SYNDICATED COLUMN: We Don’t Have the Right to Care

U.S. Drone Strikes Equivalent of Dozens of Newtown Massacres

We don’t have the right to be sad.

We don’t have the right to be angry.

We don’t have the right to care about the 20 dead kids, much less the six dead adults or the one deranged shooter.

Our newspapers don’t have the right to pretend that we are a nation stricken by grief. Our television networks don’t have the right to put the Newtown shootings at the top of the news.

We don’t have the right to gather around the water cooler and talk about how terrible it all is.

Our president doesn’t have the right to express grief or remorse or pretend to be a human being or reference the fact that he is a parent or wipe his eye (assuming he was crying).

Our pundits don’t have the right to use this massacre as a reason to call for gun control. Our Congress doesn’t have the right to use it as a reason to propose a single piece of legislation.

Until we start caring about other people’s dead kids—and their adults—kids and adults made dead by American weapons—we don’t have the right to mourn our own.

Every couple of days, our president orders drone attacks against innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and, no doubt, other places we are unaware of. But we don’t care.

There is no moral or legal justification for a single one of the more than 3,100 murders committed by the U.S. via drones. The guilt or innocence of the drones’ targets is never reviewed by any legal body (the White House won’t even say how they compile their “kill lists“), the dead never have a chance to confront their accusers, and in any case the offed “militants” are not threats to the American people. They are merely political opponents of repressive regimes allied with the United States.

Moreover, the vast majority of the victims are innocent bystanders (by one count 36 civilians per militant), members of the families of the target, or people who simply happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Newtown massacre, so tragic and pointless, would be just another run-of-the-mill, made-in-USA afternoon in the places targeted by America’s campaign of aerial terror. On March 18, 2011, for example, a U.S. drone blew up between 17 and 40 civilians and policemen in the village of Datta Khel in the North Waziristan region of northwest Pakistan. This was part of America’s nasty “double-tap” strategy.

“As the drone circled it let off the first of its Hellfire missiles, slamming into a small house and reducing it to rubble. When residents rushed to the scene of the attack to see if they could help they were struck again,” reported the UK Independent.

Not an accident. Double-taps are policy.

And we’re OK with them.

Drone strikes approved by Presidents Bush and Obama have killed at least 168 children in Pakistan alone.

And in recent months, more than 100 people have been killed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the same area.

And we don’t care.

Actually, that’s not fair. The truth is, we’re pro-mass murder. Barack Obama makes Adam Lanza look like a peacenik, but we love him. A whopping 62% of Americans approve of Obama’s extrajudicial drone war.

Let’s give you, dear reader, the benefit of the doubt: let’s assume you’re one of the 38% of Americans who disapproves of one man acting as judge, jury and executioner of people half a world away, seen through a video feed taken thousands of feet up. The fact remains, you probably don’t lose a hell of a lot of sleep over the drone victims. Which is understandable. You don’t know them. They wear funny clothes. They do live, after all, half a world away.

Which is why reporters don’t cover their funerals. Why the Today Show doesn’t interview their grieving relatives. Why our politicians don’t shed tears (real or imagined) for them. Which is why we don’t ask each other:


Even the Left doesn’t care. Not much. America’s most recent major progressive movement, Occupy Wall Street, focused on economic injustice and corporate corruption. OWS hardly had a word to say about the drone strikes that killed so many children. America’s “liberal” media—NPR, The Nation, Mother Jones, etc.—barely mention them.

Which is fine. We have the right not to care about anything we want. Including dead kids. Even dead kids killed by our missiles. Even dead kids killed by a president we just reelected by a comfortable majority.

Since we have made a collective national decision to be a bunch of coldhearted bastards, however, we have to be morally consistent. And that means not caring about our kids either. Even when they are little, cute, white, and live in Fairfield County, an upscale suburb of New York City where many reporters, editors and other members of the national media reside.

We owe it to the little, cute, brown kids we’re killing in Pakistan. Stop caring about all kids.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them—birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” Obama said of the Connecticut victims. That was equally true of the children Obama murdered—some whose snuff videos he watched. It is also true of the children Obama is planning to murder. “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” the president continued.

