Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.

UPDATE at end

I’ve been writing about drones for a while now. For example, (The “right to be secure” doesn’t mean what it use to; Police State, Part III: It’s Really Happening, and the State Thanks Those Ignoring It; How Many Drones In the Sky Must We Have, Before We Declare Ourselves Safe?).

I keep coming back to them because they are a near perfect symbol of the growing police state / militarized law enforcement post 9-11, and more recently, Occupied world of homeland security; and because of the significant increase in their military use under Obama. It’s in that regard that we most often hear about drones, or “unmanned systems”: the strategic, very carefully targeted (we’re assured) strikes at whoever, in wherever the military / Obama administration deem “military targets.” “Collateral” damage is sadly acknowledged, but, we’re further assured, is justified.

Of course there is government oversight of the use of drones, both for domestic and beyond purposes. There is also a caucus for such. Now a caucus is focused on issues, legislative agendas and such, and works to draw attention to these specific areas of interest. Caucuses don’t have oversight authority or responsibility. Of course, some of the members of caucuses do serve on committees which are, in fact, charged with oversight of the same issues and areas of interest. Could that possibly indicate some potential level of conflict?

Related to drones, there is the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus. It is co-chaired by Buck McKeon (R-CA), who is also Chair of the Armed Services Committee; and by Henry Cuellar (D-TX), who is also a Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism. They are joined by 57 other House members.

A logical place to begin to learn about the work of this caucus is with the Mission & Main Goals section (emphasis mine).

The mission of the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus is to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety.

Should we have any questions about the “mission and main goals” of this caucus?: “Educate” Congress and public on how cool these systems are. “Actively support” development and acquisition of more such systems, and “effectively engage” the civilian aviation community on how they can be a part of all this coolness.

Here’s an expansion on the above:

Acknowledge the overwhelming value of these systems to the defense, intelligence, homeland security, law enforcement, and the scientific communities;

Recognize the urgent need to rapidly develop and deploy more Unmanned Systems in support of ongoing civil, military, and law enforcement operations;

Work with the military, industry, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other stakeholders to seek fair and equitable solutions to challenges created by UAV operations in the U.S. National Air Space (NAS);

Support our world-class industrial base that engineers, develops, manufactures, and tests unmanned systems creating thousands of American jobs;

Support policies and budgets that promote a larger, more robust national security unmanned system capability.

If the “Mission & Main Goals” of the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus read like a marketing plan, that’s because that’s basically what it is. Okay, this is what caucuses do “” focus on an issue, an area of interest, kind of like a product you want to sell “” in a manner meant to draw attention to that interest / product. But I can’t help but wonder if, or at least how, in this case, Rep. McKeon and Rep. Cuellar make the distinction between the “Go Unmanned Systems!” mission of the caucus, and the oversight mission of the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

The Unmanned Systems Caucus goals, remember, include to “educate” both Congress and the public about the U S (nice ring to that “U S,” isn’t it?), which, they conveniently explain to us, means telling us about the “overwhelming value” the drones provide. They’re really sure there’s nothing but “value” for us / US involved. See their Facebook page to learn more. And to pick up on key words that every good marketing campaign has.

Unmanned Systems are essential to further maintain security on our borders and to combat illegal activity at our ports of entry. Their importance to our national security efforts cannot be overestimated, as they provide necessary information in moments of natural disasters at home as well as in the efforts to combat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We must do everything in our power to keep our communities safe and this caucus will help us reach that goal.

What could possibly go wrong? And besides, don’t you just feel the security enveloping you?

UPDATE: A drone related story from NPR, today, Are Drones Obama’s Legacy In War On Terrorism?.

(McKeon photo via Unmanned Systems Caucus
Cuellar photo via Unamanned Systems Caucus)