Oops— killed the children! Have you seen the photo? So winsome, so charming in some dusty village of Arab lands. But now, they no longer run about shouting and jabbering. Instead, neatly arranged on the floor, each one is swaddled in some sort of burial cloths. They are still, in repose. They have been lovingly cleaned and prepared for whatever funeral rites the parents can provide… if the parents still exist after the drone strike.
Our government has admitted that our precise surgical air strikes are not that neat and surgical, but do include many others not targeted, … collateral damage, like those children.
Lucky that some children’s faces are not lacerated. Our drone directed bombings have the potential to shred bodies. At least, we can reassure ourselves: These children will not grow up to be terrorists. And these kids are not Americans. Don’t weep for these children.
But sometimes, the collateral damage is one of our own. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, for example, a 16-year-old US citizen who died in October, 2011. In Dirty Wars archival film footage, he appears as an all-American boy. He had followed his father, Anwar al-Awlaki (also an American citizen) to Yemen. A radical cleric accused by the US of inspiring terrorist attacks, his father was killed in a drone strike Obama sanctioned just two weeks earlier.
There is a catch to American efforts. Blow back. Many villages once sympathetic to the US are now bitter. Our world-wide war against terrorism is terrorizing their sleepy dusty villages. They face the hovering constant threat of drones. Bolts of destruction that can strike, at any moment. Strikes that do not always reach a real terrorist target among the people.
Who killed the children?
Simple answer. We killed the children. But I’m pretty sure we didn’t mean to. Rest assured. Our president suffers. He feels deep moral and intellectual conflict from these deaths.
“For me, and those in my chain of command, those [civilian] deaths will haunt us as long as we live,” the president claimed. He added that drones and other new weapons technologies “raise profound questions—about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under US and international law; about accountability and morality.”
There are many killing agents and bureaus in the American war on terror. The president meets on Tuesdays to sensitively ratify a list of individuals to be killed. This list can include Americans. As infamously leaked by the White House, President Obama has authorized the assassination of US citizens. He also serves as the judge and jury.
One part of our killing delivery system resides in trailers in our western states. Our technicians peer into distant lands and select targets for the drones to send in the bombs. You have probably heard of some of these technicians decorated for their valor fighting the war against terror. From their air-conditioned trailers. The killings take a lot out of them.
Our war against terrorism also includes covert wars. According to Jeremy Scahill, elite soldiers operate worldwide. Thousands of secret commandos work in more than one hundred countries. They’re drawn from the ranks of Navy SEALs, Delta Force, former Blackwater and other private security contractors, the CIA’s Special Activities Division, and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Obama’s secret kill list – the disposition matrix (/www.guardian.co.uk)
‘Signature Strikes’ and the President’s Empty Rhetoric on Drones (/www.huffingtonpost.com)
Snapshots from an American dystopia (www.crikey.com.au)