Not that he cares.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is



  • What do you mean by “have a right.” Rights are given by the constitution, like the “right to bear arms.” There are no inherent rights, just like there are no inherent laws. Those things are cultural. In American culture (as in most cultures), we value our own more than the others. The ranking in America goes like this:

    (0) Children, Police, Firemen, US Solders.
    (1) American citizens who share my ethnicity
    (2) Citizens of my State
    (3) Citizens of my region of the country
    (4) USA citizens
    (5) My family pets
    (10000) Christians living outside the USA
    (10001) Everyone else living outside the USA

    Other cultural rank the value of life differently.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that it isn’t “fair” to treate people differently. HAHAHA. Kids whine about stuff being fair. In the real world, 1 heartless bastard can stomp on 10000 people trying to be fairness. That’s why we live in the world we do.

  • Under US law, everyone killed in those drone strikes is, by virtue of being killed, an enemy terrorist, so every killing is fully justified. Read the New York Times (instead of that Commie rag from Communist Manchester). A few of the extreme leftist New York Times colunists, while they agree the killings are all absolutely necessary, have a few qualms. They are vehemently condemned by almost every comment on such columns. How dare they have any qualms. This is a war. All those people want to kill Americans. The Republicans think Mitt would be doing a better job, but at least when it comes to killing terrorists, Obama’s only fault is that he’s not killing more of them. If 62% fully approve, a large fraction of the rest either don’t care or don’t answer. I see almost no one speaking against the war. Kill all the terrorists. Not just the men terrorists, but the women terrorists and the baby terrorists. It’s the American Way.

    (Strangely, Double-tap got condemned in Hunger Games, and the person who authorised it came to a bad end. But that’s just a novel. In real life, the 62% laud the US for using a clever tactic to kill even more ‘terrorists’.)

  • No doubt, Andy, you are right. In the world where we live, might always makes right. However, it is our duty – the duty of everyone who has ethics and therefore wants to make the world a better and fairer place – to work hard to make the world as fair as possible. Lord knows we are a long way from that now.

    I do believe that there are inherent rights. The way that we can tell that rights are inherent is that they are ideals respected by virtually if not all societies and civilizations on earth. For example, everyone has the inherent right not to be detained without being charged with a crime. Everyone has the inherent right not to be murdered. Everyone has the inherent right to dignity. I would argue that our inherent rights go much further, basically to everything that people have to have in order to live and thrive: education, housing, food, medical care, transportation, etc. But this is a conversation that we all need to have. The problem is, nobody is even talking about the world that we should be building.

    I am really sick and tired of being told that we have to be pragmatic, to accept the way things are. If we accept the way things are, then we are accepting and endorsing the fact that everything sucks. Count me out of that.

  • Small correction, Michael: it isn’t really US law that justifies killing “terrorists.” There is no US law that says anything of the sort. In fact, even as we speak, the Obama administration is attempting to retroactively pseudo-legalize the procedures that they use to carry out drone strikes against people who will never be identified to the American public, will never have the right to face their accusers, and will simply disappear in a beautiful blast of protoplasm and fire half a world away, where the media doesn’t go and nobody bothers to ask questions.

  • Ever heard of two wrongs don’t make a right?

  • Two quick points:

    1. It was seven adults. Lanza shot his mother in the face at home. Yes, her gunhoard enabled him, but she wasn’t the one shooting up the school.

    2. ““As the drone circled it let off the first of its Hellfire missiles, slamming into a small house and reducing it to rubble. When residents rushed to the scene of the attack to see if they could help they were struck again,” reported the UK Independent.

    Not an accident. Double-taps are policy.”

    The IRA used the “Double-tap” as well. It was designed specifically to increase the terror. People rushing in to aid the injured would know that another bomb was going to go off shortly, so, sometimes, the injured were simply not approached.

  • John From Censornati
    December 19, 2012 2:58 PM

    If we have inherent rights, then one of them must surely be the right to be hypocritical because everybody does it.

    I can’t say that I feel a greater sense of loss about the kids in CT than in Pakistan. OTOH, I’m not concerned that a Hellfire missile is going to hit my house any time soon, but somebody was shooting a gun in my densely populated city neighborhood in the middle of the night this week. So, I prioritize addressing the out-of-control gun culture here over addressing the out-of-control drone war there – not that I believe that either will be addressed.

  • Ted-

    The reason everything sucks is because the left goes “This sucks. Count me out.” instead of “This is a starting point. How can I work to make things better even if I never personally see any of the benefits?”

    Want to change things? Start with your attitude.

  • OK, I was being a bit of a troll there. Sorry about that.

