PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI -- What if one of our notorious Hoosier storms violently destroyed your entire neighborhood, killing scores and leaving you and your neighbors homeless and penniless?
Imagine that the immediate reaction to this disaster was inspiring, with celebrity-packed telethons being broadcast, leaders of state pledging to rebuild, and rich and poor alike donating to your recovery.
But a year and a half later, you are still homeless. You live in a fetid squatter's camp made of plastic sheets, scraps of wood and open sewers. There is no clear plan for you to be relocated to permanent housing, yet you are now slated to be forcibly evicted from even these meager quarters.
You are Haiti.
At a time when the U.S. military is relying increasingly on unmanned aerial vehicles -- also known as UAVs or "drones" -- ever deeper connections between the drone industry and the Hoosier state have become apparent.
Newly uncovered documents show that an Indianapolis-based manufacturer of lithium-ion battery systems, EnerDel, has two multimillion dollar contracts with the U.S. Navy to develop batteries for minidrones.
One of Indiana's largest educational institutions is connected to a controversial trend in modern warfare, as Purdue University's Research Park is home to a West Lafayette company that receives millions of dollars in U.S. military funding for the development of robotic technology for remote-controlled attacks, along with flying surveillance, which is promoted as the future of domestic law enforcement.
Several sites in Indiana host the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, commonly known as "drones," which have been variously described as the United States' best response to global terrorism and as an illegal and counterproductive approach to military and law enforcement challenges.
An international criminal conspiracy occurs, with responsibility flowing up to and including the President of the United States. Victims are brutalized in secret, lives are lost, the rule of law flouted.
But no one is prosecuted since the only law enforcement official capable of bringing the criminals to justice is completely beholden to the very government leaders who would face charges.
The latest John Grisham thriller? A re-run of the show 24? Hardly.
The crime is torture, clearly prohibited by national and international law. The corrupt system is the existing structure of U.S. law enforcement. When executive branch misconduct occurs, an inherent conflict of interest is presented by investing prosecutorial discretion in a U.S. Attorney General appointed by, and serving at the pleasure of, the president.
When a used car salesman pressures you to sign on the dotted line before you have a chance to test drive the car, you, the buyer, should beware.
Same goes for Indiana citizens when politicians like Gov. Mitch Daniels push to cement Indiana's new property tax caps into the state constitution before we know the true impact of the legislation that took full effect only this year.
So far, the engine has been coughing, and a funny-colored smoke is belching from the exhaust. It seems every day we are hearing more bad news from Indiana communities: Teacher lay-offs in Anderson, extra-curricular school programs cancelled in Bloomington, bus routes and libraries at risk in Indianapolis.
There are many disturbing similarities between the United States’ disastrous war in Vietnam and the growing tragedy of Afghanistan: a corrupt ally unworthy of American bloodshed; a population historically adept at repelling invading forces; a promising presidency weighed down by runaway war spending.
But one difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan is even more disturbing than the similarities. In this war, we Americans are not being asked to take responsibility for the violence waged in our name.
This time, there is no draft to put my teenagers at risk of unwilling sacrifice. This time, we have yet to concede the domestic damage caused by a trillion taxpayer dollars spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
On a sunny spring afternoon, next to an alley on West Washington Street in Indianapolis, a half-dozen people gather around a portable wooden monument with dozens of names written on it. Cars slowly drive by as the people anoint the ground with oil and recite the 23rd Psalm.
This is the site of a recent murder -- a young man gunned down by a shooter who wounded several others -- and thus the site of the latest prayer vigil held by the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis. The vigil concluded with coordinator Joe Zelenka leading a unison reading from the fifth chapter of Matthew -- "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ...."
There has been a lot of such praying this year. As of early this month, there had been 47 homicides in Indianapolis since Jan. 1, far ahead of last year's pace, with 85 percent of the killings committed with firearms.
Last month, Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor Dawn Johnsen withdrew as the nominee to head the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Johnsen’s statement cited “lengthy delays and political opposition,” and several senators openly opposed her nomination, including Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican member.
But Johnsen may have faced less obvious barriers as well.
The Office of Legal Counsel, where Johnsen worked during the Clinton administration, has been described as the constitutional conscience of the executive branch of government. Ironically, it was also the source during the Bush administration of the so-called “torture memos,” which used shoddy and disingenuous legal reasoning to approve illegal acts of torture.
The Web site WikiLeaks.org recently released a video of a 2007 U.S. Army attack in Baghdad that included among its victims two Reuters news agency employees, several would-be rescuers of the dead and dying, and two children.
The video depicts U.S. soldiers agitating for permission to shoot, then gunning down civilians and laughing as tanks run over dead bodies. To some, this suggests that prosecution of the soldiers is called for.
Josh Steiber sees it differently.
"I urge you to be slow to judge those who are trapped in these [war] machines and ask yourself if you did or didn't do anything to create this trap," he wrote on the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site. "The high number of soldiers that I deployed with, including my friends whose voices and images are in this chilling video, wanted to improve the lives of their friends, families and their own futures."
The public-speaking trick of looking directly over the heads of your audience reportedly gives the illusion of eye contact without the speaker having to actually engage with the folks in the room.
I was reminded of this technique while watching Governor Mitch Daniels' press conference the day after Congress passed health care reform into law. The governor was addressing Indiana media, but it was clear he was looking over the heads of Hoosiers to gaze longingly at the Republican donors and pundits who are sizing up 2012 presidential hopefuls.
There was a nationwide surplus of hysterical reactions to the health care legislation, but for sheer cynicism and callousness, our governor had few equals.