‘Once The Rockets Are Up, Who Cares Where They Come Down…’

“… ‘that’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.” – Tom Lehrer

Almost echoing von Braun is the State of Oklahoma, which is pushing to reserve an 80-mile air corridor exclusively for development of unmanned aerial vehicles, i.e., drones.

The crazier they are, the harder they fall…

Personally, I have grave reservations about UAVs. They may not be weapons of mass destruction, but they are utterly indiscriminate killers of armed forces and civilians alike, notwithstanding their much-ballyhooed targeting capabilities. Articles on the percentages of civilians killed by drone strikes are all over the place; those I found range from a low of about 4 percent to a high of about 98 percent, with a plausible middle ground of 32 percent. If you expected the sources of the percentages to fall along a political left-right spectrum, you’d be wrong.

In other words, no one really knows what percentage of the dead are civilians. And I have a problem with that: if my government is going to kill people in war (declared or otherwise), I want to have at least some confidence that an overwhelming majority of the people killed are military forces or armed militants, not presumably innocent civilians, and most certainly not children.

Meanwhile, we have a proposed 80-mile test range in Oklahoma, drones along the Mexican border and proposals of more, and a seeming public indifference to the use of drones in situations where at least some civilians are killed. Do we live in a great country, or what?

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  • jams o donnell  On Tuesday July 26, 2011 at 11:39 am

    London was a popular destination for von Braun’s creations way back when… He didn’t care much for worker welfare either…

  • jams o donnell  On Tuesday July 26, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    If only Tom Lehrer had continued his music career. what would have made of things over the last ten years

    • Steve  On Tuesday July 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      jams, Tom Lehrer is still alive at 83. If you can believe him, he was NOT in fact sued by the estate of W. von Braun for the royalties to that song; IMHO it would be downright dangerous to sue Lehrer, because his disdain for von Braun is so evidently genuine. As to why he’s not still writing, here’s Wikipedia:

      In 2003 he commented that his particular brand of political satire is more difficult in the modern world: “The real issues I don’t think most people touch. The Clinton jokes are all about Monica Lewinsky and all that stuff and not about the important things, like the fact that he wouldn’t ban land mines… I’m not tempted to write a song about George W. Bush. I couldn’t figure out what sort of song I would write. That’s the problem: I don’t want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporize them.”

      I think we all can appreciate that attitude!

  • jams o donnell  On Tuesday July 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm


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