Today was one of those days.
Possibly not. Allow me to elaborate.
I woke up at around mid-day. This annoyed my father with whom I was intending to work with in the morning. I got in the shower and used a new shower gel I'd recently been bought- FCUK (which the spell check on Mozilla Fire fox is telling me to spell as FUCK =] ) and enjoyed smothering myself in the smell of 1972. It was a difficult choice to make- deciding between the different fragrances in the FCUK shower gel range- because both 1972 and Steel smelled identical. I'm not knocking them for this- maybe 1972 smelled of steel? I don't know, I wasn't around.
But if they DID smell similar, why have two different labels that smell so similar? Why not go for Steel and 1992- which would have smelled more like blondes, bush and blowfish.
So today I came across an article in this months New Yorker regarding the C.I.As drone programme. Drones are planes which fly around 2 miles above the ground, are unmanned and used primarily for surveillance. The C.I.As drone program consists of (from what I've read) two types of drones, the Predator and it's more lethal counterpart, amply named, the Reaper. The writer of the article is describing the detail that is visible from the feed that is captured using the predator drones.
The live video feed clearly shows footage of one of the most wanted terrorists in Pakistan at the time. Baitullah Mehsud is shown laying on the rooftop of his in-laws' home. He is joined by his wife, his uncle, a medic and in the vicinity are his parents in law. During the feed, Mehsud is receiving an intravenous drip as he suffered from diabetes and a kidney illness.
The author continues to comment on how the image remains just as stable as the C.I.A remotely fire two hellfire missiles from the drone. And how after the dust cleared from the explosion, all that remained of Mehsud was a detached torso.
In that attack, eleven others died: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, and, well, 8 other people.
I'd love to go through the ins and outs of the article but the damn thing is EIGHT pages long. It questions America's right to use such tactics in warfare, and when it is legitimised in using them.
Under international law, for a government to target civilian terror suspects abroad, the group must be engaging in armed conflict and the use of force must be a "military necessity. There must be no reasonable alternative to killing, such as capture, and to warrant death, the target must be directly participating in hostilities.
Now, in the scenario above, where the target was getting an intravenous drip, how was he participating in hostilities? Understandably he was classified as a terrorist, and what have you... But does this not show how America seems to consider itself above international law? Understandably you have more Atomic Missiles than anyone else in the world and subsequently the capacity to more or less destroy the world, that doesn't really put you... Gah what am I saying, there's no Americans reading this. Yet.
The first two C.I.A air strikes that took place in the Obama Administration, were carried out on the 23rd of January. Three days after he started his term.
And one of two was a failure. The second air strike hit the wrong home....
Killing a pro-government tribal leader and his entire family. This included three children, one of them five years old. There was however, no official acknowledgement of either strike. It just seems strange that Obama, who has been awarded a Nobel peace prize, has carried out as many aerial attacks as George W Bush did in his final 3 years in office. Those figures are according to a study carried out by the New America Foundation- who could be a bunch of anti-Obama nuts, but (well actually, visiting their site- they seem to be... er... A Group For Reform.) the figures people, the figures!!
Regardless of whether they should award Obama with a peace prize, or whether they should be simply overlooked when breaking international laws, the fact remains that the coalition forces are fighting a war that they can't sustain for much longer. If the states consider drones to be "the only pressure currently being put on Afghanistan" then that's clearly the route they are willing to take. Bruce Riedel (who has too many titles to attribute to his name coherently) feels:
It's really all we've got to disrupt Al Qaeda. The reason the Administration continues to use it is obvious: it doesn't really have anything else.
If this is the case, then let's consider the approach that the states are considering with regards to paying combatants to disarm from the Taliban. If America wishes to take on the role of partner with people within the middle East, if it wishes to spread a democracy in the region, it can't simply be done by remote controlled missiles being shot from planes two miles high in the sky.
People in that vicinity have been marred by errors in targeted killing for decades. The article brings on a list of victims; a Moroccan waiter murdered by Israeli intelligence agents, his identity mistaken for a terrorist who killed Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
America attempt at revenge against the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi for his suspected role in a German disco. The result: an air strike that missed him but killed his fifteen month old daughter.
In the search for Osama Bin Ladin, similar mistakes have occurred.
And in September of the previous year, a NATO air strike which was supposed to be targeting members of the Taliban killed between seventy and a hundred and twenty five people who were taking fuel from two stranded oil trucks.
That story was covered by the Guardian, I remember reading it at the time, where the charred remains of the victims were so badly disfigured and torn apart that families had to ration out body parts in order to bury their loved ones. The sub- heading read: I took a piece of flesh with me home and I called it my son.
If you want to read that article in particular it's here:
If events like this occur with such frequency and on such a large scale, what else do the coalition forces expect to happen other than for groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda to gather support?
As David Kilcullen (a counter-insurgency warfare expert) puts it in a study he carried out:
Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.
His co writer of the journal goes on to say:
We're not saying drones are not part of the solution. But we are saying that right now they are part of the problem. If we use tactics that are killing people's brothers and sons, not to mention their sisters and wives, we can work at cross-purpose with ensuring that the tribal population doesn't side with the militants.
It's also interesting how some ex military men are saying that such a detached manner of fighting a war is wrong simply based on the principle of fighting a war with soldiers.
There's something important about putting your sons and daughters at risk when you go to wage a war as a nation. We risk loosing that flesh and blood investment if we go too far down this road.
Surprisingly, some Predator pilots (remember predators are unmanned- they are controlled remotely from a safe location e.i Langley, Washington) wear flight suits when they operate the Predator's remote controls. What's also interesting is that some of these pilots actually suffer from combat stress that equals or exceeds that of pilots in the battlefield.
BIG BIG BIG chunks of this information was taken out of October's issue of the New Yorker and I could hardly do the article justice, it goes into so much detail. If you would like to have more information on this though, someone has been kind enough to publish it online.
That took a lot out of me, I think I'm gonna go drink a pale of a carbonated beverage from my fridge. Later.
To those of you who have me on Facebook, you may have spotted the double entendre in my title. No, you didn't. Don't pretend. It's regarding Obama and Bob the builder. Yes He Can!
Ahh never mind... Just one of those days...