May 302012

Recently it has been irrefutably determined that Carlos DeLuna was innocent of the murder he was accused of committing. He was put to death in Texas in 1989. When one considers the numerous exonerations that have occurred of people on death row, it would be foolish to imagine that this is an isolated incident.

How can it happen that an innocent person could go through a long judicial process and the mandatory appeals and be found guilty of committing a heinous crime? People should be horrified by this injustice. Horrified enough for a supporter of the death penalty to rethink the whole issue. Consider for a moment how you would feel if this unthinkable nightmare happened to you or someone you loved.

If a member of your family was falsely accused and subsequently executed, would you lose faith in the legal system? Would you be angry? Could you conceivably want to exact revenge? The justifiable reactions would certainly vary. The noble among us would campaign to end the death penalty in memorial to their lost loved one.

What would you think if I told you that multiple executions happen monthly with less oversight than what failed in Carlos DeLuna’s case? In a process that commonly gets it wrong? A process that the US government vehemently defends, stating that the number of innocent deaths is justified by the number of criminals also killed? The only difference being the location and that the people being executed have little if any notice of their impending doom. They also don’t have the chance to defend themselves or to face their accuser and there isn’t an appeal process to review the evidence.

I’m talking about drones. Those recently science fiction, now real, robotic instruments of death and destruction. The government has admitted to some innocents being killed but downplays the number. However, human rights organizations have documented many that the US denies. In a recent New York Times article it came out that the US government counts any adult male killed as a militant unless it is proved otherwise… posthumously.

Take as an example, earlier this year on May 6th a drone killed a senior al Qaeda member. However, in the process, a 19 year old farmer was also killed. The teen had no ties to al Qaeda except that he knew the family of the targeted individual and was saying hello. To put this in context, it would be as if an innocent person was executed along with Carlos DeLuna simply because he knew the family.

I don’t dispute that the al Qaeda member was a bad guy. Assuming that the intelligence was accurate, he was. He had a role in bombing the USS Cole. One bad guy and one innocent guy. Maybe you can justify it as worth it, apparently President Obama has taken that position. I’m sure the family of the young man would disagree. In fact, they did. His uncle said, “He was torn to pieces. He was not part of al Qaeda. But by America’s standards, just because he knew him, he deserved to die with him.” The uncle subsequently left his military unit which had been engaged in fighting insurgents and out of hatred for the US, is an al Qaeda sympathizer (if not an actual combatant).

Some of the drone strikes succeed in only killing bad guys. In some cases, dozens of innocent women and children are killed at the same time. The Yemeni people are mad as hell about the drone attacks. Too many innocents are being killed. Really one, would be as tragic as Carlos DeLuna’s execution.

Are we such a racist society that we can’t see that a Yemeni, Pakistani, Iraqi, or an Afghan has the same intrinsic value as an American? Do we believe that our mothers love their children more than an Iraqi or Yemeni mom? Wouldn’t we be outraged if it was common practice to kill one or more American bystanders in order to get a criminal, though the criminal was thought to be evil? Would it placate us if a government official came on the news and said that they were sorry and will continue to be very careful to minimize innocent fatalities but we must understand, it just comes with the territory in fighting crime?

The excuse we’re given is that it makes us safer by degrading al Qaeda. The facts tell a different story. According to the Washington Post, in 2009, US officials said there were no more than 300 hard core al Qaeda combatants in Yemen. Three years later there are at least 700 and growing. Not to mention ever increasing hatred for the US and an expanding radicalized general population.

Repeating something that has failed and expecting different results is insane and in this case, morally bankrupt. It needs to stop immediately.

In response to the terrible deaths of 3000 innocent Americans on September 11, 2001, we have brought death and destruction to hundreds of thousands (some estimates go as high as a million) and “bombed entire countries back to the stone age.” The overwhelming majority of people we treated so cruelly had absolutely nothing to do with the September 11th attack. What does this say about American character, American exceptionalism?

Do we want to end the threat of terrorism instead of acting the part of an al Qaeda recruitment poster boy? It would be simple, if the US had the political will. Start by admitting that we were misled into terrible mistakes, hold the liars and criminals accountable or send them to the Hague, make a heartfelt apology, offer reparations and humanitarian aid through a 3rd party, stop supporting repressive regimes, and get the fuck out of their countries. With that, what reason would anyone have to strap on explosives to sacrifice themselves in order to kill?