Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Written by David Sirota

Imagine, if you can, an alternate universe.

Imagine that in this alternate universe, a foreign military power begins flying remote-controlled warplanes over your town, using on-board missiles to kill hundreds of your innocent neighbors.

Now imagine that when you read the newspaper about this ongoing bloodbath, you learn that the foreign nation’s top general is nonchalantly telling reporters that his troops are also killing “an amazing number” of your cultural brethren in an adjacent country. Imagine further learning that this foreign power is expanding the drone attacks on your community despite the attacks’ well-known record of killing innocents. And finally, imagine that when you turn on your television, you see the perpetrator nation’s tuxedo-clad leader cracking stand-up comedy jokes about drone strikes — jokes that prompt guffaws from an audience of that nation’s elite.

Ask yourself: How would you and your fellow citizens respond? Would you call homegrown militias mounting a defense “patriots” or would you call them “terrorists”? Would you agree with your leaders when they angrily tell reporters that violent defiance should be expected?

Fortunately, most Americans don’t have to worry about these queries in their own lives. But how we answer them in a hypothetical thought experiment provides us insight into how Pakistanis are likely feeling right now. Why? Because thanks to our continued drone assaults on their country, Pakistanis now confront these issues every day. And if they answer these questions as many of us undoubtedly would in a similar situation — well, that should trouble every American in this age of asymmetrical warfare.

Though we don’t like to call it mass murder, the U.S. government’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan is devolving into just that. As noted by a former counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus and a former Army officer in Afghanistan, the operation has become a haphazard massacre.

“Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders,” David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum wrote in 2009. “But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed.”

Making matters worse, Gen. Stanley McChrystal has, indeed, told journalists that in Afghanistan, U.S. troops have “shot an amazing number of people” and “none has proven to have been a real threat.” Meanwhile, President Obama used his internationally televised speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner to jest about drone warfare — and the assembled Washington glitterati did, in fact, reward him with approving laughs.

By eerie coincidence, that latter display of monstrous insouciance occurred on the same night as the failed effort to raze Times Square. Though America reacted to that despicable terrorism attempt with its routine spasms of cartoonish shock (why do they hate us?!), the assailant’s motive was anything but baffling. As law enforcement officials soon reported, the accused bomber was probably trained and inspired by Pakistani groups seeking revenge for U.S. drone strikes.

“This is a blowback,” said Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. “This is a reaction. And you could expect that … let’s not be naive.”

Obviously, regardless of rationale, a “reaction” that involves trying to incinerate civilians in Manhattan is abhorrent and unacceptable. But so is Obama’s move to intensify drone assaults that we know are regularly incinerating innocent civilians in Pakistan. And while Qureshi’s statement about “expecting” blowback seems radical, he’s merely echoing the CIA’s reminder that “possibilities of blowback” arise when we conduct martial operations abroad.

We might remember that somehow-forgotten warning come the next terrorist assault. No matter how surprised we may feel after that inevitable (and inevitably deplorable) attack, the fact remains that until we halt our own indiscriminately violent actions, we ought to expect equally indiscriminate and equally violent reactions.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books “Hostile Takeover” and “The Uprising.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado


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RS Janes
13 years ago

And, of course, this attitude by the Pentagon Brass and Washington ‘cognoscenti’ is exactly why we are going to lose Afghanistan and lose Pakistan as an ally. We are pursuing the same course as the Russians — backing a central government in Kabul headed by an unpopular leader — with a few of our own tricks stirred in, and history will repeat itself as we are forced to pull out, if for no other reason than we will no longer be able to afford Afghani ‘pacification’. Of course, unlike the Russians, we’ve also incurred the enmity of many Pakistanis, which will hasten our departure. It is plain that the Afghanis are not intimidated by our forces anymore than they were by the Soviet military, and we are paying and training people who ultimately will oppose us in the field with our own weapons and knowing our strategy and tactics.

But as long as our military contractors and other groups are making money from our Afghan occupation and attacks in Pakistan, they will continue, regardless of the cost in American or foreign lives and blood. Our soldiers and Marines are as much dispensable chattel as the innocent Afghanis and Pakistanis we keep murdering.

I am surprised at Obama’s arrogance and cluelessness, though — perhaps he’s succumbed to the Beltway Group Think of American invincibility and exceptionalism. Instead of reading about Lincoln, he should pick up a book on the British Empire’s dismal history in that region. He might learn a lesson missed by our general staff still, despite their denials, fighting WW2 even if the War College’s square plans refuse to fit in the round bomb crater of Afghanistan.

Ana Grarian
13 years ago

Thanks for this article David, and thanks for your informative comment RS. I was thinking along the same lines this weekend. When we are worried about attacks on US soil, it is important to remember just how long we have been messing around with the nations of the middle east, and how much destruction we are causing there every day.

Ken Carman
13 years ago

I remember a lot of talk, and a book, about clueless (“Ugly”) Americans back in the 60s. Will we ever come out of the crib? Or would this be the 12 year old stage: sticking tongues out at everyone and doing it however you please, falling on your ass, then blaming others?

I swear. Many Neos, and a lot of men, simply never got beyond that last stage. You can see them on TV these days: and mostly on FOX.

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