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Phil Kadner: Drones — a great video game

A Predator drone

A Predator drone

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Updated: March 11, 2013 6:28AM

C’mon. This drone thing is really kind of cool. Admit it.

Hundreds of miles away from a combat zone people operating a remote-control device and looking at a video screen fly a small unmanned aircraft that kills.

One minute a guy is standing in a remote mountain village plotting an attack on the U.S., and the next, bam, he’s blown to pieces.

It’s like a really good video game, only real.

And lives are saved, except for the collateral damage that sometimes occurs.

That’s another way of saying innocent people who get in the way sometimes die.

Hey, that’s war. Better them than us.

Listening to the recent debate on the CIA’s use of drones, I recalled a speech I once heard.

“A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival on what is expedient, to look the other way.

“Only the answer to that is survival as what? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of ones self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult.

“Before the people of the world let it now be noted . . . this is what we stand for: Justice, truth and the value of a single human being.”

The words were written by screenwriter Abby Mann and spoken by actor Spencer Tracy in the 1961 movie “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

Hey, that was a long time ago, it was Hollywood, and this is the 21st Century and we’re at war with a different kind of enemy.

And we did wipe out thousands of people in WWII by dropping atomic bombs on Japan, so even back then we realized a nation has to do what a nation has to do.

The use of drones by the CIA against targets determined in secret proceedings is so new that the British government is now calling for some sort of international rules for such weapons.

Last week, members of Congress raised a lot of troubling issues while grilling Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan.

Can American citizens be targeted for execution by our government while on foreign soil without a trial?

Sure. The U.S. Justice Department has apparently come up with a legal justification for how this can be done.

Just as it did for torture, or water boarding, or sending prisoners of war captured by the U.S. to foreign countries where they could be more efficiently questioned.

It’s amazing how a country’s ethics about right and wrong can change when it’s under attack.

Fear does that to people.

If an American is working with some terrorist organization to kill Americans, or target our allies, he can be bumped off without violating any of our Constitutional safeguards, as Al Capone and his guys might have said.

That analogy is inappropriate, since the guys meeting in secret around a conference table making decisions about who gets whacked are not mobsters but high-ranking government officials we trust.

Well, we trust them unless you’re one of those conservatives who believes Barack Obama is being operated by a foreign government, or a liberal haunted by memories of Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover keeping lists of political enemies.

Most Americans aren’t troubled by such things.

They just want to know our country is doing everything in its power to keep us safe from attack.

It may become slightly more problematic when this technology is in the hands of foreign governments and groups of people who are not nearly as trustworthy as we are.

Unarmed drones are also expected to become part of our everyday domestic landscape soon.

The FAA has been authorized to set rules for their widespread use in the United States.

Only last week the Virginia legislature became the first state to place a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by police and government agencies.

Eventually, private companies and individuals are expected to use drones for geographic surveillance, building security, news coverage and capturing images of celebrities bathing naked on rooftops.

Of course, it would still be illegal for the average guy to kill anyone using a drone.

You’ve got to have government authorization for that.

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