RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Moyers writes: "This week, the New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing remains bad policy even today."

Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: Robin Holland)
Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: Robin Holland)

When We Kill Without Caring

By Bill Moyers, Moyers and Company

10 February 13



'm Bill Moyers. This week, the New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing remains bad policy even today. This time, it's done not by young G.I.'s in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing Al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do - a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three Al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men - friend and foe - were incinerated by an American drone attack.

The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for Al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, "such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.” Our blind faith in technology combined with a sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. It brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama's cold-blooded use of drones and his seeming indifference to so-called "collateral damage," otherwise known as innocent bystanders. By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam the deaths by drone are hardly a blip on the consciousness of official Washington.

But we have to wonder if each one - a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation, the student picking up the wrong hitchhikers, that tribal elder standing up against fanatics - doesn't give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+49 # mdhome 2013-02-10 09:49
Will the powers that be in Washington ever take a look at what they are doing?
+50 # fettenberg 2013-02-10 11:17
i am grateful for Bill Moyer's indignation. i understand that the US has lost its compassion in dealing with the third world. We are wrong, and lately Obama is especially wrong in using drone strikes as an instrument of foreign policy. Used to be that we were willing to talk face-to-face with our adversaries. Using drones as well as our clueless soldiers as instruments of foreign policy sinks us deeper in the muck. it's time to acknowledge this & stop throwing away our money.
-72 # randyjet 2013-02-10 10:04
Sorry Bill, but I have NO respect for you since you failed to speak when I was young and YOU were pimping for LBJ. I wonder how the people in Pakistan react to Al Qeada blowing up thousands of innocent people there? Or how about the hundreds of Yemenis who are similarly victimized? While in any war there will be mistakes, we even kill our own troops, the usefulness is NOT determined by the presumed outrage of some, but the actual military effects of killing the combatants. The people in Al Qeada territory have NO choice as to whether or not they "support" them. So any reaction that they may have is superfluous since they have little freedom to decide otherwise.
+48 # Skeptical1247 2013-02-10 11:54
Moyers appears to have evolved on a number of fronts since 1964, and actually has a different job now, which is making inquiries into the truth underlying all of the crucial issues facing this nation, WITHOUT a politician as his direct boss. He does a better job than most. After 45 years, you might consider cutting him some slack.

The "usefulness" of a drone attack from a tactical standpoint is, realistically, something we will NEVER know. Even if the administration knows, which I doubt, that is information that will never be truthfully shared with us. Strategically, it can be argued that it is morally repugnant, and may well cause more harm than it does good. If you are holding a 40 year old grudge against Moyers about something he SAID or didn't say, just imagine some kid whose innocent daddy was killed for no apparent good reason, then multiply that by 2,500.
+32 # PGreen 2013-02-10 12:31
And what point, what "military effect" do you see for continuing this war, other than to spawn terrorists and create more enemies for our policy of never-ending war and American domination?
Better a world where no one is 1/10th so rich if no one is 1/10th so poor. Get rid of the notions of "American Exceptionalism, " and a "Pax Americana," because it will only make us enemies.
If we want to help human rights in other countries, it has to be altruistic, because a political or economic (profit) agenda will be rightly suspect as not being in their public interest. (The philosophy of Ayn Rand will lead to global warfare.)
+8 # Douglas Jack 2013-02-10 14:16
Its wonderful that Moyers is researching & discussing these US, Canadian, NATO & Israel war issues. 40% of our GNP economy is war related to arms, munitions & security. As long as there's war or conflict happening somewhere in the world, then our people are working. We're presently arming dissidents in over 80 countries of the world to destabilize & overthrow their governments. We are not particularly aligned with the dissidents. We armed & continue arming Al CIAda in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran even though publicly, we declare opposition to terrorists. There is a good link to Moyers interview of Nick Turse on Kill Anything That Moves, The Real American War in Vietnam
All conflict, economic bullying, arming & war are acts of cowardess on the part of the 'universal-sold ier' (Buffy-Ste-Mari e) & collectively for all of us to have short-term benefit from the suffering of others. Both-sides-now, equal-time recorded & published debate should become practice for all.
+14 # Hey There 2013-02-10 14:30
Two wrongs never make a right.
Not only do the civilians in those countries have to put up with Al Queda and with tribal chief wars but with a foreign army on native soil.
I think what Moyers is saying is that indiscriminate killing with drones is not well received by the people who are affected by it.
As the Vietnam War went on Moyers became against the war and resigned in December 1966, with considerable bitterness on Johnson's part.
Read more:
Regarding Vietnam
+26 # handmjones 2013-02-10 10:11
I predict that there will be an arrest warrant sworn out for Barak Obama some where and that attempts will be made to have it served if he travels.
Secondly, there will be a drone attack in the U.S. within 5 years. The drone will probably be built and operated from within the country.
+26 # JSRaleigh 2013-02-10 11:47
Quoting handmjones:
I predict that there will be an arrest warrant sworn out for Barak Obama some where and that attempts will be made to have it served if he travels.
Secondly, there will be a drone attack in the U.S. within 5 years. The drone will probably be built and operated from within the country.

