The Drone Medal Revived!

W.J. Astore

Bad ideas never die at the Pentagon — nor do they fade away.  No — like no-win wars (Vietnam followed by Afghanistan, and so on), they keep coming back to haunt us.

According to today’s New York Times, the Pentagon is reviving the idea of special medals and awards for drone pilots and cyber-warfare specialists.


Give that drone a medal!

This was an idea shot down by former SecDef Chuck Hagel, but bad ideas live a phoenix-like existence at the Pentagon.

Back in July 2012, I wrote the following article for Huffington Post about “the drone medal.”  It still stands today.  There are plenty of military decorations and awards, already on the books, that “a grateful nation” can give to its drone operators and cyberwar experts.  Creating new decorations to celebrate the “chair force” — well, what more can I say?

The Drone Medal (July 2012)

News that the Pentagon is considering a special “Distinguished Warfare Medal” for drone pilots tells us much about the American war-making moment. Leaving aside issues of bravery or courage of drone operators, let’s first consider the name of the medal, with its stress on “distinguished warfare.”

Traditionally, U.S. military medals by their very names have stressed honor or service, such as our highest award, the Medal of Honor, or the Distinguished Service Cross. Other medals are specifically connected to aerial prowess and feats, such as the Distinguished Flying Cross or the Air Medal. Such medals are well named, linked as they are to skills demonstrated by air crews operating in harm’s way.

What are we to make of a medal named for prowess in “warfare,” especially when drone operators are completely isolated from the battlefield? For that matter, how can war by remote control be recognized and celebrated as a “distinguished” form of “warfare”? Wouldn’t it be more honest (and perhaps even more honorable) to name this new decoration the “Drone Medal,” with all that name implies?

In raising these semantic points, I wish to take nothing away from drone pilots. They train hard, they work long hours, and they’re dedicated professionals. What they don’t need is a new medal created especially for them, and I’m guessing most of them would agree.

The U.S. military already has a bewildering array of awards and decorations on the books. If a drone pilot does something especially noteworthy or meritorious, there already exist commendation, meritorious service, and distinguished service medals that can be awarded to recognize his or her contribution.

Honestly, the last thing our bloated military establishment needs is more medals. But if the Pentagon insists on creating a “Distinguished Warfare Medal,” we really should insist on calling the Department of Defense by its old (and, given recent events, much more accurate) name: the Department of War.

6 thoughts on “The Drone Medal Revived!

  1. Our vaunted Visigoths already receive all the “recognition” they require: namely, a paycheck. Mercenaries — or “racketeers for capitalism,” as Marine Corps General Smedley Butler called himself and his ilk — deserve no more. Our U.S. military personnel — especially the officer caste — serve no purpose higher than their own venal career and parochial institutional interests for the sole benefit of the International Collective Corporate Oligarchy. The U.S. military does nothing to “defend” America or the real interests of the increasingly impoverished American people.

    So, yes, let us by all means refer to the bloated, wasteful Pentagram by its true name: i.e., the War Department, since the U.S. military now exists for no purpose other than to waste trillions of taxpayer dollars offending as many other nations and peoples as humanly possible. The time has long passed for calling off our Dogs of War and putting them on a very short leash in a very small kennel at Fort Podunk, North Dakota, or somewhere fittingly remote and obscure like that. More medals for “flying” miles above — or completely outside of — harm’s way (in other words: joystick video-game murdering of foreign peasants or even U.S. citizens half-a-world away)? Hardly. In fact, the American people ought to start stripping our medal-encrusted mercenaries of the gaudy trinkets they already have. After all, monumental incompetence and utter failure over more than half a century ought to have suitably negative consequences, rather than rewards that only encourage more of what America and the world do not need and cannot afford.

    Demilitarize, America. Now.

    • Or, in other words from nine years ago on the same sordid subject …

      Jaded, Jingoistic Jingles

      Someone else would choose, they said,
      Those by whom we’d soon be led

      Johnson? Nixon? who could tell?
      Both pledged not to give us hell

      Either way they picked the scam
      We got more of Vietnam

      Vote the Repugs; vote the Dems
      Fall for their same stratagems

      Vote them out then vote them back
      Then get even more Iraq

      Don’t require to see the plan
      Just have some Afghanistan

      Don’t suppose they think you dumb
      Just that your soft head’s gone numb

      Lost your job? Laid off? Been fired?
      Tax your kids before they’re hired

      If it’s an election year
      Count on them to flog some fear

      Weddings by the queers, you say?
      Pregnant women gone astray?

      Immigrants out cutting lawns?
      Burning flags while Congress yawns?

      Hooked on gas and credit cards?
      Just acquire some more canards

      Fight them there; don’t fight them here
      Don’t observe the danger near

      Culture war and backlash, too
      That’s all they intend for you

      Watch them on your TV tube
      Buy their bullshit retail, rube

      Need some Bill to feel your pain?
      Crooked talk straight from McCain?

      Don’t thank them and don’t thank me
      Thank your own stupidity

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

  2. Quick comments: Personally, I’d like to take EVERYthing “away from” these joystick-wielding make-believe flyboys. That is to say, their very assignments. When the war industry’s enablers in Congress approve shiny new toys for the Pentagon, they tend to get used. I will not “honor the service” of nor respect “the skills” of such individuals. But as long as we’re once again contemplating the perversion of language, which intensified with the onset of “The Cold War”–which of itself is a specimen–why the hell NOT just “Declare victory and come home”?? Pin a medal for Achieving Peace in the Middle East on all the returning personnel, then put the military to some good use. Repairing damage to infrastructure suffered as a result of the ever-intensifying Climate Chaos the planet is suffering would be a good starting point. Had the transition to renewable clean energy been started when it should have–50 years ago would’ve been helpful–we wouldn’t have to face the spectacle of a US President looking the other way when his sterling ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, carries out a mass execution that includes what I deem a deliberate provocation aimed at Iran. Yes, it once again really does come down to crude oil!!

  3. Pingback: The Drone Medal Revived! |  SHOAH

Leave a Reply to greglaxer Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s