Former killer drone operators describe the horror of what they do


Four former operators of US killer drones revealed at a press briefing what really happens in that program. They themselves seem to feel the killings they carry out are actually making the situation worse, in addition to inflicting psychological trauma on themselves. The Guardian has a report on the story.

Haas, a 29-year-old, in a Notre Dame baseball cap and Chicago Blackhawks ice hockey jersey, looks too youthful to be burdened by such enormous issues. Yet the existential sensation of killing someone by manipulating a computer joystick has left a deep and lasting impression on him. “Ever step on ants and never give it another thought? That’s what you are made to think of the targets – as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do – they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day – and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”

They talk about many situations where they felt that they had killed innocent people.

In the fourth of the Hellfire strikes in which Bryant directly participated, his team was called in to take out a group of five tribal individuals and their camel who were travelling through a pass from Pakistan to Afghanistan. They were said to be carrying explosives for use in attacks on US troops.

Bryant, together with a pilot and mission coordinator who formed the other two members of his team, tracked the group for several hours from their computers outside Las Vegas. They flew the Predator drone out of sight and beyond earshot of the targets at about 20,000 feet and a distance of about four nautical miles from the group on the ground.

He was puzzled during that time, because there was no sign of any weapons on the men or in the baggage carried by the camel. The drone team patiently waited for the men to descend the valley and bed in for the night, before they let rip with the Hellfire. Even then, there were no secondary explosions, which made Bryant think that his hunch had probably been right – five men and a camel had been reduced to dust for no apparent reason.

“We waited for those men to settle down in their beds and then we killed them in their sleep. That was cowardly murder,” he said.

And there is the callous killing of children.

And then there were the children. The airmen would be flying the Predators over a village in the tribal areas of Pakistan, say, when a series of smaller black shadows would appear across their screens – telling them that kids were at the scene.

They called them “fun-sized terrorists”.

The pilots also wrote an open letter to president Obama.

We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.

When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. We were cut loose by the same government we gave so much to ­­ sent out in the world without adequate medical care, reliable public health services, or necessary benefits. Some of us are now homeless. Others of us barely make it.

We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country’s leaders lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program. We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home. Such silence would violate the very oaths we took to support and defend the Constitution.

We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the unprecedented prosecution of truth­tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. For the sake of this country, we hope it is otherwise.

Their invocation of Manning, Assange, and Snowden is not likely to win them friends in high levels of US government, especially with Obama who has gone out of his was to harshly treat these brave exposers of US government misdeeds. I suspect that the drone operators know this and were using this opportunity to express solidarity with them.

Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept also reports on the briefing and how the operators were horrified at the cruelty of the program they were part of.

The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.

At the press conference, Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],” Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”

The deaths of children and other non-combatants in strikes was rationalized by many drone operators, Haas said. As a flight instructor, Haas claimed to have been non-judicially reprimanded by his superiors for failing a student who had expressed “bloodlust,” an overwhelming eagerness to kill.

Haas also described widespread alcohol and drug abuse among drone pilots.

When history writes about president Obama, it will look on his drone killings program as one of the most shameful aspects on his record, similar to the way that the internment of Japanese-Americans by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson’s war in Vietnam are now viewed. All those who are now cheering Obama on may want to think about that.

Comments

  1. says

    IIRC, drone operators who complain about how the job affects them are treated like absolute shit by their fellow soldiers. They sit in air conditioned trailers, you see, and never see “Real” combat.

  2. says

    My biggest fear of Justin Trudeau was that he would be another Barack Obama. Charismatic, saying the right things on many issues the centre-left cares about, but his vote for Bill C-51 ( http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/c-51-controversial-anti-terrorism-bill-is-now-law-so-what-changes-1.3108608 ) reminded me of Obama’s vote for FISA.

    It’s still early days but his commitment to stop Canada’s role in air strikes against ISIL is making me think we didn’t get another Obama. Yes, ISIL needs to be stopped, but there is no way air strikes aren’t killing innocent people.

  3. says

    I hate these “waa waaa now that I have been doing something really bad, now I feel all chopped up about it!” articles. Yes, it’s good that they came forward, but if they’d wanted to do something worthwhile they would have smuggled out information about the program and published it, or flown the drones into the ground.

    They. Fucking. Killed. People.
    And now they want cookies for shedding a tear over it.

  4. says

    IIRC, drone operators who complain about how the job affects them are treated like absolute shit by their fellow soldiers. They sit in air conditioned trailers, you see, and never see “Real” combat.

    They aren’t real soldiers. They are cowards. What respect do they deserve?

    All of the soldiers in the situation deserve no respect, because they’ve chosen to kill for the US’ imperial interests. They could have gotten honest jobs on the outside, doing something that didn’t involve state-sponsored murder. The ones that fly drones are murderous cowards and the ones that go into the battle zones with overwhelming force against armed insurgents (aka: “civilians with guns”) are slightly less cowardly but just as murderous.

