|Gene Roddenberry 1921 - 1991|
His ashes were shot into space 1997
Social commentary has, therefore, been part of the Star Trek phenomenon from its inception.
|Star Trek, Into Darkness: Obama Critique?|
The movie opens with horrific 9/11 style terrorist attacks in London (NB another senseless terrorist attack claiming the life of a 25 year old soldier in London this week). It quickly becomes apparent that the attacks have been carried out by a former Federation agent named John Harrison. Kirk is ordered by his superior, Federation Admiral Alexander Marcus, (imperialist title fully intended) to track down the perpetrator and to kill him with a full compliment of brand new high-tech torpedoes. Admiral Marcus assures Kirk that the target planet is uninhabited except for the villainous Harrison, leaving no danger of collateral damage. Federation intelligence assures us that the projected operation is a "slam dunk," so to speak.
It turns out that the CIA's, whoops I meant Federation's, intelligence sometimes proves to be faulty. The planet is dangerously close to Klingon space and there is the danger that this act of counter terrorism might ignite a much wider war. There are actually Klingons on the "uninhabited planet" who create the possibility of collateral damage, political repercussions and a wider war. Without giving too much plot away, the new torpedoes are not quite what they seem. First officer Spock manages to use Vulcan logic to persuade Captain Kirk that it would be better to defy his Admiral's direct orders by capturing Harrison alive, interrogating him and bringing him to face justice on planet earth.
|The Shadow War|
The law offered little guidance as to what constituted "traditional military activities," partly because the George H.W. Bush White House and Pentagon successfully lobbied Congress to keep the language vague. These activities were ultimately defined as any operations carried out by the military that were connected to "ongoing" or "anticipated" hostilities. In other words, the Pentagon could justify sending troops to any country in the world if it could make the case that the United States was at war inside that country -- or might be at some point in the future.
These arcane provisions were little discussed for a decade, until the days after the September 11 attacks when Congress gave President Bush a sweeping mandate to wage war all over the globe. According to the provisions of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the United States was not at war with any one particular country but at war in any country where al Qaeda was operating. The measure, in effect, gave Rumsfeld the license he was looking for to carry out a global war."
Since then the United States has invaded Iraq and fought a global war on terror in countries around the world. Coalition troops pursue Al Qaeda across the border from Afghanistan into Tajikistan killing 20 militants in one 2010 incident (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8073451/Al-Qaeda-training-camp-uncovered-in-Tajikistan.html). The United States has now deployed into 20 African countries including drone bases in Niger and Yemen.
The new Predator drone technology initiated by President Bush and enhanced and perfected by President Obama has allowed the US to hit terrorists with Hellfire missiles in many countries where we are not even at war such as Yemen and Pakistan. This new technology has made allowed the US President in two administrations to act as judge, jury and executioner. There is no need for messy debates about the possible need for enhanced interrogation techniques (AKA torture) or about prisoner treatment and conditions on Guantanamo (referred to as "Strawberry Fields" because the prisoners remain "forever"). There is no due process or rule of law. Terrorist problems can now simply be vaporised with the equivalent of a photon torpedo. OK, there is there risk of collateral damage. Yes, there is the risk of faulty intelligence too (not merely WMD in Iraq under Bush but the CIA mistakenly targeted the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 during the Serbian war under Clinton). Moreover, there is the risk that by living by "the way of the knife" we ultimately incite thousands of others to wield knives or, as in London this past week, machetes against us.
|Lee Rigby RIP, 1988 - 2013|
According to a Stanford poll the USA has become more "hawkish on counter terrorism matters. A large majority -- 69 percent of respondents -- said they supported the American government secretly assassinating terrorists." (Source: The Way of the Knife, Mark Mazzetti, 2013, www.amzn.com/B00AEDDSUC).
|Abdulrahman al Awlaki, 1996 - 2011|
Killed by our Nobel Prize-winning POTUS
Change the poll question and the answer will, of course, vary. "Do you approve of the American government killing terrorists?" will elicit a different response from "Do you approve of the American government killing American teenagers who have committed no crime?" "Do you approve of unarmed drones being used in the USA to enforce traffic regulations?"
While some Conservatives are ambivalent on the question of killing proven terrorist targets, is it not abundantly clear that anyone who believes in limited government must have grave concerns about the current American drone program? Recent events demonstrate that even President Obama is clearly now having second thoughts on the entire program (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2013/05/23/obama-counter-terrorism-speech-drones-guantanamo-bay/2354001/).
As Lord Acton (1834 - 1902) wrote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." How many wives would Henry VIII have had if he had had access to drone technology during the Tudor era (see earlier post Tower of London, 3/10/13)?
Commander Kelly concludes, "Do we not risk becoming as evil as the terrorists we confront if we forsake the rule of law and act without humanity, compassion or even...logic? A President cannot and should not "play God". In order to confront the terror threat successfully, we must combine the heroic activism of Kirk with the cool dispassionate analysis of Spock.* Otherwise, we all risk proceeding into a "darkness" that is indeed unimaginable."
* Perhaps the London cops this week had the Kirk/Spock balance just about right. Shoot the villains in the legs and bring them in for questioning! One suspects that Gene Roddenberry, ex-LAPD cop, ex-bomber pilot might approve from his celestial orbit.