Joan Fontaine, 1917-2013 »« The original voice of Siri

US drone strikes kill members of Yemeni wedding party

News has emerged of a US drone strike in Yemen that killed 14 members of a wedding party and injured 22 others. The victims were traveling in a convoy and the news has understandably caused outrage in that country with the parliament voting to ban any more strikes, though the vote is not binding on the government.

Apart from the horror of the incident, this detail is telling.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the report.

The convoy consisted of 11 vehicles, and the officials said that four of the vehicles were targeted in the strikes. Two of the vehicles were completely damaged. Among the killed were two prominent tribal leaders within the province.

Taking the government officials’ statements at face value (at best a dubious proposition), it seems insane to think that you could pick out just four vehicles out of a convoy of 11 and not harm any of the others, even if you were absolutely sure that the people you wanted to kill, and only they, were in those four vehicles. This illustrates the hubris of the people behind the program who think they can thread that kind of needle.

Cartoonist Ted Rall wonders what might have happened to Nelson Mandela if president Obama’s drone assassination program had been in place earlier.

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’ve found it profoundly depressing to see many ‘progressive’ commentators defending drone strikes. Their main arguments seemed to be

    1) They live in the real world, where hard choices have to be made. Of course, the ‘real’ world is also the one in which their loved ones are in no imminent danger of being blown to smithereens. What is the current threat level? Red, orange?

    2) What is the alternative? Putting American soldiers in harm’s way, or killing even more civilians with bombs/missiles? The implicit assumptions are that the life of an American soldier is worth more than an Afghani/Yemeni civilian, and that lethal military action of some kind is necessary.

    That they are probably creating more terrorists than they are killing seems to elude them, but should surprise nobody else. The USA: A gun shooting its holder in the foot – forever.

  2. bluentx says

    What is the alternative? Putting American soldiers in harm’s way…

    This argument always pisses me off.
    If you don’t want to potentially “be in harm’s way”… don’t join the freakin military! Makes about as much sense as those who complained early on in The War On Terror …”But…but…but…I only joined up to get my college paid for, you can’t send me into combat !!!”

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Of course, the ‘real’ world is also the one in which their loved ones are in no imminent danger of being blown to smithereens.

    Tell that to the people who lost loved ones in the World Trade Centre on September 11th 2001 or the marathon runners at Boston this year or Lee Rigby’s widow or thousands of others.

    Or, until recently the soldiers of the Coalition forces working to bring freedom,democracy and education for women among other things to Iraq and Afghanistan. (One of my friends was in that category.)

    The problem with Jihadist terrorism is that whilst it is rare it can strike anywhere,anytime and specifically targets those most vulnerable and least able to resist it. Innocent people should be safe everywhere. Terrorists not-so-much.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    News has emerged of a US drone strike in Yemen that killed 14 members of a wedding party and injured 22 others. The victims were traveling in a convoy ..(snip) … It seems insane to think that you could pick out just four vehicles out of a convoy of 11 and not harm any of the others, even if you were absolutely sure that the people you wanted to kill, and only they, were in those four vehicles. This illustrates the hubris of the people behind the program who think they can thread that kind of needle.

    It does seem awful. They must have known more people than just the targeted terrorists were going to die.

    So why would they do it anyhow? They must have had very good reason to do so. We can’t be hearing the full story here. I do not believe this would happen if it could have been avoided.

    Also the families and friends of the terrorists must have known that the terrorists were, well, terrorists, and been supporting them in some ways too.

    But, yeah, this isn’t a good look.

    the news has understandably caused outrage in that country (Yemen)

    But why has this strike happened in that country in the first place? Because it has harboured and been unable or / and unwilling todela with these terrorists itself.

    Don’t want US drone strikes? Okay.

    What then are *You* Yemenis going to do to prevent Jihadists from using your land as a base to go off and kill other innocent people?

    If Yemen won’t prevent these terrorists from striking and killingthere or elsewhere on Earth the shoudl we just sit back and let the terrorists use Yemen as a base or should someone else step inand take out the terroists before they kill others?

    Yemeni outrage is misdirected I think. I think they need to blame the people responsible for the problem – the terrorists. And if they don’t want the US to act then they need to act first and arrest or whatever the terrorists befroehand.

