I'm Bill Moyers. This week, the New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing remains bad policy even today. This time, it's done not by young G.I.'s in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing Al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do -- a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three Al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men -- friend and foe -- were incinerated by an American drone attack.

The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for Al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, "such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.” Our blind faith in technology combined with a sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. It brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama's cold-blooded use of drones and his seeming indifference to so-called "collateral damage," otherwise known as innocent bystanders. By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam the deaths by drone are hardly a blip on the consciousness of official Washington.

But we have to wonder if each one -- a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation, the student picking up the wrong hitchhikers, that tribal elder standing up against fanatics -- doesn't give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

Bill Moyers Essay: When We Kill Without Caring

In a web-extended version of his broadcast essay, Bill Moyers gives examples of how indiscriminate killing by our military forces not only cuts down innocent bystanders, but drives “their enraged families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.” Bill says the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and President Obama’s prolific use of drones all share a “blind faith in technology, combined with a sense of infallible righteousness.”

Producer: Julia Conley. Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais.

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  • John de Clef Pineiro

    Let’s not mince words or pull punches here, president Barack Hussein Obama is A SERIAL KILLER, and his doing this in the name of the United States of America makes his killings no less despicable and unconscionable than the wanton massacres perpetrated by other reckless killers around the world.

    There is no question that Mr. Obama has the blood of innocents on his hands, and what people of conscience everywhere wonder now is whether this blood of innocents even weighs on his conscience.

    There are no victors in the so-called War on Terror to call out, judge and condemn what he continues to do for what it really is: war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    And before history eventually judges Mr. Obama for what he has done, we must be courageous enough to bear witness and condemn what he is doing now, while the outrage is going on.

  • Anonymous

    I am responding to your headline, not the article, but don’t you think the cost of killing without caring can be found in the 20 veterans a day that commit suicide? Young men who sign up are idealists; Not murderers. What we are asking of them is unconscionable…. and their conscience cannot bear it, especially if their folks find themselves foreclosed upon by bankers who are getting $400 million bonuses for doing so. 1,2,3,4. What have we fought for?

    Too many disjuncts for an idealist. They sign off.

    I deeply admire the question I believe I heard Senator Wyden of Oregon ask drone master Brennan: ” If the government is going to kill a citizen…. will it offer courtesy call as to why?”

    This was just one bizarre aspect in the flimsy oversight that the congress gets over US spooks. With the FBI: Hoover strung out a forty year stretch, and FBI director Mueller so far it has a dozen years. Church Commission be damned; it specified that an FBI Director could serve no longer than ten years. Why?So every 5th congress could have some input. Appointing a CIA director is a rare leverage point. Congress ought to seize it.

    There are over 3,000 security agencies if one is to believe the reporting of Dana Priest in ‘Top Secret America’. Who has oversight of them? And how does Article I, Section 8, clause 11 bear on that? My constitutional understanding is only Congress can hire private contractors to kill foreign nationals, and no one can kill Americans without due process if the fifth amendment still holds.

    I commend Senator Wyden for inquiring if we are still a constitutional country? Well. Are we?

  • the vindaloo

    I thad a thought after watching this video-essay. #44 wants to set a legacy to his presidency. People write that he is doing this in his second term with immigration, gun-laws, healthcare the so called war etc etc….. He also invokes Martin Luther King, Lincoln etc and wants to be like then. What #44 does not understand is that these people took the hard road. They did not pander to the opposition. They used their wisdom or smarts along with a mind of non-harming or compassion into their daily lives . Being a leader is less important , having a open-heart is supreme.

  • Anonymous

    Not Just President Obama, but every president for the last 65 years, starting with President Truman…. All of them are culpable for continuing and enhancing the murderous cult of “EXCEPTIONALISM”. History will judge ALL US citizens by what we have both allowed and encouraged our “leaders” to do to the rest of the world.

