Friday, October 26, 2012

Drone wars: the empire strikes children and American citizens

First up, I highly recommend this piece by Jack Hunter at The American Conservative, with the provocative title Pro-Life Means Anti-Drone:
Barack Obama has never claimed to be pro-life. As the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney writes: “President Obama has killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia through a drone war aimed at exterminating the suspected terrorists on his unprecedented and ever-expanding ‘kill list.’”

The drone strike program that was controversial during the Bush administration has grown dramatically under President Obama. The logic behind drone strikes is plain—the ability to eliminate terrorist targets with unmanned aircraft means we don’t have to endanger U.S. military personnel. But the grim reality of these strikes drastically undermines any good intentions. The method has quickly become an everyday nightmare for average Pakistanis. In September CNN reported that a recent study showed that drone strikes “are too harmful to civilians, too sloppy, legally questionable and do more harm to U.S. interests than good.”

Indeed. For every terrorist killed, the number of civilians killed continues to mount—and the question of who is actually a “terrorist” has become even more vague.

This week, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough explained that America’s drone policy basically says that: “if you’re between 17 and 30, and within a half-mile of a suspect, we can blow you up … They are focused on killing the bad guys, but it is indiscriminate as to other people who are around them at the same time.” Scarborough continued: “Instead of trying to go in and take the risk and get the terrorists out of hiding in a Karachi suburb, we’re just going to blow up everyone around them.”

When Scarborough brought up how drones have indiscriminately killed many innocent children, Time columnist Joe Klein replied: “The bottom line in the end is—whose 4-year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
Read the rest here.  And don't forget that there is wide bipartisan support for drone warfare, which would undoubtedly continue under a Romney administration.

And hey: if you're an American citizen, drone warfare can be used against you, too--preemptively, because you might someday become a threat (say, when you're an adult) as Conor Friedersdorf writes:
First, it's vital for the uninitiated to understand how Team Obama misleads when it talks about its drone program. Asked how their kill list can be justified, Gibbs replies that "When there are people who are trying to harm us, and have pledged to bring terror to these shores, we've taken that fight to them." Since the kill list itself is secret, there's no way to offer a specific counterexample. But we do know that U.S. drones are targeting people who've never pledged to carry out attacks in the United States. Take Pakistan, where the CIA kills some people without even knowing their identities. "As Obama nears the end of his term, officials said the kill list in Pakistan has slipped to fewer than 10 al-Qaeda targets, down from as many as two dozen," the Washington Post reports. "The agency now aims many of its Predator strikes at the Haqqani network, which has been blamed for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan." The vast majority would never make their way to New York or Washington, D.C., and the Obama Administration would never agree to rules that permitted only the killing of threats to "the homeland."

The second notable statement concerns the killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. [...]

How does Team Obama justify killing him?

The answer Gibbs gave is chilling:
ADAMSON: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor.

GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
Again, note that this kid wasn't killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment. Is that the real answer? Or would the Obama Administration like to clarify its reasoning? Any Congress that respected its oversight responsibilities would get to the bottom of this.
Oh, but Mr. Friedersdorf forgets that Congress is all for this kind of "enhanced assassination" against people who are related to terrorists, or who might someday be terrorists, or who might be thinking that perhaps America isn't exceptional enough to impose her will on other fact, our Congress, which can rarely agree about anything, is inclined to be enthusiastic about this sort of thing, no matter which administration is in charge.

Not long ago Rod Dreher posted from France about things left behind by Jewish children in Paris rounded up by the Nazis during World War II.  People commented, predictably, about the horror of French Christians turning blind eyes to this sort of thing.  Well, today many of us turn blind eyes, or even write words of excuse or justification, concerning the children of the Middle East who are being killed, maimed, and otherwise harmed by our policies of drone warfare and disproportionate civilian attacks.  That's on us--and future generations may well wonder how American Christians paid so little attention to the atrocities being committed by our leaders, in our names, in our day.


Alisha De Freitas said...


Anonymous said...

Great article. Speaks the truth.

Erin Manning said...


Unknown said...


Unknown said...

