Buttons, every single moment of our waking lives is controlled by buttons. When we wish to be entertained we click a button and on comes an onslaught of channels designed to keep us transfixed for hours. When we are running low on energy we push a button and out pops our replenishment in whatever form we desire. At the end of our hectic day and after having pushed, pressed and clicked our way through a thousand buttons we flick the all important one, the button that allows for darkness to fall and envelop us as we lay our weary heads to sleep.
Yet we have not restricted buttons to controlling our lives for they control our death as well. Just as we have created buttons to push us forward we have created ones that could bring us to a complete stop. Man has waged war for the pettiest of reasons and from the beginning of time, yet in the past winning wars was measured by the amount of blood spilled in attack and defence of the so-called cause. It meant armed men going face to face with whoever the enemy may be, looking him in the eye and pulling the trigger.
Today we have a button to do that for us.
After creating an industry that preys on human fears there was nothing else to do but sit back and watch nations throw billions of dollars at it for the latest in weapons technology. Technology to keep them safe, secure and protected from the ‘enemy’. After successfully selling buckets of blood rather than actual security, the arms trade has now given us the drone. An unmanned, aerial vehicle designed to go to war for us, capable of delivering death to our ‘enemy’s’ doorstep with, you guessed it… a push of a button.
It has become the United States’ weapon of choice for it has been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Yemen. It is Israel’s weapon of choice for if you ask any Gazan he will speak of his drone filled night skies. He will describe the buzzing sound of hovering metal wasps and the fear they instil in the hearts of the innocent.
According to the New America Foundation, in 2010 alone the United States carried out more than 200 drone strikes in the hunt for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Drones are controlled remotely and are aimed at a targeted location not a targeted individual therefore, indeed, some of those targeted have perished during strikes. But without clear knowledge of how many ‘actual’ enemies are at the location, and frankly because a drone cannot look its enemy in the face and assess his guilt, thousands of innocent civilians have been murdered in cold blood via cold, soulless drones fittingly named Predators and Reapers by their deployers.
I call it the weapon of choice not only because of the sheer volume of drones being used by the United States government all over the world but also because with a drone, unlike a human being, there is less mess to clean up. Unlike humans, drones do not torture captives; they do not urinate on the dead and post videos of their exploits. Drones do not develop psychological trauma and cannot speak of injustices. The US government need not worry about cover-ups and military trials; in warfare-logic the drone is the weapon of choice because, it just makes sense.
The United States government has now decided to bring this technology home when Congress passed a bill to allow flying drones over its own citizens. Projections show an estimate of 30,000 drones will be released in US airspace by 2020. If killing innocent civilians via flying robots is logical and if we now live in a world where ends justify the means then spying on your own people makes sense as well.
Wars are meant to be difficult so we would think a thousand times before waging them. Wars are meant to test the faith and resolve of humanity in order for them to never be our solution for every problem.
Wars are no longer difficult.
And so, they have infiltrated the daily rhetoric of governments around the world. They have become a nation’s answer to every threat, words have failed us and buttons have won.
This article has been published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 13th May, 2012.
Link to Arabic version of this article published in Al Khaleej newspaper: http://bit.ly/IRm3hi