Further, I predict that the teabaggers will be quite willing to turn Obama over to the world court, while continuing to shield Bush/Cheney.
-63 # 2013-02-10 10:13

Most people do not care what happens to treasonous citizens. We can't hang them because we can't catch them. Actually, drones may be more humane!
+35 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-02-10 10:23
Oh, I don't know about that. We "caught" the traitors at Hong Kong Shanghai Bank -- the ones laundering drug money and transmitting much needed foreign currency to terrorists.

We caught them, but didn't kill them. Hit them with a fine that amounted to less than two months profit from their illegal activities.

Now tell me what evidence has been presented to warrant the killing of the five people Bill Moyers chronicled?
+20 # Phlippinout 2013-02-10 10:59
Speak for yourself you silly little lamb! I feel sorry for any one who still believes the government is the good guy. The next round of terrorists will be nastier than the one before. You cannot kill enough people to stop the hatred for the US machine.
+23 # fettenberg 2013-02-10 11:27
We have lost our way regarding how to label and treat 'treasonous' behavior. We no longer know what and where the high ground is. Better we retreat at this time and figure out how to better ourselves...our drone policy continues to kill innocent people and we don't often 'make reparations' for the murderous activity. When will we realize that it would serve us better to re-think our own stead of visiting death and destruction on foreign cultures.
+33 # PGreen 2013-02-10 12:12
Are you familiar with this quote:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

The US has ordered 30,000 drones for domestic spying on US citizens, which are scheduled to come into operation by 2020. Not only that, but private industry is entering the game and getting them as well. It sounds like neofueudalism to me, with corporate fiefdoms having private armies. Is that how you want to live-- as an estate master (if you're lucky) in a modern duchy, lording over the serfs and doubtless telling them to work harder? There are disturbing similarities.

Drones kill innocent people, and there is no transparency, and no due process in the programs by which we use them. It's not the nature of a democratic state to use them, and if you prefer to think of us as a republic, we're moving closer to the dictatorships of ancient Rome than anything our founders envisioned.
+12 # RHytonen 2013-02-10 16:23
Quoting PGreen:
The US has ordered 30,000 drones for domestic spying on US citizens, which are scheduled to come into operation by 2020.

Get your powerful laser pointers now -
(A cheap one will disable a drone, they're technologically fragile.
And for less than the price of a Bushmaster, you can legally buy one that will MELT a drone.
But be careful - a chance reflection, off a shiny piece of metal, piece of window glass, or a mirror, will BLIND you permanently.)
Here in West Virginia we have a name for drones: Free government skeet.

Quoting PGreen:
Not only that, but private industry is entering the game and getting them as well.

Do you still see a difference between private industy and government?
I certainly don't.

Quoting PGreen:
..if you prefer to think of us as a republic, we're moving closer to the dictatorships of ancient Rome than anything our founders envisioned.

Those people need to realize that, by definition, neither a plutocracy -nor a theocracy- is a republic.
+2 # intheEPZ 2013-02-12 16:39
Here in West Virginia we have a name for drones: Free government skeet.

