As the Associated Press reported yesterday, the Justice Department has released a memo that advises federal prosecutors not to go after people who use or dispense medical marijuana in conformance with state law.
The policy represents a sharp departure from the Bush era, but still falls short of dealing with the underlying issue. If, as the feds claim, “pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels,” why not pull the rug out from under them and, as the reggae bands advocate, “free up the weed?”
So on the one hand, we have Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama doing something that is, indeed, a form of peace-making, in that it seeks to abandon one minor battlefront in the senseless, long-lived and extremely costly war on drugs.
But then on the other hand, we have Democracy Now! reporting that the “peace-maker” has also sanctioned choke killings:
[T]he number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. During his first nine-and-a-half months in office, Obama authorized as many CIA aerial attacks in Pakistan as President Bush did in his final three years in office.
Can you in fact be a peace-maker even as you're engaged in war? Can you in fact be a peace-maker if you're not doing the killing yourself, only authorizing others to do it? Is it the righteousness of the cause, and the sophistication of the killing technology, that distinguishes a peace-maker from a mass murderer?
Just a few underlying issues to consider.
Democracy Now! was quoting from a story by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker that also reports:
Hina Shamsi, a human-rights lawyer at the New York University School of Law….said of the Predator program, “These are targeted international killings by the state.”
The Predator program is described by many in the intelligence world as America’s single most effective weapon against Al Qaeda. But the program has stirred deep ethical concerns. According to the New America Foundation’s study, only six of the forty-one C.I.A. drone strikes conducted by the Obama Administration in Pakistan have targeted Al Qaeda.
The program is classified as covert, and the C.I.A. declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed. Nevertheless, reports of fatal air strikes in Pakistan emerge every few days
With public disenchantment mounting over the U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan, many in Washington support an even greater reliance on Predator strikes. And because of the program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place.
Peter W. Singer, the author of “Wired for War,” a recent book about the robotics revolution in modern combat, argues that the drone program is worryingly “seductive,” because it creates the perception that war can be “costless.” Cut off from the realities of the bombings in Pakistan, Americans have been insulated from the human toll, as well as the political and moral consequences.
Which is just the way Americans like it. They’ll get their reality from TV shows, thank you very much.
And as a postscript to yesterday’s post, I happened upon this quote in today’s The Garden Island that speaks to the underlying issues quite eloquently:
Salina Milstein: “It is vitally important that we reach beyond ourselves and our selfish desires and think about everything in the world we’re affecting.”