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    I feel more threatened by Obama, the CIA, and the FBI than I fear terrorists. So many recent laws blatantly violate the Bill of Rights, international treaties, and centuries of legal traditions: 1) Killing people without charges, evidence, arrest, trial, or conviction, in secret, simply on the president’s say so. No due process. No checks and balances. 2) Killing hundreds or thousands of innocents for every one suspected terrorist. This seems like a heartless war crime that also creates more enemies than it kills. 3) Claiming the (il)legal right to declare ANYONE (even a citizen critic or a political opponent?) a terrorist or an enemy combatant, again in secret, without charges, evidence, trial, or conviction. Claiming the (il)legal right to condemn the accused person to indefinite detention in a military prison or to extraordinary rendition to a secret prison in a foreign country, and to possible torture or murder, also in secret. 4) Criminalization of our basic right to assemble and protest and to seek redress of grievances from “our” government. 5) Militarization of local police, with military-grade, high-tech weapons, to suppress U.S. citizen protestors. Many reported acts of police brutality against Occupy protesters. 6) FBI infiltrators, informers, and possibly provocateurs into various peaceful protest groups. 7) Massive domestic spying (without legal cause or a court order) on U.S. citizens’ online identities, online comments, emails, and phone calls. Plus, the (il)legal right to secretly enter, search, and seize papers and computers in people’s homes without a warrant. 8) Alleged CIA spying and activity in the U.S., which was adamantly forbidden by their original charter. 9) The highest number of prosecutions against whistleblowers, who are being accused of being terrorists, or of aiding the enemy, under the Espionage Act, when most or all of these whistleblowers were simply reporting wrong-doing by the U.S. government. 10) Saying a war is not a war as long as no U.S. soldiers die. (?!) And saying that ALL males killed by drones are terrorists, again simply because the president says so. And on and on.

    Bush, Cheney, Obama, the CIA, the FBI, Congress, the Courts, and local police are going way beyond what the Bill of Rights and international law allow them to do, and way beyond what the majority of the American people want them to do. And they all have opened the door wide-open to many kinds of even worse abuses of power by future presidents, and CIA, FBI, military, and police officials, who may be even more abusive, as the years go by and as the U.S. becomes more and more of a national security state or even a police state. This seems like a steady march towards covert or overt dictatorship or totalitarianism.

    The government seems to be totally unresponsive to the very citizens they are supposed to listen to and represent. I sure feel powerless to reverse any of the above frightening changes in our laws and in our government’s behaviors. I do not feel safer. I feel more threatened by these government actions.

  • ezpz

    ^^^Thank you!^^^

  • sada anand kaur

    I am reminded each time I hear you Bill, what is good & decent in America. There are many of us who are not jaded, corrupted by greed & self-serving, who can lead this country into our shared future together.

  • Ivan Obregon

    killing innocent people in the name of politics or of killing those we hate no matter whom they are or where they are is so….9/11.

  • Jill Branson

    I live in the Pacific Northwest; yesterday, KOMO TV of Seattle, WA, reported that the mayor of Seattle, under pressure from local citizens and activists, ordered the Seattle Police Department to return two drones it had purchased using a federal grant. The drones were returned to the vendor. I strongly suggest anyone concerned about drone use, especially in any US city or town, find out if their local authorities plant to employ the use of drones and, if so, organize on a local level, and make their concerns known. It worked in Seattle. When awareness increases among the US population, starting with their own backyard, an effective movement similar to the Vietnam-era, anti-war effort may be ignited. I think a “bottom-up” approach may be more effective than trying to break the chokehold Neo-Cons in Washington have on folks “on the inside.” Just a thought. Here is the link to KOMO story:–190294501.html

  • you guys

    So when MLK was preaching messages of love to white segregationists and racists, he wasn’t “pandering to the opposition”?

