Have We Become The Terrorists?

“Collateral Damage” U.S. Drone Attack in Pakistan

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs. Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.

[T]hose interviewed stated that the fear of strikes undermines people’s sense of safety to such an extent that it has at times affected their willingness to engage in a wide variety of activities, including social gatherings, educational and economic opportunities, funerals, and that fear has also undermined general community trust. In addition, the US practice of striking one area multiple times, and its record of killing first responders, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid to assist injured victims.”

Source

The moral question in the headline begs your consideration.
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Author: ELIJAH SWEETE

Contributor, aka tidbits

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39 Comments

  1. Does anyone recall who wrote “You become what you fight”?

  2. I’ve always believed what makes a terrorist a terrorist and not just a “freedom fighter” or “rebel” is the specific targeting of civilians. Killing civilians is just pointless and done out of rage. No organization has achieved its aims by targeting civilians. But if you are going after soldiers and govt targets, you are not a mere terrorist. We want to get terrorists, who use civilians as targets and hide amongst them. We can either throw up our hands and say they are untouchable, or we can proceed and hopefully minimize the death of those civilians around the targets. This is an ugly situation. I knew as soon as I saw the towers go down on 9/11 that countless babies were going to die in the coming years as a result. But as brutal and ruthless as the carnage is now, it pales in comparison to what we could do if were not a nation of restraint. At least under this administration.

  3. Do you think the parents of the child lying dead in the photo above understand that rationale?

    Btw, what is the rationale for going after first responders via multiple strikes on the same site and/or taking out Awlaki’s 16 year old son two weeks after taking out Awlaki…both U.S. citizens?

    Not trying to be a jerk or confrontational. I sincerely believe that we need to think through these things rather than simply rationalize on behalf of the side we want to “win.”

  4. When the laws of war aren’t really law at all we lose the credibility to lead the world as we have since WW II.

    When we kill and maim children and innocent with the attitude that we do it because we can and we can do it outside of the rules of law we become the world’s biggest bully.

    Instead of ‘liberty and justice’. It appears in issues such as drones, the desire to remain the world’s leader, that big ‘Somebody’ we lose sight of what the United States aspires to be….

    I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody.” Abraham Lincoln

    And what about drones for the surveillance in the U.S.? Where does that one lead?

  5. I don’t expect the parents of a dead child, or a dead adult for that matter, to understand anything other than the grief of their loss, if that. What I expect people to understand is that we are in a fight with these terrorist organizations, who strike out and then conceal themselves amongst civilians. We are going to still target them. And that while these civilians deaths are terrible, the use of the drone program actually represents restraint on our part and not indescriminant use of force. It is the most precise use of force we have at our disposal to get this done, the only other less violent way to get at these guys where they are is to do nothing at all. And that is unacceptable.

  6. Elijah,

    This is what is written in the article you link to.

    The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.

    Did you notice that there is no footnote for this allegation? Where is some proof that this is in fact being done? When I read things like this and do not see one single acknowledgement that the terrorists bear some blame by using civilians as human shields I tend to not trust anything being said by those making these accusations. I hate to tell them this but the “rules of war” were abandoned before the U.S. ever struck back against a single terrorist. Where are their calls to the fanatics hiding in Pakistan to cease committing murder and terrorizing people in Afghanistan?

    As far as this sentence of yours is concerned I also have a queston for you.
    Not trying to be a jerk or confrontational. I sincerely believe that we need to think through these things rather than simply rationalize on behalf of the side we want to “win.”

    What makes you think that no one in the administration hasn’t thought of these things? The hubris of those who think this reminds me of anti-choice zealots who assume that no woman who seeks an abortion has thought about why she feels that this is her best option.

  7. Have We Become The Terrorists?

    Some have… And some sitting on their couches think what ‘our’ terrorists are doing is O.K.

    Most haven’t… Though many sit on their couches and say nothing.

