Despite the claims of the Obama Administration, drone warfare is in no way precise.
A collection of classified documents known as “The Drone Papers,” just leaked to The Intercept by a whistleblower in the U.S. intelligence community, reveal that nearly 9 in 10 people killed in drone bombings across the Middle East and Africa are unintended deaths–“collateral damage.”
So much for precise. As Philip Snowden said on the eve of World War I, “Truth, it has been said, is the first casualty of war.”
Only 10% of victims were accused of being enemy combatants; emphasis on accused, as a trial to build a public case for their elimination is out of the question for the United States. Immediate execution is their method, despite the high risk of operating with faulty intelligence.
According to The Intercept:
The source underscored the unreliability of metadata, most often from phone and computer communications intercepts. These sources…are the primary tools used by the military to find, fix, and finish its targets.
“It requires an enormous amount of faith in the technology that you’re using,” the source said. “There’s countless instances where I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty.” This, he said, is a primary factor in the killing of civilians.
“It’s stunning the number of instances when selectors are misattributed to certain people. And it isn’t until several months or years later that you all of a sudden realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this really hot target, you wind up realizing it was his mother’s phone the whole time.”
By then, the charred, unrecognizable corpse of the mother is in a grave.
The Drone Papers’ revelations are consistent with previous findings that drones destroy far more innocent men, women, children, and elderly people than suspected terrorists.
Attempts to kill just 41 targets resulted in the deaths of 1,147 bystanders in Pakistan and Yemen, as reported by The Guardian. The U.S. massacred 128 people, including 13 children, trying to kill one man. Two drone strikes killed 76 children and 29 adults, and failed to kill the single terrorist leader being hunted. Hundreds are torn to pieces at weddings.
Flawed intelligence, U.S. officials admitted, even ended up killing an American hostage in an Al Qaeda compound in Pakistan in January 2015.
Of course, the death of American citizens is not always an accident. The State strips U.S. citizens of their Constitutional right to a trial if suspected of involvement in terror networks. Obama used the Authorization to Use Military Force decree of 2001 to justify the assassination of a U.S. citizen in Yemen in 2011.
As of February, 2015, 2,500 people had been killed by drones since Obama took office. True, this is a drop in the bucket of the 1 million Afghanis, Iraqis, and Pakistanis killed during our “War on Terror,” yet the justification for drone warfare reveals much about the American psyche.
Not only do U.S. bombings breed more violent extremists, the defense “Civilian casualties are a shame, but these terrorists must be killed” is without question morally repugnant.
Clearly, there are different types of terrorism. One is a group against a State. Another, a State against a group. This is U.S. terrorism against foreign civilians. Ethically speaking, in a decent society, it would be unacceptable for the State to slaughter terrorist enemies if innocent people burned in the same fires.
Would we find it acceptable for the State, whether ours or of a foreign power, to massacre 1,000 Americans to kill a few dozen terrorists? To kill 9 innocent Americans for every 1 guilty person? If not, what then is the difference between U.S. civilians and Pakistani, or Iraqi, civilians?
In order to remain mute over the death of non-American men, women, and children, regardless of whatever “noble” cause being pursued when such death occurred, one has to consider those innocents less worthy of life. Accepting “collateral damage” is Machiavellian and devalues innocent men, women, and children who simply live in a different spot on Earth (or perhaps follow a different religion?).
If reading of Americans being killed by drones created within you a stronger emotional reaction than the massive death toll of foreigners, that should drive the point home.
From where does this belief originate?
We are all indoctrinated since birth to glorify the State, the flag, the military, and American global power. We are encouraged to think of our nation as better than others.
As a consequence, we consider our citizens more worthy of life than the people who die in the flames of American bombs overseas. We look the other way when the U.S. government commits atrocities. As Emma Goldman said, we believe it is natural that the world is divided into little spots, and that everyone within each spot thinks it right to die or kill for their spot.
Until we move past this, until we consider non-Americans just as worthy of life as Americans, the atrocities committed by the U.S. will go unexamined. Drone warfare will not end.
And neither will war.