    For those here that oppose drone strikes, what’s your alternative – realistically and given the actual context here, what option is better? What would you do if it was your responsibility? Also really remember online civilian critics that the people in charge of and flying the drone strikes will have already given this issue – its pros and cons – a lot more thought than you.

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @bluentx : So you think commanders should be careless with the lives of those under their command?

    Military leaders have both a legal and ethical obligation to keep their own casualties to a minimum.

    They also try to minimise civilian collateral deaths as opposed to their enemy who seek to maximise it and often hide behind their own women and children and non-combatants.

    These terrorists are gutless cowards who, if they really believed in their cause and their overgrown moon-god “Allah” andif really wanted the “marytrdom” they claim would put on identifiable uniforms and meet their opponents on a real field of battle instead of attacking those who can’t fight back and hiding in caves and among their own.

    If they were soldiers not terrorist scumbags then none of this would happen – and yes they know they’d lose any straight and honest fight in seconds flat so instead of fighting like proper warriors they dishonourably cower and plot and murder people who do nothing to them. These terrorist douchecanoes deserve our contempt, our fury and deserve to lose utterly. So utterly that their disgusting, repugnant, evil tactics are never employed again.

  6. jamessweet says

    The total lack of shame is so galling. I was reading this article in the NY Times that touched on a guy (in Pakistan, I believe?) who had been killed in a drone strike because he was a local police chief negotiating with some Taliban guys at the time the US decided to take out the Taliban guys. The brother (or was it brother-in-law? Man, my memory is failing here) visited the US, and he was actually kinda shockingly understanding about it: He just wanted the US to acknowledge it was an error and to apologize. Would we? Of course not!

  7. Mano Singham says

    For those here that oppose drone strikes, what’s your alternative

    Stop the drone strikes.

    It is quite an extraordinary thing to see people so supportive of the idea of a benevolent Big Brother government that asserts the right to kill at will, and that ordinary people’s lives should be so casually put at risk because they are not acting as some kind of vigilante force, rounding up any one that a foreign power tells them is an enemy. Next we will be hearing that golden oldie, that we need to destroy the village in order to save it.

    As I have pointed out many times before, the US harbors terrorists too. Should other countries unleash drone strikes on the US? And if some civilians happen to die, is that ok since they did not force the US government to hand over the terrorists and hence are terrorist accomplices?

  8. Jared A says

    “Innocent people should be safe everywhere. Terrorists not-so-much.”

    Think about that in context of the original post you are commenting on.

  9. invivoMark says

    “The problem with drone strikes is that whilst they are common they can strike anywhere, anytime, and specifically target those who have no idea they are targets and are totally unable to avoid it. Innocent people should be safe everywhere.”

    FTFY

  10. says

    the soldiers of the Coalition forces working to bring freedom,democracy and education for women among other things to Iraq and Afghanistan

    LOL. Is that what you (and they) think they’re doing there? What, were you born yesterday?

  11. says

    For those here that oppose drone strikes, what’s your alternative – realistically and given the actual context here, what option is better?

    Stop the drone strikes, apologize, and commit never to engage in international assassination again. Use the “bounce” from that as an opportunity to engage in some good faith diplomacy. You know, like, “Now that I’ve promised to stop trying to kill you, can we discuss our differences?”

    What would you do if it was your responsibility?

    I would immediately stand down the program, and I would prosecute any civilians in the CIA who were breaking US and international law by carrying out assassinations. There’s arguably a possibility that members of the armed forces, in uniform, under orders, might be not breaking the law by engaging in drone strikes but the civilians at CIA definitely are. The uniformed military are almost certainly war criminals who belong in the tribunal in The Hague, but let’s start with the criminals at CIA and the branches of government that authorized it, and work from there.

    And, yes, I would begin impeachment proceedings against Obama – immediately. A secret program of assassination is against US and international law and Obama authorizes them. I’d have Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld placed under arrest and sent to The Hague in orange jumpsuits with chains, hoods and earmuffs over their heads.

    Doing that would have a tremendous, positive, impact on worldwide perception of the US.

    Also really remember online civilian critics that the people in charge of and flying the drone strikes will have already given this issue – its pros and cons – a lot more thought than you.

    And don’t forget the careful consideration Himmler’s SS gave to their actions. I’m sure, as you are, that they didn’t just leap into decisions of import without – a lot more thought than you.

  12. Richard Simons says

    StevoR: Are you saying that the UK should have bombed Boston when it was a major source of funding for the IRA terrorist action in Britain?