    None of them deserve sympathy. If you have sympathy you wish to expend, save it for the victims, not the stooges of empire.

  5. Bakunin says

    Ease up there, Marcus. The low-level soldiers may not be innocent, but they do not deserve that level of venom. Everything about the training and recruiting process is designed to break the conscience and remove doubts. Peer pressure, praise of heroism, repetitive tasks, all targeted at the main recruiting pool, disaffected young males eager for adventure and a place to belong. If you have hatred to expend, save it for the leaders of imperialism, not the stooges.

  6. says

    If you have hatred to expend, save it for the leaders of imperialism, not the stooges.

    Did you just argue that “They are just following orders”? I want to make sure I understand your position.

  7. Bakunin says

    No, anyone suspected of war crimes should be investigated, and the Nuremburg defense is still as invalid as ever. I would rather see hatred directed towards those who decided upon the invasions and drone strikes. Those who pulled the trigger certainly are not praiseworthy for their actions, but they are also the ones who suffer most on the American side. The leaders who ordered the actions and developed the culture can deflect blame away, pointing to rogue elements, command breakdown, equipment failure, over zealous soldiers, poor intelligence; all while isolated from the mental and physical harm of their orders.

    The easiest way to avoid the trauma inflicted on both the victims and perpetrators is to never put them in that position in the first place. I hold those who began the wars as more guilty than the average participant, though some participants are certainly guilty for specific actions they took.

    As justice Anne Mactavish said regarding Jeremy Huntsman’s appeal for asylum in Canada, “An individual must be involved at the policy-making level to be culpable for a crime against peace … the ordinary foot soldier is not expected to make his or her own personal assessment as to the legality of a conflict. Similarly, such an individual cannot be held criminally responsible for fighting in support of an illegal war, assuming that his or her personal war-time conduct is otherwise proper.”

  8. StevoR says

    “We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the unprecedented prosecution of truth­tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. For the sake of this country, we hope it is otherwise.” – Drone Operators open letter
    Their invocation of Manning, Assange, and Snowden is not likely to win them friends in high levels of US government, especially with Obama who has gone out of his was to harshly treat these brave exposers of US government misdeeds. I suspect that the drone operators know this and were using this opportunity to express solidarity with them. – Mano Singham

    Thing is that’s not likely to help their cause if they actually want Obama or the US govt more generally to listen to them and take them seriously. Saying w’ere with the guys that are rightly or wrongly seen as traitors and enemies to the US govt (the representatives of its people chosen by free & fair vote) isn’t going to help their cause nor is saying we don’t even think we’ll be listened to anyhow. That plays well and is appreciated by left wingers who see Assange, Snowden, Manning as “heroes” – but more broadly is probably counter-productive.

    Mind you, I think this is an issue which the Leftwing has already long since lost in terms of the general public.

    @ Marcus Ranum : Your comments here are well Over The Top and reflect badly on you. Whatever you think of the wars and the leadership, attacking the people who are serving in the military putting their lives on the line to defend their country and enduring all sorts of hellish shit that you and I can barely begin to imagine is a pretty crappy thing to do. I gather you don’t know anyone serving in the military and haven’t thought about what they go through?

  9. StevoR says

    However war is fought innocent people suffer and die as a result.

    The answer is probably to find solutions that don’t involve war – but this is much easier to say than do.

    Assuming the war has to be fought – and at this stage that’s just the reality isn’t it? Can we really just let Da’esh win and take over and continue to spread Terrorism? Drones are probably the least bad way we have right now aren’t they? At least when you compare the drone strikes with the mass bombing campaigns and things such as happened in the Vietnam war and past conflicts the drone strikes are generally, probably, much more targeted and kill fewer innocents.

  10. StevoR says

    PS. If we could find a better realistic alternative then I’d definitely support that and think most others would too – but what is it?

    I don’t want or advocate for or support war. I’m only saying here that as methods of waging it go there are plenty of worse ones.

    Oh & history can’t be changed or reversed unless folks have a time machine handy – what do we do now from where we are starting now? Anyone?

  11. StevoR says

    Can we really just let Da’esh win and take over and continue to spread Terrorism?

    And not just terrorism against us either – Da’esh are also proudlyand openly engaging in slavery, rape, oppressing other peoples and committing genocide against the Yazidis, Iraqi & Syrian Christians, destroying historical treasures such as Palmrya, ad nauseam..

    Is leaving Da’esh free and unopposed to go do all those atrocities and crimes truly more ethical than standing up to and fighting them? Is it? Is leaving this fight to others who aren’t as capable and good that much much better?

  12. StevoR says

    @ Marcus Ranum :

    1) How would you stop Da’esh?

    2) Do you think it can be done without using drones and, if so, how?