  • garrison w waters

    I too. like Jill below live in Seattle. I was encouraged to learn that the immediate public response to plans to use drones for either benign or more sinister uses was to decry their employment here. Our mayor said he heard us. We got the drones for “free” from Homeland Security who, cough, cough,surely have no agenda of their own that might ever affect anyone except some adult enemy outside our continental borders. I voted for my President. I truly hope he starts thinking for himself that,
    while understanding that the “little people” all over earth don’t get to choose to kill strangers anywhere, he can.

  • Andrew N.

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers, for continuing to be a sane, eloquent, brave, and insightful voice, when so many remain silent. You embody the best in citizenry and journalism.

  • Stupid Git

    Are you implying their might be radical elements in Seattle that DHS wants to keep an eye on? :) That’s why I love your city and wish it’s political strength could permeate beyond the Cascades into the rest of America where it seems we are much more sedated into inaction.

  • Stupid Git

    “We see that enfranchisement does not mean freedom, since the enfranchised are capable of running in a brainless mob after any man who is clever enough to gain despotic influence over them.” – Havelock Ellis, The New Spirit

  • Anonymous

    NO! He was trying to reach their better natures – which they obviously didn’t possess – just like today’s warmongering politicians.

  • Anonymous

    I just have to comment on Bill Moyer’s statement that drone warfare “generates sympathy and support for our enemies.” I personally have sympathy and support for our so-called enemies because there has always been a concerted effort to CREATE enemies without their provocation – and get off the 9/11 excuse. We created Iraq by lies about their involvement in 9/11, intention to use WMDs that they didn’t have, etc. Now we are creating another enemy who has oil – Iran with the same tactics used for Iraq. I pray that Americans are now waking up to the lies and obfuscations our government is handing to us to get in a war with Iran. Please read the history of US involvement with Iran!!!! Believe me, the Iranians are living horrible lives under religious oppression used by their government to keep them down and “in their place” and now the sanctions are causing them further tremendous hardships, and now they have the threat hanging over their heads of being killed by US drones! WHERE IS YOUR COMPASSION FOR THESE PEOPLE! Speak out against the US involvement in ANY attack on Iran!

  • Anonymous

    He doesn’t make decisions alone, Sir. You might have asked this question of Bush when he was President – he has more blood on his hands than Obama! Get real!

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    Thank you for your post, Jill. Your news about citizens’ action and the Mayor’s responsiveness to the people’s demands is encouraging. I agree with you that citizen action and organizing at the local level is more effective (especially in more liberal cities) than trying to change the national security state on the national and global levels. And I share your hope that the people’s awareness and activism will grow into an ever-larger and more effective national and global movement for peace, humanity, and justice. There are many such movements worldwide, but there are also many authoritarian governments getting worse too. It’s a real struggle for the fate of many nations and for life on earth — and time is running out.

  • Texsbill Gran

    last 2 words bother me : ” INFALLIBLE RIGHTEOUSNESS. ” exceptionalism is a marketing strategy which also separates people from the rest of the world. take pride in who we are, where we live. but it doesn’t make us better. most everyone in the world is special :)

  • MsTFoster

    Are we forgetting that Drones have been utilized by the U.S. Military in some form prior to the 1940’s. I have never heard and/or read so much about Drones until President Barack Obama won the Election. The appeal of a military vehicle in which there is no risk of loss of (American) life is quite strong. As we are in a constant state of conflict by considering ourselves as superior humanitarians however, the U.S. Military, as the Constitution often refers it; a Militia.
    A military force of civilians to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
    A military force that engages in rebel activities.


  • Glo

    Thousands of Americans, Southerners, died in Antietam without any due process. When we stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-day, and Americans approached German bunkers, I don’t think anybody asked if they were any German-Americans here, I want to read you the Miranda rights. If you take up arms against the United States you were a target because it was an act of war and you forfeited those rights.~Article..
    Why do they think it will change now. Sad but true.

