Posts Tagged ‘Yemen’

“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.

The Waste of War

Posted on June 18, 2011 at 9.28 pm

War, goes the saying, is just another big government program.  Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than the financial costs worldwide imperialism necessarily entails.

Just a few days ago, Defense Department officials announced that after extensive audits, they were still unable to locate $6.6 billion in cash which had been shipped to Iraq by “sending C-130 Hercules transport planes loaded with $100 bills.”  The money, intended for reconstruction efforts after Saddam Hussein was deposed, is now supposed to have been stolen, possibly by Iraqi officials — though some “U.S. contractors were accused of siphoning off tens of millions in kickbacks and graft during the post-invasion period.”

Outrage has certainly abounded over this new revelation — some of it, hopefully, over the sheer ridiculousness of flying giant planes filled with hundreds into a war zone (seriously, this sounds like a plan better at home in a Judd Apatow flick than anything approaching real life.  If this isn’t enough to make one despair of the sanity of our foreign policy, surely nothing is) — and outrage is appropriate.  Surprise, however, is not.

In point of fact, the cost of American wars since 2001 along now tops $1.2 trillion, nearly a tenth of the national debt, and the ticker for either figure shows no sign of stopping.  The defense budget reached $663 billion in 2010 alone, but even modest goals like Obama’s suggested cuts of $400 billion over the course of the next 12 years — a mere 5% of the budget per year if it doesn’t grow at all — are met with significant resistance.  For instance, speaking at the Cato Institute recently, Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty argued against any cuts to military spending, saying that “while the rate of growth in the Pentagon budget could be slowed, the base budget amount should not ‘shrink.'”