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Obama’s Drone Blitz

They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those drones they seek him everywhere.
Bin Laden struck? – Or maybe missed?
That damned, elusive terrorist.

With apologies to Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1903

Let us imagine that Spain invaded Mexico in similar fashion to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 because Madrid suffered a terrorist atrocity that was planned by a Saudi Arabian fanatic living in Chihuahua.

Spanish troops poured into the country, and Spanish generals and mercenaries were to all intents running the place although generously subsidizing a corrupt national government whose president was in power through gross electoral fraud.

A militant resistance movement developed and a lucrative drug industry prospered mightily. There was much illegal movement of criminals and insurgents across the US-Mexico border.

And Spain, objecting to transit of militant Mexicans fighting against Spanish occupation of their country, obtained information that some guerrilla fighters might – might – be in a house in the little town of Van Horn in Culbertson County, Texas.

So one morning a video game player in Madrid pressed a button and a Spanish drone roaming round in US airspace fired missiles on Van Horn that killed two Mexican militants as well as a dozen US citizens, including two women and three children who were minding their own innocent business in their house on Hackberry Street.

What do you think Washington’s reaction would be to that incident?

Do you imagine for an instant that there would be other than raging fury? – Of course there would – to the extent that Madrid would be a smoking (and probably radioactive) ruin by sundown.

***

But this sort of blitz is experienced every week in Pakistan by people living in its equivalents of Van Horn’s Hackberry Street.

Obama has ordered over 100 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since becoming president. It is claimed that if some civilians are killed, there aren’t many of them. As if the murder of some kids and their mothers is quite OK, providing the drones kill the ‘bad guys’ too.

Even if there were no civilian deaths at all – which is decidedly unlikely – the very act of firing missiles into the territory of a foreign country to kill people is by any standards illegal, if the recipient country is not at war with the nation attacking it.

During the daylight hours of 13 May in a small area of Pakistan’s North Waziristan Tribal Agency, close to the border with Afghanistan, a lot of US drones were seen in the sky by terrified tribespeople. Some said six, some thought there were more. Nobody knows; and the person who contacted me about it had got out of the area as fast as he could, as well he might, because he has association with the West and could well be mistaken for a US spy, planting drone-attracting how-to-find-me gadgets around the place. (Two suspected spies had been killed, hideously, the previous day, by panicked and terrified tribesmen.)

And the CIA’s soundless and terrifying drones were menacing people who cowered in their houses waiting in terror for another flashing crashing strike from the sky. Nobody knew who next might die at the whim of the robots.

God Bless America.

***

It’s difficult to ignore the fact that the President of the United States considers robot drone strikes that kill people are a matter for humor.

Do you remember the 2004 White House party for the media when George W Bush thought it hilarious to observe that there were no ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to be found when he was jovially poking around the function room mimicking a search for them in Iraq – while American soldiers were dying in the war he had ordered ? It was a squalid burlesque from which not one reporter was honorable enough to walk out in dignified disdain.

And it seems the current generation of White House media patsies continue to observe that tradition.

In a gruesome reprise of the macabre Bush conviviality, President Obama joked during a similar media jamboree that if members of a certain pop group had designs on his daughters there would be “Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”

No, I don’t think the President of the United States was joking. Because nobody in his right mind jokes about killing people with Predator drone strikes.

Anyone who thinks killing of any sort is even faintly comical is a psychotic buffoon. And when it is on record that US drone strikes have killed hundreds of women and children in Pakistan, anyone who finds it funny that “you will never see it coming” is out of his tiny mind.

US drone strikes, although undoubtedly technically amazing, are not only illegal but asinine and entirely counterproductive. They cause, in CIA terms, ‘blowback.’ They are what the Brits would call an “own goal.”

There has been much scholarly debate about the legality or otherwise of US drone strikes within Pakistan. But it is difficult to see how extra-judicial killing of citizens of a friendly country, within their own country or anywhere else, is in some fashion permissible.

Having said that, there is no doubt that the world would be a better place were it to be rid of such as the fanatical Hakimullah Mehsud, a particularly evil and semi-literate Pakistani revolutionary whose knowledge of Islam is as slight as his desire for bloodshed is extensive. He’s just another thug who has latched on to Islam as some sort of justification for his deviant bloodlust. But the trouble is that he is a pretty charismatic thug. A barbarian with appealing pull. Alas, he is a role model for countless thousands of alienated Pushtun tribesmen.

It was reported by the usual media patsies, in the pockets of the always anonymous and eager-to-leak officials, that Mehsud had been killed by a drone-delivered missile. The news was circulated round the world, as was intended. But the trouble for the CIA – and for America – is that Mehsud wasn’t killed in either of the drone strikes.

The CIA got it wrong. Again. It was amateur week. Their target – Hakimullah Mehsud – wasn’t where the drone missiles struck, either time. But of course there were other people in the places he was thought to be. There were women and children and ancients and lots of inconsequential people – just like you and me – the type of ordinary people who aren’t important but have done no harm to anyone and just want to carry on living blameless lives.

According to the website Pakistan Body Count, over 1000 civilians have been killed by American drone attacks on Pakistan.

The number of so-called al Qaeda who have been killed is said to be 30 or so. But even if the number of al Qaeda killed by drone missiles was the same as the number of civilians – at a thousand – it doesn’t make the video games any less illegal and immoral.

The CIA have bamboozled Obama into believing their drone killings will work, in that they will eradicate anti-American militants. In Vietnam, all these years ago, we used to call it “termination with extreme prejudice”. It didn’t work then, and it isn’t working now.

The calculating experts, the dedicated dorks, the disastrous dweebs of the CIA imagine they can deal death with precision. They are confident their technology will result in victory.

But they don’t recognize the human factor. It’s called resentment. It results in hatred.

While the drones and their video controllers seek people here and there and try to kill them – and even sometimes succeed in blowing a militant to smithereens – the effect of their blitz is to attract ever more recruits to the legions of anti-American terrorists. Obama joked that “You never see it coming.” But what the drone-masters haven’t seen coming is the blowback.

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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