In May of last year, David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008, co-authored a strategic analysis (“Death From Above, Outrage Down Below,” New York Times, May 17, 2009). He emphasized that the “public outrage” among Pakistan’s civilians caused by our drone attacks “is hardly limited to the region in which they take place.”
Extensively reported by the news media, “the persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.”
A year later, in Foreign Policy in Focus (fpif.org, May 19), Conn Hallinan, reporting on the increase in drone strikes in Pakistan, notes that the continuing controversy over the actual number of corollary civilian deaths “is a sharply debated issue.” Neither President Obama, who authorizes them, nor the CIA, which does the actual killing, directly gives us the numbers. As for the Pakistani government’s figures, Hallinan continues:
“The word ‘civilian’ is a slippery one, because no one knows exactly what criteria the United States uses to distinguish a ‘militant’ from a civilian. Is someone with a gun a ‘militant’? Since large numbers of males in the frontier regions of Pakistan carry guns, that definition would target a huge number of people.”
I mentioned this life-ending ambiguity in drone strikes to a person who claims to be concerned with human-rights abuses. Shrugging, she said: “I don’t have to worry about that. The drones aren’t coming here; and since they’re pilotless, there are no American casualties. So I’m all for their use.”
But drones are indeed in our skies.
Constitutionalist John Whitehead – who is also a careful master researcher – points out (“Drones Over America: Tyranny at Home,” Rutherford.org, June 28), that “unbeknownst to most Americans, remote-controlled pilotless aircraft have been employed domestically for years now. They were first used as a national-security tool for patrolling America’s borders, and then as a means of monitoring citizens.”
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