Sunday, May 17, 2009


I heard Pres. Barack Obama speaking to the Notre Dame commencement today, thanks to C-SPAN. Obama's speech was riveting as usual. Among other things, he mentioned former ND president Ted Hesburgh's commitment to abolishing the death penalty and his campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.

But what I don't understand is how Obama can dish out the inspiring words on one hand, but on the other, still continue the target assassinations by drone missiles of Taliban insurgents in Pakistan.

Today The New York Times runs an op-ed by David Kilcullen and Andrew Mc Donald Exum on the counter-productive results arising from those missile strikes.

Write Exum and Kilcullen:

"The appeal of drone attacks for policy makers is clear. For one thing, their effects are measurable. Military commanders and intelligence officials point out that drone attacks have disrupted terrorist networks in Pakistan, killing key leaders and hampering operations. Drone attacks create a sense of insecurity among militants and constrain their interactions with suspected informers. And, because they kill remotely, drone strikes avoid American casualties."

But the drone attacks do more harm to U.S. interests than they benefit, according to Kilcullen and Exum.

First, the drone war has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians. This is similar to what happened in Somalia in 2005 and 2006, when similar strikes were employed against the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts. While the strikes did kill individual militants who were the targets, public anger over the American show of force solidified the power of extremists. The Islamists’ popularity rose and the group became more extreme, leading eventually to a messy Ethiopian military intervention, the rise of a new regional insurgency and an increase in offshore piracy.

"While violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they seem less ominous than a faceless enemy that wages war from afar and often kills more civilians than militants.

"Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent — hardly “precision.” American officials vehemently dispute these figures, and it is likely that more militants and fewer civilians have been killed than is reported by the press in Pakistan. Nevertheless, every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased."

In other words, use of bombs or missiles fired from manned or unmanned aircraft creates a sense of outrage and a desire for revenge against the United States and against all Americans. How Obama can approve the continuation of these raids when he believes that every human being deserves respect and civility is beyond comprehension.

Furthermore Kilcullen and Exum give two other reasons why the missile strikes should stop:

"Second, public outrage at the strikes is hardly limited to the region in which they take place — areas of northwestern Pakistan where ethnic Pashtuns predominate. Rather, the strikes are now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces. Covered extensively by the news media, drone attacks are popularly believed to have caused even more civilian casualties than is actually the case. The persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government, and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.

"Third, the use of drones displays every characteristic of a tactic — or, more accurately, a piece of technology — substituting for a strategy. These attacks are now being carried out without a concerted information campaign directed at the Pakistani public or a real effort to understand the tribal dynamics of the local population, efforts that might make such attacks more effective."

I call upon President Obama and the United States government to ban these airborne missile strikes on Pakistani villages. If I were a Pakistani, I would detest any entity, person or government that inflicted this horror from the skies upon my family, my relatives, my village and my country.

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