    My Dad repeated a slogan over and over again, when as a kid I’d point out he was being a hypocrite– “Hyprocracy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” It took me a long time to understand what he was saying. Sort of a “yes, you’re right. I chould be doing as you say, but I am not, so I will pay for my crime by being embarrassingly hypocritical thus reducing me in your eyes.”

    Universal rights are easy to agree with in isolation. Sure it sounds right to say we all have a right not to be searched, but do you have a right to ask your fellow citizens to walk through a metal detector (a search) before they get on an airplane? Not so simple. It gets especially complicated when you factor in conflicting rights. Example: in large industrial societies we all seem to recognize some form of property rights. Eaxactly what that intails is highly debateable. Is education a right? Let’s say it is, is it ok to have elite institutions that get more money? How about “gate” programs in grade school (or whatever they call them today.

    How about food. Right not to starve. Sounds reasonable, but some people will think that steps on their property rights.

    Right to life? What is life? Do we recognize juristiction when it comes to murder? Can a policeman from Texas make an arrest in Mexico and bring that person to justice back in America. No. So there is juristiction. The place to murder takes place matters. US police don’t bother with murders in Mexico. I think a similar situation is at play when American citizens don’t worry too much about murders in Pakistan.

  • Exactly – we simply don’t care. Unless it hits us between the eyes or our pocketbooks, we don’t care. And once we do, everything gets thrown out – rights, fairness, etc. in the fight to not just get even, but to get way ahead. I see this everwhere, and if you try to talk to someone about it, they simply don’t want to aknowledge it.

  • @Whimsical

    “Want to change things? Start with your attitude.”

    I totally agree with you, Whimsical. Those people killed in drone strikes would never have died if they simply had had the right attitude. I mean, really, the nerve of some people, wanting to live when Great Leader Obama wanted them dead! Come on, people! Get with the program!

  • @Susan

    As usual, my point has sailed a mile over your head.

    The left’s reaction to drone strikes: “Wah! Obama is a murder! I’m going to write angry letters and stage meaningless protests!”.

    The left’s reaction to the suggestion they get involved in the electoral activism necessary to SOMEDAY stop drone strikes altogether: “What? You mean my calling Obama a murder on my blog won’t stop the drone strikes immediately? Fuck that then, count me out. Besides, I’m too pure to sully myself with electoral politics.”

    Until the left changes their attitude and gets involved in the system, there will be NO progress on the issues they claim to care about; and frankly, they have no business complaining about the lack thereof.

  • @Whimsical

    Since the vast majority of people on the Left actually vote, your point is rather meaningless. Furthermore, writing letters and staging protests are also means of participating in the system. Do we not have the right of peaceful assembly as laid out in the Constitution?

    Finally, and most importantly, we are not talking about a minor policy difference. We are talking about people’s lives. We have every right to demand that drone strikes stop immediately, because they kill innocent people. I’m sorry that you don’t have the humanity to see that.

  • Ah, the return of the famous @Susan Stark Strawmen. I’ve missed them (not really).

    “Since the vast majority of people on the Left actually vote.”

    Obviously, the irony of posting this on the blog of an influential leftist who not only did not vote himself, but spent a large chunk of his time urging others not to vote has escaped you.

    However that’s not the strawman.

    Susan Stark Strawman #1: I did not say voting, I said electoral activism, which encompasses soooooooooooooo much more than voting. It includes donating, volunteering, and generally working your ass off to get the right people elected, and keeping the pressure on them. It also includes understanding what the limits of the possible are and not stomping off in a huff when you’re not handed the impossible immediately.

    Voting in and of itself is fine, and noble, and if that’s all you do, you’re the 400 pound fattie who orders 2 triple cheeseburgers and a diet coke at a burger joint because “I’m trying to lose weight”. You may get a little ego boost from it, but it’s not going to do jack.

    Unless and until the left stops thinking its “too pure” (Yes, OWS I’m a-lookin right at you) and starts getting down and dirty in the muck of electoral activism, there isn’t going to be any progress on the goals they claim to want.

    And now we have the twofer- Susan Stark Strawmen #2 and #3:

    “Furthermore, writing letters and staging protests are also means of participating in the system. Do we not have the right of peaceful assembly as laid out in the Constitution?”

    I never said they weren’t, or that you didn’t. You have every right to write letters and stage protests- and they’re about as useful as a fart in a windstorm; or that diet coke to the poor unfortunate soul I mentioned above.

