Sunday, March 22, 2009


I have called for the United States to stop shooting missiles from drones at Pakistani villages in the Waziristan. Why? Because the missiles kill civilians - women, children, non-combatants, non-jihadists. Furthermore, the U.S. has no business trying to kill jihadists. If anything, Pakistan should arrest those deemed violating the law and give them a fair trial. This is the civilized and fair method of punishing law breakers, not targeting them with a missile shot from an unmanned drone and fired by some CIA guy thousands of miles away.

Sunday's The New York Times carries an article by Mark Mazzetti in Week in Review on this very topic. The upshot is that for U.S. officials, sending armed unmanned drones into Pakistan is the best of many alternatives. I object to the policy.

Mark Mazzetti writes:

"But in Pakistan, some C.I.A. veterans of the tribal battles worry that instead of separating the citizenry from the militants the drone strikes may be uniting them. These experts say they fear that killing militants from the sky won’t undermine, and may promote, the psychology of anti-American militancy that is metastasizing in the country.

"“Unless we come up with a coherent Pakistan policy, then nothing works,” said Milton Bearden, who as C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad once led the agency’s campaign to arm Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet Union."

Imagine having missile-carrying drones flying over your house. What would you think of the country that sends them above your head? Would you fear having a missile blow up your home and family, maybe fired in mistake by some CIA operative who has no idea who you are or where your children sleep or where your elderly parents sit?

The U.S. merely shows its contempt for Pakistani villagers, for human life, and above all for the rights of the individual. Stop the killing of innocent civilians in the quest to kill one Al Qaeda type. Firing these missiles merely tells the world that Americans have no respect for the individual, that they are willing to kill 25, 50 or 100 just to kill some Al Qaeda leader.

Writes Mazzetti:

"Over the last six months, C.I.A. operatives wielding joysticks have launched more than three dozen strikes by Predator and more heavily-armed Reaper drones. Missiles fired from them have hit militants gathering in mountain redoubts, and they have hit truck convoys ferrying ammunition across the border into Afghanistan.

"Some agency veterans draw comparisons to the Israeli policy of “targeted killings” of Hamas leaders — killings that claimed scores of the group’s top operatives in the Palestinian territories, but didn’t keep new recruits from attacking Israel.

"Intelligence officials in Washington and Islamabad said it was nearly impossible to measure the impact of the strikes on the so-called “war of ideas.” Even when precise, the drone strikes often kill women and children in militant compounds. When that happens, local Pashtun customs of “badal” obligate their survivors to seek revenge."

Killing Pakistani villagers by missiles fired from drones will only exacerbate the hatred already felt by Pakistanis towards America. Revenge will be paramount. Having seen their children and family members destroyed by some deadly American missile, Pakistanis in Waziristan will consider any and all options to revenge and redress this cruel U.S. attack from the sky.

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