February 7, 2013

How many readers (or for that matter, members of Congress) can cite statistics of non-military casualties and deaths incurred in the World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam -or even the most recent “questionable” war of Iraq?

Think about it.  When we talk of Iraqi casualties, most of us use statistics of soldiers only and often only American soldiers’ lives lost– despite GREAT general population losses.  In fact, even in the Hegel hearing, he was challenged for using “1200” as the figure of losses caused by the Iraqi surge because the angry old birds were using a statistic of some number 800-900.  Why?  They dismissed the civilian deaths as irrelevant-at least in their attempt to denigrate Chuck Hagel.

Of course there are pros and cons of drone use that should be openly discussed as worth and benefits are evaluated.  That marks the normal progression of any new product or process….how is it working?  What problems are we having?  How can they be minimized? What will that cost? Is the benefit worth the cost?  

But that discussion should not be colored by “the way we have always waged war” or more importantly, by anti-Obama “gotchas” from the Republican Party led by angry old men who cannot accept their time has come.  Yes, I do indeed mean those same attitudes we have witnessed recently by the grandstanding seen in Cabinet appointment review meetings.

Legal opinions produced by the legal counsel’s office are interpretations of federal law that are binding on all executive branch agencies and that step was taken.  It can be compared to the Bush Administration ruling on torture and water boarding legal opinion – which was not released for 7 years – until 2009 right after Obama took office.

That was wrong.  The Obama Administration prudently released the summation of the drone decision; it is rightfully being questioned-as it obviously has raised questions from the “press” (who are our self-appointed watchdogs).  I was glad to see that as the issue came to a head for whatever reason this week, it took only from Monday to Wednesday before Obama released the actual ruling – a GREAT improvement over the seven years of wrangling and secrecy over torture issues.  I only hope it triggers a thoughtful discussion and not just the brouhaha of grandstanding  and spin. 

I was also very encouraged to listen to an interview yesterday from the Republican Chair of the over-sight committee in Congress:

First of all, it corrected the MISINFORMATION that the summary document had not been shared, but was being held SECRETLY by the Obama Administration.  Instead, it was indeed shared and discussed with the Congressional Oversight committee; but it was not distributed publically.

Second of all, the Chair resisted all pressure from Andrea Mitchell who was conducting the interview, to turn it into a “gotcha” story.  He reassured her and more importantly, the viewers, that he had the document; he agreed with its intent, but was still asking for details therein; he worked closely with the White House and was aware of every drone strike, its mission and purpose, its outcome and its value and was totally in support of the use of the drones thus far.  He corrected Andrea repeatedly as she questioned things that had been “revealed” in Monday’s article.  Not only did his answers set my mind a bit more at ease about drone use; it was so refreshing to see a senior Republican put country first, not party rhetoric.

 I listened to him and reflected with HOPE, that we would be able to weather this storm, make improvements as needed, and continue to move towards a future where philosophical differences between countries do NOT always have to be resolved by BOOTS on the ground….followed by lots and lots of bodies in graves.

Perhaps this time, we can develop a plan working together that values lives and does all possible to minimize death and casualties.  And with a little patience that plan just MIGHT have the beginnings of solutions to the other tragedies of the Iraqi/Afghan wars.  First, the incredible cost that was NOT dealt with by the Administration that took us into war; second, the wounded that returned home; and the little effort/dollars devoted to making our own soldiers and their families “whole” again.  And third, what in the world do we do with the ”prisoners of war” captured, imprisoned and then abandoned with no plan to deal with them. Not too much foresight shown there but we certainly can see how difficult it is to deal with “after the fact” when no plan was in place at the inception.

Again, I do not pretend to be an expert in drones, their use, or moral consequences.  Fortunately, that is not my job.  But near as I can tell, their use is worth at least an un-emotional, non-political exploration of today’s version of the old REAL WIN WORTH RISK analysis before we all start screaming before cameras, and listening to FOX/MSNBC  as we choose sides based on politics only.

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