    3) Do you think the USA and the other Western nations should do anything at all to fight Da’esh and Al Quaida and other Jihadist groups?

    4) If not, what do you think the likely consequences including loss of lives and potential human misery to e.g. women and atheists and humanists and moderate Muslims and Yazidis and Kurds will be?

    5) If you don’t want our troops doing anything then who do you think will do something and will they be able to do better?

  13. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    However war is fought innocent people suffer and die as a result.

    The answer is probably to find solutions that don’t involve war – but this is much easier to say than do.

    FFS!

    This “war” is not a solution, it’s a fucking symptom!

    Why exactly do you imagine this “war” so necessary that we can’t unilaterally stop engaging in it outside our borders? I mean, fine, when the terrorists attack us within them, bomb the shit outta them and so forth… but that is not the reality. In reality, we just arrest and imprison those responsible.

    I acknowledge we (Australia) are the USA’s lapdogs, but do you seriously imagine there’s any existential threat to us from Daesh in places like Syria and Iraq?

    Seriously, at least try to step out of the paradigm. Think for your fucking self!

    Just imagine that we didn’t bother to spend millions and millions of dollars* to bomb the shit outta people on the other side of the world, and merely police our own territory. How exactly would we be worse off?

    (Also: do you really not see how the very term “Australian Defence Force” is a cruel joke?)

    * And that’s ignoring the social, personal and opportunity costs.

  14. John Morales says

    Come on, StevoR. Tell me about the moral imperative to bomb the shit out of people on the other side of the world, because they’re bad people who do terrible things.

    (Because, at bottom, that’s your casus belli, ain’t it?)

  15. John Morales says

    StevoR, remember your “Pledge against Da’esh”?

    Let me add the subtext:

    You want us to be afraid? We will not be afraid.

    (But we will wage war upon you)

    You want us to hate? We will not hate.

    (But we will wage war upon you)

    You want us divided? We will unite more than ever.

    (And we will wage war upon you)

    You want us to attack and blame the wrong people who have no link to you other than fleeing your evil? We refuse to do so.

    (And we will wage war upon you, accepting any collateral casualties as necessary)

    You want us to call you “Islamic state” and see you as “warrior” enemies? We will call you by the name you like least and think of you as what you are; vile criminal douchebags with delusions of grandeur.

    (But we will not arrest you, we will wage war upon you)

    You want to be taken seriously with all your murders and atrocities? We will defeat you with the ridicule, disdain and contempt you deserve.

    (Also, we will wage war upon you)

    You have taken some lives but you cannot destroy our freedoms or our nature or our joie de vivre.

    (But we will institute all sorts of surveillance and loyalty tests for our populations, and we will wage war upon you)

    To all your cruel and brutal carnage against innocents, we will respond with cool and firm determination against you and warm compassion and defiant aid to all those you seek to harm.

    (Except for those who we will blow up or we will turn away, having destroyed their societies in the war we wage upon you)

    This we pledge. And we shall prevail over you.

    (Once the war is won. Certainly, things are looking up; we warred against Communism and fomented religious fundamentalism back in the day, so things got better. We invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and things got better yet. We created the circumstances where you could thrive, traumatised and radicalised the populations so that you could have recruits, we financed, armed and trained you, and things improved even more!)

    Yup.

  16. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    Whatever you think of the wars and the leadership, attacking the people who are serving in the military putting their lives on the line to defend their country and enduring all sorts of hellish shit that you and I can barely begin to imagine is a pretty crappy thing to do.

    There is no draft any more; they’re [the people who are serving in the military] paid employees who do a job. Here in Oz, they get pretty fucking good benefits for it)

    (“… to defend their country”!? To enforce hegemony is more like it)

  17. John Morales says

    PS StevoR, the difference between “freedom fighters” and “soldiers” is that soldiers get paid for what they do.

    (OK, enough. I think I’ve made my point)

  18. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : Your subtext here isn’t mine or what I had in mind with the pledge. That pledge was designed tocounter Islamophobia and those who confused all Muslims with a the specific Da’esh terrorist group. Da’esh should be opposed, fought and targeted – ordinary Muslims who make up the peaceful majority should NOT be.

    we will wage war upon you, accepting any collateral casualties as necessary ..

    Make that “doing our absolute utmost to minimise collateral damage and try NOT to inflict it wherever possible.

    (But we will not arrest you, we will wage war upon you)

    Where we can arrest them we should. This is possible in many nations and circumstances and where it is it should be done – but it isn’t always possible to do so. Arresting Da’esh members and treating them as criminals should be the first choice and action where it can be achieved.

    (But we will institute all sorts of surveillance and loyalty tests for our populations, and we will wage war upon you)

    Some legal surveillance where it is genuinely needed, well and specifically targeted and within legal restraints and of a reasonable nature. No loyalty tests.

