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Subject: your drone thinking is flawed, Part II





Hi Bart,

Thanks for publishing my thoughts on the drone issue.  I was thrilled to see my words on your page. 
I was a little surprised that you had to begin with an insult, but it was a small one so I'll let it go. 

You opened with These flaws are ones that I believe you often make.
Should I have let that go?

You will also notice that you put words into my mouth that I didn't say. (You say you'd rather see a plane explode . . .) 
I've heard you complain about that yourself many times.

But if President Tom refuses to take out the bomber, isn't that your position?
I'm not trying to trick you, I'm drawing a line to see which side you'll stand on.

I don't mean to be rude but your replies to my arguments were . . . inadequate. You simply did not address
the actual arguments that I made. Your last few lines makes me believe that you understand that.

Words mean things.
If you refuse to kill the bomber, funerals will eventually commence.

There's a difference between arguing a point in a law classroom at Harvard
and trying to stay alive when you're being shot at. By refusing to kill the bomber,
I believe you are risking lives that aren't yours to risk.

Let me try to be more articulate. With respect to the factual question, you say you're not talking about rumors
but about "knowing" where the bad guy lives (so you've already determined he is a bad guy - based on what?) 
and you have operatives on the ground, etc. And so now you think you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt
- to use our American standard - to kill someone.  Let's say in this instance you are right, you do have good
intelligence and the guy is a bad guy etc.  So, what stops you from having a proper procedure to support the decision? 
This would include an independent third party (i.e. judge) making that determination based on real standards,
and not leaving it up to the "prosecutor" to make that call.  This is really what this argument is about.

You're still in that classroom and I get that.
You seem to want the bomber to have a conviction on his record before we save those 300 American lives.
I want those lives saved and you want the bomber to get his day in court.
We can't both get what we want.

So, why is that so important?  Well, consider the next time they want to kill someone when there is slightly
less good information and a slightly less reliable operative?  And the next time when its bad information and
the operative has his own agenda?   And what about the motives of the guys flying the drones?  Maybe they're
jealous of all the "hits" the other guys in their unit are getting so their judgment is impaired?  And what about
the politics?   There are just so many variables that make this not a black and white situation.  And for your
position to hold it has to be black and white. I believe you are committing the same error here that you often
criticize the right wing for.

It would seem we're going in circles.
When someone is trying to kill me, setting a precedent for next time is NOT my priority.
I want to stay alive and I might even be willing to break the law to make that happen.

(I also have to add here that if we do go ahead and kill someone and he's not a terrorist - what does that make us?  Yeah, that's right, terrorists.)

Next, you ask about the soldier with the gun and, further down, the cop with the gun . . . as if that is analogous. 

In both cases, a criminal is trying to kill innocent people.
You say those two things aren't
analogous, I say they are.

You have clearly missed the point here. 

Does disagreeing with you make me stupid?

Both those instances are illegal; i.e. done outside the law, and punishable by law. 
The whole argument we are having here is whether killing with drones should be legal. 
In other words, countenanced by our government.

Once again, you're trying to win a legal argument and I'm trying to save lives.
Your way, 300 familes are going to a funeral.
That is the main point I'm trying to make.
At some point, would you address that?

I want you to say, "Yes, those 300 families will lose their loved ones
but the law must be obeyed no matter what the consequesnces."

If that's NOT your position, please state what your position is
because we can't keep this debate going forever..

Your response to my second argument is where you really fell down. 

There you go again.
Does dsagreeing with you make me stupid AND clumsy?

Again, I don't mean to be rude, but you went for an emotional response without actually considering
what the consequences of that emotional response would be.  In addition, your use of the word "cheat"
was really a cheap trick to try and trivialize the argument I was making without actually addressing it.
Of course no one wants to see 300 people killed.  I am simply asking you to seriously consider what
the consequences of legitimizing such an action like this could be.  You would be giving to one person
the power of life or death over another person without any kind of accountability and without any
required standards.  It would essentially be whatever standards that President decided.  The English Lords
rebelled against that a thousand years ago when they forced the signing of the Magna Charta.  Our entire
constitutional system, everything that America stands for, is built on that foundation - right up to our Bill of Rights. 
These are principles that have been developed, as I said, over thousands of years. They were based on hard learned lessons.

What I'm hearing is "Nobody wants to see 300 people killed,"
but then you list the reasons why taking out the bomber is wrong.

In my opinion, you're refusing to take a stand, which is why I "put words in your mouth."

When the drone masters call and say, "We have the bomber in our sights,"
they want permission to fire, not a lengthy history lesson about the Magna Carta.
I'm assuming President Tom would NOT grant them permission to fire.
So those 300 deaths would be on your hands - and the 300 on the next plane - can you deny that?

I'm further surprised that you found my Palin argument nonsensible.  It should be obvious. 
If Sarah Palin had become President she is the one who would have had that power.  And she's crazy.
Do you want to give Sarah Palin the power and right to kill anyone she wants anywhere in the world
- with no oversight and no consequences? There are a lot of people out there a lot crazier than her
and at least seven of them were running for President last year.

We agree that Palin is crazy.

I want to approach this in a different way to conclude.   I want to use hyperbole - that is, using an
extreme argument to make a point.   What if we saved the 300 people on your hypothetical plane
and ended up with a fascist Orwellian state as a result?  What if we saved those 300 people and it
set forces in motion that caused another war where tens of thousands of people died? How would
you feel about that? 

When the drone masters call and ask for permission to kill the bomber,
my feelings about a possible Orwellian state in the future wouldn't be relevant.

I'm not trying to be flip, but this is a black-and-white, yes-or-no question.
I say kill the bastard, you (apparently) say let him live and doom the 300 innocent Americans.
I like my way better.

The simple fact, Bart, is that all we have are our principles.  If we abandon those every time we think
we have an emotionally satisfying reason to, we end up with no principles.  I believe you are a principled
man and I think you are smart enough to be able to imagine what that kind of world would be like.

Thanks for all you do.
Still your fan.

The reason we're having this debate is the president agrees with me.
When they ask, "Can we kill this bastard?" Obama says, "Yes."

Thanks for the tangle.
I hope my passion wasn't too mean.


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