Serial Murder in America’s Name — the Immoral Use of Drone Attacks against the Collaterally Innocent — What Happens when U.S. Leadership Goes Paranoidly Mad
© 2011 Peter Free
07 November 2011
Indiscriminately targeted drone attacks may be the biggest blot on America’s “soul”
Our (cynically manipulative) President is doing nothing to stop the drone butchery that he escalated.
Many of these strikes blight U.S. moral leadership in the world. Much like Israel has, with its disproportionate reactions to Palestinian attacks, the United States is treading its sad way to moral pariah-ship.
A probably accurate Wall Street Journal investigative report raises long overdue questions
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported what many have suspected. America’s drone program, run as lawlessly as it apparently has been, is strategically counterproductive and unquestionably immoral.
The Journal article explained that the CIA subcategorizes drone attacks into “signature” and “personality” groupings. The former are directed at suspected militants, who are apparently associated with terrorist groups. The latter are aimed at identified terrorist leaders.
The [drone] campaign has killed more than 1,500 suspected militants on Pakistani soil since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, according to government officials.
The debate in Washington was fueled by a particularly deadly drone strike on March 17. It came at a low point in U.S.-Pakistani relations, just a day after Pakistan agreed after weeks of U.S. pressure to release a CIA contractor who had killed two Pakistanis.
Infuriated Pakistani leaders put the death toll from the drone strike at more than 40, including innocent civilians. American officials say about 20 were killed, all militants.
© 2011 Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, and Julian E. Barnes, U.S. Tightens Drone Rules, Wall Street Journal (04 November 2011) (paragraphs split)
A couple of inferences can be made — (i) numbers don’t tell the whole story and (ii) authorities are often self-deluding
Given the CIA’s miserable record in gathering accurate information in Muslim nations, it is statistically improbable that the reported 1,500 executed people, whom authorities claim to have been terrorists, actually were.
And, even if they were, it seems improbable that a high proportion of them would have been important enough in the leadership, recruiting, and training of terrorists to be irreplaceable.
These combined facts mean that it is more likely than not that many (even most) of these strikes will ultimately turn out to have been counterproductive. In the sense that more anti-American hostility is roused by the executions, than would have been had the U.S. taken a more temperate approach.
As a result, we may be ultimately killing more of our troops than we save, by continuing this ethically questionable method of drone-based self-defense.
“So who cares, they’re all a bunch of bad guys”
That argument puts more trust in the strategic capacity of the generally paranoid types who run intelligence services than they deserve.
Having worked with, and been a similar mentality myself, I can unequivocally say that “mission” almost always begins to take on a full-blown tunnel vision. One loses sight of why the mission was undertaken in the first place. Strategy falls victim to tactics.
In the case of anti-terrorism, the goal is actually not to kill piles of terrorists. It is to reduce or manage the numbers of terrorist attacks.
The latter idea is the larger, and it involves assessing which measures work and which don’t, in regard to smoothing America’s overall way in the world. Anti-Americanism is an idea, not a person. We can’t kill our way out of violence-based anti-Americanism.
In the past, Americans recognized that our chief capital in world affairs was the “soft power” comprised of (a) the perceived ethical standards Americans adhered to and (b) our generally humanitarian way of approaching international problems.
That understanding seems to have gone by the wayside, beginning in Vietnam with body counts and continuing on today with enumeration of “militants” killed.
Tactical body counts almost always miss larger strategic points.
Here’s the real issue — imagine you are Pakistani, and the drones are flying
Orwellian Big Daddy America is out and about. Who knows who’s going to be blown up today?
On the American end, someone has decided that Pakistani Subject X and Friend Y are “militants.” So, we’re gonna git ‘em. From a command center thousands of miles away. With questionable intelligence about who these people are actually going to be standing, sitting, or sleeping near — when the missile explodes everyone (for many meters around) into bloody gobbets.
“Precision!” American authorities will proudly exclaim for public consumption.
But we (imagining ourselves as Pakistanis) will wonder why it was necessary to kill members of our innocent family.
And then — standing over the missile crater and sadly looking for strewn fragments of charred and dismembered flesh — the cross-generational, cross-cultural hatred begins or escalates.
Unhinged morality becomes amoral
Ethically, it is impossible to defend killing people indiscriminately. And it is only rarely possible to defend killing people without due process.
In war, we flip these priorities. But only in genuine battle, where extremis gives us license.
The problem with the “War on Terror” is that it the (inapposite) phrase flipped the mandatory sequence of moral reasoning.
Anti-terrorism is ultimately a combined military and law enforcement problem. It is not a battlefield condition. Drone attacks are premeditated bits of murder.
We do not have license to murder the collaterally innocent — or even the “may be guilty” — under the extremis excuse.
The moral? — This is not the geopolitically moral America I knew in the 1940s and 1950s
When we fall back on the argument, “because we can,” we have lost the rectitude embraced by, “because we should.”
I do want a hidden group of short-sighted, paranoid American leaders murdering in America’s name. My father and his generation did not fight in World War II to see historical American values tarnished by today’s cowardly anti-terrorist paranoia.
Wisdom is measured. Our drone attacks have not been measured.