  • Stephen Smith

    I miss the USSR. I’m serious. When the cold war was on we gave a crap about how the world (and ourselves) viewed us. Now there is no limit, no line we wont cross, whats more we do it with bragadoccio and arrogance. The USSR fell largely because of the cost of their huge military at the expense of their economy. Currently we spend over 1/2 of our federal budget on the military. China on the other hand is quietly building infrastructure at home and abroad, making friends and influencing people. I’m not saying they are without fault. I’m saying we have switched roles. More and more, we are now the bad guys.

  • Stephen Smith

    I believe this post must have been intended for a different conversation.

  • Colleen Vaughn

    Jill – bottom up is always the way. You have to have access first – to the powers that be – to influence them. Only a movement can change anything. (I’m in Portland, btw.)

    But now what can you do? (I don’t know how it was approved – I have to research that.) But maybe now all you can do is demand oversite – via a trusted 3rd party.

  • McNab

    Mr. Moyers, I listened to your closing comment and I appreciated every word you said especially about the American infallible righteousness vis-a-vis war and the way the Noble peace prize status has been compromised when it was “prematurely” granted to a person who approves of “collateral damages” i.e. a euphemism for human lives of “innocent bystanders”, as you eloquently put it. Thank you for always speaking the truth in the face of the emperor and his tyranny.

  • pedro santos

    From a short excerpt in the Letter 131 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. (Posted by the center for the American Ideal)

    “I dislike Allegory – the conscious and intentional allegory – yet any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language. (And, of course, the more ‘life’ a story has the more readily will it be susceptible of allegorical interpretations:
    while the better a deliberate allegory is made the more nearly will it be acceptable just as a story.) Anyway all this stuff* is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality, and the Machine. With Fall inevitably, and that motive occurs in several modes. With Mortality, especially as it affects art and the creative (or as I should say, sub-creative) desire which seems to have no biological
    function, and to be apart from the satisfactions of plain ordinary bio- logical life, with which, in our world, it is indeed usually at strife. This desire is at once wedded to a passionate love of the real primary world, and hence filled with the sense of mortality, and yet unsatisfied by it. It has various opportunities of ‘Fall’. It may become possessive, clinging to the things made as ‘its own’, the sub-creator wishes to be the Lord and God of his private creation. He will rebel against the laws of the Creator – especially against mortality. Both of these (alone or together) will lead to the desire for Power, for making the will more quickly effective, – and so to the Machine (or Magic). By the last I intend all use *It is, I suppose, fundamentally concerned with the problem of the relation of Art (and Sub-creation) and Primary Reality of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents – or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating:
    bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually

    It doesn’t seem
    that long ago that then President Bill Clintons questionable use of cruise missiles
    had fueled the fires of Arab resentment to rally around an inspired Osama Bin
    Laden that lead to the 9-11 attack and killed thousands.

    I can’t help thinking of the horrors created by an abusive family, where the parents of a belligerent
    and destructive child are unable to look beyond the anger and see a troubled
    and confused mind. Instead of taking time to understand the problem the parent
    leashes out and escalates the horror.

    pedro santos

  • J Warren Clark

    It will be interesting to see how the 3 judge panel decides the case brought by Chris Hedges and others against the Obama and NDAA. The three judges are Obama appointees as I understand it and it seem unlikely that they will agree with Judge Forrest. That would mean that it will go the the high court and then we will see if once again they betray both the Constitution and the people as they did with “Citizens (i.e., corporations) United.” When it becomes clear to enough of the people that there is no place to go for “redress of grievance,” then those same people will be forced into a position where they will have to make a difficult decision. These people will not do the right thing; they will not do the reasonable thing because they are not ruled by reason; they understand only force and numbers. And insofar as those in power are not ruled by reason, we live in a pathocracy. The thing is sick at its root. JWC

