Who is getting hurt by U.S. drone attacks?

November 2, 2011 | By | Reply More

How certain are we that the people being killed by U.S. drones are people who are threatening the United States? Linking to a BBC article based on reports on the ground, Glenn Greenwald discusses the hundreds of civilian casualties about which we almost never hear anything at all, many of these deaths involving children:

It’s easy to cheer for a leader who regularly extinguishes the lives of innocent men, women, teeangers and young children when you can remain blissfully free of hearing about the victims. It’s even easier when the victims all have Muslim-ish names and live in the parts of the Muslim world we’ve been taught to view as a cauldron of sub-human demons. . . . Everyone knows that the American President cannot commit “murder”; that’s only for common criminals and Muslim dictators (whom the West starts to dislike). But however one wants to define these acts, the fact is that we have spent a full decade bringing violence to multiple countries in that region and — in all sorts of ways — ending the lives of countless innocent people.

How can one distinguish Taliban from non-Taliban while operating a drone? Many argue that you can’t:

Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.

“A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way,” he said. “Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target.”

This story reminds me of Amy Goodman’s observation (and Jon Stewart’s) that the United States excels at engaging in wars that remain sterile (and thus acceptable to Americans) because of the stunning lack of photographs. It is their contention (and mine) that if we had even a minimal level of reporting from the U.S. war zones, that our wars would quickly end. I suspect that the BBC is also correct that given manner in which drones are being used, that they are causing a lot of people in the Middle East to hate the United States.  In other words, I have great concern that our drone wars are counter-productive to American long-term objectives. Many of the moral issues caused by the increasing use of war robots are discussed by Peter Singer at this TED lecture.

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Category: The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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