Why is Apple denying Americans information about their governnment’s drone attacks?

If you care about the health of American democracy and/or the large numbers of civilians being regularly killed through drone attacks in South Asia, please spread the word about the outrageous decision by Apple, Inc. to block an app mapping drone attacks from the AppStore.

Please use to the action alert on Roots Action to let Apple know that this is unacceptable. And get the word out.

“Apple Censors Drone War”  (Roots Action):

Apple Inc., which has received over $9 million in Pentagon contracts in recent years, has rejected from its App Store, and therefore from all iPhones, a simple informative application.

Drones+ is an application that shows no depictions of the carnage of war and reveals no secret information.  It simply adds a location to a map every time a drone strike is reported in the media and added to a database maintained by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Apple has rejected the app as “objectionable and crude.” 

Drone wars continue because the U.S. public is unaware what is being done in our name with our money. We are interested in knowing where our government is using drones and has killed people, not in celebrating that killing.

The people in Pakistan and Afghanistan and elsewhere living under the drones can’t ignore what’s being done to them.  Neither should we, as it’s done with our money and in our names.

A recent study by Stanford and NYU found that drones traumatize innocent populations, who have no way of knowing how to protect themselves from drone strikes. Further, only 2% of victims of these strikes are high-level targets. The drones kill civilian men, women, and children, are being used to target rescuers, schools and funerals, and create significant anti-U.S. hostility — exactly as the Pakistani and Afghan governments have said they do.

Ask Apple to stop hiding the simplest of facts.

Original emphasis.

There are some thin and highly selective arguments for drone attacks (which the United Nations is investigating, rightly)–mostly for the personalized ones that are based on specific intelligence, but which rarely get high-value targets; very few, if any, for the crude, misleadingly-named “signature strikes” that have killed many groups of innocent people and which cause some parents not to send their children to school–but there are absolutely none for denying people, especially American citizens, basic information about theses actions that are carried out in America’s name and using American tax dollars.

Let Apple know that its customers don’t appreciate being treated like people behind the Great Firewall of China.

Here’s the email I just sent to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook:

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Svend White <[...]>
To: [...]
Sent: Thursday, November 8, 2012 1:35 PM
Subject: Why is Apple censoring drone attack information?


Dear Mr. Cook:
I would like to know why Apple is censoring basic information about American drone attacks in South Asia.
There is no question that these attacks are happening and often–our government not only acknowledges them, but highlights them as important achievements in the War on Terror–so the idea that this app is somehow defamatory or misleading is ludicrous.
This is behavior I would expect of a company in a repressive country like China, not an iconic American company in the heart of Silicon Valley. Apple would not exist were it not for America’s democracy and rule of law, which in term depend on America’s commitment to open debate, accountability and transparency.
This app provides basic information that any citizen wishing to make an informed decision about their government’s drone attack policies requires. I am shocked that Apple would censor this and keep Americans in the dark about their government’s activities in their name and with the tax dollars.
By what right is Apple interfering with the dissemination of this information and, ultimately, the functioning of our democracy?
Svend White
Champaign, IL
If you’d like to give Mr. Tim Cook a piece of your mind–which I encourage you to do–his email is [first initial][last name]@apple.com.

It’s bad enough so many people are dying. Let’s at least have the decency and honesty to allow free, open discussions of that tragic fact.

I think pressure is finally, very belatedly, building across the spectrum of American society to stop this carnage. From the religious community to otherwise middle-of-the-road MSM pundits (don’t miss Greenwald’s takedown of Joe Klein’s bald, repulsive justification for the indiscriminate murder of women and children in the latter link), people are waking up to how wrong and counterproductive this madness is.

Update: Here’s the MSM exchange I alluded to.

  • SaharaJoe

    Good article, one of the few that truly defend inncocent Muslim lives. In American culture killing any Muslims is considered a necessary act for security.

  • Sydney

    Attacking Apple for the Drone War is like blaming the ants for over-running your sugarbowl. Pointless and besides the point.

    • Svend White

      Thanks for the comment, Sydney. You’re absolutely right in a way, but I think you’re overlooking the lamentable fact that this administration is so addicted to drone killings that only public outrage stands a chance of making a difference. For that pressure to build, the American people need unfettered access to the basic facts involved, ideally through a medium that is accessible and which generates buzz. This app fits the bill and fills an important void. Besides, this is a slippery slope–Apple and other media companies need to be deterred from further meddling.

  • Jon Moles

    How much of Apple’s stance is based on pressure from the Pentagon and other government agencies and how much is based on being a vanilla company that doesn’t want to endanger any potential sales via controversy? I disagree with Apple’s position on this matter and whole-heartedly agree with your assessment of drone strikes, but I doubt Apple will be open to any type of pressure concerning this app. That being said, maybe a boycott will at least bring more attention to this important issue.

    • Svend White

      You raise good points, Jon. The motivation behind this intervention may well be venal (read: financial) as opposed to sinister (political), but it makes little difference in terms of its impact. Also, this rises beyond a mere commercial decision given how increasingly prominent smart phones are as gateways to the Internet (especially among the young and minorities). These services are increasingly serving an essential public akin to that of utilities and should be held accountable when they undermine the public interest. Any censorship of information about vital questions in American government policy is ultimately a public policy issue.

  • yesyesyes

    Is there a ‘Droid equivalent ?

    • Svend White

      I have not been able to find one. According to one media report, the creator of the app was looking at porting it to Droid. Haven’t found any evidence of that happening yet.

  • Larry

    Just out of curiosity, what is Apple’s position on this matter or have they even made a statement?

    • Svend White

      You know, I don’t know. My guess is that, in keeping with the approach adopted by our whole political class and MSM, they’ve completely ignored the issue since then. That’s the great thing about unaccountablility–you can ignore all criticism no matter how wrong or irresponsible you are you.

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