US politicians employ myriad slippery terms when it comes to “international agreements.” We hear things like “joint and multilateral declarations,” “international resolutions,” “frameworks,” and other nonsensical Orwellian terms that should mean very little when it comes to US law and the Constitution. Unless an agreement reached by the President with another head of state is a Treaty to be reviewed and given an up or down vote by the Senate, it should be of no consequence.
But that isn’t how presidents operate any more. The latest example of this comes in a shiny new “international declaration” on the manufacture, sale, and procurement of armed, unmanned aerial vehicles, known in the vernacular as “UAVs” or, simply, drones.
On October 5, the oh-so-trustworthy US State Department unveiled a new piece of propaganda, called, “The Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).” With 43 signatories, it is promoted to be a grand statement from the top drone-killer president on the planet that the international use, manufacture and purchase of military drones will be strictly controlled by the United Nations.
Of course, a “declaration” is not a treaty, so it has no effect of law on the United States – a fact conveniently overlooked by the State Department – and once a reader reviews the “declaration,” he can see that it is a sly way for the US government to not only maintain its vast superiority in drone-killing capability, but also to lock in profits for the biggest drone manufacturers on the planet: US corporations such as General Atomics (maker of the Predator, Reaper, and Sky Warrior), Boeing, and Northrop Grumman.
If the US government can lock down the status quo of unmanned aerial weapons manufacture and sale to only those that already have the capability to do so, that sure does knock out a lot of competition for big military contractors with deep pocket-capacity for future political donations.
But the “declaration” is worse than that. As Rachel Stohl, of the Stimson Center notes in an Op-Ed piece published September 29 in Defense News, the international statement includes language that can be used as rhetorical cover for past and future drone assassinations during times of non-war – times such as these, when the US government engages in international killings without trial or a constitutional Declaration of War, as mandated in the rulebook for the government.
Critics of the joint declaration, including governments that spoke off the record, were deeply troubled by the possibility that the declaration could provide a blank check for future use and exports of drones. Some are concerned that the joint declaration serves to effectively legitimize past US drone use, claiming that such actions — many of which remain controversial — were consistent with international humanitarian and human rights law, and that future actions would follow the same principles. Indeed, “responsible use” in the declaration implicitly indicates that those signing on are conducting responsible and legal action today.
Orwell’s Oceania could do no better in hiding the truth.
But Ms. Stohl makes further important points:
Other governments are concerned that there would be no accountability for previous US drone use…
Ms. Stohl has seen the “evolution” of this propaganda tool, and has become concerned with the changes in wording:
These new text additions actually weaken the existing text, inserting qualifiers and exceptions.
Of course, Ms. Stohl believes the original idea was a noble one, and perhaps she is right. More likely, however, is that the original concept was always to give the US cover to continue its hegemonic, illegal use of drone murder as a “tool” in its arsenal, to give US drone manufactures who receive billions in each budget the oligopoly over drone manufacture apart from the Chinese, to allow the US to deal in drone sales to other nations like Great Britain and Israel, and to give legal wiggle room when those injured by drones and the relatives of those killed by drones bring suit against the US for the attacks.
Let’s face it. Drones are here to stay. But the use of them has, thus far, been done behind a veil of secrecy and obfuscation that has left the American public unaware of just how many thousands have been slaughtered during a time of unconstitutional non-war. For those who deny this, simply look back to the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, when the White House sent then-counsel Alberto Gonzales to Congress to ask them to not declare War, but to write up some other kind of “authorization to use military force” that could be used endlessly, anywhere. Congress and the Senate (including current Secretary of State Kerry and previous SS Clinton) did just that, overtly tossing aside an actual, constitutional Declaration of War offered by a man who did not want to go to War, but explained the Constitution’s rules.
That man was Congressman Ron Paul. He got three votes for a real Declaration of War, and explained that if the other members of Congress did not think War could be declared against al Qaeda, the other constitutional option was the issuance of Letters of Marque and Reprisal.
The reality is clear. The US government is shoveling billions into drone manufacture, killing people overseas (a point that Malala Yousafzai told President Obama is inspiring Islamic friends and neighbors of victims to engage in terrorist attacks) and now trying to create international “declarations” to offer cover.
The result will be more of what we have witnessed, and a further erosion of the so-called “constitutional safeguards” against US government overreach.
If only they actually had a written document in DC that told them the rules…