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Drones, or: A Death Squad Every Liberal Can Enjoy
Drones, or: A Death Squad Every Liberal Can Enjoy
Drones are in the headlines lately. The liberal reformist wing of the ruling faction has been forced (yes, forced) into considering the contradiction in its own behavior the past four years. With a “liberal” President in office, the most vocal opposition to this deadly weapon in the state’s arsenal of international terror has been effectively silenced. What the capitalist media calls “partisan politics” essentially means that the faction which once sought to gain from denouncing the now liberal application of drone strikes has found itself in a quandary it cannot excuse itself out of: their leader Obama has not only expanded the use of the program, but codified it in a legal framework that would ensure all future representatives of the ruling factions will have a reliable, flexible basis to assassinate anyone, anywhere for any reason.
What we find in this unique situation is a truly revealing glimpse at the nature of bourgeois politics and its inherent alienation, its fundamental rejection and repulsion of mass democracy…. and it’s manufacturing and molding of mass opinion. Not only has public opinion reversed itself from opposition to outright support for the simple fact that the form and appearance of the program has changed (from Republican to Democratic leadership), but the material reality is that the program has expanded and grown more terrifying. Despite this, the hegemonic space of liberal reformism has ensured that reactionary politics has a safe zone. What has been revealed by this saga is that anti-war liberals are not acting out of any principled stance, but vicariously through the reformist wing of the ruling faction. Their stance follows remarkably in lock-step with this liberal hegemony, whose powers of cooptation I have warned against before. That power has grown enormously, and the silencing effect of Obama’s reactionary politics amongst his former “anti-war” supporters is a stunning, if not all surprising, confirmation of that fact.
This form of politics is not politics as such, it is politics through another. Politics experienced through the eyes of Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes or Wolf Blitzer is not politics. Their job in the hegemonic space is to affirm the coordinates of acceptable action. Assassination programs are not reprehensible or out of bounds in this mode of thinking- they are acceptable when molded, reformed and made digestible. Obama is a tenderizer. He takes what is undeniably shit and makes it edible for mass consumption, and his employees are there to market it. “Politics” in this sense is an object which the purveyors of acceptable, safe, liberal reformism pass their manufactured opinions through. The fetish-object is wholly controlled, shaped and manipulated through traditional media and becomes a sort of semi-holy signifier of what is and is not allowed.
Yet the drone program does something even more profound. It breaks even the most sophisticated attempts at marketing, justifying, explaining, qualifying and reasoning away the obvious terror of unrelenting and unbounded sanctioning of state violence. The state has signaled to the populace that it is the judge, jury and executioner of every one of its citizens and it will never stop watching you. It has established the reality, in letter, that it is above all control and all restraint. And even the talking heads of liberal hegemony have had to admit – not because of any significant pressure from the Left – that there may be something wrong here. That maybe, this is going too far. Maybe, if they could shake the amnesia of the last four years, they could remember a time when this expansion of lethal authority would be denounced without hesitation. But that is all background noise at this point, because to turn back from their owners in the Democratic party would be to commit a sin greater than any innocent children being torn to shreds half away around the world in the name of preserving freedom. No, offending the liberal wing of the ruling faction would be simply too dangerous.
And there is something seductive about the Drone. Anti-war protests against the Vietnam War had very little to do with the innocent victims of imperialism. On the contrary, these liberals were concerned about their first-world selves getting shifted into the war machine and shot to pieces in some jungle. Or seeing it happen to their friends or family. Caskets coming home with American flags draped over them is what fueled that protest movement, not napalm bombs and village massacres. Drones don’t need funerals, they just bomb them. Not only that, they’re high-tech and efficient. Any drone strike can be marketed as a victory because the people on the receiving end have never been tried or convicted. To the liberal still operating in hegemonic space, this is the win-win that everyone can feel good about. Until the images of dead children start popping up in their facebook feeds.
As communists, with a class analysis of society, we don’t need to play these games. Our hearts and our minds are clear because our eyes and our best analysis show us that these are the machinations of executive class power, concentrated in the state. We can reveal the layers of deception because we have no loyalties to appease or sensitivities to sugar up. Yet it is our greatest failure that the liberal hegemonic machine has been able to, so soon after the great Iraq War protests (let alone Occupy), reverse the inroads we have made against this beast. We will never be able to stop this machine until every fake anti-war liberal is shown their true face. We must reveal fake allies before we smash real enemies. That is the hardest and most important step.