taliban and Afghan or Mexican drug dealers, we should cut off our own addictions to violence, narcotics and greed at their root source here in the United States.
If the American public were to go beyond the sentiments of outrage and disillusionment to actually taking direct action to stop U.S. military interference in the affairs of other countries, ending corporate exceptionalism and rethinking our shameful war against immigrants and drug users, these steps would go much further in creating global peace and security than persisting in the failed War on Terror policies, now re-branded by the Obama administration as the Global Contingency Operation. If we are not willing to take these steps and many others that require personal involvement and sacrifice, we can surely expect more violence, looting and drug running for decades to come.
Joshua Brollier, based in Chicago, is a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a tenant advocate with the Illinois Tenants Union. He can be reached at Joshua@vcnv.org.