Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The (lack of) logic of drone attacks in Pakistan

Glenn Greenwald's latest needs to be read widely. Greenwald's analysis is spot on, and frankly, I can't imagine arguing with with the points he makes. Killing civilians with unmanned drones foments anger, hatred, armed resistance and/or terrorism. Period. No question. Look at the numbers. Put yourself in the shoes of a father whose child is killed by a US-operated unmanned drone. Here's Greenwald with the especially poignant section:
A U.S. drone attack in Pakistan killed 23 people this morning, and this is how The New York Times described that event in its headline and first paragraph:
An American drone attack killed 23 people in North Waziristan on Friday, Pakistani military officials said, in a strike against militants that appeared to signify unyielding pressure by the United States on Pakistan’s military amid increasing opposition to such strikes.
When I saw that, I was going to ask how the NYT could possibly know that the people whose lives the U.S. just ended were "militants," but then I read further in the article and it said this:  "A government official in North Waziristan told Pakistani reporters that five children and four women were among the 23 who were killed."  So at least 9 of the 23 people we killed -- at least -- were presumably not "militants" at all, but rather innocent civilians (contrast how the NYT characterizes Libya’s attacks in its headlines: "Qaddafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas").

Can someone who defends these drone attacks please identify the purpose?  Is the idea that we're going to keep dropping them until we kill all the "militants" in that area?  We've been killing people in that area at a rapid clip for many, many years now, and we don't seem to be much closer to extinguishing them.  How many more do we have to kill before the eradication is complete?

Beyond that, isn't it painfully obvious that however many “militants” we're killing, we're creating more and more all the time?  How many family members, friends, neighbors and villagers of the "five children and four women" we just killed are now consumed with new levels of anti-American hatred?  How many Pakistani adolescents who hear about these latest killings are now filled with an eagerness to become "militants"?

The NYT article dryly noted: "Friday’s attack could further fuel antidrone sentiment among the Pakistani public"; really, it could?  It's likely to fuel far more than mere "antidrone sentiment"; it's certain to fuel more anti-American hatred: the primary driver of anti-American Terrorism. Isn't that how you would react if a foreign country were sending flying robots over your town and continuously wiping out the lives of innocent women, children and men who are your fellow citizens? What conceivable rational purpose does this endless slaughter serve? Isn't it obvious that the stated goal of all of this – to reduce the threat of Terrorism – is subverted rather than promoted by these actions?

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