Friday, May 16, 2014

The drone war must end

This piece was written by Notre Dame freshman Tajae Turner and originally published as an article in Common Sense on April 23, 2014.

Despite promising to drastically reform United States drone policy last year, the Obama administration has continued with its murderous drone campaign.

Both the administration and the war hawks in Congress have continued to praise predator drones as the future of American counterterror operations. They continue to preach to the misinformed and horrified public that drones have less than a one percent civilian casualty rate and that they lower the terrorist threat because they have killed many leaders of Al Qaeda.

However, it is time to call Obama’s drone campaign what it truly is: reckless, state-funded terrorism. All you have to do is look to the places where we exclusively use drones, Yemen and Pakistan, and it becomes clear that every claim the government is making is complete and utter fantasy.

 If the US government’s goal in Yemen was to bolster Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), abuse human rights, and alienate the Yemeni people through a massive robot slaughtering then they have achieved that goal.

As the young Yemeni activist Ibrahim Mothana puts it, “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.”

So far the drone campaign in Yemen has resulted in massive terrorist safe havens and has bolstered the AQAP. According to Micah Zenko, a counterterrorist expert from the Council on Foreign Relations, the AQAP has grown from a few hundred members to several thousand since the advent of the drone program.
Additionally, the effectiveness of the AQAP has improved as well. In May of 2012 the AQAP struck the capital of Yemen and left hundreds of people dead or wounded. This was by far one of the largest terrorist attacks in the country’s history.

At first this seems puzzling, but the nature of these drone attacks explains all of the drastic uptick in terrorist attacks.

First, the Obama administration uses a dehumanizing and disgusting definition of militant. The CIA now classifies “all military aged males in a strike zone as combatants,” unless they are provided evidence proving otherwise. This means that if there was a drone sent to kill a terrorist at O’Neill Hall, the government would claim to have killed hundreds of terrorists.

Second, the vast majority of strikes are what is known as “signature strikes”. A signature strike targets individuals whose identities are unknown but who exhibit certain patterns of behavior or defining characteristics associated with terrorist activity. This essentially means the government can justify destroying anyone they choose as long as they have a suspicion of foul play.

When you define people as people, it becomes clear that the thousands the U.S. government has killed without knowing their identities were quite often innocent civilians. This has evidently radicalized the communal people of Yemen to fight the judge, jury, and executioner by any means available.

The drone campaign is having the same result in Pakistan. I believe the former Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Louis Delvoie, hit the mark when he wrote, “Drone attacks are stoking an endless fire of violence and revenge.”

The Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan have experienced more than one drone strike per week for years, all while being subject to complete Pakistani Taliban control. According to a recent New America Foundation publication, a study of 114 reported drone strikes from 2004 to 2010 in Pakistan found these strikes had a 32 percent civilian casualty rate.

As the death toll has risen, so has the resistance from both the Pakistani people and its government. Massive groups have staged protests against U.S. drones in Islamabad, the nation’s capital, by burning toy drones wrapped in American flags and displaying images of families and friends who have become victims of the drone war.

With pressure mounting, the Pakistani high court, along with President Hussain, has made it illegal for the U.S. government to use drones within Pakistan borders. However, the bombs continue to drop, continue to radicalize the public, and continue to continue to erode Pakistan’s security. Not only has the drone campaign proven to be immoral and counterproductive, but it now blatantly disregards international law and sovereignty.

The longer Obama’s drone war drags on, the worse the consequences become. Terrorism will continue to grow in these areas and the idea of powerful nations following international law will continue to seem like an irrelevant utopian ideal.

Furthermore, our monopoly on the skies is disintegrating. Other powerful nations, such as China, are building up drone programs of their own. With the precedent the Obama administration has set, this can only spell the continual oppression of innocents.


The only way to avoid causing more turmoil is to call for an end to the policies that have resulted in the slaughtering of the innocent in the name of national defense.

1 comment:

BlueMoonRising said...

The drone strikes are radicalizing many of the people in the Middle East who would normally be peaceful were it not for these vicious impersonal attacks on everything they hold dear.