    (Except for those who we will blow up or we will turn away, having destroyed their societies in the war we wage upon you.

    A huge NO to turning away refugees fleeing Da’esh and persecuting and them or confusing them with Da’esh. The Syrian refugees deserve our help and support and being given refuge from harm and that “warm aid and defiant compassion” referred to there.

    (Once the war is won. Certainly, things are looking up; we warred against Communism and fomented religious fundamentalism back in the day, so things got better. We invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and things got better yet. We created the circumstances where you could thrive, traumatised and radicalised the populations so that you could have recruits, we financed, armed and trained you, and things improved even more!)

    Perhaps partially but the West didn’t create all of it and isn’t responsible for all of it. Da’esh evolved out of Al Quaida being an even more extreme and also power-hungry brutal Jihadist group that split form it out of turf wars.
    The West helped the Mujahideen defeat the Communists in Afghanistan but didn’t create Bin Laden and his Al Quaida group -not really. Its complicated and murky and we probably should not have aided them but easy to say that in hindsight and it made sense at the time,

    Iraq? Yes, that was a huge mistake and made things much worse and a whole lot of errors were made there.

    But Da’esh came out of Syria and the Civil War there where the West didn’t intervene against Assad so, I guess you can say that we are damned if we do and if we don’t.

    How do you suggest we respond to Da’esh if not like we are doing right now? How would you deal with the threat they represent?

  19. John Morales says

    You are a sad specimen, StevoR.

    How do you suggest we respond to Da’esh if not like we are doing right now? How would you deal with the threat they represent?

    To what threat do you refer?

    The only threat that comes to mind is that our once relatively-free society is becoming a secret police society. And that’s not them, that’s us — enabled by useful fearful fools (tools) like you.

    Perhaps partially but the West didn’t create all of it and isn’t responsible for all of it.

    Tool. I quote someone with whom you presumably agree:

    I’d suggest you watch the clip in the Opening Post again and contemplate and try to grok what Cenk Uygur is saying here because you seem to have missed the point.

  20. John Morales says

    PS StevoR, you might care to watch the next video in that series: “How Did Radical Islam Get Spread Throughout the World?”

  21. StevoR says

    @15. John Morales :

    This “war” is not a solution, it’s a fucking symptom!

    Even if that’s true, symptoms still need to be addressed. A fever can be deadly if it isn’t treated.

    Why exactly do you imagine this “war” so necessary that we can’t unilaterally stop engaging in it outside our borders? I mean, fine, when the terrorists attack us within them, bomb the shit outta them and so forth… but that is not the reality. In reality, we just arrest and imprison those responsible.

    Because of what will happen if we just give up and let them take over Syria and Iraq and keep spreading their “Kalifate” out to encompass more people and make them more powerful and able to do more harm to others lives. Because of the things listed in my #13 and because of the acts of terrorism they are inspiring and sometimes even directing in other nations. Paris, the Lindt cafe seige in Sydney, the attacks in Beirut, Baghdad, etc .. We shouldn’t give them the fear and hate they seek but we do need to take the most effective rational determined measures we can to stop them doing any more harm.

    I acknowledge we (Australia) are the USA’s lapdogs, but do you seriously imagine there’s any existential threat to us from Daesh in places like Syria and Iraq?

    Probably not – but see my paragraph above.

    Just imagine that we didn’t bother to spend millions and millions of dollars* to bomb the shit outta people on the other side of the world, and merely police our own territory. How exactly would we be worse off?

    I’d like it if that was possible. I think we should do less and more targeted bombing restricted to the terrorists. I can certainly think of a heap of better things we can do with the money – but I do think there are times when we have to act against people like Da’esh militarily in addition to other methods. Its not my first choice but when it has to be done and there aren’t better options .. well?

    Also: do you really not see how the very term “Australian Defence Force” is a cruel joke?

    I have a friend in the Aussie military – it certainly isn’t a joke to him. My grandpa served in the Aussie air force and lost an eye whilst fighting in WWII. It certainly wasn’t a joke to him either. Demonising the military and those who serve in it is a form of scapegoating which I really strongly dislike and disagree with.

    @16. John Morales :

    Come on, StevoR. Tell me about the moral imperative to bomb the shit out of people on the other side of the world, because they’re bad people who do terrible things. (Because, at bottom, that’s your casus belli, ain’t it?

    No, not really. There’s a lot more to it than that.

    Also do you disagree that Da’esh are bad people who do terrible things and that maybe some military action in this specific case is needed to stop them?

    War should be a last resort. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a last resort that can be taken when needed. I certainly think we should do other things as well and not just rely on force – we should also rebuild the nations we damaged by wars and help them recover just as happened with the Marshall plan post WWII.

