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Whoa, wait a cotton-picking minute. The Germans invented the prototype of the drone. Gee, they have short memories those Germans.

US Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft.
Werner von Braun with President John F Kennedy.

The US government has authorized the killing of American citizens as part of its controversial drone campaign against al Qaeda even without intelligence that such Americans are actively plotting to attack a US target, according to a Justice Department memo.

An interesting article in Der Spiegel about handwringing in Germany over the use of drones:

Germany’s Drone Conundrum: ‘New Wars’ Demand New Mindsets

Germany’s government recently announced plans to do a 180-degree policy shift by deploying armed drones in combat. It argues that remote-controlled killing machines are no different than any other weapons, but experts say the “new wars” have completely different – and revolutionary – rules.

Germans should finally give it a rest and stop all the worried talk about how their military plans to use armed drones in combat. After all, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière has spoken, and it’s apparently no big deal. “In ethical terms,” he says, “a weapon should always be viewed neutrally.”

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What’s wrong with this argument? Well, for one, this isn’t exactly a new weapon of war. The prototype of the drone is nothing but an upgraded cruise missile — and the prototype of the cruise missile is actually the V-1 invented by Werner von Braun for Nazi Germany before he conveniently changed sides and in the 1960s served as advisor to Walt Disney’s popular man in space TV series and Disneyland exhibit.

The great satirist Tom Lehrer wrote a hilarious song about von Braun:

Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi he won’t even frown,
Nazi, Schmazi says Wernher von Braun.

Once the rockets are up,
Who cares where they come down.
That’s not my department
Says Wernher von Braun.

Wernher Von Braun, center, with Nazi officials in 1941. In Peenemünde rocket development base on the Baltic with Dornberger, Olbricht, and Leeb.

As a movie based upon von Braun’s life would later pronounce, I Aim At The Stars. To which the satirist Mort Sahl noted, “But sometimes he hit London.”

I’m certain the round pin on von Braun’s left lapel (or right as he faces the camera) is a Nazi Party pin. His membership number was 5,738,692.

[Sources: Der Spiegel and 90.9 WBUR. Images courtesy of Der Spiegel, Ray Alex Web, and 90.9 WBUR.]