Thursday, December 23, 2010

A civilian eye for a military eye...

That’s not really how the saying’s supposed to go, but it’s been a while since those words were famously uttered by the Babylonian king Hammurabi...kinda like telephone, something got lost along the way.
Corporal Eric Torbert rang in the 700th foreign soldier killed in the Afghan conflict on Monday. And I can almost see the grizzled commander in front of me, stern and cold, vowing that his death would not be in vain, as he forwards another order for a drone assault.
Before I delve into the details of this new age war tactic, let me introduce you to the drone. Unfortunately, it’s not a remote concoction of George Lucas style. It does however share that robotic feature. A drone is an unmanned war aircraft, complete with however many bombs it needs to “get the job done.” The pilots sit often in completely remote areas such as bases in Nevada, controlling the planes in simulated cockpit surroundings, almost as if they were playing a video game. Military psychiatrists feel that this disconnect could be good for the mental well being of the pilot, allowing the soldier to feel less personally responsible for the death and destruction associated, as he leaves his pilot chair and walks back to the quiet safe haven of American soil. Aside from the mental health of the pilot, these drones offer the higher ups a unique way of waging war. They don’t need to put life on the line in order to take it. And now, previously strict rules regarding drones have been lessened, allowing the remote, detached ability to wreak havoc more accessible and attractive for all your war-waging needs.
In August of 2008, the CIA was given the go ahead to dispatch as many drones as they saw fit, leaving the bureaucracy behind. In fact, now little to no evidence of actual insurgent whereabouts is needed before sending off a drone packed with up to 1.5 tons of weapons. Needless to say, the number of drone attacks since then has skyrocketed (pun intended) significantly. This year alone there have been 112 documented flights, whereas in the years 2004-2007, there were only 9 all together. In ’09, there were 53, jumping at the change in 2008, we snuck 35 in between August and December, a stark contrast to 5 in the previous year. Because of these new lax laws and our trigger happy nature, it’s no surprise that our 1.5 tons times 112 flights is racking up as many or more civilian bodies as insurgent ones.
Research done by CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict) finds that often times, the US does not keep accurate account of civilian deaths. What a fucking surprise. In one published report, in nine drone attacks, 30 civilians were accounted for dead, including 14 women and children. In one case, a Pakistani man explains that an al-Qaida group showed up at his home one day, brandishing him with guns, demanding food. The man, through obvious fear, agreed, feeding the men who thereafter disappeared. The next day, his house was bombed, killing his only son...and no insurgents. Well done.
An international scandal (which we probably hear nothing of from our media) chronicles the case of Kareem Khan vs. the CIA. Yep, that’s right. One man is suing the CIA for 500 million dollars for the death of his brother and son. Apparently, this case is extra embarrassing for the CIA considering that the name of their Pakistani undercover spy has also come out in the open. Since the case has been broadcast, they have called him home to safety. Phew!
Further research has found that, on average, 3-5 civilians die in each drone attack, bringing the unsure total to around 350 civilians dead, just in this year alone.
So, here’s the question. Although the drone attacks can boast several high up al-Qaida deaths, is it worth the civilian toll? Are we to satisfy ourselves with the Vietnam era phrase, "destroy the village in order to save it?"
Or are our tactics the bloody catalyst to foster ever more al-Qaida insurgents, a never ending assembly line of insurmountable enemies?
In the end, it doesn’t matter much what we over here think, safe on American soil. It’s more important what the people we’re bombing the shit out of think. They will be the deciding factor of our future. Their decisions will choose ours, years before we realize it. In yet another study by the New American Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow, 76% of the population in northern and southern Waziristan (northwest area of Pakistan, bordering on Afghanistan) are against the drone attacks. More than half the population claims that it is mostly civilians who have been targeted and killed. And finally, 60%, due to drone attacks, find suicide bombing aimed at American soldiers understandable and even defensible.
Those are pretty shitty numbers for us. That basically means that the majority of people don’t like what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and find our demise entirely acceptable. I’m no military expert, but if you’re waging a war where the insurgents farm new recruits from the people and the people don’t like you...well...umm...shit....
...and all this from some guy you supposedly bombed our twin towers who most assuredly was on the CIA’s pay couldn’t make this shit up.

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