    @18. & 19 John Morales :

    There is no draft any more; they’re [the people who are serving in the military] paid employees who do a job. Here in Oz, they get pretty fucking good benefits for it)

    And they damn well deserve those benefits and more given they are voluntarily risking their lives on our behalf and enduring a lot of stuff that most folks wouldn’t. Also good that we’ve got rid of the draft – that was wrong. Also not really relevant here.

    “… to defend their country”!? To enforce hegemony is more like it.

    Is it? That’s your opinion and not one that everyone shares – notably I’d expect most of those who are actually serving on the frontlines and thus know what they are talking about here. Do you know anyone in the military and ever listen to them btw?

    PS StevoR, the difference between “freedom fighters” and “soldiers” is that soldiers get paid for what they do.

    That’s just one of many differences. Training, rules of engagement, leadership structures with consequences for illegal actions, serving a government which itself is bound by rules and circumstances that “freedom fighters” are not bound by and there are others too. Also I suspect a lot of “freedom fighters” do still get paid- especially the mercenaries and the term “freedom fighter” is a dubious and contested one as well.

  22. StevoR says

    @21. & 22. John Morales :

    To what threat do you refer?

    The threats posed by Da’esh terrorism like we saw in Paris a week or two ago and elsewhere around the world and also the threat to lives and peoples posed by Da’esh taking over a large section of South West Asia and massacring and brutalising all those unfortunate enough to be in the area they rule. The threat to Yazidis and Kurds and others who are facing genocide, rape and slavery as a result of Da’esh’es rule and also the threat to Westerners globally who are targeted for acts of terrorism because Da’esh are seen as somehow “winning” their struggle against us.

    The only threat that comes to mind is that our once relatively-free society is becoming a secret police society. And that’s not them, that’s us — enabled by useful fearful fools (tools) like you.

    I oppose the idea of us becoming a police state and surrendering our Civil Liberties. That’s not what I am arguing for.

    I quote someone with whom you presumably agree: “I’d suggest you watch the clip in the Opening Post again and contemplate and try to grok what Cenk Uygur is saying here because you seem to have missed the point.” -StevoR

    I also oppose using nuclear bombs against anyone. I’m not arguing for that or what Sam Harris or Shank said either. I favour as minimal a use of military force as is possible with reducing casualties and collateral damage as a priority.

    PS StevoR, you might care to watch the next video in that series: “How Did Radical Islam Get Spread Throughout the World?”

    I haven’t done that yet but intend to & shall do so. I’m a big fan of Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks and their youtube clips.

  23. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    This “war” is not a solution, it’s a fucking symptom!

    Even if that’s true, symptoms still need to be addressed. A fever can be deadly if it isn’t treated

    Shitty example, StevoR: a fever is the body’s way of trying to kill off an infection. Look it up, you will find it is a symptom.

    Why exactly do you imagine this “war” so necessary that we can’t unilaterally stop engaging in it outside our borders?

    Because of what will happen if we just give up and let them take over Syria and Iraq and keep spreading their “Kalifate” out to encompass more people and make them more powerful and able to do more harm to others lives.

    Because of what will happen?

    Fine. So, you advocate pre-emptive war, because of what may happen.

    How is this different to a moral imperative, as opposed to an existential threat, much less a defence against present danger?

    Because of the things listed in my #13 and because of the acts of terrorism they are inspiring and sometimes even directing in other nations. Paris, the Lindt cafe seige in Sydney, the attacks in Beirut, Baghdad, etc .. We shouldn’t give them the fear and hate they seek but we do need to take the most effective rational determined measures we can to stop them doing any more harm.

    Right. So, warring will provide safety and freedom for Beirut, Baghdad etc.

    And Sydney is only to be defended by dropping bombs on the other side of the world.

    Gotcha.

    We shouldn’t give them the fear and hate they seek but we do need to take the most effective rational determined measures we can to stop them doing any more harm.

    Yes, I can see how you advocate lack of fear and the most effective rational determined measures — those being creating ubiquitous surveillance of all communications, the mandatory keeping of metadata, the secrecy of what goes on in refugee camps, the advocated selection of Christian refugees, the proposed stripping away of citizenship on Ministerial recommendation, and so much more. All that aside from spending hundreds of millions of dollars bombing far-away countries, which surely do not kill innocents (and even if they do, it’s quite justified for it is an effective and rational measure), and certainly do not radicalise entire populations and support the (other) terrorists’ narrative.

    Not like you can find any number of pictures of crying families, mutilated babies, and so forth as part of that collateral damage.

    Not like you can easily find any number of stories about children who grew up to be terrorists in those affected populations — so stupid they, that they don’t realise that their plight is merely the most effective rational determined measure for our safety.

    And hey, you yourself claim there’s probably (!) no existential threat from Daesh, but still support war, whether or not it’s the last resort.

    (So far, so good… Taliban → AlQuaeda → Daesh is a brilliant outcome of the war hitherto)

    I have a friend in the Aussie military – it certainly isn’t a joke to him.

