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Desc:Yemeni teenager records life for months before suffering a similar fate.
Category:News & Politics, Military
Tags:USA, Al Qaeda, drone, Yemen, Hearts and Minds
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Comment count is 33
misterbuns - 2015-02-10
Jet Bin Fever - 2015-02-10
I hate this shit so much.
yogarfield - 2015-02-10
This shit is sad any way you slice it.
Hooker - 2015-02-10
So, anyway. Bort supports this. C'mon and explain this to us, Bort.
Bort - 2015-02-11
Will do, and I'll do it without even invoking US security.

As rough as drones are on civilians -- killing maybe 700 civilians in the entirety of the drone campaign in Pakistan (and those are Pakistan's numbers) -- the guys we're going after are much, much worse to the civilians. You've heard the story of this one dead teenager, but did you pay any attention at all to the December massacre where the Taliban killed 132 schoolkids (141 people total), just to send a message to the Pakistani government?


But that was two months ago, ancient history. How about a suicide bombing at a mosque less than two weeks ago that killed 55?

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/world/asia/blast-kills-score s-at-mosque-in-southern-pakistan.html?_r=0

Here's the thing: Obama largely suspended the drone campaign in Pakistan this past year, and coincidentally enough, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the like have suddenly sprung to life, making life hell for the locals. And this is very likely a case of correlation meaning causation; consider this study:


Drone activity seems to be effective at keeping al Qaeda from organizing, from recruiting, from training, from supplying themselves. Drones WORK. They also make reprisals more difficult because the Taliban has no real way to shoot up an American high school.

Now let's contrast with a place like Iraq, where we haven't been using drones, and al Qaeda and related groups have been able to run roughshod over the country. Thousands of deaths a year, 7800 deaths in 2013 alone per the UN, in marketplace bombings and the like:


And of course 2014 was even worse, with ISIS exploding onto the scene.

All in all, drones improve things for the locals overseas; I won't deny the blood on our hands, but at least we make an effort to keep them civilians of the crosshairs. The people we're going after, on the other hand, make a deliberate point of putting them in the crosshairs.

Which gets to YOUR morality, Hooker: if you actually gave a shit about the brown people over there, you might actually support drones. But I say the only thing that matters to you is being able to keep the blood off Western hands, and the nobodies over there can die for all you care. Well fuck you; that is craven amorality and you've got nothing to be proud of.

gravelstudios - 2015-02-11
"the Taliban has no real way to shoot up an American high school."

We're doing a pretty good job of that ourselves.

Anyway, I concede that from a purely statistical standpoint, drones may prevent more civilian deaths than they cause. But I don't think that drones are going to fix their country or their culture--they have to do that for themselves. The Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS are, contrary to popular belief, not just huge groups of people who all happen to be sociopathically insane. They do what they do for real reasons, and as wrong as they are, they believe wholeheartedly that they are in the right. When more moderate forces finally gain control of the middle east, we're going to have a hard time convincing them (and the rest of the world) that we were bombing them for their own good.

Bort - 2015-02-11
I can't disagree with that. It so happens we have a common enemy; if that were not the case, we wouldn't be getting involved.

EvilHomer - 2015-02-11
>> It so happens we have a common enemy; if that were not the case, we wouldn't be getting involved.

Hang on, I thought we were bombing these people for altruistic reasons, because statistically they'd be getting killed MORE often, if we weren't killing them in a humane and progressive fashion instead?

If that's the case - if the argument here is essentially a moral one - than why should it matter if the we and the moderates have a common enemy or not? If every nation that takes lives needs to be bombed in order to save lives, then surely technicalities like "who is our enemy, who is their enemy" shouldn't matter. Our enemy is anyone who kills, period, and we will be involved in your country, regardless.

SteamPoweredKleenex - 2015-02-11
There's also the whole sovereignty thing. I mean, imagine if some drug cartels set up shop in the bordertowns of Texas and Nevada. Even if you could show that more lives were being saved by Brazilian drones killing them along with many American civilians, would the populace still be cool with unmanned aircraft from a foreign government coming in and shooting up your country without a LOT of consent from the governed?

Bort - 2015-02-11
"Hang on, I thought we were bombing these people for altruistic reasons, because statistically they'd be getting killed MORE often, if we weren't killing them in a humane and progressive fashion instead?"

No, I just opted to make the case solely on the basis of civilian casualties, without even factoring in US security interests. The government's motives may not be anywhere near pure, but if yours are, you'll be pleased to see a lot fewer civilians die this way.

By the wasy, "a lot fewer" is still far too many; I haven't lost sight of that. I just don't know any way to go about this that will result in fewer overall civilian deaths.

