Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

“What’s wrong with our drone program?” — a quick explanation starting from scratch

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 10.51 am

I posted this link and quote on my personal Facebook page and got a reply from a fairly nonpolitical friend. He wasn’t aware of the drone program at all, and was wondering about the context of the strike the Senate testimony in question described. I wanted to give a quick but comprehensive overview of the whole drones program, and this (with a few tweaks and sources added) was the result. Feel free to use it to explain what’s wrong with our drone program to anyone you know who is likewise uninformed.

Our government conducts an extensive droning campaign across the Middle East and North Africa. Targets are selected personally by the President using a secret “Kill List” (I know this sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, but it’s not — the story was originally broken by the New York Times.)

Fewer than 2% of those who die by our drone strikes are high level terror suspects. As for the other 98%, it’s difficult to determine how many are civilians and how many are low level terror operatives. The reason is that the Obama Administration classifies EVERY male from 18 to 60 who is killed as a terrorist, regardless of whether there is any evidence of guilt at all. This “guilty until proven innocent” mindset allows them to kill with impunity and claim that they are conducting targeted killings on a terrorist population, when that is simply not the case. Many of these men are simply poor farmers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some estimates put the civilian to terrorist killed ratio as high as 50 to 1.

But it gets worse. Even putting aside the dubious classification of many of the male victims, our drone strikes also kill a high percentage of women and children. We’ve even deliberately targeted wedding celebrations. And the most horrifying part: There’s a technique called “double-tap droning,” which is where we send a bomb on a target, wait a few minutes, and then circle back around to kill the first responders as they rush to help our victims. It’s a truly diabolical tactic.

In short, the bombing this Senate testimony is talking about is not an isolated incident, and it was not a mistake. Our drone warfare is a shameful, inhumane program which creates more enemies than it kills.

The Big Deal about Drones

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 6.55 pm

Q. Is there a particular reason to be opposed to drone use vs. manned craft? I understand the opposition to BOTH, but I’m wondering what your stance is in particular to drone use that is more egregious than manned government aircraft. — zigziggityzoo, from tumblr.

A. Well, I’m not keen on the government using manned or unmanned aircraft to spy on and/or assassinate Americans here at home or conduct “kill list”assassinations abroad. That said, there are a few reasons I talk about drones significantly more often:

  1. A lot of people — a majority of Americans, in fact — are very ok with them being used in both the scenarios I just described. Unmanned drones can prevent U.S. casualties in the immediate situation, and that seems like a good thing at first glance. But it’s also a very short-sighted view which ignores the sentiments drone strikes are producing in places like Pakistan and Yemen: “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.” Blowback is a real thing, and ignoring it because drones seem like a safe and convenient option now is foolish at best.
  2. Domestically, it’s drones which are being legally “justified” by the Obama Administration for extrajudicial strikes on Americans. If a memo had leaked saying all the same stuff about manned flights, I’d feel the same way about that.
  3. There’s a significant political will on the side of simply not debating drone use, especially abroad. That’s a horrible idea.
  4. Drone warfare is bad for the drone pilots as well as their victims.As I’ve argued before, drone warfare does more than remove American people from the situation: It also removes American humanity. This is a form of warfare in which those who do the actual killing can be thousands of miles removed from their targets. It’s inherently callous and minimizes the psychological cost of hitting the kill button.
  5. On a final, practical note, people are pretty much a fixed size. You can’t make a manned aircraft smaller than the person manning it. Drones, however, can be tiny. Like super tiny. The size of bugs, in fact. When it comes to surveillance, this makes drones much more of a threat than manned aircraft. You won’t miss the chopper hovering outside your window; you will miss the literal fly on the wall.

A short and incomplete summary of why our foreign policy cannot continue as it has for the last decade.

Posted on December 21, 2011 at 6.32 pm

As is now (hopefully) increasingly common knowledge, our numerous occupations in the Middle East and Africa were not sparked by those countries attacking us.  Rather, with the possible exception of the War in Afghanistan — which has lasted an outrageously long time with huge costs of both blood and treasure, our 5+ wars are unwarranted wars of aggression rendered unconstitutional by their lack of official declaration by the Congress and unaffordable by our $15 trillion national debt.

The CIA estimates there are fewer than 100 members of al Qaeda left in Afghanistan, and yet we linger with tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars spent.  Recall also that many of the people we’re fighting there we were training just a few decades years ago, possibly including even bin Laden himself.

We’re finally pulling out of Iraq, left unstable and arguably more dangerous than we found it — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of excess civilian deaths our intervention has caused there.

In Libya, we’re not really sure who we supported or if the new government will even be friendly to us.  Many of the rebels we helped are backed by al Qaeda, our enemies just a few countries away.

In Pakistan, our drone operations are permitted to kill 50 civilians — including women and children — for every one terrorist they get, and no one is required to report to the public who is killed.

In Somalia, we’re engaging in covert operations in a dangerous and morally dubious situation which is none of our business and stretches our military — already posted in 900 bases in more than 130 nations around the world — almost thinner than it can stand.

Now, one might argue that it’s somehow OK for the U.S. to engage in this kind of global military expansion, because we’re the good guys, right?  But, as I’ve shown, in many cases we haven’t the foggiest clue who the good guys are, and often end up doing more harm than good to our own defense in the long term.  Perhaps more importantly, how would we like it if we were on the other end of our clumsy, bloody, and expensive foreign policy?  A little consideration of the golden rule might go a long way.