    We’ve known each other for years, so you know I go by actions rather than rhetoric.

    See how your friend goes is he is no longer employed by the military. If he is no longer well-rewarded, well-insured, has good retirement options, has special tax privileges, gets a shitload of free training and other material support in addition to his wages, and… well, the admiration of tool fools such as you. Betcha he’d get a real job.

    And what exactly is he defending me from? Bah.

    (Did it even occur to you that I might also have say at least one friend in the military? 😉 One of them was a police officer and an MP — which is scary, no-one other than diplomats being safe)

    And they [military employees] damn well deserve those benefits and more given they are voluntarily risking their lives on our behalf and enduring a lot of stuff that most folks wouldn’t.

    And they are risking their lives (what proportion of the employees do you imagine actually face any risk?) not just pointlessly, but worse.

    Sheesh. Look at this very post by Mano: the risk the drone operators face is PTSD and the psychic pain of knowing that they are the evil ones. (You’ve seen the sketch, right?)

    Look: anytime that Australia is actually threatened, as it was in WW2, I will be the first to volunteer to defend it, old as I may be, and without seeking good pay, special benefits, tax breaks and medical for life. But it is bullshit to claim any such threat in this instance, so there is no actual need.

    Just imagine that we didn’t bother to spend millions and millions of dollars* to bomb the shit outta people on the other side of the world, and merely police our own territory. How exactly would we be worse off?

    I’d like it if that was possible.

    So, it is what… physically, scientifically, epistemically impossible to stop bombing the other side of the world?

    (I see you live in La-la land)

    Ah well. It’s clear you’re the same ol’ StevoR as you ever were.

  24. komarov says

    Assuming the war has to be fought – and at this stage that’s just the reality isn’t it? Can we really just let Da’esh win and take over and continue to spread Terrorism? Drones are probably the least bad way we have right now aren’t they?

    Even the drone operator says all the attacks do is help ISIL and company’s recruitment efforts. That certainly sounds like a terrible way to win a war.
    As it is, we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. US/EU bombard the Middle East, bolstering ISIL’s ranks. In response they carry out attacks like Paris, which in turn gives the warhawks and right-wingers the excuse they need to demand even more strikes. It works out well for the extremists on both sides – they might as well be patting each other on the back over each new attack – while everyone else suffers. Some people a lot more than others, of course.

    At least when you compare the drone strikes with the mass bombing campaigns and things such as happened in the Vietnam war and past conflicts the drone strikes are generally, probably, much more targeted and kill fewer innocents.

    More targeted the strikes may be but that does in no way imply reduced civilian casualties. A certain hospital springs to mind that was obliterated with impressive accuracy and precision. Another example is given in one of MS’ quotes. Precision is useless if you (most generous interpretation) carry out attacks based on ‘flawed intelligence’ or (less generously) just go with your gut and best guess in deciding who to blow up next.

    I don’t want or advocate for or support war. I’m only saying here that as methods of waging it go there are plenty of worse ones.

    As a concept, precision strikes would seem to be a huge improvement over the traditional carpet bombing. In practice, why should I care either way? Every so often the targets turn out to be random bystanders and people who have been given the ‘terrorist label’ based on, for example, who they might be related to or because, in some pixelated camera frame, they have a vaguely weapon-shaped blob on their person that’ll probably turn out to be a shovel after the fact.
    There comes a point where sane people would just walk away. Can’t beat the target, can’t even hit the right target half the time and you’re making a lot more enemies in process? Well, maybe you ought to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing then.
    By the way, if Plan A is so bad it makes things even worse you don’t wait until someone presents you with a with a better plan. You just stop. Otherwise you really are supporting war.

    I don’t get the ‘war on terror’ anyway. War on a country works. Eventually the government will surrender or collapse and the victor can put something else in place. The government disappears, the people stay. Groups like ISIL are different; they’re just people. And, as we’ve seen, the groups are also interchangeable so you can’t get rid of one group and set up your own as you would with governments. While you’re declaring ‘mission accomplished’ a new group will pop up and things continue as ever. Governments weaken under duress, groups like ISIL seem to strengthen. Fifteen years of bombing haven’t solved anything in the Middle East. Why would the next fifteen be any different?

  25. John Morales says

    komarov, I endorse everything you’ve written.

    One addendum:

    More targeted the strikes may be but that does in no way imply reduced civilian casualties.

    Also, the precision strikes targeting and destroying essential infrastructure during the first Iraq war caused at least as many civilian deaths (not to mention the subsequent embargo of vital supplies (such as baby formula)) than the actual targeting of (loosely-defined) hostiles.

    I don’t get the ‘war on terror’ anyway.

    But it’s been every bit as successful as the ‘war on drugs’!