I can't stop chuckling over this moniker. Thanks, I needed a laugh.
+1 # RHytonen 2013-02-10 16:32
Did Neimoller say "Socialists" - or "Communists?"
+2 # overanddone 2013-02-10 10:31
see moyers interview with Nick Turse
+31 # Skeptical1247 2013-02-10 11:31
"We can't catch them" is THE BIG LIE, accepted as an "institutional truth" as is belied by the locating of bin Ladin. The truth is, as a national policy "We have no intention of whatsoever of "catching" or apprehending ANY of them alive".

According to the "official" description of events, bin Ladin could have been captured alive. But that was not EVER intended to be the outcome, because then the question is "What the hell do we do with them after we apprehend them?"

They can not possibly be put on trial under the normal laws of our nation because virtually ALL of the evidence is tainted. Evidence gained as the result of torture, hearsay, illegal surveillance, and a "Chain of Evidence" that is probably non-existent, would guarantee that most would be set free.

THe US needs to stop declaring "war" on every problem, because we demonstrably NEVER win wars. Didn't work with Poverty, didn't work with Drugs, and doesn't work with Terror. What is farcical is that with regard to declaring "war" in the military sense, we never officially declared war on Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq (AGAIN?) Libya, and yet we manage to kill a lot of people without accomplishing any rational objective and then we stop when we get tired of not winning anything.
+3 # LinkSync 2013-02-10 11:33
Mr. Moyers,
With respects (and many, many thanks) I would caution that too often even the most disciplined of minds does its "thinking" based on emotion and thus fails to see matters in dispassionate and objective ways.
As we all struggle to evaluate where we are, what we do, where we are going we none of us can do so without bringing our own pasts along with us to bend the lense we look through to be consistent with that past as much as we are able. Too often I see that same error made on both the right and the Left, especially by the extremists, as they fail to appreciate our current realities in terms of the NOW.
If we see the baggage we carry as an inhibitor of real understanding then we have a chance at least to unburden ourselves and each other of that lesson learned so that we might freshly look at matters in an unbiased way that maybe, truth be told, might even lend itself to making those same mistakes of the past once again; even maybe worsening them.
I suggest that if we are not able to take that openly innocent point of view we will shut out and/or turn away useful and valuable knowledge in favor of an ideology that does not apply.
Times really do change in ways far more significant than merely technologically .

We need very clear, very open eyes to know what love would have us do now Sir. Because at the bottom, when all is stripped away, we either stand on, or sink into love.

-2 # RHytonen 2013-02-10 16:29
Quoting LinkSync:
Mr. Moyers,
With respects (and many, many thanks) I would caution that too often even the most disciplined of minds does its "thinking" based on emotion and thus fails to see matters in dispassionate and objective ways..... we either stand on, or sink into love.

Especially as you appear to distinguish dispassionate objectivity FROM love, I would ask whether history has shown "dispassionate and objective" actually IS the best way to "see matters" - and make decisions.
+20 # wwway 2013-02-10 11:40
This whole conversation seems a bit ironic. On 9/11 3 planes were hyjaked and used as drones on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Americans seem to be picking fights to satisify the military industrial complex. In response to 9/11, Bush atomized terrorism with his unjustified war on Iraq rather than just focus on airport security and diplomacy that continued partnerships with an eye on small terrorist cells and used Special Forces justifiably and effectively.
Will someone please explain the difference between using drones and using huge bombs dropped from planes. What's the difference between drones and the practice of storming troops into a small town killing anything that moves and setting fire to everything. Civililian death seems to be of no concern. No matter the method, atomization of fear and loathing is a consequence. No matter the method, if we choose to make war impersonal we will always engage in war.
-27 # The Oracle 2013-02-10 12:36
It's not about us becoming like the lunatic terrorists bloodthirsty revenge-killers . It's about prevention and defense. I think the drones are waaay the best idea. But not for the same reason you do.
-12 # The Oracle 2013-02-10 12:43
It's pretty clear to me that Obama stayed in Afghanistan (hence the surge) because he hadn't gotten Al qaida and Bin laden, and knew he couldn't ever get them with no American base in Afghanistan or Pakistan. After he got Bin laden and his hard-disks the war was over for Obama. The troops have been standing down since. Drone strikes and their threat are the thing that makes it all work.
Obama really knows was he's doing. He a truly great Commander-in-Ch ief. But in a covert war he can't explain himself about a lot of things.
+10 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-10 12:10
Hey! We can't have those Muslim Clerics challenging Al Queda! The idea is to CULTIVATE Al Queda! How else can we sustain the permanent war economy and the permanent US imperial slide into the infamous historical Dustbin of the Past?

