Drones in the War on “________” (fill in with your favorite
target)    May 24, 2013

By

Leonard Zwelling

            Undoubtedly,
a page was turned yesterday. President Obama officially marked the beginning of
the end of the perpetual war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, but
actually has its roots in the USS Cole bombing and other acts perpetrated by Al
Qaeda. Essentially in attempting to fulfill the Cheney Doctrine of never again
a 9/11, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan back to the Stone Age where it already was
and invaded Iraq on the pretense of its involvement in 9/11  (false) and/or its willingness to use
its “weapons of mass destruction”, which did not exist.

            But
the Obama Administration followed the W. Plan of continuous war against Al
Qaeda anyway. This included unlawful detention of enemy combatants in
Guantanamo, torture, and targeted killings of American citizens (admittedly in
countries known to harbor terrorists). This will now change with the President
actively foregoing some power and shedding more light on some activities by
increasing their oversight by Congress and the courts. Perhaps Guantanamo will
finally close as Mr. Obama promised in the 2008 campaign. In general, the
speech meant that we were going to try to get on with the business of making
America greater without necessarily destroying anything that might have a
terrorist behind it by using a drone, or bomb or worst of all our military
personnel.

            Drone
is an interesting word. It can mean a robot like the armed planes that are used
over the sovereign territories of other nations in pursuit of our enemies. But
it can also represent a living creature like a worker ant fulfilling the goals
of a Queen. It is also a continuous note or chord in music, usually of a rather
monotonous nature. The President will now lessen the use of drones.  Perhaps our president should consider a
similar strategy.  

            From
today’s Cancer Letter and reported on the web pages of Science Magazine (link
below) it seems apparent that whatever is going on in the Institute for
Advanced Cancer Sciences the surroundings are several planes above what the
rest of us drones are used to.

(http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2013/05/lavish-furnishings-at-md-anderso.html)

            From
my conversations with high administration officials, it is also apparent that
they view the clinical faculty as interchangeable drones who just need to work
harder to increase our margin, I guess to buy even better furniture on the
South Campus. And let’s face it, since 1996, we have been hearing about how MD
Anderson needs to “raise the bar”. That drone got old fast and fortunately for
us, Enron and ImClone tamped down that drone’s volume. Unfortunately, the tune
has come back with a vengeance as more and more dollars, some surely from
clinical revenue, are poured into the basic science budgets to hire new talent
and foster the growth of the Moon Shots.

            Just
as President Obama stopped and reassessed the value of the policies of his
predecessor and those of his own administration, Dr. DePinho should take a good
hard look at what MD Anderson does better than any place (care for cancer
patients) and not squander that value in an attempt to fund his War on Cancer
called the Moon Shots. That is all still research and can never be counted on
to generate dollars. Thus, it needs to be held to a budget that is consistent
with our revenue and the maintenance of our superior care and not ruin it by
overdriving the faculty, who, by the way, are not drones at all, but, like our American
ground troops, the most sophisticated fighting force ever known against people
cancer (I am not sure who has the best anti-mouse cancer forces).

            If
President Obama thinks that he can run our foreign policy with the use of fewer
drones, perhaps President DePinho can run our research policy with fewer “drones”
as well. If he does not, he may discover that those considered drones by the
administration were never such and when gone represent parts of a whole that
are not so easy to replace.

            If
Dr. DePinho wants greater margin to wage his one-man war on cancer, control
costs for that is the one aspect of our budget over which he has the greatest
control. Even a drone knows that.

Leonard Zwelling