For those insulated from social media these past few weeks, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently accomplished something extraordinary: by passing the 12-hour mark in a remarkable filibuster of the Brennan CIA nomination, he forced the nation to take a second look at an uncomfortable reality, one that has been emerging over the past several years as warfare technology rapidly advances—often faster than legal protections.
Beginning at 11:47 a.m. and promising to “speak as long as it takes,” Senator Paul, joined by Senators Cruz (R-TX) and Lee (R-UT), took to the Senate floor to demand answers on the President’s extrajudicial drone program.
“I will speak today until the president responds and says, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’” Mr. Paul said early on in the filibuster.
Senator Paul also obliquely referenced American citizens or foreign nationals killed by drones abroad, but by bringing the issue home to everyday Americans, humanized an issue that is often relegated to video game virtual reality.
In a March 25, 2012 article on Slate.com, author David Weigel points out that a year ago, when The Washington Post asked voters whether they favored the use of drones to kill terrorists or terror suspects if they were “American citizens living in other countries,” 65 percent were for, while 26 percent were against. Yet now, after a month of this discussion of drone warfare, in answer to essentially the same question, 41 percent are for, and 52 percent are against.
These developments are encouraging but the fight is far from over. Last week marked 10 years in Iraq and we continue to fight in numerous countries around the region. The outrage against the obvious wars Bush started must be activated against the less obvious ones that expanded so rapidly under Obama, the “Peace President.”
America’s dirty little secrets must come to light: things like the fact recently indicated by Robert Taylor of PolicyMic that 50 civilians are killed for every 1 suspected terrorist in drone warfare, or the fact there have been 4,200 drone deaths so far, as Senator Graham accidentally admitted recently.
Because it is only by our facing these facts that we can begin to improve. Only by shining light can we remove the darkness. America has long been a wonderful, free, and prosperous nation in many ways, but holding onto an idea despite concrete reality does no one favors. Instead, we must strive to become again the realization of that idea. Thanks to the work of those like Senator Paul and thousands of student activists across the nation, we can.
Rebekah Johansen is the president of UWF Young Americans for Liberty. UWF YAL meets biweekly on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. in the Commons Room 268. The organization is currently doing activism for “Generation at War,” educating others on the costs of wars and the need to end them.