    It’s a way to stroke your own ego, because you don’t have the patience or the grasp of strategy needed to do the electoral work to ACTUALLY, EVENTUALLY stop drone strikes. And until you do the work, your cries of “Why are we being ignored? Why isn’t there any PROGRESS?” ring both hollow and hypocritical those those of us doing the actual calorie burning work while you sip your diet coke and indulge in your cheeseburgers.

    Susan Stark Strawman #4 (Kind of a rerun of 3, but I thought it deserved its own paragraph anyway):

    “We have every right to demand that drone strikes stop immediately, because they kill innocent people.”

    Yup, you do. And I have every right to go into my bosses office and ask for a 300% raise. And I have about the same chance of a positive result. Actually, strike that, I have a slightly BETTER chance of a positive result because my boss knows I’ve put in the actual work. You’ve been stroking your ego, and then pouting, because no one is listening to you.

    And now you close with an ad hominem, the usual retort of those who’ve been out-argued.

    ” I’m sorry that you don’t have the humanity to see that.”

    Well, lets see- I’m doing the electoral work necessary to someday, eventually, stop drone strikes. You’re throwing a tantrum “Bad man! Stop striking immediately!”, pouting that no one is paying attention to you, and then trying to console yourself by thinking “I yelled at that meanie Obama! I’m a GOOD person! Yes I am!”.

    Yeah, if I’d been blown up by a drone, I know who I’d be haunting.

    Enjoy your diet coke. I’ll be off ACTUALLY burning calories.

  • Mr. Whimsical,

    OK, let me try a different track here. Let me turn the mirror towards you. You say that once we elect an official, we have to keep the pressure on them. Well, what exactly are YOU doing to put the pressure on Obama to stop the drone strikes? After all, you marched your ass into the voting booth on November and voted for him. Now, according to your own words, you have to keep the pressure on him. So, what kind of pressure have YOU put on Obama not only now, but in the past four years he’s been president?

  • alex_the_tired
    December 23, 2012 3:23 PM

    Susan Stark,

    This is why I voted for the Greens. I simply couldn’t take one more round of, “Well, see, it’s 11-dimension chess.”

  • Oh – sad Susan strawman – when will you realize that the President is not responsible for everything and only focusing on him? Did you know that we have a Congress and Senate that are fighting and rolling about in their legislative sandbox? Do you think Obama can just snap his fingers and get them to stop scewing over a sheep populace that doesn’t even realize how their own wool has been pulled over their eyes? Have another diet coke and keep on barking…

  • alex_the_tired
    December 24, 2012 9:53 AM

    Rikster said: “Do you think Obama can just snap his fingers and get them to stop scewing over a sheep populace that doesn’t even realize how their own wool has been pulled over their eyes?”

    Actually, Rikster, a well-understood part of the power of the presidency is that, yes, the president CAN get the Senate and House of Reps to stop screwing around. How? He’s the GODDAMNED president!!!! LBJ did it to get Civil Rights through. Other presidents have done it, too. It’s called knowing how to use power and office politics.

    So, no, Obama doesn’t get to sit there and cry, “Oh, poor me, I couldn’t effect change because I’m only the president, I’m not a king. Oh, poor me.”

    By the way, did I miss it? Did The O choke up a little and get misty eyed when he had his huge presser for the four people who died in Pennsylvania the other day in yet another gun massacre? Or did that conflict with His golf schedule?

  • Oh, wait, I forgot. There was no presidential presser complete with choking up moment (TM) for that massacre.

    I guess those people didn’t matter enough.

  • @Whimsical

    You still haven’t answered my question: What are you personally doing to put pressure on Obama, now that he has been reelected back into office?

    Since you constantly tell lefties they “aren’t doing the right thing”, I would think you would be delighted to tell us your astounding method of holding Obama’s nuts to the fire. Because I ‘d surely love to join you in doing so.

  • @Alex-

    “He’s the goddamned president” is NOT a real argument or a legitimate answer to rikster’s question. It’s the rhetorical equivelent of “Because I say so.”, which doesn’t fly. If you have actual, susbtantive ways for the President to get a bunch of sociopath Republicans to stop obstructing, I’d love to hear them.

    And other people’s experiences in the Oval Office are irrelevant. NO other president has had to deal with a sociopathic opposition party.


    Forgive for not leaving my Christmas celebrations with my family and friends instantly to give you an answer you will neither like nor appreciate.

    I’m not doing a damn thing to pressure Obama on drone strikes. First off, because it’s not my issue- I’d much rather save what pressure I can apply for things that benefit THIS country, like the fiscal cliff negotiations.

