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The “Doublethink” of U.S. drone, gun policies

Published: Friday, February 8, 2013

Updated: Friday, February 8, 2013 01:02

Emily Brelage

The DePauw

Emily Brelage

The afternoon of Dec. 14, 2012, I submitted my last final project of the year and dropped by Moore’s Bar for a beer or two with friends. What should have been a well-deserved celebration was sobered by the news scrolling across the flat screen TV: Adam Lanza had fatally shot six adults, 20 children and finally himself at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn.

       Since that day, the day I sat stunned silent beneath the neon bar lights, gun control has now become the focal point of political contestation. And with the Obama administration proposing 23 executive orders to curb gun violence last month, it’s not an easy issue to ignore, regardless of your stance.

While Sandy Hook has the nation re-evaluating the safety of our children, I can’t help but think about other families out there, mourning the loss of a child, a husband, a niece. Except instead of rural Conn., these families live in Pakistan. Or Yemen, or Somalia. And their loved ones haven’t been killed by the actions of an insane gunman, but in a drone strike green lighted by the United States.

I don’t mean to minimize the magnitude of the tragedy at Sandy Hook that day — to do so would be grossly insensitive to an immense tragedy. But so would ignoring the deaths of 176 Pakistani children at the hands of U.S. drones — deaths you won’t hear about through the garble of domestic political rhetoric. Part of the horror of the Sandy Hook massacre lies in the fact that these were beautiful, innocent children — full of promise and completely undeserving of their fate. Are the children who die at the strike of U.S. drones any less innocent? Are they any more deserving?
The Obama administration has authorized 193 drone strikes in Pakistan — four times the amount authorized by George W. Bush during the beginnings of the “War on Terror.” More than 800 civilians and a mere 22 Al-Qaeda officers have died from our counterterrorism efforts. A recent study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that civilian death tolls in Pakistan are “significantly and consistently underestimated,” amounting to nearly 98% of the total killed by Predator and Reaper drones.

George Orwell coined the word “doublethink” in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Doublethink is the act of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and accepting both of them as true. It means “to know and not repudiate morality while laying claim to it.” If we believe in preventing the killing of our own children, we must believe in the prevention of the killing of children who are not our own — who live hundreds or thousands of miles away. This isn’t an attempt to politicize a tragedy, rather to illustrate the kind of backwardness our current political discourse fosters. We can’t fall victim to this kind of doublethink.

Two months later, the wound from Sandy Hook is less raw, if ever so slightly. But there is no better time to understand that a government’s policy that murders children with drones is no less evil than a man who murders children with guns. Adam Lanza is dead, but drone strikes continue to be authorized by the United States.

Tomorrow is a new day in Pakistan.

— Brelage is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind. majoring in English writing.


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