The Joys of Modern Life
August 12, 2012
“A pilot sits at a computer controlling a CIA drone loaded with weapons powerful enough to shatter a tank and accurate enough to be airmailed through a terrorist’s bedroom window. As analysts cross-reference video feeds with voice intercepts to confirm the target’s location, a weapons technician calculates the probability that innocent people walking nearby might get killed as well.
“As soon as a senior CIA officer, monitoring the entire scene from a separate location, gives him the final go-ahead, the pilot, who is operating from a hidden operations center in the Nevada desert, squeezes a button on a joystick, and, if the laser beam lines up correctly and he’s a good shot, a cloud of debris will fly up and then settle down around a motionless human body.
“When the senior CIA officer is finished issuing orders for the day, she can walk out the door and, instead of returning to a tent or a modular trailer on some desolate military base in the Middle East, get in the car and drive a couple of miles to the Capital Beltway or to the grocery store down the block, or the tanning salon or the pizza joint located along a landscaped boulevard in suburban northern Virginia – just another day at the office helping to kill terrorists five thousand miles away in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.” [pp. 202-203, Top Secret America, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin]
“Just another day at the office…..” Yes, indeed. And what does this person say when s/he is asked at home, “Well, dear, how was your day?” Does s/he answer: “Oh, it was great. We killed three terrorists today.” “Well, that must have been exciting. Was there any collateral damage, dear?” “No, we don’t think so but we will know more tomorrow.” “Wonderful. What would you like to watch on TV tonight? American Idol is on.”
Seriously, though, what kind of compartmentalization is required in one’s mind to participate in these killings and then just “go home?” Several years ago, when reading some abortion cases that had been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, I read a description, a graphic description, of what is called a “partial birth abortion” and I wondered: How can any human being actually do that? Or, more precisely, I wondered how any human being could perform such a procedure and not go insane. I wondered the same thing when I read this passage in Top Secret America.