  13. says

    These terrorists are gutless cowards who, if they really believed in their cause and their overgrown moon-god “Allah” andif really wanted the “marytrdom” they claim would put on identifiable uniforms and meet their opponents on a real field of battle instead of attacking those who can’t fight back and hiding in caves and among their own.

    You have a strrange notion of courage. Your notion of courage appears to be that it would be courageous to stand up somewhere that their brave enemies could call in massive air and artillery strikes on them. But what’s brave about any of that?

    These “terrorists” (last time I checked, a lot of them are “residents of a country that has been invaded in an aggressive war that was begun under false pretenses”) are fighting an enemy that fights with night vision, long-range precision-guided munitions, armored vehicles, satellite overwatch, attack helicopters, invisible loitering drones, and b-52 bombers. The only way you have a chance of doing anything other than dying against an enemy like that is to not stand up and wave a flag and challenge them to single combat — because it is impossible to have a fair fight against the US. Calling in MLRS strikes or spooky gunships is not military courage. Sitting in an essentially indestructible Abrams tank is not military courage. The US has such battlefield superiority in almost every engagement, that the highest form of military courage on display is from the people who are willing to risk pissing that great big monstrous machine of ass-whipping off. Military courage was when the residents of Najaf fought (briefly) street to street in their own city against superbly trained US Marines who had vastly superior gear and logistics, who could fight in the dark, who had a 360 degree thermal view of the battlefield. Sorry to say, but the courage was not coming from the Marines, any more than you’d say the boxer Mike Tyson was showing courage if he punched out a 14 year old child who was wearing a blindfold. If a 14 year-old child looked at that disparity of power and chose to put on a blindfold and kick Tyson when he wasn’t looking – that would be the courageous act.

    I’m reminded of the Algerian insurgent who, when the French complained that the insurgents weren’t fighting fair by using bombs hidden in baby carriages and tricks that like that, which they had learned from the Vietcong – replied, “If you give us some of your mystere fighter jets and artillery, and your machine guns and tanks, and bombers then we’ll be willing to fight you more ‘fairly'”

    In fact, the US’ current preference for raining down unanswerable death from the skies via drones, is the ultimate end-game of American descent into military cowardice. The insurgent on the ground (when the drone’s actually attacking an insurgent, rather than a wedding party or a bunch of schoolkids) has absolutely no chance whatsoever of hurting an American at all, whereas his life is on the line.

    I hate to break it to you, but when the US is using artillery against individuals with rifles, it’s not the insurgent with the rifle who is the coward. You’ve mistaken strength for courage.

  14. says

    Given that the US has misrepresented the causes of its involvement in every war since WWI (and arguably the Spanish-American war and others besides) anyone who chooses to serve in the American military cannot fairly claim that they can be sure they are being called to fight in a just war.* It is not possible for an American alive today to say that they believe the US’ justifications for going into Iraq were true, and that our attack on that country was a moral action – any more than they could say our attacks on Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Grenada, Panama, and Libya were purely moral. Anyone who chooses to serve in the US military is already morally compromised. It’d be like joining the mafia and saying “sure, they have a history of criminality, but they might not have me do anything bad, so I am not doing anything wrong by associating myself with this organization.”

    Given this situation, it is entirely appropriate to say that:
    – Someone who chooses to wear the US military’s uniform, has compromised themself morally by joining an organization that historically does more harm than good
    – Someone who chooses to wear the US military’s uniform has positioned themself where they know in advance that they may be given orders to commit war crimes
    – Someone who chooses to wear the US military’s uniform is wearing the uniform of military aggression and conquest

    That’s the simple argument. Another argument is simply that anyone who joins the US military has chosen not to join Medecins Sans Frontieres. Staying home on one’s couch, instead of putting on the uniform of the forces of imperialism, is a moral decision. If one is concerned about doing good, though, there are alternatives that are obviously vastly superior; therefore anyone who knowingly chooses to serve in the US military instead of, say, MSF, has made an immoral choice.

    (* Clearly, I do not agree with Augustine – a “just war” is a war that is purely defensive)

  15. colnago80 says

    Drone strikes today, drone strikes tomorrow, drone strikes to the far horizon, drone strikes forever.

  16. Mano Singham says

    It should not be surprising why so few here, including me, take you seriously, except for providing insight into a very peculiar and disturbing mindset.

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