    (ObSnarkTag)

  26. rq says

    There’s a rather fanciful (due to the overly optimistic ending, in my opinion) science fiction movie called The Sleep Dealer that uses a drone pilot seeing the face of one of his strikes as an element to the story. The movie itself focusses mainly on other issues (the rich/poor divide between countries), and is essentially a peek into a dystopian future that doesn’t seem particularly impossible. It has its issues but I enjoyed it.

  27. StevoR says

    @25. John Morales :

    Shitty example, StevoR: a fever is the body’s way of trying to kill off an infection. Look it up, you will find it is a symptom.

    Er, that was exactly my point and why I was using fever as a metaphor there.

    Because of what will happen? Fine. So, you advocate pre-emptive war, because of what may happen.

    Er, no, this is NOT a pre-emptive war but an ongoing one. Ever since Da’esh started taking over huge chunks of Syria and Iraq and starting to committ these genocides etc .. I’m not advocating it either, its happening and, well, give us an alternative that’s better and doesn’t hand over thousands, maybe millions of lives to Daesh control please and I’ll happily champion that instead.

    How is this different to a moral imperative, as opposed to an existential threat, much less a defence against present danger?

    Well, if it is an ethical imperative is that a bad thing? Da’esh are a clear and present danger as Paris and other attacks have shown. Okay, maybe not existential but does something have to rise to an existential threat level before we act?

    So, warring will provide safety and freedom for Beirut, Baghdad etc.

    I didn’t say it would and obviously it won’t – but what’s the alternative? Da’esh control? Continued attacks by them? Surrender to them?

    Sydney is only to be defended by dropping bombs on the other side of the world.
    Gotcha.

    You only got a handful of straw – that is NOT my position or what I am saying. Especially not the “only” bit of it.

    Yes, I can see how you advocate lack of fear and the most effective rational determined measures — those being creating ubiquitous surveillance of all communications, the mandatory keeping of metadata, the secrecy of what goes on in refugee camps, the advocated selection of Christian refugees, the proposed stripping away of citizenship on Ministerial recommendation, and so much more. All that aside from spending hundreds of millions of dollars bombing far-away countries, which surely do not kill innocents (and even if they do, it’s quite justified for it is an effective and rational measure), and certainly do not radicalise entire populations and support the (other) terrorists’ narrative.

    Strawmonster again. I’m NOT advocating any of that. Targeted UAV strikes against established terrorists – minimal and precise as possible – that’s all. Well that and degrading and destroying Da’esh’s fighters and ability to wage war and conquer other peoples.

    Not like you can find any number of pictures of crying families, mutilated babies, and so forth as part of that collateral damage. Not like you can easily find any number of stories about children who grew up to be terrorists in those affected populations — so stupid they, that they don’t realise that their plight is merely the most effective rational determined measure for our safety.

    Again, I keep asking and getting no reasonable response – what is the superior alternative?

    (To be continued ..? Later maybe.)

  28. StevoR says

    @ ^ Continued :

    We’ve known each other for years, so you know I go by actions rather than rhetoric.

    We’ve had a few online discussions and arguments over the years, don’t know that that qualifies either of us to say we really know each other that well.

    See how your friend goes is he is no longer employed by the military. If he is no longer well-rewarded, well-insured, has good retirement options, has special tax privileges, gets a shitload of free training and other material support in addition to his wages, and… well, the admiration of tool fools such as you. Betcha he’d get a real job.

    Er, military service is a real job. It is tough , indeed you risk your life doing it and does deserve admiration. Not sure how anyone could seriously claim otherwise.

    And what exactly is he defending me from? Bah.

    They do more than just defend – they also help in disaster relief, security operations and so on – and defending against in this case Da’esh terorism.

    (Did it even occur to you that I might also have say at least one friend in the military? ? One of them was a police officer and an MP — which is scary, no-one other than diplomats being safe)

    The fact that you seem to have such a low opinion of the military makes that surprising. I’d expect more nuance and appreciation of the military from you if you do have military friends.

    And they are risking their lives (what proportion of the employees do you imagine actually face any risk?) not just pointlessly, but worse.

    That’s your opinion and not one that everyone, even I dare say that many share. Particularly those that do have to serve and fight.

    Sheesh. Look at this very post by Mano: the risk the drone operators face is PTSD and the psychic pain of knowing that they are the evil ones. (You’ve seen the sketch, right?)

    That Mitchell and Webb (?) skulls on caps “are we the bad guys one” sketch y’mean? Yeah. I don’t think it applies in this case nor do I think the UAV pilots are “evil” although clearly PTSD does take a toll just as it does on others in the military. They should be counselled and helped and looked after for that. They are not “evil” at least not usually but a bunch of individual people serving their nation.

    Look: anytime that Australia is actually threatened, as it was in WW2, I will be the first to volunteer to defend it, old as I may be, and without seeking good pay, special benefits, tax breaks and medical for life. But it is bullshit to claim any such threat in this instance, so there is no actual need.