  8. Nothing is more horrible than the loss of innocent lives…in wars of all kinds.
    It is again a reminder that war is something to be avoided. To escape from the horrors of personalized killing we now have become “automated” to get more distance from the deed, but certainly no more humane.
    Are we becoming terrorists? It depends on how you define terrorist. Are we killers of innocent bystanders? yes. Are we defenders of our nation? yes.
    Do we try our best to minimize loss of life? yes. Do we initiate acts of violence against citizen populations to make a demand? No.
    I am just curious Elijah. How would you handle our “war on terrorism” in the middle east? Would you employ any weapons?

  9. sheknows,

    As always you raise interesting points and questions. Let me begin with a correction, or at least what I believe to be a correction.

    You say, “Do we try our best to minimize loss of life? yes.” I don’t think that is true. There are credible reports where a drone attack on a funeral killed or killed/maimed 83. There is another credible report where there was a meeting of civilians to discuss ownership of a mine. The drone strike killed 42 I believe. A grand total of two were Taliban. In his comment above, Stephen S links to an article on US strikes on first responders and funerals. PLEASE read it! It’s an eye opener and includes other links to pieces from the likes of AP and the NYT.

    As for what I would do, I will give it some thought. It’s a legitimate question, but between my day job and trying to keep up with three comment threads here it may be a while before I can give it the thought it deserves…it’s a question far too serious for a shoot from the hip response.

    Again please read the article linked by StephenS. Thanks.

    tidbits

  10. I don’t think many Americans have the capacity to allow themselves to deeply contemplate if the U.S. is exhibiting acts of terror… there is such a tendency to justify and claim we are doing is justified,as the shadows dance behind unnoticed….

    Since that question is not likely to be answered, the one that might be is; what is the percentage do these kinds of strike destroy terrorist and how many are created because of them? And further down the road what is the end results?

  11. It is not quite clear to me who are being referred to as “becoming terrorists,” the government leaders who believe the drone strikes are necessary for our national security and for the protection of Americans, the military who execute them or the people — like myself — who feel they are a necessary, last resort tactic to, again, protect our national security and our people, provided that all of the following conditions are met:

    IF an individual poses a known, verifiable, real and imminent threat to Americans (e.g. about to blow up an aircraft, launch a missile, blow up Americans, etc.)

    And IF the individual can not be apprehended and otherwise neutralized on a timely basis (host government is non-existent — e.g. Somalia –; host government can not — e.g. Yemen — or will not — e.g. many — cooperate, etc.)

    And IF everything possible is done to avoid or minimize collateral damage,

    Then and IFF (if and only if) take the individual out with a drone, covert action, or any other means.

    (Law enforcement personnel do that in the United States, to Americans as a last resort if they threaten the lives of others.)

    Just a few days ago law enforcement officials took out an American citizen, on American soil because he posed an imminent threat to a five-year-old child, because he could not be apprehended without endangering the child’s life, and because it could be done — as proved to be — without collateral damage.

  12. Will do so. Now if that is indeed true, that we are not quite so focused on loss of innocent life, then of course there should be hearings regarding this ASAP. We are not in the business of murder, nor are we just sloppy with our intelligence and calculations. This must be brought to a halt immediately.

  13. Sparrow,

    You have a troubling tendency to read my mind. Earlier I thought that the parents of the child in the photo are now likely supporters of those who wish to destroy America. It is much the same as invading Iraq which had little to do with Al-Qaeda before the invasion but which soon had “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” and which was used to recruit new terrorists. One of the questions…also as part of what sheknows asked earlier…is how do we proceed in a manner that protects our citizenry without making entire stadia of new enemies.

    The article StephenS links asks the question more bluntly. Do you really want to make this many enemies in a country, Pakistan, that has 200 nuclear weapons?

  14. I think we also need to consider that strikes to kill terrorists that also cause collateral damage, could have the ironic effect of strengthening anti US sentiment and causing more to become terrorists.

  15. Thank you, Stephen. I have to agree that those kinds of attacks need to stop. I still don’t see anyone being critical of the practice of hiding among civilians on the part of the Taliban or Al Quaeda, though. And sheknows asked the question I would like answered. What alternative do we have when facing terrorists who come out to attack and then retreat to hide among civilians across the border in Pakistan? I think it’s pretty self-evident that these killers have allies in the Pakistani military and government.