OK, can we go in covertly and capture/kill high-ranking terrorist members, or is that wrong as well? What should our policy be on this?

sorry but when you follow the Mark Shea route of Nazi analogy it's hard to take you seriously. I hear a lot of concern over this issue from Friedersdorf types who are "conservative" only in their paranoia about anti-terror measures, and obviously civilians dying in the process is problematic, but I never hear any alternatives other than completely extricating ourselves from any influence in the region/stop supporting Israel as if that'll put an end to all attacks.

Unknown said...

when I say "Friedersdorf types," I'm specifically referring to Friedersdorf himself (perpetual conservative concern troll who's really libertarian) and The American Conservative magazine (the only place where he's taken seriously,) which views 90% of conservatism as expendable and hates Romney waaaaaay more than it hates Obama.

Unknown said...

"or who might be thinking that perhaps America isn't exceptional enough to impose her will on other nations"

So we're gonna see Ron Paul types start being rounded up, is what you're saying.

Diamantina, aka Gentillylace said...

John Parker -- I'm not Erin/Red, but I think it is wrong to covertly kill high-ranking terrorist members, much less their families or low-ranking terrorists or bystanders or children. What should US policy be? Try to capture terrorists and put them on trial before the World Court? I don't know. I am not the President, thank Heaven.

Erin Manning said...

John Parker, I think that covert capture/kill missions risk violating the principles of national sovereignty. Either we're at war with a nation, in which case we can conduct that war justly including in re: war leaders we'd like to capture/kill, or we're not, in which case covert missions should only be carried out jointly with the nation's own forces (and I would prefer at that point that we take a support role, and let them do any capturing/killing necessary according to their own laws). We simply can't declare an ephemeral war on terrorists wherever they may be and then declare that anybody we happen to kill was a terrorist, or a sympathizer, or probably up to no good.

What do we do about terrorism? We work to create friends abroad and strengthen our defenses at home. We quit fighting multi-faceted wars all over the globe and concentrate on our real strategic interests. We defend the innocent and our allies up to and including declarations of war, but we reject the notion of preemptive strikes as the unjust proposal it is. We respect our military men and women by ceasing to use them as pawns in a globalist game that has no exit strategy, no clear definition of winning, and the real danger of prolonged military presence in regions where our best are treated with everything from contempt to murderous (literally) rage. We spurn fear-mongering and saber-rattling and stop seeing every refusal to go to war over such things as a Neville Chamberlain strategy.

Finally, we recognize that the people who benefit most from maintaining states of more or less perpetual warfare are not sovereign nations (including our own) but the giant corporate interests who benefit in a thousand financial ways from the panoply of war, and for whom the modern global warfare state is nothing more than the greatest wealth transference scheme of the modern age. This also applies to the modern security state and its toys, all of which are produced by people who then have vested interests in voting for politicians who will build more drones and better airport scanners and cooler liberty-intrusion gadgets...and we had better wake up to what that means for our identity as a free and independent people, before it is too late.

Saphira said...

I agree; it is sick and wrong and we should have no part of it.

Lawrence Hall, HSG said...

Well said.

The first issue is this: Congress has not declared war since 1941, and the power to declare war is very clearly delegated to Congress in Article I, Section 8 (no allusion to Corporal Klinger) of the Constitution. Further, the authority to fund, and thus, not to fund, a war also belongs to Congress.

Under the War Powers Act (itself of questionable authority) of the 1970s Congress permits the President to initiate and sustain war for up to three months in order to defend the nation. We are somewhat over the limit.

In sum, we in this nation are violating our own Constitution and in doing so have placed every loyal and well-intentioned G.I. all the way back to 1946 in a legally awkward situation.

Congress desperately needs a spine transplant.

Tony said...


We can capture them, but we have to house them in comfortable cells, feed them well, give them lots of reading material including their korans, and when we question them, we have to ask them nicely about information leading to future attacks.


One of those two men are going to be president. Would you like to have a choice in which one, or would you like to leave it up to someone else. :P

Erin Manning said...

Tony, I already don't have a choice as to which man will be president. My state will go for Romney no matter what I do. What I'm being asked to do is give my "stamp of approval" for somebody (either man) who thinks it's a good idea to send drones to kill civilians, including children, in the hopes that a terrorist or two will die in the mess.

I'll pass.

Deirdre Mundy said...

At this point, I figure that at least a Romney win will mean that the liberal media and my liberal friends will at least start protesting AGAINST this sort of thing again, instead of saying that 'dead citizens without due process' is totally great as long as they get their free birth control.....