Void 71 - 2015-02-11
I think the middle east is a sun-baked shit pile that's populated by backwards cave people, but I don't support blowing them up with remote controlled airplanes. Even I'm not that big of a douchebag.

EvilHomer - 2015-02-11
>> No, I just opted to make the case solely on the basis of civilian casualties, without even factoring in US security interests.

But no one else makes this case. If, as you claimed later, we wouldn't be getting involved in these wars if they were not in our security interests, then this moral-utilitarian argument of yours is purely academic, unconnected to reality, and possibly even hypocritical. If killing people to save people were our goal, or even *A* goal, then why aren't we killing more people? Why aren't we, say, drone bombing Russia? North Korea? Cuba? If you don't support drone bombing these places, then Mr Bort, are you not yourself also guilty of the craven amorality of which you accuse Mr Hooker?

But maybe you do support this?

Consider the Islamic Republic of Tadzhikistan. This tiny nation, nominally a democracy although possessing a centrally controlled media and only one real political party of any note, has perhaps the single largest per capita prison population in the entire world, sending more of it's citizens to re-education camps each year than Nazi Germany did during the 1930s. Over 90% these prisoners have committed non-violent offenses; moral, economic, or sexual transgressions, which in many developed nations would not even be considered crimes. Tadzhikistan maintains a robust military that terrorizes nearby countries (attacking no fewer seven sovereign states in the last eight years alone), spies on it's own population around the clock (at this point, it doesn't even bother silencing whistle-blowers, instead embraces it's reputation and passing laws making such surveillance legal), stomps on numerous human rights in the name of either religion or public order, and is currently seeking to disarm it's rapidly growing working class, in stark violation of it's own ostensibly liberal constitution, placing the traditional tools of its ingenuous hunter-gatherers on its growing list of forbidden contraband. Indefinite detention and torture (including techniques used by the Axis forces in WW2) are routine; war criminals go unpunished, and indeed are currently granted retroactive immunity by law. State security forces, many of whom are now armed with tanks and assault rifles, murder over 600 civilians each year; the exact number may be higher, but Tadzhikistan has so far refused to submit to independent UN inspections. Their next free election may well see a sharia-loving Islamic radical pitted against an unapologetic globalist-Euromaidan who once served on the board of directors of WalMart. And if that's not bad enough, Jim Davis, of Garfield notoriety, retired to and then promptly died there.

Yet we are not bombing Tadzhikistan. Should we? If not, why?

SteamPoweredKleenex - 2015-02-11
The West helped make the Middle East what it is today, even forgetting the Crusades, from British colonization to our current tendency to support regimes who let madrassahs run public services so our corporate "personhoods" can pump all their oil tends to lead to unstable and toxic places for humanity to show its worst.

Bort - 2015-02-11
EH: the old "if you support a thing somewhere then you are obligated to support it everywhere" argument. I don't buy that argument; there are usually a slate of pros and cons to involvement on whatever level, and each situation needs to be evaluated individually. For example, I think drone strikes at al Qaeda training facilities in Iraq would have been helpful as we were winding down our involvement there, but they would also have compromised the objective of winding down, and we had to decide to walk away at some point. No perfect solutions to any of this, unfortunately.

(Speaking of air strikes in Iraq, I just remembered that Bush had opportunities to take out al-Zarqawi with missiles in early 2003, at his camp in the Iraqi hinterlands. Bush opted not to because he felt it would hurt the case for invasion, and when Bush critics found out about this, they went apeshit. Ah, memories.)

And I don't think that everyone who opposes drone strikes is a moral coward, but for the shit Hooker gives me, I'll call him one. It's possible to believe drones are a bad move, but if that's your stance, you're going to have to at least acknowledge the short-term (?) negative impact of letting al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, etc operate unopposed.

EvilHomer - 2015-02-11
>> the old "if you support a thing somewhere then you are obligated to support it everywhere" argument. I don't buy that argument

But why not? You just made a very impassioned plea for the moral necessity of war. This principal stretches far beyond the confines of Yemen or Syria or any other flavor-of-the-week bombing target. If your argument is valid in these cases - and it may very well be! - then it should also be valid in other cases. Hemming and hedging and trying to find qualitative statements to say, yes, well, HERE it's a moral obligation, but THERE it's not; to me, that just smacks of intellectual dishonesty and apologetic opportunism. Let's say I told you that I believed in the scientific method, but when it came to evolution? Oh no, that's going too far. I'm not obligated to support the scientific method there. How would you respond to that? What would that make me?