  • J Warren Clark

    We have loved Bill Moyers’ work for a long time and have basked in his sincere willingness to bring Reason into the debate. He was there when his president, President Kennedy, was assassinated. He knows something about the darkness and ill will that has been in charge of things since that fateful day, and before.
    So here is my question: Since he is in a position to actually know the darkness that is behind forces within our own government, and the dark ignorance of those who will do whatever is asked of them by those in power, why is he not able to see (and question why) those same forces would like us to be unable to put up any adequate armed resistance against the forces of tyranny; why is he unable to see the harm those same forces will be able to do the citizens of this country, and indeed to the ideas that it was founded upon, when we no longer have the physical wherewithall to defend ourselves, i.e., are without guns? Clearly, he knows that they are capable of destabilizing whole countries and murdering the citizens of those countries. Does he think that those in power, and those who control them, will in the end care more for American citizens than for those unfortunate souls who are killed abroad in our name? Does he actually think that those who hide behind the notion of “American Exceptional-ism” actually think that the man in the (American) street is exceptional? I for one do not see how he can think this, or conclude anything like this from a review of the facts as he has just given them. I don’t have Bill’s phone number, any more than I have that of the egregious John McCain, but I would like an answer to these questions! And I think that those reasonable persons who follow his work deserve an answer as well. Jay Warren Clark

  • J Warren Clark

    That’s the problem; people voted for him despite his record and instead of preserving their conscience and writing in Ron Paul–or some other person of conscience, or nobody! A vote for the lesser evil is a vote for evil. Wake up. A man is what he does. Look at the facts. He is awake. He knows what he is doing. He is a murderer. And he is “your President?” Jesus!

  • J Warren Clark

    Let me get this straight, we have two murderers, and we are counting which one murdered more and which one less? What could be more moronic? JWC

  • J Warren Clark

    What? JWC

  • Anonymous

    Globally governments are no longer hiding their total support of corporatism and militarism—their only problem is they need to control information in order to manipulate those that have to actually pay for everything—voter/taxpayers. Now if globally all taxpayer paid corporate and bank subsidies, tax cuts, tax havens, tax loopholes and deferrals were taken away then we would be without any debt problems period.

  • Laura

    WOW – sounds like the same thing Ron Paul has been saying for years and everyone laughed about “Backlash” – idiots!

  • will morgan

    we had an incident of a young boy shooting himself to death when he found his father’s pistol. i think his dad was a deputy sherriff or policeman.
    . If there were a locked box with a trap door. which could be opened by key or even a special button on the remote, etc……….but it seems that a car company could market this as and have a good edge. it would be easy for a person to slip something quickly into this. A box such as this could store a pistol, a wallet or even medicines that people want to make sure do not get stolen. Modern pistols will not fire unless the trigger is pulled back.

    I hope someone from a car company reads this.
    If these were installed in manufacture they would be cheaper and more reliable; the technology exists…..even the cars keys remote could be used. This could decrease accidental gun shots and reduce theft.

  • MBrecker

    You have to change the “it’s over THERE” thinking of many people re: drones, Afghanistan and other wars. That doesn’t affect me. Therefore, it’s okay. No, it does affect you. Legally, there’s nothing to stop Obama from using a drone in US airspace to kill a “terrorist”. If he does that, he goes on TV and says I’m doing my job protecting the public.

  • Pat Elgee

    My son is active military. I like drones in that they save the lives of our soldiers. What I do not like is our invading other countries. I suspect that the real reason for that war was war profiteering. Haliburton, US oil profits- Remember when boots first hit the ground in Iraq, the price of oil jumped. Most of us did not complain, just pumped and paid figuring that was because of the war and the least we could do to support the war.
    Mobil Exxon made $44 billion dollars in profit that year. This is called “Price Gouging” and is illegal. The CEO got 10% bonus, $44 million dollars–took the money and ran. I always figured that Cheney and Bush must have each pocketed another $100 million.
    How does this happen, we have the most corrupt politicans that money can buy.

  • Richie

    What goes around comes around. It will all come back on us. You don’t think there will be drones in our skies in the next 10-20 years? They say the use of drones ‘saves American lives.’ How about the lives of the people who have a missile dropped on their house. Terrorists are targeted but they are not always the ones that are killed. Apologizing and continuing on is what they do. The basic premise here is that American lives are inherently worth more than an Iraqi, Pakistani, Yemeni. That is where the sadness lies.

