Suicide Bombers and Droners?

In a recent article in the New Yorker, about the U.S. government's increasing use of deadly unmanned drones, this quote appears:

"If it's Osama bin Laden in a house with a four-year-old, most people will say go ahead. But if it's three or four children? Some say that's too many. And if he's in a school? Many say don't do it."

The quote is by John Radsan, a former lawyer in the C.I.A's office of general counsel. He is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. The article is brilliantly written by Jane Mayer, and she lets the quote glide by, but obviously it begs to be discussed.


Drones are eerily like video games, remote-controlled from C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia, except that real people are being killed, including of late civilians who attended a funeral to mourn civilians killed in a previous drone attack (if you don't believe it, read this article on AntiWar.Com, in lands far away with names like South Waziristan), on account of this "global" fight on terror, which shows no sign of abating.

On one side, it's undervalued people (who become brainwashed into becoming martyrs) killing people, on the other it's overpriced robots operated by people doing the killing.


This graf above of yearly civilian victims of terrorist attacks in Pakistan stops last year, and in recent weeks, the number of suicide bombing there seems to be even more on the rise. From August 2008 to 2009, the New York Times says there were about 60 drone strikes inside Pakistan, compared to just five in the previous year (even though also difficult to quantify). Undoubtedly, these are not peaceful times in Pakistan .

An interesting report by the Brookings Institution in July discusses the ratio of civilians to militants killed by drone attacks, which some say could be as high as 50 to one. Who really knows? Areas where drone attacks are taking place are severely restricted to press. How can you say you are fighting for freedom when the fight is being waged in utter darkness and secrecy?

An op-ed piece in the New York Times by counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen and former Army officer Andrew Exum had this quote:

"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."

They also point out drone war values technology at all costs over strategy. They go on to say drone attacks on suspected terrorists would be tantamount to police fighting crime by bombing the homes of suspected burglars from the air.


Can one can go further, and wonder whether drone attacks are any different than suicide bombings? And also, are droners, and the word doesn't exist yet, as condemnable as suicide bombers?

What is the difference, when children are killed in both situations? What is the difference between a suicide bomb which targets enemy targets (be it symbols of neocolonial capitalism, military occupation and/or aggression ..) and a drone attack which pinpoints suspected extremists? How can you kill someone else in the name of freedom, or even security?


The decision to kill by drone must be chilling just the same, although, the killer doesn't have to watch, and doesn't have to smell the sulfur. Many people are probably involved in the sequence of killing, sort of like a new age technological firing squad, where no one really accounts for the bullets that actually kill.

The Brookings article concludes with this ... "If we want to understand the impact of using robots to wage war, we should really look within ourselves."


A pro-war historian Caleb Carr wrote in his best-selling The Lessons of Terror, "War can only be answered with war." He also wrote, "Predators (the name of one of the unmanned aerial drones in the American arsenal, another is called the Reaper) can become a modern army's answer to the suicide bomber."

Think about that Mr. Carr. Is that really the world in which you want to live in, rising drone attacks and suicide bombs?

In this article in the Huffington Post, John Feffer makes a very interesting point that the United States has its own cult of martyrdom, and widespread hypocrisy of separating "our noble efforts and their barabarous acts."

To which, someone commented, in part "hey TODAY in Iraq - there are little children being paid $80 dollars to become bombers -- in the real world today. Today in Sudan, there are women being whipped for wearing pants. In Nigeria, there are 20 churches being burned down and 3 pastors murdered. In Pakistan, there are 100 homes burned down and 8 women, children, and elderly burned alive because they are Christians. In Iraq, there are five mosques blown to bits by Sunni Islamic supremacists who hate Shiite Muslims."

So the answer to that is that we should drone down those places, kill more civilians and make everything even worse?

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