  16. I see many are thinking along the same lines.

  17. Dorian…..

    Just a few days ago law enforcement officials took out an American citizen, on American soil because he posed an imminent threat to a five-year-old child, because he could not be apprehended without endangering the child’s life, and because it could be done — as proved to be — without collateral damage.

    Just chirping here with attempt to settle my mud.

    Was this situation, as microcosm, of the wounded vet in Alabama the same pattern as the pattern with Bin Laden?

    Both men aligned with the military with seemly good intent, in that process they felt betrayed, entered the terrain that some would call paranoia or a broken brain created by trauma that kept looping back on itself… both spent years devising plans to pay back and to avoid being captured….then both were confronted by that which has stalked their dreams and lives for years… the pursuit of their greatest fear became their demise….both killed in face to face combat…

    This event amplified the replicating pattern that started within microcosm of individuals wounded from war and trauma…. then Bin Laden amplified his discord with the U.S. to draw in the multitude of disgruntled in the Middle East because of their experience of American policy… microcosm to macrocosm ….

    It is so much more than the individual strike of drones… from people reactions to the drones, they fear going out, they fear they can be hit at any time…they have witnessed the horrors of war for decades…

    IF an individual poses a known, verifiable, real and imminent threat to Americans (e.g. about to blow up an aircraft, launch a missile, blow up Americans, etc.)

    And IF the individual can not be apprehended and otherwise neutralized on a timely basis (host government is non-existent — e.g. Somalia –; host government can not — e.g. Yemen — or will not — e.g. many — cooperate, etc.)

    And IF everything possible is done to avoid or minimize collateral damage,

    Then and IFF (if and only if) take the individual out with a drone, covert action, or any other means.

    (Law enforcement personnel do that in the United States, to Americans as a last resort if they threaten the lives of others.)

    Respectfully Dorian….the people that live in the fear of drones, will never see these words, and they will not believe it they do see them…

    I don’t know if this will fit, but there is a theme that runs through the ” Hunger Games” series that seems apt… to all of this and where it could lead, unless we find a way to pause … to asses that the pathology within an individual in relation to their governments or the governments pathology and its relationship to individuals…from the one it spreads to the many, and from the many to the whole…

    Maybe our only salvation is another Nagasaki or Hiroshima…. where the world is horrified by violence….And what if it is us and not them?

    What i do know… it is a circle, a replicating pattern, it will find its way back to where it started….

  18. Sheknows maybe we start by really seeing what we are creating and how we are creating it, rather than continuing to amplify and defend what we now know is not working beyond the immediate elimination of terrorist..pausing and assessing… not only our interest but the interest and experience of other…empathic policy rather than policy of domination is the only long term sanity….

    That is the greatest challenge and the hardest, being in right relation with individuals and nations based on codes of honor and rules…Rules and laws and enforcing those create safety. All across the world we play sports and there are clear rules and if you don’t obey you are asked to leave that game, not killed…If we can do that at one level and be successful, why can we not examine what is successful and apply it to how we come together in play and combat across the world? Do we want a fair game or do we want to win? Do we want to be happy and safe or do we want to be right and fight to dominate the world through the power of our beliefs?

    Are we that much different than Lance Armstrong? We want to lead the pack…we want to live hierarchy with others and nations rather than horizontally…we want the edge and with the drones there are those that wanted the edge to be secret…

    Are we becoming muscle bound with lost of fertility that can support life on this planet for all?

  19. What Stephen S, OS, Z and ES, said.
    Of course Pakistan loyalty to what our view of the area is problematical. We in the west, seem to think we are always correct and hence act like bullies. Drone baby drone and forget the people in a smaller country than ours. We sometimes have the same mentality as the NRA but instead of AR-15s we have drones and big bombs coupled with our might makes right military supremacy. This makes us make mistakes and that leads to innocents being blown up or our collaborators, like the Doctor in Pakistan wind up in jail and embarrassing the portion of the Pakistan government (with 200 nuclear devices) making them think twice about our attitude towards them.
    Note: The head of the group that attacked in Mumbai leads a normal life (today’s NYT)>

  20. Hi, Ordinarrysparrow,

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to explain your views — and you are not “chirping” at all.

