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Obama: Drone Flights Continue

Last month, before the inauguration, I asked how long it would be until a wedding party or sleeping family were blown up by a remote-controlled aircraft on Obama’s watch. We didn’t have to wait long. Just three days into his presidency, two drone attacks occurred in Pakistan. The first found its target, “four Arab militants” including a “senior al Qaeda operative.” The second missile, apparently intended for a “Taleban commander,” instead killed “a pro-government tribal leader…and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child.” Obama is now officialy responsible for his first civilian casualties.

I object to sending robot aircraft into the skies of foreign nations, and firing rockets into people’s homes at the push of a button thousands of miles away. We wouldn’t tolerate this in our own skies, so how can we inflict it on others? Our much-vaunted principles are meaningless unless we apply then to everyone, including those who live beyond our borders. The U.S. Constitution calls for a jury trial and proof of guilt before a death sentence, and while the rules are different in wartime, a man sleeping at home with his family isn’t on the battlefield. Our Constitution grants no one the right to be judge, jury and executioner all at once. Obama, a Constitutional scholar, surely understands that.

Where is the outrage that this continues without pause from one administration to the next? Even if you dismiss the moral arguments as too fancy and delicate, and insist that the death of “four Arab militants” justifies cutting corners, there is a practical objection as well. Mistargeted missiles like the one that killed a “pro-government leader” and his family are far too common. Indeed, it seems that innocents are killed more often than not. Even if you believe that there is no time for jury trials on the battlefield, the slaughter of children should make you stop and think. It’s indefensible to spray a crowd with machine gun fire to stop a runaway criminal, but that is effectively what is happening here. If it happened to you and your family, you would know it was wrong.

So here’s my appeal to President Obama. You’re the Commander-in-Chief, and that makes you responsible for what the Armed Forces do on your watch. War is a dirty business, and we know from your campaign that you’re planning to go after the terrorists in the caves where they live. But do you really want to be responsible for the death of innocents, which will happen again and again as long as these drone attacks continue? Why not call a halt to them for a few weeks, long enough for your new envoy, Richard Holbrooke, to get to Pakistan and evaluate the situation? Pakistan has a democratically elected government, with its own rule of law. Our actions within their borders must be with their approval and coordination. If they want us to fire missiles from robot aircraft, they should say so clearly. Otherwise we should stop. Mr. President, does the “change” we voted for in November apply to the death of innocents? Call off the drones!


Comment from Hisham
Time: January 25, 2009, 06:10

Either Obama willingly approved of the operation, and his previous declarations hinted at the possibility that he wouldn’t basically disrupt the logic of interventionism in either Afghanistan or Pakistan; or -and that is even more frightening- he didn’t had knowledge of the operation and the somehow autonomized military command will stick to the Bush doctrine through think an thin. In both accounts Obama has failed as a responsible progressive leader and I have to say I’m quite sceptical about either his abilities to change things or his intentions anyway.

Thank you for your impassionate plea.

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 25, 2009, 10:48

Hisham, I’m sure he did approve of the operation, at least in general terms. There is probably a list of pre-approved targets, and if one of those people is spotted (or thought to be spotted) the decision to launch the attack probably occurs further down the chain of command.

Obama promised in his campaign that he would go after terrorists wherever they are, and if Pakistan wouldn’t help, he would do it without their permission. I didn’t like it at the time, but I would have hoped that once he was president, he would step back from the rhetoric and reexamine his options before reauthorizing these Bush Doctrine attacks.

He’s said that he wants robust diplomacy, so he should put that first. The Paklstanis are a sovereign nation and a democracy like ourselves. We can’t just ignore that. On the other hand, it’s possible that Pakistan does approve these attacks, in which case they should say so publicly. In either case, there’s a lack of transparency and accountability.

How do we know the targets were terrorists? If a mistargeting occurs, how do we keep it from happening again? At what level were the attacks approved, with the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities or not? With greater transparency I still wouldn’t like it (robot aircraft firing missiles from the sky is a form of terrorism itself) but I would feel that Obama is attempting to place his war policy under the authority of the American people, which is the least he could do as a “progressive leader.”

Comment from Hisham
Time: January 25, 2009, 14:45

I agree, the approach in and of itself is wrong and counterproductive. Each of these attacks works as a recruiting tool for crazies of Alqaida, so it’s a foolish policy. Apart from the fact that it is a violation of international law (to the extent that such a thing exists really). I think you’re right: it is very plausible that the Pakistanis are to some level, aware of what is planed and may be actively working with the Americans… That makes sense! they should be held accountable by their own people.

By the way, eatbees, would you accept to add your voice to those protesting against the BBC’s refusal to broadcast British charities’ appeal for Gaza. You can file a complaint here:

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 26, 2009, 01:37

Hisham, I’ve done what you asked and submitted a complaint in the form of a simple question:

“Why have you refused to broadcast an appeal by 13 British charities for aid to help rebuild Gaza after the recent fighting?”

I also asked for a reply so we’ll see what they say.

I encourage others to do this, it takes but a second. If you want to know what it’s about, try this link.

Comment from Reb
Time: February 10, 2009, 01:21

One more week to complete my survey on the Blogoma, Moroccan culture, and censorship (it will take about 15 minutes):
Thanks in advance for your valuable input!

Une semaine de plus pour compléter mon enquête sur la Blogoma, culture marocaine, et la censure (il faudra environ 15 minutes):
Merci d’avance pour votre précieuse participation!

????? ??????? ?? ????? ???? :

Comment from Vincenzo
Time: February 17, 2009, 05:21

The most frightening in this situation is that the innocent are killed innocent people! When a new person comes to power is always hope that he would change things for the better, but is that everything remains as before and even worse!

Comment from Lory
Time: January 25, 2011, 09:06

As a Japanese sage said “There is nothing worse than living in times of changes”

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