Sunday, April 25, 2010


We're doomed to losing the hearts and minds bodies and souls of occupied Afghanistan. We've taken the shoot-first-ask-questions-later shortcut, and are thus permanently cut off at their mountain impasse. We stretch out an insincere hand across the chasm of lethality. Predator drones are our ambassadors. Somebody fingers an enemy in a land we poorly understand, and someone dies perhaps with family at home in a remote village by remote control from an electronic command bunker in New Mexico. See New Mexico TV report,

My memories of a first encounter with the idea of a killer robot probe come from the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. At the beginning we see the evil empire's hovering killing machine spy robot pursuing our heroes in a desert of snow. From the transcript:

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters
led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.
The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker,
has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of
space... A Star Destroyer moves through space, releasing Imperial probe robots from its underside.
One of these probes zooms toward the planet Hoth and lands
on its ice-covered surface. An explosion marks the point of
A weird mechanical sound rises above the whining of the
wind. A strange probe robot, with several extended sensors,
emerges from the smoke-shrouded crater. The ominous mechanical
probe floats across the snow plain and disappears into the
distance.... The dark probe robot moves past the smoldering ruins of
station three-eight and down a ridge toward the Rebel base. It
raises a large antenna from the top of its head and begins to
send out a piercing signal.
The probe droid has spotted Chewbacca who, not thirty feet
away, has popped his head over a snow bank. Instantly, the
probe robot swings around, its deadly ray ready to fire....*

I’ve left out parts, but the meaning was clear. An evil empire fought by proxy with robots, with overwhelming technical tricks, disdainfully choosing not to meet its enemy face to face.

Although this is only from a popular film, probably seen by few Afghans, we stand convicted by our own cultural court, and if Afghan & western Pakistan citizens were the jury, they would certainly concur. The outrage at U.S. fighting tactics and attributed innocent deaths, along with U.S. pressure on his government, culminated in our man in Kabul, President Karzai, threatening to join the Taliban himself [4-6-10 USA Today report]. Certainly political posturing, but Karzai well knows the feelings of his people, and what it takes to remain in office. In Pakistan, where our Predator drones are based for clandestine missions in both countries, only 9% support this with 67% against. They regard our presence and actions there a violation of their sovereignty. [for further discussion of this CIA assassination program
see ]

More important to the Muslim people of this Central Asian area {called by some Pashtunistan, ancient tribes not accepting a border dividing their people between Afghanistan and Pakistan} is a concept of honor and shame which would regard fighting remotely by drone as incomprehensibly dishonorable. The fact that IEDs and suicide bombers are now being employed by some factions recently is a sign that their honor concept is weakening, or being overcome by the retaliation of “an eye for an eye.”
4-19-10 Afghan villagers said a funeral prayer for the four victims of a shooting on Monday by NATO soldiers near the Pakistani border. [not by drones this time] For story see

The problem is compounded by the fact that our military has farmed this program out to soldiers of fortune. When its already most difficult to know who’s really friend or enemy in this area, we’ve turned the task over to “hired guns.” Their companies, like Blackwater {now renamed Xe}, apparently don’t require even the personal standards of Paladin, from the old western bounty hunter TV series Have Gun, Will Travel. Partial article appears below.

New York Times
March 14, 2010

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

KABUL, Afghanistan — Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

For full article:

nother way is possible, a completely different way. I’ll sum up and change direction with a personal reflection on one gift in the midst of the indispensable gracious love I receive from Ande, children, family and friends that keeps me going in these troubled and hopeful times. At daily mass a couple of days per week—Holy Communion, Eucharist, meeting my God creator, in community. United in my center for a moment in time, vibrant warm reminder of eternal wonder of all creation contained within my infinitesimally small yet of some still valued self – all interconnectedness of universal timeless God the perfection of every person—at once—a resurrection gift, reborn out of suffering. I don’t feel this echo with the almighty-minuscule-forever, every time. This week I did. It’s still there always regardless.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

*To read more of these sections of the Empire Strikes Back transcript, see

No comments:

Post a Comment