    Since you have so graciously done so, I owe it to you to explain my views perhaps in a little more detail. But, please keep in mind that I am not doing so change your mind, nor to prove that you are wrong and I am right and, most of all, I am not doing this to prove that I am not “becoming a terrorist,” because Americans do not need to prove so.

    Anyway, first, as to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Our Navy SEALs risked their lives to bring to justice the man responsible for the wanton slaughter of more than 3,000 innocent American men, women and children.

    Our heroes tried to capture the mass murderer alive — in a country that could not or would not cooperate — but couldn’t, and, to put it frankly (some will say callously, fine) I would not have wanted one more American SEAL to risk his life to do so.

    That is that.

    As to the “microcosm” of the kidnapper of a five-year-old in Alabama, our law enforcement officials could not have handled it better. To the best of my knowledge, there was no other way to ensure the survival of the child who was facing an imminent and deadly threat.

    Expanding this “microcosm” into a little wider “microcosm” (perhaps a “macrocosm”), think with me for a minute about a known terrorist, in a lawless or non-cooperative country, with his ”finger on the trigger” — literally or figuratively — about to blow up an aircraft full of men, women and children — their nationality is irrelevant — or a hotel full of Americans, or — God prevent it — cause another 9/11 right here in America, and we have credible evidence as to his intent, means, and ability to accomplish his terror act, and there is no other alternative than to take him out, we must do so, wile doing everything humanly possible to avoid or minimize collateral damage.

    That is what I have now tried to say twice.

    All the other sentiments that we may be creating more enemies by doing such, that the collateral damage is horrible (and it is), and in particular your sentiments on how and why these criminals and terrorists are created and antagonized are all very true, ordinary sparrow, but I must come back to my opinion that when tens, dozens, hundreds or even thousands of (American) lives are imminently threatened, we must take quick, resolute, firm and effective action — even if it results in the death of the terrorist or, tragically, in the deaths of innocents.

    I know I have not convinced you — and that was not the intent — but thank you for engaging, ordinarysparrow.

  21. A couple of typos :

    “I am not doing so change your mind” should have been “I am not doing so to change your mind”

    “…wile doing everything humanly possible to avoid or minimize collateral damage.” Should have been, “while doing everything humanly possible to avoid or minimize collateral damage.”

    Sorry, OS

  22. DDW, I respect your opinion, but the fact is that OBL, when the story was finally corrected, was shot with no danger to a SEAL. He stuck his head out and blam. So, why couldn’t we snatch him? Perhaps it was strategically better that way, but I am just saying that is not my opinion. I also think the drones are an effective “elective surgical operation”, and we know how that has turned out in the medical field. Elective becomes slipshod very easily and a man with a hammer always looks for nails to drive. My 3 cents.

  23. DDW, I respect your opinion, but the fact is that OBL, when the story was finally corrected, was shot with no danger to a SEAL.

    I respect your opinion, too, dduck.

    But, do you have credible sources for your claim?

  24. At today’s Brennan hearings:

    Amid widespread controversy over the Obama administration’s use of targeted killings by drones, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said she would review proposals to create a new court to oversee such strikes. She gave no details but said it would be analogous to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees eavesdropping on American soil.

    I would support such

  25. Dorian said, “I would support such”.

    So would I. A step in the right direction.

  26. Hallelujah! Some common ground :)

  27. “We [now] know that he was shot as the SEALs were coming up the stairs, they saw a guy poke his head out and shot at him,” Bowman says. “As they came into the room bin Laden was on the ground in his death throes.” He says one of the SEALs then shot bin Laden in the chest several times, killing him.” http://www.npr.org/2012/11/04/.....laden-raid
    I’m going to back off and say it was ambiguous as to the motivation for the SEALs to capture him alive. So, DDW, you may be correct that: “Our heroes tried to capture the mass murderer alive”, but I don’t think so, although I don’t blame them for protecting their asses.

