THE surprising news about the readiness of the Obama administration to introduce unmanned surveillance drones in the Caribbean in a new strategy to combat the notorious illegal drug trade has come like a virtual fait accompli.
Almost simultaneous with reports out of Washington on Sunday of planned operation of the "drones" project by the US Customs and Border Protection agency, Barbados' Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, was enthusiastically embracing this latest development in the US war on drug trafficking.
Given the abomination of the drug culture that continues to create havoc with the lives and economies in too many Caricom states, it may be tempting to also uncritically endorse the initiative.
But such official responses ought to be delayed for some prior information-sharing on the modalities of operations of drones with assurances against misuse of intelligence and technology that could result in the loss of lives.
The announcement came after the US seemingly satisfied itself about the effectiveness of the surveillance drones for the Caribbean with secret trial exercises in The Bahamas.
When and where did consultations with regional governments occur? There was no mention about the drones project in the communiqué issued at the recent Caricom Summit in St Lucia.
Nor was there any allusion to it either by the Community's Secretary General or current Chairman PM Kenny Anthony. There has been no references to it by the Community's Prime Ministerial Committee on Crime and Security chaired by PM Kamla Persad-Bissesar.
And it has not yet been discussed for approval at the level of the Regional Security System, according to those who should know.
Representative institutions and organisations in the Caribbean will undoubtedly have an interest to learn whether Caricom governments have been briefed on it.
If so, have they satisfied themselves about its usefulness without compromising the region's political sovereignty and territorial integrity?
The introduction of drones to intensify the US war against drug-trafficking, has now entered public consciousness in the Caribbean at a critical period.
Currently, Americans are raising serious questions about the legality and morality of a "war" being waged by the Obama administration, via a different and more horrifying "drones" project.
It is the project designed to kill targeted foreign individuals, of varying nationalities — "terrorists" — who are threats to US security.
The implications of drones are discussed in the current edition of the US magazine, Esquire, titled "The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama".
It is, therefore, relevant to recall here how passionate debates about protection of Caribbean sovereignty and territorial integrity had surfaced during the 1990s.
Back then, some Caricom states had become engaged with a US initiative for a "Shiprider" programme designed to more effectively arrest the narco-trafficking trade, via this region, with Europe and North America.
That was the decade when Trinidad and Tobago, later Jamaica and subsequently Barbados, entered into so-called Shiprider agreements with the US for more concerted responses in the "war" on drugs.
The lack of regional political will in forging unanimity for crafting a common accord applicable to all Caricom states had surfaced as a lamentable feature of that decade. It was also the decade when Barbados hosted the historic US/Caribbean Summit with then president Bill Clinton.
It may be inconvenient for some to note that the US Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano's disclosure of the unmanned drones to be used in this region, coincides with a different drone project of the Obama administration, the one designed to kill targeted foreign terrorists.
Here's part of the Esquire article:
"The targeted-killing program is a vision—a vision of how war could be and never has been. It is a war of individuals instead of armies. It is intelligence instead of brute force. It is a war of both technological precision and moral discrimination. It is a war as an alternative to war: It saves lives by ending one life. But when war stops being war, does it become something like murder?..."
According to the Esquire article some 2000 targeted foreign nationals and at least two American-born citizens have fallen victims to the "lethal presidency" of Obama.
"You are a historic figure Mr President," writes the author. "You are not only the first African-American President. You are the first who has made use of your power to target and kill individuals identified as a threat to the US throughout your entire term….
"You are the first president to make the killing of targeted individuals the focus of our military operations; of our intelligence, of our national-security strategy and, some argue, our foreign policy….But no president has ever waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, wherever they are…"
Of immediate interest to this region is the position(s) to be adopted by Caricom governments, in reaching out to "co-operate" in this initiative
Would they, for example, first seek to be properly briefed to satisfy themselves about Washington's assurances on the usefulness of this project?
Similar questions also surfaced during the tense negotiations for the Shiprider accords!