    Second off, because the left has ZERO leverage for Obama on drone strikes- because there is no one currently who could replace him that would not be worse. This is what I mean when I say the left needs to recognize “the limits of the possible”.

    What I am doing is twofold- trying to get the left to stop wasting what little power they do have in a death spiral. And endorsing and supporting candidates for lower offices that will end this insane culture of militarism once they reach higher ones. Rather than yelling at someone when its far to late and then a) breaking their arm patting themselves on the back and b) Compalining that no progress has been made.

    Patience and strategy. You need to make it possible for someone MORE liberal than Obama to be elected before you can even BEGIN to contemplate ending drone strikes. And you’re not going to do that by going “I yelled at the mean person Obama about the drone strikes! I’m a good person, yes I am!”

    You do that by electing better people lower down and making sure they move up.

  • @Whimsical

    So in other words, you’re doing jack fucking shit to hold Obama accountable for his actions. Well, honey, if you aren’t going to get off your ass and start practicing what you preach to others, then you don’t deserve to preach, do you?

    So you know the drone strikes are happening, yet you don’t care? Sez alot about you, doesn’t it?

    Enjoy running off the “fiscal cliff” with the other lemmings.

  • @Susan-

    I see I should’ve added “understand” to “neither like nor appreciate”.

    As usual, my point has sailed a mile over your head. Stopping the drone strikes ISN’T about Obama. Never was. But you’re too ideologically blind to see that. The ONLY way that you’re going to stop drone strikes is to change the system to make it possible to elect someone more liberal than Obama. Which is what I’M doing.

    What you’re doing is wasting your time and energy engaging in a “progressive” death spiral that’s making it LESS, not MORE likely that someone more liberal than Obama will be elected; while at the same time simultaneously a) breaking your arm patting yourself on the back about what a good person you are and b) complaining about the lack off progress. Impressive, albeit ultimately meaningless.

    “So you know the drone strikes are happening, yet you don’t care? Sez alot about you, doesn’t it? ”

    Yeah, it does. It says that unlike a lot of people on the left, I have a grasp on reality; I know what can and can’t be done, and I know the best course that will eventually get to the goal I want, and the patience not to deviate from it and throw a temper tantrum and end up making things worse because I can’t get what I want (regardless of how noble my goals are) RIGHT. FUCKING.NOW.

    Am I sorry that innocent people are dying? Of course. Does it change the reality that its going to take a long time and a fuckton of work to get drone strikes stopped (and that a ton of innocent people are going to die in the meantime)? Or that throwing tantrums about Obama is going to do sweet fuck-all to stop the strikes (but it’ll make you feel like a good person, so that’s ok with you)?

    Not in the slightest. Enjoy your diet coke.

    Oh, and for the record it’s even money that I’ll get the last laugh on the fiscal cliff as well.

    • @Whimsical: “Am I sorry that innocent people are dying? Of course. Does it change the reality that its going to take a long time and a fuckton of work to get drone strikes stopped (and that a ton of innocent people are going to die in the meantime)?”


      I fear you’ve sailed off a rhetorical cliff this time. What “work” would it take to “get drone strikes stopped”?

      Are they like SkyNet, attacking Pakistanis by themselves? Are they like air, omnipresent since time immemorial?

      Explain, please.

  • Yes – the fact that the American people cannot see the drone strikes as dozens of small Newtowns says volumes about what our society really feels as opposed to how it acts. Our society has no respect for people outside our country. In fact, I suspect the reaction to the Newtown massacre is mostly window dressing – just like Ted inferred in some of his comments as to Obama’s reaction to it. Look in the news – since Newtown, we have had about the same amount of shootings and killings continue, ie. the Firemen fired upon. Ted is right – we don’t have the “right to care”, because we don’t. Sit back, typw about how much you care – then do nothing except pop another diet coke. If you really care, stop the next GOP legislator you run across, yank him out of his car, render the car inoperable, and drop the legislator 20 miles outside the city with no shoes.

  • Yes – He’s the Commander -In-Chief of the US Armed Forces – and we never ofishally declared war, so he has even more power, as these actions are police actions by the Armed Forces (losing more arms and legs every day). He can order drones to stop immediately, and he can order the troops home immediately, instead of “phasing them out” while “phasing others in” on the sly to other locations. He can declare a state of national economic emergency, and order the FED to stop printing more fake money to dilute the money in circulation now. He can do a lot – it will get a lot of angry backlash, but he doesn’t have to worry about being elected again.

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