  28. Still a lot of ifs and buts, but let’s leave it that way.

    I do agree with your not blaming our SEALs “for protecting their asses.”

    I’ll go one step further and venture to say that the SOB OBL was not worth even one injured SEAL.

  29. “Apparently, Bin Laden’s death was a foregone conclusion, since Obama made it clear before the raid that if the terrorist leader wanted to surrender, “he better be naked and on the ground.” The president’s remark, which does not appear to have been reported anywhere else, is revealing.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10.....&_r=0

  30. I do not have a very high opinion for war….Dorian know that is true for you too…Totally hear ‘only as the last resort’….’ too many have already been killed, no more’….as well as, ‘finger on the trigger’…., the ‘good animal’ has spoken, the part of us that defends its own and will attempt to judge the greater gain with the least of loss…the noble… the loyal… the brother who has the back of his comrade that engages in battle…

    Lots of good people get hurt, maimed and killed for what is often the worst of reasons…Years ago a neuro- toxicologist saod the downfall of mankind will be the human brain that is able to create chemicals and technology far beyond what the animal portion of the brain can adapt… The portion of our brain that can produce the drone far out distances our emotional and moral development and evolution.

    Has there ever been a war that was not started by the most base of reasons, the lower nature? … emotions… striving for dominance….finding food and shelter… self preservation….protection of the weak? …And there is no problem with that, we are animals…It seems we get into the greatest dangers when we do not honor that which makes us animals…

    When contemplating the drone…I feel are not being good animals….

    Animals of like species rarely kill each other…yet they have disagreements and disputes…Animals of the same species have some kind of inner mechanism that does not want to kill, instead they enter the fight and they posture with the attempt to intimidate the other into believing, ‘i am the more ferocious and you are inferior’ which results in one animal fleeing or laying down and showing its belly in submission. Example NRA is going a good day of posturing, beating their chests, flaying the arms ‘only going to remove their guns from their cold dead hands’, and already many are running and showing their bellies… It works … there is a dance within most every species to resolve conflict in ways that does not lead to death….Fight, Posture, Flight, or Roll over…They only kill their own species as the last resort, unless something has gone very wrong in their environment or biology.

    As unpopular as this may sound, will say again trauma, fear, not wanting to kill each other is what keeps us as ‘good animals’ which insures the long term survival of the species…We stopped being good animals with the bomb and with each decade the technology continues to be created which puts us at greater distance from our enemy in war…. now we have the drones created by the advanced brain that can bring death through the action of few fingers on a keyboard that can destroy… We don’t have to be there… When the failure to settle conflict results in war, which is inevitable, we need to bring the best of our animal natures and not the advanced scientific and technological that can kill without blemish… When we mix the animal nature of war with the advanced human brain we move into the age of the diabolical and sever our own head from our body in order to kill the body of another that we cannot recognize to have a face.

    My argument is to highlight the danger of distance in war, not for the immediate loss of life but for the survival of the species…

    Advanced technological distance creates physical distance
    Physical distance creates emotional distance
    Emotional distance creates cultural distance
    Cultural distance creates moral distance

    Advanced technology creates the bomb the drones
    This affords physical distance
    Emotional distance allows ones to kill more readily without confronting the humanity of another
    Cultural distance the enemy can be dehumanized and considered inferior
    Moral distance classifies the other as morally wrong

    What is the cost of distance?

    Can only echo Elijah Tidbits on this one…’That is not a world i want to live in.’.

    Some days, such as this my highest prayer is for us to be good animals.

    We have great need for our advanced brains to create laws to promote how all can live and thrive as a species, rather than serving the animal brain that fears for existence at every turn.

    I do see your point and appreciate the intent you hold for it, yet i don’t see how it can lead to long term good…

    I like the Brady advocacy slogan; ” We are better than this.”

  31. I’m only sorry I didn’t see this post earlier and was able to read all of the other comments. But I can see at this point, that is not possible to offer any comments that might be unique or original.

