I have previously blogged on the dangers of U.S. drone attacks but the recent writings of Jeff Morley, who writes for Salon Magazine, have given updated context in terms of frequency of drone attacks; number of victims; the fear and intimidation they cause; and their use in the United States.
Morley’s estimate that Barack Obama has launched three to four times the number of drone attacks, over a comparative period, as George W. Bush, is in line with other informed estimates.His figure of 174 children killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 comports with the figure cited by the U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which puts the total killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan in a range of 2,500 to 3,000, with the civilian toll ranging from 479 to 831. Morley identifies Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia as the four countries where drone strikes are occurring today.
According to polls Morley has seen, opposition to U.S. drones is almost universal in Pakistan, fueled not just by the strikes themselves, but by the fact that in some areas of Pakistan, seeing a drone in the sky is an almost daily occurrence. It has got to be frightening to realize that anyone of those drones could be targeting you, your family or friends and associates.
The accuracy of identifying legitimate targets is certainly a problem. During the war in Iraq, the International Red Cross found that most of the thousands of Iraqis being held in captivity by U.S. forces had not been charged with a crime. The fact that U.S,. intelligence did not have good information on suspected insurgents meant that family members and close friends were held, because they might have evidence or clues to suspects’ locations.
During the earlier stages of the war in Afghanistan, many were detained on the basis that they had the same or a similar name of a suspected insurgent/terrorist. Others were turned in by someone who had a score to settle or to get rid of an inconvenient rival.
Jeff Morley raises the issue that as the terrorist leaders are being killed off, the bar might be lowered to attack lower echelon terrorists. It wasn’t long ago that reports surfaced of an argument raging in the Obama administration of targeting the “soldiers” who carry out terrorist plots. Thus, those seen unloading what look like explosives could be hit, along with those frequenting a terrorist hangout.
Besides the real possibility that U.S. drone attacks might be creating more terrorists than are being eliminated, Americans should be concerned about aerial outside agitators coming into their communities. Miami-Dade County in Florida and a county in Texas already have certification to use drones in law enforcement activities and ten more counties have applied for certification. We have already given up much of our privacy to government surveillance.