Void 71 - 2015-02-11
"The West helped make the Middle East what it is today, even forgetting the Crusades, from British colonization to our current tendency to support regimes who let madrassahs run public services so our corporate "personhoods" can pump all their oil tends to lead to unstable and toxic places for humanity to show its worst."

The west didn't create the culture that gave birth to Islam. We just manipulated it to get what we wanted and dropped bombs on it when it wouldn't play ball with us. If we somehow managed to cure ourselves of our addiction to foreign oil and completely cut ties with the middle east, the genital mutilations, honor killings, beheadings, etc. would continue. The hornets might stop stinging us so much if we stopped kicking their nest, but they would continue to feed on each other. That's how its always been in that region of the world and there's no indication that it would be any different if we weren't around. It's baked into their culture.

Hooker - 2015-02-11
I did not expect you to break out the, "imagine how much better Iraq would be if the United States were involved" argument, Bort. Bravo.

PegLegPete - 2015-02-11
I hate to jump in the middle but my point can be summed up in the following somewhat well:

The power of these extremists isn't - in most cases and to most people - how appealing their message and their treatment of the locals is. It's their ability to exert violent power, and probably more importantly, to carry out essential services and control the scarce resources of local populations. Until those capabilities are removed from them, they will not go away, no matter how many drones we send. Their governments are often perceived as an enemy in cooperation with foreign powers, with no shortage of evidence, and furthermore these governments do not fill the void, in terms of humanitarian assistance and policing, adequately enough for extremists to lose power, or for populations to trust them. This is a problem to which we should be sending humanitarian aid, not special forces and drones.

baleen - 2015-02-11
I love drone wars. We don't have to lose any guys and it keeps the fuckers scared.

I'd rather spend the money on developing infrastructure in those countries, but that's kind of hard when they're blowing up the infrastructure that has been built already.

Here's the thing, we can stop the drone war in Afghanistan and tell Pakistan and Kabul that it's their problem and pull out.

This is what happens when Pakistan does it themselves:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_North-West_Pakistan#Operat ion_Zalzala

Now, casualty numbers are funny things. Official government projections (especially from Pakistan) are suspect. Think of the THOUSANDS of non-militants who died in those offensives on top of the thousands that are officially thought to have died, then the estimated 300,000 people who had to leave their home provinces and who are currently dying in refugee camps. How does that match up to the casualties in a drone war?

And Kabul? What do you think would happen to all those newly minted female ministers who share a higher number of seats then the female congresswomen in our own House?
I'll give you a hint: It will involve a lot of videotaped humiliation, plenty of rape, and hundreds of beheadings.

Then what will you say, "See? We caused that because we didn't do anything because Americans only care about oil!" or something. There's no easy and happy solution to any of this. There's no silver bullet that doesn't kill people.

baleen - 2015-02-11
And blaming what is happening right now in the Muslim world is like blaming the 30 Years War on the Ottoman Empire.

Certainly the Ottomans fucked around with Europe quite a lot, and at that time were an unrivaled superpower, but they were not responsible for the 30% population loss between rival Christian sects in the war, a war that seemed to be completely over subtleties in Christian doctrine and royal heritage (not unlike the rule of caliphs and their lineages to Mohammed and exalted holy men). In that regard, Islam, being six centuries younger than Christianity, is doing amazingly well. They are not murdering each other by the tens of millions in the way Christians would have done. The fringe violence is just that, isolated and hated by most, but impossible to get rid of by ignoring.

baleen - 2015-02-11
*blaming what is happening in the Muslim world right now on America.

baleen - 2015-02-11
And yes I think we should cut ties with Bahrain and other dictatorships, but we won't, because they improve our lives with cheap oil. Stop consuming goods shipped by trucks and stop driving, there's a start.

Bort - 2015-02-11
"But why not? You just made a very impassioned plea for the moral necessity of war."

I made it in response to somebody who objects to dozens dying a year at US hands but not to the alternative of hundreds or thousands dying a year at terrorist / militia hands. If civilian casualties are your one and only measure, then drone baby drone.

But things are more complicated than that; there are issues of sovereignty, long-term consequences, limits of power, etc that factor into the calculation of what (if anything) to do in each individual circumstance. So no, I don't buy into the notion that the same solution should be applied everywhere just to stay consistent.

I can give you some general principles that I think we should try to honor, which can easily come into conflict: preserving life rather than taking it; international sovereignty; the rule of law; our own security; not overcommitting ourselves; international reputation; recognizing that not everywhere in the world is southern Illinois and we can't expect everyone to think like we do. Easy solutions, though? I don't have them.

Void 71 - 2015-02-11
"This is a problem to which we should be sending humanitarian aid, not special forces and drones."

