Why Pick on Targeted Killing? Indict the State

by Michael S. Rozeff

Recently by Michael S. Rozeff: What's Wrong With the SurveillanceState?

Criticism of targeted killing done by the United States government is mounting. Why now? Why now, when it's one of the prime activities of a state to kill? You would think that everyone who supports the State would be pleased that the State is doing what it has been designed to do and what it has matured into doing.

A grown-up adult state like the U.S. exercises "worldwide leadership". It carries big sticks and it uses them when necessary, which seems to be continually. This is good, is it not? The United States is good and does good. Isn't this what is taught to every child in school? Ergo, targeted killing must be good too.

But no, there are critics who want there to be the armed and powerful leadership State, but also want to limit this State and restrain it. Carry the big stick. Walk the world as your beat. Have weapons that can be launched to anywhere on the globe. Make the world your police precinct. But, on the other hand, don't use these weapons to kill. Don't intervene when rival gangs get to squabbling in some farflung land. Don't intervene when a rebellion occurs. Don't take sides with any country against other countries. Don't be tempted by minerals and resources in these lands or by their useful geography. Don't be tempted to be the number one honcho in the world and hem in all other potential honchos. Are any of these limitations even possible? Can Dr. Frankenstein control his creation?

States habitually kill, so why is there criticism of its killing by this method now? Why is targeted killing bad? If states concentrate resources so that they develop forces and weapons that individuals cannot, why be concerned when they go ahead and use these forces and weapons? Isn't that the main idea of the State in the first place? Indeed, isn't targeted killing more humane than fire-bombing an entire city or dropping an atom bomb on Nagasaki?

Why pick on targeted killing? Why not pick on wars begun by states? Why stop there? Why not pick on the institution responsible for targeted killing and far worse? Why not pick on the United States government itself? Why not pick on the State itself?

And, for that matter, why not pick on the conditions, motives and ideas that lead to the formation and support of states throughout the world?

The U.S. government and several of its agencies have maintained kill lists for years. The CIA has a kill list. Now the White House is consolidating the kill lists. Obama has regular Tuesday meetings to discuss those whom he chooses to kill. The Commander-in-Chief is the Judge-in Chief, Jury-in-Chief, and Executioner-in-Chief all rolled into one. Why should this be a matter of concern now? Why didn't the war against Iraq and the war against Afghanistan elicit correspondingly larger waves of criticism? Why didn't the American people stop these wars before they were even begun? Why didn't all those college-educated Americans and all their opinion leaders recognize the wrongness of those wars and prevent them from being initiated?

Why hasn't the American state been reined in long before now?

The killings brought about by states in the course of their wars run into hundreds of millions. The numbers are gargantuan compared to bumping off hundreds or even thousands of nameless faces in such remote regions as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, so why is anyone hot and bothered now about Obama adding a few more victims to the roll call? And why worry about a few hundred innocent men, women and children who happen to get slaughtered when a U.S. bomb delivered by a drone "takes out" some "target"? Did the American people not elect Obama so that he could give the green light to some hero sitting before a computer terminal somewhere to press the button that sends the drone on its way and press another button to release its missiles? How can there be heroes getting medals without such firm duty to their country and such killing?

Many states have done targeted killings in the past, including the United States. A few states out of many that have done targeted killing include the United States of America, Israel, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti, and Colombia. A Wikipedia article on death squads lists about 30 states that have used death squads to kill people. To kill people, they have used all sorts of means, including death squads, shooting, drones, mass murders, executions, car bombings, and poison.

There is no single cause, condition or motive that ignites a policy of targeted killing by a state or by a state's military or by forces that a state allows to operate. Governments are highly proficient at finding any number of reasons to kill. Should it be surprising that an institution with the characteristics of a state, namely a capacity to kill and a domestic monopoly on "legal" violence, finds reasons in many cases to kill, whether by warfare or death squads or genocides or targeted killing?

Although their killing programs become known, states usually try to maintain secrecy about their existence, extent, victims and means of operation. Why? It's because such killings are outside accepted canons of justice, skirting a number of laws and judicial procedures that go back thousands of years. There do exist forces that restrain states from going whole hog. These include law, conscience, interests, and institutions and people advocating peace. Unfortunately, these forces are often too weak to prevent widespread killing caused by states. There do not exist highly effective means of limiting the violent activities of states, since states are designed to do violence. Consequently, state-sanctioned killing breaks out more or less continually throughout the world, sometimes kills off virtually entire peoples and societies, and sometimes engulfs large regions in warfare. Sometimes it is only when the killing has gone beyond all bounds and encountered severely diminished returns to the killers that societies have been able to stop the states from their killing. Why people then go ahead and institute a new state is beyond understanding, but they do.

The targeted killings being done by Obama are not being done in self-defense of the American people. He thinks so. He's wrong. There are no imminent threats from the people being killed. There is no state of war against the victims. There is no state of war against the many foreign countries in which the murders are occurring. He's not only wrong, but it's obvious that he's wrong.

As important as the right and wrong of what Obama is doing are in this matter of targeted killing, we should not limit our attention to the rightness or wrongness of his killings. Why do his policies exist? Why do his policies and the similar wars and torture of both his and the previous administration exist? They could only arise, be justified even if badly, and be tolerated by masses of Americans because America has a State that it believes in. These policies are the fruits of the built-in defects of the State itself. Impeaching Bush and Cheney would have been a good idea. Bringing those responsible for torture to justice is a good idea. Bringing to justice those responsible for injustices at Guantanamo is a good idea. Impeaching Obama is a good idea. Stressing the destruction of the Bill of Rights is a good idea. Stressing the transformation of the country into a police state is a good idea. There are many such good ideas. They are not good enough. They are not radical enough. At this juncture in history, there is no going back to an old version of America. We cannot even go back to old ideas unless we revamp and radicalize them for present times and people.

This system of government is changing into a worse form, and it is going to fail altogether eventually. It will fail because the idea of the State is fundamentally flawed.

The State itself should be impeached. The idea of the State should be criticized. The concept that the State is beneficial should be indicted. The notion that the State is necessary should be overturned.

Impeach the State. Indict the State.