  • RR

    I agree that the potential for unconstitutional abusive use of drones is so overwhelming that is almost makes a mockery of our Constitution, … but what happens when, not if, radical forces, not necessarily foreign, and not necessarily non-governmental, get drones of their own?
    And are drones considered an “arms” under the Second Amendment?

  • Markus Sims

    Bill – this is the exact desired outcome. There is no money to be made in peacetime, so the idea is to perpetuate the hate and killing so that the USA has an excuse to continue the war machine.

  • Markus Sims

    “You know very well, and the stupid Americans know equally well, that we control their government, irrespective of who sits in the White House. You see, I know it and you know it that no American president can be in a position to challenge us even if we do the unthinkable. What can they (Americans) do to us? We control congress, we control the media, we control show biz, and we control everything in America. In America you can criticize God, but you can’t criticize Israel…” Israeli spokeswoman, Tzipora Menache

  • Conor Savage

    When we, through our congressmen and senators rushed headlong into an illegal war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 based on lies told to Congress by the then president and his “intelligence” community, and THEN allowed the president to push through a law called The Patriot Act that was anything BUT patriotic, and was in fact a direct attack on Constitutional Rights which was itself Unconstitutional, we then willingly crapped all over every concept of freedom and justice that we were supposedly honoring when we did all that. What a treasonous and shameful travesty.
    Cheney admitted in his recent interviews that his decisions and those of Bush consequently were more concerned with results than with honor. What made this country great was shat on for their political convenience, and will never in my mind ever be regained until both of them sit in prison for lying to Congress.

  • John Ishkabibble

    Yet another insightful and relevant piece bill. Drones are bad news but what is worse is the news that they are the harbinger for. An autonomous robotic army that D.A.R.P.A. has been working on for years. They will have the ability to acquire targets and eliminate them sans the input from a human. Whats worse is they will probably be operating on windows. haha

  • Pat Elgee

    I think that the wars since WWII in which the USA engaged was more to pump money into the US war machinery business than some altruistic endeavor like defending innocents. I say no more wars! Use our soldiers to defend out boarders against drugs and terrorist. If the President and Congress want another war, they should require approval of the American people. I am done seeing them line their pockets as war profiteers!

  • Deborah L Purdom

    Obama, the CIA, and the FBI ARE the terrorists!

  • Anonymous

    The assumption is we’re trying to eradicate terrorists, but nothing could be further from the truth. For what makes better boogiemen than lightly armed and poorly trained terrorists? We can have perpetual war at little risk and transfer trillions of dollars from the American middle class to the war profiteers.

  • Anonymous

    If Obama stopped manufacturing 100 new “enemies” for every 10 he murders, where would America get the enemies who justify torching the American constitution?

    We need to remember back to the days and weeks following 9/11 and Washington’s response driven by the Neocon dream of Full Spectrum Dominance. There have been bumps in the road leading to the fulfillment of that dream — but you’d have to give Obama credit for fulfilling it magnificently on the level of cyberspace.

    Not until the completion of the “Pacific pivot” and the possibility of Cold War II against the Chinese will we see a drop-off in drone-delivered hellfire missiles on Muslim turf. Until then, Muslims have to fill the enemy vacuum Washington fears so much.

  • Rammy

    A lot has been written about however techie or non-techie one may be it is important to inherently understand that behind is all is always ourselves.

  • Rammy

    A lot has been written about when technology betrays us however techie or non-techie one may be it is important to inherently understand that behind it all is always ourselves.

  • Lynda Swanson

    A well trained soldier is a machine that kills on order. It is a necessary element of war. It is no less or more clean than ordering a real machine to do it. Which causes less collateral damage I think is what we would have to ask here. If we’re at war and we’re using either soldiers or drones or both, we have gone well past the point of reason.

  • Kathryn Pew

    “Do unto others” has gotten lost somewhere.