Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 684, August 19, 2012

"Stand Down!"

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

My father was an Army Air Corps bombardier during World War II. To make it perfectly clear, he sat up in the plexiglass nose of a B-17 and dropped explosives on people and things that passed underneath his airplane.

I know my dad was troubled ethically for the rest of his life by what he'd done. Like a lot of veterans, he didn't talk about it much. When he did, he said the same things the government had told him, that the objective was to take out military and industrial installations (he always offered ball bearing factories as an example), and try to avoid civilian deaths, although there would always be some that were unavoidable.

Today we call them "collateral damage".

Dad had been issued a .45 caliber 1911A1 semiautomatic pistol, intended to destroy the mysterious, top secret, and not spectacularly successful Norden bombsight. According to a wartime government full of pathological liars, and to the bootlicking mass media who worshipped them, this miraculous item of technology made our kinder, gentler air forces capable of the 1944 equivalent of humane "surgical strikes". It was obvious that such a thing couldn't be allowed to fall into enemy hands.

When his plane was finally shot down, Dad used the .45 for its intended purpose, and then tossed it out into the slipstream with the broken bombsight. He knew that one man, armed with a single handgun, wasn't about to open up another front in the German heartland. He was about to become a prisoner of war, and no matter how good a weapon it was (actually, he was a revolver guy and never liked the 1911A1 much) it would only aggravate the proceedings and more than likely get him killed.

Similarly, once he'd landed safely and cut himself free of his parachute, he was immediately confronted by a member of the German home-guard. Dad may have killed thousands of individuals from the air. There was no way of knowing. He had a good, big, capable knife, but he'd never killed a man at arm's length, face-to-face and eye-to-eye (I think, despite the world war then in progress, fewer of us were capable of that kind of thing in those days than we are now) and he didn't mean to start with a shaky, underfed 90-year-old veteran of World War I waving an extra-long bayoneted 1898 Mauser he could hardly hold up. He gave the old man his knife and went directly to jail.

Do not collect 200 Deutschmarks.

I have certain ethical questions myself—about snipers.

I've known several personally. As a proficient rifleman myself (before the cataracts), I respect what they tend to think of as their craftsmanship. In truth, they are superb athletes. Like my bombardier father, they're all remarkably good men. I also know all the sniper legends and stories, from Carlos Hathcock to Leroy Jethro Gibbs. And yet they strike from hiding, at a great distance, at prey who—if the sniper does his job right—will never know what hit them. And for most of America's history, they have done it in a series of bad causes.

All of that being said, I have no ethical questions whatever, concerning the use of drones. It's not just wrong, it's morally repulsive.


We'll define a drone broadly, for purposes of this discussion, as an unmanned aircraft with capabilities comparable to those of manned aircraft. I'm not entirely sure where the line lies between drones and remote controlled model airplanes people have been playing with for decades. It may have something to do with pusillanimous pencil-necked play-pilots without scruples, without honor, and above all, without risk, who operate the machines in question, sometimes from a continent away, spying on unsuspecting individuals and then murdering them with missiles.

Possibly, at some level, they think of it as a computer game.

At least my father faced an angry enemy more or less in person, and certainly within the range of their guns. He bore a small scar on his forehead from the antiaircraft "flak"—fragments of exploding shells shot at him by the defending Germans—that eventually downed his plane.

Drones, however, are an unmistakable product of the low, crawling, craven, cowardice of Democrats in general, especially under Obama, and chickenhawk Republicans who love any war, as long as they don't have to fight in it themselves. Now I see them arming police robots with machineguns, preparing for "insurgencies" right here in America, (Hey, Janet—you think 450 million rounds of pistol ammo will be enough? And has anyone checked the razor wire on the FEMA camps recently?) and talking about unmanned "drone" submarines. I suspect this is necessary because it's getting harder and harder for them to convince real men—and real women—to fight their stupid, evil, and insane wars for them.

Drones of all kinds are being used to spy on Americans right now, and it won't be long before they're used to murder us, as well. Aside from defending ourselves physically, which is beyond the scope of this discussion (although Judge Andrew Napolitano has observed that the first person who shoots a drone down over the United States will be a great American hero) there are two legislative remedies that are absolutely essential to begin turning this into a free country once again.

The first is a no-exceptions prohibition on government arming of autonomous, semiautonomous, or remote-controlled machines of any kind for any reason, here or overseas. I don't want to hear any whining about the exigencies of war. This country hasn't fought a morally justifiable war, or faced a genuinely credible threat to American lives and liberty since the 19th century. My wife would take it even further, believing it's wrong to kill someone whose eyes you can't see.

I would add a similar prohibition on taking anybody's likeness— photographically or otherwise—without obtaining their explicit, written permission beforehand. I would forbid making that permission a condition for exercising any right or receiving any legitimate entitlement.

When I was a little kid, the cowboy movies taught me that the worst thing anybody could be called was a "backshooter" (unless, perhaps, it was a "claimjumper"). Since then, a long series of exceptionally stupid, evil, and insane administrations have turned this once-great country into both. America has become a coward and a bully.

Now I hear professional Chicken Littles squawking on the radio and the Internet every day that the world is going to end if, say, Iran should actually acquire means to defend themselves equivalent to ours. And you know, it is the end of the world, if you're a backshooter and a claimjumper, the biggest bully and the lowliest coward on its surface.

We can change that.

Start by getting rid of drones.

L. Neil Smith is the Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE, as well as the author of 33 freedom-oriented books, the most recent of which is DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis:
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DOWN WITH POWER was selected as the Freedom Book Club Book-of-the-Month for August 2012

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