By Victoria Uren '17
We knew about them, then-not in detail, of course, but we had an idea. They flew around without pilots, dropped bombs wherever they pleased. Did Obama have anything to do withit? I guess so, but-“hope,” right? We knew what the military did was probably not ethical, but whose ethics could we judge by? It’s not like we were given any. The CNN of my childhood covered a Bush government. Those were the headlines that taught me how to read.
(I have one clear memory of a time before the Iraq War-it is of doing up my Mary Janes, which had “YEAR 2000” written across their straps in rhinestones. Such is the paucity.)
Is there an argument for moral lethargy as the defining quality of our generation? Maybe, and if so, some irrelevant geezer has probably already made it. My point here, though, is not to say that we are at blame. Only that we grew up amidst permissible cruelty, state sanctioned mass murder, and that we admit: if not moral corrosion, what else is there we could expect?
The Western world that I grew up with was one that had already lost its familiarity with the term “air raid.” For those of us whose homes were not also, or primarily, warzones there is no tangible measure for comparing our lives with those subject to drone strikes today in Yemen, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or Somalia-for comparing our lives with those of the approximate four hundred and fifty adult civilians (not including children-a wild guess made without official data, the uncertainty of which should be already worrying) who are dead in a single day because of strikes like these.
Because we do not share that common experience, we read about drone strikes in the New York Times, or on Twitter, or on our Facebook feeds, and we do not launch first into seeing the terror. We forget. It is natural.
But I don’t think we can let ourselves forget anymore. I know it is not possible for me. After reading The Intercept’s “Drone Papers,” gifted by an anonymous source and published in mid-October, I am rid of illusions about my own irresponsibility, about having some excuse to forget. The drone program enacted under the Obama administration is a program that allows for the murder of innocent civilians-many of which are children-by naming them “Enemies Killed In Action,” or EKIA.
This is a program that contributes actively, each day, to the most despicable degradation of our American judicial system by allowing for the assassination of individuals and denying their legal right to indictment or trial. (Probable cause, in these cases, takes the bare form of crumbs: cell phone metadata.) This program treats the law like a suggestion, to be adhered to only when it is “convenient.”
This is a program that wages a war hemorrhaging real, human blood, because not only does it pigheadedly kill rather than capture targets who could otherwise provide valuable information, it also gives those uncommitted to conflict a reason to hate “the West,” a threat against which to fight back. One has a hard time imagining the families of hundreds of children accidentally slaughtered finding much reason to believe in the goodwill of the United States.
And the great trouble with this program is that, with the aforementioned moral transgressions, it still makes no requests for us to forgive it-it does not even admit to guilt. We have allowed it to be so.
Sometimes I indulge the idea that I have no power. Not really. It’s a seductive notion, believing in that dissolution of responsibility. Seductive most of all because it allows amnesia; I forget (if only temporarily) that I am, ultimately, complicit. The “Drone Papers” force me to give that up. I know that in silence I will not be innocent. None of us will exonerate ourselves.
As California attorney general Kamala Harris (the first African-American, Asian-American, and woman attorney general of the state) reminded us, “All of the most substantial movements in this country started with or have been championed by students.” Those words are a promise, and they are a challenge. Wellesley has taken on similar ones before. If our student body did not believe in its power, there would be no Ethos, no WAAM SLAM, no 20/20. The history of this campus is in part the history of students who chose to believe they had a voice, even when so many things worked to assure them that they didn’t. What can we do now? We can read, get educated. Then we can speak up, because ours is a voice that counts. We need to start having this conversation.
From November 2015 Issue