Washington, DC (TFC) – Imagine the rage if a poll conducted in the Middle East suggested that 58% of Arabs supported the World Trade Center attacks. There would be calls for blood and to rain fire down on every square inch of the Middle East. More hyperbole from hawkish American officials would lead to yet another invasion.
However, Americans had no problem stating they openly support the US drone strike program in countries that the nation is not even at war with. 58% of Americans openly stated they support the US drone program in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. There may be some hesitation to accept a parallel between targets of the American drone program and the attacks of 9/11. The drone program targets those that finance the military operations of insurgents, those that manufacture the products necessary for insurgents to fight, and the command and control facilities of the insurgent groups. These are all legitimate military targets. By that same token, striking the financial nerve center of the United States and the building the houses the Department of Defense would be legitimate military targets. The next obvious objection is that the drone program doesn’t kill thousands of civilians. Yes, it does.
In Pakistan, one of the countries mentioned in the poll, there were 41 men marked for death by the US drone program. 1147 people were killed in pursuit of those 41 men. During the long-running drone program, the body count climbed as did the number of missions that failed to kill their target. Ayman Zawahiri has been targeted at least twice. He’s still alive by all reports. 105 people were killed in the two attempts on his life. 76 of those were children. If someone detonated a bomb in a playground to kill a US General and killed 76 kids instead, they would be terrorists.
Qari Hussain was targeted by drones six times. In the process, the United States accepted 128 people as collateral damage. 13 were children. Baitullah Mehsud was targeted seven times before he was killed. 164 people were killed.
The fear Americans feel every time they hear of a school shooting in their hometown is the same level of fear people living under drones feel every day. Mothers don’t want to send their children outside because a car driving by might be blown up by a drone if American intelligence falsely believes there is a boogeyman in it. The kids can’t go play soccer; a bad guy might be meeting in the field with a contact to hand off some money. Or maybe it’s just a guy giving a shopping list to his assistant who happens to look like a terrorist. Either way, the children will end up scattered around the field like confetti by a Hellfire missile.
80% of Americans in the same poll said they were at least somewhat concerned that the drone strikes endanger civilians. That means at least 22% of Americans are fully-aware of the kids being blown out of their shoes in an ineffective drone war, but are too callous or too stupid realize the implications of it. Drones create more terrorists. Every civilian the program incinerates creates at least one more terrorist to take his place. When it’s a child and the insurgent propagandists can get their hands on photo of a toddler’s bloody shoe with her foot still in it, it’s a safe bet that the number of terrorists produced by the attack is even higher.
The average person in Somalia, Yemen, or rural Pakistan spends their days wondering about fresh water or food. If they are well-off they may have lofty plans to learn to read someday. They don’t care about the geopolitical situation, but they are dying over it. Americans will often retort that “It’s just war.” Civilian casualties are part of the process. Civilian casualties happen in war, but they are supposed to be accidental. They shouldn’t be figured into a formula.
The entire world saw the results of the poll. It was broadcast globally. The fact that Americans do not care about the inestimable number of civilian deaths from drone strikes is now part of the global consciousness. It isn’t hard to believe that the results of this poll were the shove that many would-be insurgents or terrorists needed to take that step into an arms bazaar and buy a weapon. Americans should be patting themselves on the back; they succeeded in creating many new targets for the beloved drone program.
Americans tend to believe that because we are separated from the rest of the world by two oceans that we are immune from the blowback of our actions. We aren’t. Drone technology is inexpensive. Even the faltering nation of Georgia has developed their own armed drones. How long do you think it will be until some guy is piloting a commercially-available drone in a US city park and flies it into the stands at the little league game before detonating its explosive payload?
When it happens, remember that you defended the process. “It’s just war,” right? Will it just be collateral damage when it’s an American kids’ severed hand in baseball glove being shown on TV?
Drones have their place in war, but it isn’t indiscriminately killing civilians hundreds of miles away from a battlefield.