The Cost of National Security

I have already said far too much about the dreaded drone strikes our president continues to send against “targets” in the middle East in the name of “national security.” I cannot possibly improve on the words written by Matt Sledge for HuffPost after he read an interview with several of those who live under the constant fear of those so-called “signature strikes.” I will simply include several paragraphs from that article since the words require little in the way of comment.

Jalal Manzar Khail was at home on March 17, 2011 as dozens of men from two bickering tribal groups met a couple of miles away to settle a dispute.

All day long, American drones loomed in the sky above. “It’s very normal,” Khail said, speaking in Urdu through a translator with the United Kingdom legal charity Reprieve. “You see them during the day, you see them during the night — they’re always hovering.”

In Waziristan, the restive region of Pakistan where Khail lives, such drones have become commonplace over the past several years, always holding the possibility of near-instant death. Increasingly, Central Intelligence Agency drones have killed men without knowing their names, simply because from the perspective of a Predator drone’s video feed they look and act like members of the Taliban or al Qaeda or some other group considered associated with them.

Such so-called “signature strikes” are one of the most controversial practices in the drone war. When first elected, President Barack Obama was highly skeptical of such attacks, begun under former President George W. Bush in 2008. With time in the Oval Office and advice from military leaders, however, Obama came to accept their use as a vital part of the fight against terrorism.

Those signature strikes and their anonymous victims fall under Obama’s definition of targeted killings. Unnamed U.S. officials have told The New York Times the signature strikes will continue in Pakistan. In a major national security speech in May, Obama acknowledged that drones sometimes make mistakes, but said their work must carry on.

Think about that: Increasingly, Central Intelligence Agency drones killed men without knowing their names, simply because from the perspective of a Predator drone’s video feed they look like members of the Taliban or al Qaeda. . .” And the determination is apparently made by a teenager sitting at a desk somewhere in Nevada or North Dakota. All of this in the name of  “national security,” even though it has cost us our nation’s soul.

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9 thoughts on “The Cost of National Security

  1. I sometimes ponder the drones when I am in the country at the shrimp ponds.. it’s so quiet, and i think about those who live in the ‘flight’ mode whenever they hear the sound of any aircraft overhead. drones, i assume, are quite quiet? how sad to have to live like that.

    keep writing about this and maybe more will ponder what it would feel like to live with that kind of fear.

  2. Good post, Hugh. At very judicious times, I understand the need for drones, but they need to be very selective uses when using them actually hits a military target, American or allied lives are saved by not using ground troops and civilians are unharmed. Yet it has gone way beyond that purpose when civilians are killed and when deaths are treated with the same level of remorse as in a video game. I go back to the Mathew Broderick movie “War Games” where the computer did not know the difference between a game and reality. You couple this with the night raids in Afghanistan, which the Afghanis fear the most, and it paints an entirely different picture and view of the US. The much larger question is “are we improving national security, when we give others more reason to despise and fear us?” I believe the answer is no. If it is no, then we are decreasing national security for acting like thugs. BTG

    • I think you are absolutely right. We are planting deep the seeds of hatred toward this country. That hardly increases national security. But the argument that drones save the lives of American soldiers only works if American soldiers were actually on the ground in Pakistan in a declared war. Aren’t you grounded in a straw man argument?

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      • I can’t disagree with your point. I would add the new battles toward people that would do us harm will not come from within wars. So, it begs the question how do we better govern direct efforts to combat that? Al Qaeda spreads over many countries, so on whom do we declare war? It a perfect world, a country would say “we do not tolerate terrorists” and work with us to weed them out.

      • What’s the plan? Search out every possible terrorist on earth and take him out with a rocket fired from a drone directed by a teenager in Nebraska? I don’t have the answer, but I do know that what we are doing is indefensible from a moral perspective — assuming that such things count any more!

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  3. Hugh, a plan would help. I think at the heart of a plan is we need to reach out with missions of trade and support. Building bridges is far better than sending drones. Take care. Good post and dialogue. BTG

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