    I think that unfortunately, we as a species are really not to much evolved from the hominids in the beginning of 2001:A Space Odyssey. We rely too much on finding ways to develop bigger and better bones to smash the skulls of out enemies with. And despite digital technology that allows us to kill from thousands of miles away with deadly accuracy, when it comes to war, we are still only smashing our enemies skulls with bones—When reduced to the lowest common denominator, we still have done little to nurture our peaceful and compassionate nature. But luckily, those gentle aspects are also with us, and those who comment on this forum are very aware and concerned, about them.

    Like everyone else, if I am honest, I have no definite answers that will end our aggressive and destructive natures. I still get angry when someone in a bad mood does not treat me with courtesy at a checkout counter—it is only hours later that I realize that person may have been dealing with a bad day and may have a difficult life of his or her own.

    I know that it has become a cliche thing to say, but at least acknowledging that we human beings have a problem living at peace together, is a start!

  32. @ Dorian….

    Just a few days ago law enforcement officials took out an American citizen, on American soil because he posed an imminent threat to a five-year-old child, because he could not be apprehended without endangering the child’s life, and because it could be done — as proved to be — without collateral damage.

    Agree 100% this incident was handled with extreme care… they made instant contact, secured the area from innocent by-standers being harmed… they spent days negotiating at the site…they assessed until they could extract the child without harm. It was effective and courageous and required great skill…the man was killed and it was a understandable and just event. The life of the child was foremost.

    But what if we had said; The man killed another man, he has a history of being anti-government, he boarded a school bus loaded with children, killed the bus driver and kidnapped a venerable child. The man also had made bombs so he was a thread to the community, so we will send in a drone and kill him… What if in the drone strike the child was killed and even some that were attempting to be of aid to the child were killed? How would we react as Americans?

    Hopefully we will never make that decision for our citizens but why do we tolerate ‘collateral damage’ for other countries, knowing there is great possibility that innocent will be killed?

    Only by creating ‘distance’ can we do this.

    Dorian thanks … respectfully… sparrow

  33. Hi, OS,

    As mentioned in another thread, I was not going to beat this horse any more to death — or something like that.

    But I owe you at least the courtesy to acknowledge your thoughtful comments, and I do so hereby.

    One thing in your last comments, however, caught my attention and I just want to “close the loop” on it.

    You said:

    Advanced technological distance creates physical distance
    Physical distance creates emotional distance
    Emotional distance creates cultural distance
    Cultural distance creates moral distance

    Advanced technology creates the bomb the drones
    This affords physical distance
    Emotional distance allows ones to kill more readily without confronting the humanity of another
    Cultural distance the enemy can be dehumanized and considered inferior
    Moral distance classifies the other as morally wrong

    What is the cost of distance?

    All very true and disturbing, but nothing new or more evil or lethal –the drone threat, that is — compared to present and past threats.

    We (several countries) have had massive arsenals of nuclear-tipped ICBMs (with MIRV — Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicles), bombers loaded to the tilt with nuclear weapons, nuclear tipped and deadly accurate submarine-launched ballistic missiles, etc., etc. aimed at each other and each capable of destroying entire small countries and “collaterally” killing thousands if not millions of innocent men, women and children, and all at the push of buttons from great physical distances, creating, as you say, emotional distance, moral distance allowing for all the consequences you so rightly mention, such as allowing one “to kill more readily without confronting the humanity of another,” etc.

    Thus, I agree with you: war is evil and wrong whether it is fought with ICBMs killing possibly millions (very heavy “collateral damage”)and turning our planet into a nuclear wasteland, or whether it is fought with drones, killing targeted individuals who would kill our own, sometimes, regrettably with “collateral damage.”

    None of it is good, or moral. But sadly, sometimes one is the sacrifice we pay to prevent a much worse outcome.

    Thanks again, and good night.

  34. Never argue with an idiot, someone might not know the difference.
    Never terrorize a terrorist, someone might not know the difference.

  35. Excellent, hyper.

  36. Hyper flow you say a lot in two lines….

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