How the President Became a Drone OperatorRoundup
tags: Iran, military history, war, drones, Obama, Trump
Allegra Harpootlian, a TomDispatch regular, is a political partner with the Truman National Security Project. She currently works at the intersection of national security, politics, and the media. You can subscribe to her drone newsletter here and find her on Twitter at @ally_harp.
We’re only a few days into the new decade and it’s somehow already a bigger dumpster fire than the last. On January 2nd, President Trump decided to order what one expert called “the most important decapitation strike America has ever launched." This one took out not some nameless terrorist in a distant land or a group of civilians who happened to get in the way, but Major General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the mastermind of its military operations across the Middle East.
Among the thousands of ignored American drone strikes since the 9/11 attacks, this was not one of them. In the wake of the assassination, we’ve seen: the Iraqi parliament vote to expel American forces from their country; all the Democratic presidential candidates make statements condemning the strike; thousands of protestors around the world take to the streets; and both chambers of Congress introduce resolutions aimed at curbing the president’s expanding war powers. Even though there is still so much we don’t know, one thing is for sure. Everything we thought we knew about drone warfare -- and America’s wars more broadly -- is about to be thrown out the window.
When I first started writing this piece, I was simply reflecting on a decade of U.S. drone warfare and the problems it had spawned. But when this world-altering news broke, I immediately started thinking about how I got here, as well as how my country could continue to recklessly breed chaos and destruction throughout the Greater Middle East.
New decades afford us a chance to take a good, hard look at what transpired in the years past. Until that strike in Iraq occurred, it seemed like every time I opened Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in the new year, I was inundated with sentimental reflections about how far we’ve come in the last 10 years and where we’re going next. And I get it. I really do. It’s the beginning of a new decade and nostalgia is in the air.
In fact, over the holiday season, I found myself with time on my hands and that same sort of sentimentality creeping up on me. So I decided to indulge myself by looking through old journals of mine. One entry in particular caught my attention. In 2010, when I was still an idealistic high school student in Tennessee, I wrote about the democracy movement I saw rising in the Middle East (what we came to know as “the Arab Spring”) and how hopeful it made me that global peace might be achieved in my lifetime. I wrote about my desire not only to see the world but to help make it a better place.
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