Beyond Drones: Combating the System of Militarism and Imperialism

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. – Dr. Martin Luther King

Devon Douglas-Bowers

On September 11th, I will be attending an anti-drone demonstration in Union Square, NYC. This will be my first protest and I am quite excited. Obviously, the main goal of this demonstration is to protest against the use of drones around the world which kill innocents under the guise of attacking terrorists. While I welcome this protest, we must realize that this demonstration is not enough; that focusing on drones is not enough – we must battle the ‘War On Terror’ overall, as drones are only a small part of that.

The global drone attacks started under Bush and have continued and massively expanded under Obama, with Obama going so far as to assassinate four US citizens (officially speaking). Yet, while this is extremely problematic, it is a symptom of America’s global militarism. Contrary to popular thinking, this global militarism didn’t start in the Bush era, but rather in the time of FDR, with World War II, and has continued and intensified since then. The US has, overtly, either already been involved in or started new wars/conflicts every single decade since the 1940s. This has created destruction all over the world, not just physically in terms of destroyed infrastructure, but mentally[1], historically[2], economically[3], and socially [4].

However, the problems go beyond just the military sphere. It has leaked into American society, and specifically into the social realm and how the American people relate to our government. 

Socially, this militarism has gone and allowed Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism to flourish in American society. It can be seen in everything, from attacks on mosques[5] to anti-Muslim ads [6]. This hatred and racism has heavily infected every part of our society to the point where it is seen as “OK” for TV pundits to spew anti-Muslim hatred.

Americans’ relationship with their government has greatly changed ever since the ‘War on Terror’ was launched. While the government had previously spied on American citizens[7] (and even assassinated some[8]), it was mainly on those whom the government deemed a threat to the status quo. Now, the situation has become much more drastic, with the government spying on all US citizens[9], and has given itself the legal authority to not only indefinitely detain them without trial [10], but also to assassinate them (Assassination on US soil is still possible, given the fact that there are problems with Attorney General Holder’s letter to Rand Paul.[11]). At every level, the very people who are supposed to represent Americans have been complicit in allowing Americans to be spied upon and their civil liberties to be destroyed.[12] There has been such a breakdown in the rule of law that there are even secret interpretations of law [13] that the American people can be subjected to, but not know of. This growing authoritarianism must be confronted as well.

Economically, corporations have profited quite handsomely[14] from the continuous wars of aggression around the world, as well as from the business of spying on Americans[15]. They are only able to do this because there is an economic incentive to create weapons of war and espionage, and to use those to great effect. In order to fight against militarism more broadly, such companies should be targeted for boycotts, and information campaigns should reveal to the public exactly who these companies are and how they are profiting off exploiting their customers’ information.

There is a psychological battle to be held as well. The American people have become accustomed to their country being in a perpetual state of war. In many ways, some have become complacent at best, and, at worst, will actually support the ‘humanitarian interventions’ launched by the Obama administration. Just like with the drone debate, we should also work to have people realize that, while the names and terminology may have changed, the death and destruction have remained the same. This is especially important for those on the left, as there are many liberals whose hypocrisy has been revealed by condemning Bush’s wars of aggression, but support interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations now that Obama is at the helm. We must combat these hypocritical and uninvolved minds, lest we allow these problems to perpetuate.

We must combat what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and economic exploitation” if we are to mount a truly successful attack on the drone war. The drone wars are a byproduct of the ‘War on Terror’ and its associated effects at home and abroad. If we do not look at this interconnected system, we will, in a way, be wasting our time as we will only be cutting off a branch of a tree rather than getting to the roots. We must go beyond drones.


[1] Michelle Castillo, “Study: Suicide Rates Among Army Soldiers Up 80 Percent,” CBS News, July 10, 2012 ( )

[2] Robert Fisk, “It Is The Death of History,” The Independent, September 17, 2011 (

[3] Jim Lobe, “Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Will Cost U.S. 4-6 Trillion Dollars: Report,” Inter Press Service, March 30, 2013 ( )

[4] Forbes, The True Costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, (September 1,2010)

[5] Kari Huus, “Mosque in Missouri Burns to the Ground One Month After Arson Attack,” NBC News, August 6, 2012 ( )

[6] CBS News, New anti-Muslim ads up In NYC Subway Stations, (January 9, 2013)

[7] NPR News, COINTELPRO and the History of Domestic Spying, (January 18, 2006)

[8] Democracy Now!, The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, (December 4, 2009)

[9] Dell Cameron, “Yes, The NSA Can Spy On Every US Citizen,” Vice, June 2013 ( )

[10] Russia Today, Obama Wins Back The Right To Indefinitely Detain Under NDAA, (July 17, 2013)

[11] Guy Benson, “WH Official: Holder’s Letter to Rand Paul Was An Intentional Non-answer,” Town Hall, March 11, 2013 ( )

[12] Kevin Collier, “Senate Votes to let NSA, FBI, Keep Spying On Your Email,” The Daily Dot, December 28, 2012 ( )

See Also: Jason Mick, “US House Backs Obama’s Drone Strikes, NSA Spying,” Daily Tech, July 25, 2013 ( )

[13] Alexander Abdo, “Government Confirms That It Has Secret Interpretation of Patriot Act Spy Powers,” American Civil Liberties Union, March 16, 2012 ( )

[14] Bill Quigley, “Corporations Profit From Permanent War: Memorial Day 2010,” Huffington Post, May 24, 2010 ( )

[15] Laurence Marvin, “80 Major Corporations Profit From NSA Global Spying Network,” The Examiner, July 4, 2013 ( )

This article first appeared at The Hampton Institute

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