Next on SNL: Selling Drones to Terrorists!


predator-firing-missile4Imagine turning on Saturday Night Live and watching a skit in which men wearing ISIS-type garb are meeting with men in suits and negotiating to buy armed military drones.

After reaching an agreement on price, the men in suits say, “There is one major hurdle you have to overcome before we can sell you these drones.”

Story continues below.

The purchasers look concerned. But the sellers, in all seriousness, say, “You have to sign this piece of paper promising you won’t use these except for self-defense.”

The would-be terrorists start laughing. One of them, in their best Amy Poehler voice, screams “Really?” and then another one screams “Really!” and then they jump up to sign the document.

The skit ends with the terrorists leaving with their arms full of missile-carrying drones, the men in suits looking pleased as punch with their signed promise.

Okay, I’ll never make a living writing for SNL. But in my wildest imagination I would have never believed that the U.S. government would sell armed drones and secret technology to just anyone. We aren’t that crazy.

This Tuesday, the Christian Science Monitor ran a story with the headline:

United States to Export Armed Drones: Can It Enforce How They’re Used?

And this was the lede:

The Obama administration has approved the widespread export of armed drones for the first time.

Human rights advocates, including yours truly, have been critical of the Obama administration’s frequent use of drones and the high number of civilian casualties that have resulted from their use. Foreign governments “allied with the U.S.” — whatever that means — will now be permitted to purchase and use U.S.-built military drones.

Regardless of what guidelines are established for their use, history tells us that once the United States transfers a weapon to another nation it is extremely difficult to control how it is used,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “Nations that possess armed drones will be able to engage more easily in military strikes against neighboring nations or attacks on their own people.

Usually such sales are approved with the purchaser agreeing in writing not to use them in certain ways. But when it comes to these armed military drones, the details of the engagement rules are classified, so the public really doesn’t know for sure what restrictions, if any, are on their use. On Tuesday, the State Department also released a statement outlining major points of the new policy. According to the statement, end-users will be required to participate in compliance monitoring, will be expected to use the systems in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. (I wonder if such restrictions apply to our own use of drones, as that would be a dramatic shift in policy.)

One doesn’t have to be a soothsayer to anticipate the day that not-so-friendly rebels overrun an allied country and get their hands on U.S.-made armed military drones. Or an allied country decides to become less allied. All we’ll have is a piece of paper signed by a no-longer-ally.

I continue to question our country’s need to sell U.S. weapons and technology. It’s a huge mistake, and our men and women oversees continue to pay for the greed of our military-industrial complex. I wrote in my latest novel, When Men Betray: 

Just as water always finds it course, in politics, money always finds its way.

Sadly, when it comes to foreign policy, money has apparently driven the decision to supply military drones to the rest of the world.