This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Are Mennonites at Risk for Drone Attacks?

Cautioning the reader that the purpose of this blog is neither news, apologetic, advocacy or commentary, but merely attempting to feel out the context of the Postmodern Mennonite experience, I am communicating my discomfit with the new Obama Doctrine (his use of drones, period, let alone to kill American citizens).  I am neither criticizing Obama nor the policy – I am just not sure how to process it.
Enn Je’foa rode
    I will come clean on the fact that while I have a degree in international affairs, I have been long out of the field and only occasionally avail myself of pertinent literature, however, Amy Davidson in Whom Can the President Kill? From the 06 Feb 2013 New Yorker Magazine, has helped organize some uneasy questions that had been forming in my mind.  My ethnic Mennonite heritage acts as a second lens to bring these concerns into focus.  This is my best attempt to communicate these thoughts.

a)  In considering the matter of illegal Mennonite immigration into Bolivia from Mexico and Chaco, I am compelled by the possibility that there remains within the Mennonite weltanschauung or cultural self-consciousness, a deep-seated alienation from modern concepts of citizenship and the nation state.  Obviously, I have long argued that we are a distinctive, unique, and yet cohesive ethnic group – but to what extent does this constitute a stateless ethnic identity or an anti-state identity.  To the extent that we are anti-statial (see note), is this an unconscious ethnically engrained protest against the modernist state?  Are there any theological or cultural ramifications?
a.   Statial – a new word found officially only in the urban dictionary.  Statial seemingly refers to one’s concept of time, perhaps a one’s awareness of one’s primary state of being.  I like the chronological aspect of the implied concept of “state” or “condition of being.”  Borrowing from Einstein, we might move the temporal chronological concept of state or being to a geographic one.  Statial referencing the modern nation state, time and geography, referring to the interdependent nature of all three concepts and the time-geography dependency on the identity of the state.

b)  The question seems to be – to whom do we, as Mennonites, belong?  Do we belong to the ethnic identity?  Do we belong to the state of our citizenship?  Or do we belong to our freely chosen, publically embraced, freely associated, freedom of conscience?
a.      All things are defined by “rights of citizenship” and one’s relationship to a particular modern state, or perhaps even states.  This is the confusion regarding the Mennonite illegals in Bolivia – are they Mexican?  Mennonite? Or do they perceive themselves to be Bolivian?  There have been no published reviews.
b.      The Mexican state is repatriating these illegals, yet, the Mexican state has also exerted pressures on Mennonites to leave.  The Mexican state has not made similar efforts to document and repatriate non-Mennonite Mexican illegals in the USA?  What is the impetus for these actions and how does one account for the different policies?
c.      How does this relate to the status of Aussländer Mennonites who immigrated to Germany after the dissolution of the Soviet Union – though they spoke German, they are of Dutch heritage – the Prussian interlude having no more pertinence to their identity or legal status than their stay in Russia – if anything, they are Russians or Dutch.  Does this inform the situation in Bolivia?  Might those Mennonites be extradited to Berlin?

c)  Combined with Bush’s decision to inter non-war-war criminals at Guantanamo, does the Obama doctrine create a “statial” or even a territorial aspect of citizenship and rights in that one’s rights and citizenship are stronger and more vital for in-state citizens than for out-state citizens?
a.      The obvious question is why we can kill a citizen belligerent outside of the USA because he or she is in a state of war against the USA, but if we capture said belligerent alive, then they must be interred at Guantanamo because they are not prisoners of war?  How does this add up and how does this relate to questions of citizenship and sovereignty?