Come on, folks! Get on with the Wall Street bought-and-and- paid-for broadly bipartisan votes (at harshly discounted rates) for the Program of American Extinction, or fall off the historical sliding boards!
-15 # The Oracle 2013-02-10 12:32
I agree 100% with Moyers most every day, but not today.
Unless there is no threat to Americans from those who claim to be Al qaida this is a "war" that must be carried on.
1. The terrorists have had just about zero success with Obama around, Bin laden dead and his computer library taken.
2. We don't how much is true about who's being killed in the drone strikes, how many civilians etc. which Mr Moyers states as facts. This is fertile grounds for Al qaida/Taliban propaganda.
3. If Al qaida are using human shields, what's to be done about them? Do we surrender? What?
Obama is fighting the war perfectly. He has been from day one. He has minimized the losses on all sides, particularly to American soldiers, while maximizing the high valued targets.
This is indeed what is call collateral damage. Compared to killing 100,000 Muslims who had nothing to do with 9-11 or harbored Al qaida, or invading another country, drones is the way to go.
Critics without a better idea are a dime a dozen.
-15 # Carroll R. 2013-02-10 12:47
What I ask are two things: What is the alternative to drones, and what happens if we do nothing against these terrorists cells intending to attack us? I ask myself if in our country we had extremist cells of anti-Muslim terrorists who were known for terrorist bombing attacks etc in the mid east and did nothing about them, would I be upset if the countries they had attacked sent drones in to stop them, when my government did nothing? I would be furious at my government, though I am sure there are those in this country who would not be.But I in all honesty would not fault another country for trying to protect itself when mine would not arrest those attacking them. And that is why I, until a better alternative is offered, support drones, but also look to the day to come when we no longer kill each other as a policy to solve issues among counties and peoples. As the saying goes, War is Hell.
+11 # PGreen 2013-02-10 13:42
"if in our country" By this I assume that you mean, American terrorists? There are indeed US agents operating in other countries, terrorists by their light, or the equivalent-- CIA and such, not to mention private mercenaries hired by US corporations such as Blackwater-- which has now relocated it's major assets to the UAE to avoid US prosecution. Do you think we will send drones after Blackwater and are you furious at the government for not doing this? Of course the US government will not touch them since they were carrying out policies (illegal by international law and unauthorized by congress) that the Bush administration requested. Or should we be going after the US officials who instituted the policies? How about the Obama administration DOJ, which refuses to even consider prosecuting them? Obama and Bush themselves?
The first law of medicine is, "do no harm." Our policies in the Mid-East are crating more terrorists, not alleviating a situation. Better to look at the reasons why they are so angry at us, don't you think?
The real problem is that we have an agenda, which is the control of the energy resources in the Mid-East. So we will continue to "terrorize" them and they will continue, like you, to be "furious."
+1 # David Heizer 2013-02-11 22:07
What if your neighbor (unbeknownst to you, natch) was a Black Ops guy, and one of the countries he did an "operation" in decided to retaliate with a drone strike, and one (or more) of your kids playing with his kids in their pool became "collateral damage." Would you be upset then?
0 # mainescorpio 2013-02-10 12:51
I agree. We need to cut him some slack. He has grown as a professional, has seen and done things I'm sure he regrets, and now speaks with the more balanced voice of someone who has not been afraid of going out into the world and learning what he now teaches. In this piece, he is lacking a solution however. Drones will now be always with us. It is a technology that will be shared soon by most nations. As such, it needs to be regulated. The issues they raise, when and where to use them, the loss of innocent lives, their invasive nature and rights of privacy, etc etc. These issues must be weighed against the loss of life they can prevent. I personally would like to see them outlawed internationally but I know this will never happen.They exist. We need to come to an understanding when to use them.
+3 # Douglas Jack 2013-02-10 21:00
mainescorpio, Are you suggesting to only use Drones on terrorist nations such as the USA, Canada, NATO & Israel? These nations have 40% of their GNP tied to armament, munitions & security. The NATO aligned are making a killing in manufacture & distribution for the vast majority of arms used in international conflicts. NATO aligned 'dis-intelligen t' seed conflicts such as the false supposed Arab Spring by arming dissidents even the Al CIAda to overthrow governments in 80 countries simultaneously worldwide. The NATO aligned constantly host false-flag events such as the Gulf-of-Tonkin Vietnam, The-Bay-of-Pigs Cuba, the non-massacres of Libya etc. Citizens in NATO aligned nations don't publicly protest, reorganize or elect fair governments. The NATO aligned live off of the labours of the whole world, yet bully advantage to be able to spend 90% of its proceeds. Are you suggesting that drones might be used to human-kind's benefit only on the territories of NATO aligned nations?