Giving food packets to countries that rake in billions of dollars in oil revenue annually doesn't seem like a wise decision to me. At this point, it's pretty clear that there is nothing we can do to save the middle east from itself. It's an irrepairable black hole of Stone Age social Darwinism. If we can do business with whatever warlord runs the oil fields this month without bogging ourselves down in fruitless nation building/destroying, then that's what we should do. Save the charity for the millions of people within our own country who need it and stop dropping bombs on an unsolvable cultural problem.

EvilHomer - 2015-02-12
Ah, OK, Mr Bort, so you don't actually believe that. Your argument was more for the benefit of Mr Hooker; a response to his position, rather then a reflection of your own. My apologies.

PegLegPete - 2015-02-12

PegLegPete - 2015-02-12
Sending their population food, in my opinion, is very wise - it lets them know we aren't the enemy, and gives them resources. Sure, their government and miscreants can take it, but we can do a lot to try to prevent that, and they probably can't get all of it anyway. Additionally, if that's all we're sending, we look pretty god. And it's pretty cheap. I agree we have our own problems, but this is about foreign policy, and it's probably more effective if we send food/water rather than destruction or nothing at all.

Void 71 - 2015-02-12
We tried the aid route in Afghanistan and most of it was stolen by the warlords who came back into power after the Taliban was kinda-sorta-but-not-really routed out. There's only so much you can do for a culture that is willing to steal food out of the mouths of its children. As a purely public relations gesture, I think it would be pretty hollow. Even the poorest goat herder knows that America wouldn't give a shit about his country if it wasn't sitting on top of a gazillion gallons of oil. America is like a bull in a China shop when it come to sorting out other countries' civil wars, which is perfectly understandable when you take into consideration how it handles its own problems. America is a fading empire that is incapable of making *anything* better.

Bus_Aint_Comin - 2015-02-14
wait a minute, jim davis didn't die in tadzikistan...

Bort - 2015-02-11
SPK - here are interesting polling results from Pakistan:

https://www.uakron.edu/dotAsset/4823799c-34eb-4b4f-992e-ac4a22 61e0c4

The results are surprising, because there are all kinds of dimensions to this that neither of us would have anticipated. I'll quote part of the Conclusions:


This study was an effort to understand the shape of attitudes in Pakistan toward American drone strikes in the FATA. We used a Pew Global Attitudes Project survey from 2010 that has one of the best battery of questions available on Pakistani attitudes toward drone strikes. The overview of the Pakistani attitudes toward drone strikes shows that more Pakistanis oppose drone strikes than approve of them by about 60-40%. Of particular concern is the number of innocents who are perceived to be killed in the strikes.

The next goal of this study was to explain the variation one sees in Pakistani public opinion toward the drone strikes. We sought to explain why some Pakistanis support the strikes, whereas others oppose them. We argued that the primary reason driving opposition to the drone strikes would be the narrative of radical Islam in Pakistan, that has argued that the US is at war with Islam and the drone strikes are part and parcel of the that war.

The results of the analysis bear out our argument. Pakistanis who view the United States as the enemy and think of themselves as religious fundamentalists are most likely to be opposed to the drone strikes. Those who support the drone strikes tend to be those who believe that the US favors Pakistan over India.

The attitudes that are formed about drone strikes also seem to be largely the product of information. The more educated and males, who in Pakistan tend to be more educated than women, are more in favor of drone strikes than those who are less educated and women. It is ossible that those who are more educated seek out more international news sources and avoid some of the more sensationalist Pakistan media information that tends to paint US drone strikes as part of a war being waged against Pakistan. The more educated may not necessarily agree with all of the American arguments about drone strikes, but they may have the view that the militants are a threat to Pakistan and drone strikes are one of the few things being done to counter them, for better or for worse.


So, complicated.
StanleyPain - 2015-02-11
Kid should have done a documentary about all the people "martyred" by the Shia in that region.
Tobster - 2015-02-12
After reading these comment I am really wondering how many of the people who post on here are real life psychopaths.
Syd Midnight - 2015-02-17
When I was his age, shooting little pixelated people on a computer screen was just a hobby for nerds and children, and the concept of combining it with flying killer robots to create a deadly military asset was still more humorous than it was scary.

First time I ever heard about modern drones was when the US invaded Kuwait. An actual goddamn battleship showed up for that, plowing right through the minefields, and experimentally used drones as spotters. The Iraqi soldiers weren't sure what they were but knew exactly why they were there, and the US Navy was gleefully showing off aerial footage of soldiers running around waving their arms at the sky trying desperately to surrender to the drone because they did not want to get shot at by a fucking battleship.
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