d)    So what I am potentially concerned about is the question regarding citizenship and statiality – regardless of our Latin American cousins, North American and European Mennonites tend to see themselves as citizen nationals of the state within which they were born.  For Mennonites, this is a difficult identity issue comprising conflicting historical statial identities with no real rhyme or reason.
a.      Is Mennonite nationality and citizenship so subjective that it is completely dependent on convenience and scraps of identification papers?  Are we the first truly Postmodern, or even post-Postmodern ethnicity? 
b.      If our citizenship is an unstable, unclear identity to begin with – are American Mennonites more susceptible to having to consider whether or not their citizenship or rights of citizenship are placed at risk when fraternizing with our co-ethnic, Non-USA Mennonites in other states?  To what extent is our status subject to negotiation or perception?
c.      If a MCC volunteer in Gaza is identified amidst a group of anti-Israeli Hamas persons that are targeted for Drone surveillance or elimination, can the citizenship be revoked or ignored or to what extent would that citizenship protect non-USA members of the group?  When does the American become collateral damage or expendable?  Can a victim who is in an inconvenient place at an inconvenient time be re-categorized as belligerent and without any warning have their rights of citizenship revoked and be placed at risk?  Do we need to start segregating American Mennonite volunteers and workers from those of other nationalities?

e)      I admit to being opposed to the use of Drones in non-battlefield situations.  However, beyond the impact they are having on foreign cultures and communities, and collateral victims, I am concerned that we are opening up a whole new area of citizenship and rights that might not be as compatible with Mennonite traditions of citizenship, identity and international service as we would like to believe.

image adjusted, courtesy

f)       Finally, I think that these recent policy decisions and justifications regarding force, the use of force, citizenship and the use of force against citizens raise basic and important issues regarding the nature of the state of citizenship that might be even be more alienating towards traditional Mennonites and Mennonists in the future.
a.      I am wondering if statiality is becoming a contingent or relative concept, rather than the absolute ideal with which we have long grown used to.
b.      To what extent is the concept of the state, of citizenship of the rights and obligations of citizenship based on the concept of territoriaility?
c.      At what point does the USA use of force move beyond traditional notions of the state, citizenship, warfare and sovereignty based on the traditional definition of the monopoly of the use of force within a given geographic territory, expand into “ideological” geographies or merely “economic or business hegemonic zones”.  If an American Mennonite questions Israeli occupation, at what point does that person become an anti-American belligerent?  At what point does an American Mennonite volunteer in Afghanistan or Columbia have to begin worrying about justifying their actions and identity status back towards the territorial/ideological state for their own safety?
d.      What if we find ourselves in opposition to the actions, ideologies or on-the-ground realities in foreign territories against the official USA line?  Is this a new area against which we will have to increasingly prepare to defend our rights and even safety? 

g)      To what extent do traditional misalignments between Mennonite identity structures and potential re-categorizations of concepts of citizenship by states such as the USA, Mexico and others, place the ethnic Mennonite at greater risk than non-ethnic Mennonite Identitites?  

Again, I am not stating that there is a problem.  I am merely concerned that there seem to be a lot of grey areas.  Recent state-sponsored efforts to punish and manipulate MCC activities, for instance, on foreign territories is worrisome enough (whether they are right or wrong).  The use of drones to create a new, supra-national force in defense of American ideologies without direct reference back to traditional norms of citizenship and for Americans, the rights of citizens (or even non-citizens and belligerents), seems to call a lot of our taken-for-granteds into question.  That’s all I am saying.

Davidson, Amy, Whom can the President Kill?

Greenwald, Glenn, Chilling Legal Memo From Obama Justifies Killing of US Citizens

Recommended by a fellow Mennonite:

 Zakaria, Fareed, "End the War on Terror and Save Billions"

Just in case you think we are over-thinking this:

Reuters in Kabul, "NATO Commander Apologizes After Troops Shoot Dead Afgahn Children," The Guardian 03 Mar, 2013.

Note:  15 April 2013, the following statistics were published by CNN on-line regarding Terrorism and Drones in the Swat Valley, PK.  In writing the essay, I was thinking that perhaps one or two innocent persons might be at risk.  These numbers are much more sobering:

The New America Foundation estimates that in Pakistan, drones have killed between 1,953 and 3,279 people since 2004 -- and that between 18% and 23% of them were not militants. The nonmilitant casualty rate was down to about 10% in 2012, the group says.

A study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that since 2004, Pakistan has had 365 drone strikes that have killed between 2,536 and 3,577 people -- including 411 to 884 civilians.

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