Instead of living your dead-end war fantasy, come & join humanity in creating the lasting peace of mutual-aid cultivating the abundant biosphere.
+4 # Charlie Peters 2013-02-10 13:05
California CARB fuel was close to zero ethanol in our fuel in 1992..

1992 fuel price about $1.40 per gallon.

Ethanol push from fed EPA and friends pushed ethanol to 5.6% and we paid more for our fuel.

Fed EPA and Big oil refiners pushed the oxygenate to 10% and we paid more.

Now BP GMO fuel is pushing for over $1.00 in corporate welfare with 15% of the fuel market while cutting back Oil and refining

Will BP GMO fuel patents generate credit trade income from the Big oil industry with the Queen Mother help.

The Queen banker friends may want a share.

So. how big does California ethanol bill need to be to qualify for the EPA waiver?
+13 # marigayl 2013-02-10 13:27
True that war is hell. It is also so extremely profitable, the ultimate in consumerism and planned obsolescence. If I buy a car, I can drive it every day for years. A bomb that kills in Pakistan at the push of a button in New Mexico can only be used once, and then it must be replaced. The more targeted killings by Obama the greater the need for more bombs. And the more our country kills the more the survivors become enemies to be killed, increasing the demand for bombs. Obama, like Bush, is simply doing his best to make Daddy Warbucks richer. A pox on his head.
+6 # chicagoflygirls 2013-02-10 17:57
Drone strikes are radicalizing US, and people in this country who feel powerless to use peaceful means to accomplish goals.. Drones are influencing our HOMEGROWN terrorists to act outside the law. With these heavy handed policies, Drone have opened the door to the craziest ideas. The United States needs to stand down, and start finding some kind of semi-moral way of acting in the world. If our leaders even remember how to act on the world stage.
+4 # She Cee 2013-02-10 19:07
What will the hawks in this country do when the drones begin falling on our heads, especially on those in power; those responsible for the drones we are launching and that are killing innocents?

It will happen. No doubt about it.

Sounds like 1984 to me.
0 # keenon the truth 2013-02-11 07:40
What is Al Qaeda anyway? Does it really exist? Is it something conjured up by different Administrations as an excuse to wage war? I see the expression Al Qaeda bandied around in news broadcasts and newspaper articles, but there is never anything concrete.
+2 # SOF 2013-02-11 15:46
I think what Moyers was saying is clear and true. When we kill innocents we become terrorists. When we kill a Muslim cleric who is brave enough to denounce Al Qaeda, we are stupid terrorists. Please remember how Americans were so traumatized after 9/11. We wanted blood and revenge so much we attacked the wrong countries! Millions demonstrated around the world - and warned against destabilizing the MiddlieEast (and Iran's worst enemy). Yeah yeah, it was really about 1% profit. So we're easily manipulated stupid terrorists. Perhaps if we could see the moral error in our own revengeful blood lust, we'd be less enthusiastic about entering Hellish wars and could avoid making more enemies.
0 # motamanx 2013-02-13 19:24
Drones are the weapons of a coward. If we can't get into the places that the bad guys hide, why not just leave them where they are?
-1 # white-jacket 2013-02-12 10:28
As much as I respect and admire Bill Moyers, it seems to me he has evaded a fundamental question. Is there a war or not? You can't begin to assess tactical questions until that question is answered. If there is a war, then the question is what are the options to drones? Manned aircraft strikes? Invasion? You can utter as many self-righteous moralisms as you want, but there has never been a war without civilian casualties, much as we may hate that fact.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.