Driving in the car with my children recently, I mentioned a briefing on drone warfare that I hosted. One of my eight-year-old twins, Stone, said, "You mean that we go to the other side of the Earth and kill people?" He was incredulous.
So am I.
Last month, I heard from the family of Momina Bibi, a 68-year-old Pakistani grandmother killed by an American drone struck her as she picked okra in a field. One of her grandchildren explained how the death of Grandma would forever change their view of the sky. "We used to pray for blue skies," the child said, "because they are so beautiful." Now, however, the children of Pakistan pray for grey skies -- because drones cannot see them, and kill them, through the clouds.
More recently, I hosted a briefing by the victims of American drone warfare in Yemen. Different country, same sad story.
Something like twenty percent of the victims of American drone attacks are innocent in every sense of the word -- as pure as the driven snow. And since our illustrious "intelligence" agencies reportedly regard every adult male in the target zone as a "militant," the true percentage of innocents may be much higher.
Finally, thanks in part to our briefings on drone victims in Pakistan and Yemen, Congress is beginning to take notice of the slaughter of the innocents. And it's just in time, because reports suggest that drones will begin flying in American airspace by 2015. A few months ago, I had to amend the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill to prevent those drones in America from carrying weapons.
Recently, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved a plan to bring much-needed oversight to America's drone warfare program. This legislation, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2014, will force the spying industrial complex finally to provide real numbers on civilian casualties caused by American drone strikes. It's a start.
If the Senate bill passes, then it means that Momina Bibi's death wasn't entirely for nothing. Every once in a while, something good comes out of bad, and we learn from our mistakes. Every once in a good, long while.
I guarantee you that the spying industrial complex will fight this, tooth and nail. Those boys love their toys. If you try to take their toys away from them, they will cry. The merchants of death will roll out a long list of "targets" and "threats" that drone strikes supposedly have "eliminated" -- while ignoring the reality of civilian casualties, and the new generation of vehement anti-American sentiment in the Middle East that they have spawned.
According to an American foreign service official who served recently in Yemen, each "target" that an American drone kills yields forty to fifty new recruits for our enemies. If we kill a thousand, then we have 50,000 new enemies. If we kill a million, then we have 50,000,000 new enemies.
This is not making us safer.
A brief digression: The Greek poet Peisander enumerated the twelve labors of Hercules. In the second of those labors, Hercules confronted the Hydra, a monster whom the goddess Hera had raised for the specific purpose of killing Hercules. The Hydra was a fearsome serpent with nine heads. Nine heads -- bad enough, right? But Hercules found that it was even worse than that. Every time that Hercules cut off a Hydra head with his sword, two more sprung up.
And today, every time that a drone attack cuts off a head, guilty or innocent, forty or fifty more spring up. Not good. Not good at all.
We are pursuing a policy that not only is killing innocent people, but also is causing the terrorist threat to metastasize, to grow geometrically, until in the end we will be left with no friends at all. As we drench ourselves with the blood of innocents.
This simply cannot go on. With your help, I'll keep fighting for peace. We will declare war on war, until war is no more.
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. Hercules defeated the Hydra by cauterizing each stump after he cut off a head, so that the heads couldn't grow back. In case you were wondering.