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Droning On -- But Where's the Dialogue?

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This morning the topic of drones was raised on MSNBC's Morning Joe. I never thought I'd actually agree with Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough, but I do.

Scarborough courageously spoke the truth about the long-term dangerous effects of ANY U.S. President's use of drones. And he went further by saying that it was time Americans started educating themselves and having a serious dialogue about our nation's drone use overseas. I couldn't agree more with him.

Joe Scarborough said what few Democrats or Republicans are willing to say because they either fear publicly criticizing "their own" President or appearing in any degree soft on extremism.

The truth is that anyone who has spoken to people in the know regarding drones will tell you that President Obama's use of lethal force via drones is far more excessive and therefore potentially damaging than former President Bush's programs. And that says something particularly given President Bush's bad judgment and damning record when it comes to the way he dealt with extremism.

A few years back during a conversation I was having with someone, the person commented how "tough" he thought Obama was with regard to dealing with extremism. He remarked that special ops guys seemed astounded with the incredible ease and willingness that Obama green-lighted drone strikes. With Obama, it seemed nothing was off the table; he gave way more latitude than Bush. Almost all was a go. This person thought Obama's decisions showed great courage and bravery as a Commander in Chief. I disagreed. And still do.

Because to me, making a decision is not tough when you will never be held accountable for the consequences. Killing someone in the dark isn't brave when you don't own up to it in the sunlight of day. Murdering extremists isn't courage or justice when you never ask or answer questions about it. And blunt assassination by remote joystick will never be noble when there's no oversight or post-mortem to be had.

The likely truth about most drone strikes made by any U.S. President (at least at this point) is that they are almost all automatically couched in terms of success. Any human being -- even an innocent 4-year-old -- killed in the strike zone is immediately deemed an extremist due to their mere proximity to the known target. 'Nuff said. Every strike is a go, all strikes are a success, regardless of outcome. Consequences? There are none -- other than that we are winning the war. Don't believe us? Just look at our kill numbers. All of them bad guys, by the way. B-a-d G-u-ys.

To me, what will be tough, what will take courage is facing the rippling repercussions of these murders, these nifty mini-surgical acts of war in the years to come. Because make no mistake, there will be consequences -- real live human consequences. And then what will we say? What will we do?

And I take serious umbrage with journalist Joe Klein, who more or less dismissed Scarborough's concern over all these innocents being killed. Klein casually remarked that it all depended on "whose life it is." In other words, Klein asked whether it was going to be "their" four-year-old or "ours." Stunning. Facile. And to me, flatly abhorrent.

We will not kill our way out of any situation. Just like we've recently learned that we cannot spend, lie, hide, or cheat our way out of anything. We are a nation of laws. We are a democracy. No act -- even a President's decision to green-light a drone strike half way around the world -- should ever go so utterly unchecked, unexamined, unstudied, and unconstitutional.

And as much as I hate suggesting panels or commissions, some legitimate governing body needs to examine the past history of our drone strikes. And then, going forward, the efficacy and ease of such use of lethal force must be carried out ONLY within clear constitutional boundaries, with strident oversight, accompanied by regular postmortems and genuine accountability.

As a 9/11 widow, I am no shrinking violet when it comes to defending ourselves against extremists; I'm all for being tough on terrorists. But, in my opinion, no U.S. President should ever have the sole sweeping power to assassinate anyone without others--including to some degree the rest of the world-- looking over their shoulder.