    Again, does it always need to be a direct existential threat to us for us to act or is it okay, even good, to use our military to help others as well and Da’esh terrorism is affecting people here – the recent Lindt cafe seige and the brainwashed 15 year old kid murdering a police worker and so on show that whilst Da’esh are influential they will inspire global attacks. Nowhere is immune and the sooner Da’esh are stopped and defeated the better for everyone on the planet.

    So, it is what… physically, scientifically, epistemically impossible to stop bombing the other side of the world? (I see you live in La-la land)

    Impossible? No. But a bad idea and politically extremely difficult and militarily and ethically not advisable and leading to a worse situation. Once again, what do you thinking will happen if we just pull out and leave the region to Da’esh and what’s your better alternative? (& you think *I’m* living in La-laland?!)

    Ah well. It’s clear you’re the same ol’ StevoR as you ever were.

    No, not really, I’m always learning and growing.

  29. StevoR says

    @ 26. Nate Carr : “To be honest, the American military hasn’t defended anyone’s freedom since at least WWII.”

    You are entitled to your opinion but a think a lot of people around the world will disagree – I’m one of those. The Cold War was one example where the US did prevent Communism from taking over a lot of places for instance and there’s also the thousands of Bosnians and Kosovars and now Yazidis who owe their lives and liberty to the US and other Western armed forces as well.

    @ 27. komarov :

    Even the drone operator says all the attacks do is help ISIL and company’s recruitment efforts. That certainly sounds like a terrible way to win a war.

    One drone operator – others disagree and the military experts and leadership disagree otherwise they’d do something else.

    As it is, we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. US/EU bombard the Middle East, bolstering ISIL’s ranks. In response they carry out attacks like Paris, which in turn gives the warhawks and right-wingers the excuse they need to demand even more strikes. It works out well for the extremists on both sides – they might as well be patting each other on the back over each new attack – while everyone else suffers. Some people a lot more than others, of course.

    Er, is Obama a rightwinger? Are his generals and military advisers “extremists” here? I don’t think so. I think and hope and expect that they know what they are doing and how best to do it because they spent years and thought longer and harder about this than any of us have.

    More targeted the strikes may be but that does in no way imply reduced civilian casualties. A certain hospital springs to mind that was obliterated with impressive accuracy and precision. Another example is given in one of MS’ quotes. Precision is useless if you (most generous interpretation) carry out attacks based on ‘flawed intelligence’ or (less generously) just go with your gut and best guess in deciding who to blow up next.

    Mistakes tragically do happen and should be – and are – avoided as much as possible. I don’t think the Kunduz MSF hospital was deliberately targeted. Clearly it was wrong and should not have happened.

    As for reducing civilian casualties – yeah, I think drones and more precise munitions do do that – certainly more than not using them and past methods of warring do. Is it perfect? Hell no! Can it be improved,I think and hope so and imagine they are constantly working on it. Could it be a lot worse and has it come a long way from what used to happen? Definitely so.

    As a concept, precision strikes would seem to be a huge improvement over the traditional carpet bombing. In practice, why should I care either way?

    Because fewer innocent lives are lost and less needless off target damage done and that counts for a lot! D’uh!

    By the way, if Plan A is so bad it makes things even worse you don’t wait until someone presents you with a with a better plan. You just stop. Otherwise you really are supporting war.

    If. Emphasis added. I dispute that premise of yours there. Also if stopping would resulting more lives lost and worse destruction then that would be the wrong course of action. Is it supporting war to think that waging it in the most effective, most accurately focused and targeted way is better than doing the opposite of that and to admit that the reality is that war is being fought whether one likes it or not? Which, btw, I don’t – like it that is. A bit of nuance please?

    Eventually the government will surrender or collapse and the victor can put something else in place. The government disappears, the people stay. Groups like ISIL are different; they’re just people.

    All governments are made of people. (Soylent green is too!) Daesh have declared themselves a nation – a Khalifate too -and yes, hopefully that will soon be destroyed and replaced with something else that’s better. It would be hard to do much worse.

    While you’re declaring ‘mission accomplished’ a new group will pop up and things continue as ever.

    That group won’t be Daesh or have its territory and, yes, we can’t just win through military force but we do need military force to defeat Da’esh here and now at least in part.

  30. patrick2 says

    “You are entitled to your opinion but a think a lot of people around the world will disagree – I’m one of those. The Cold War was one example where the US did prevent Communism from taking over a lot of places for instance and there’s also the thousands of Bosnians and Kosovars and now Yazidis who owe their lives and liberty to the US and other Western armed forces as well.”
    I think you’ll find just about all such Cold War cases involved the US blocking from power or overthrowing governments that were too independent, and installing more compliant regimes (i.e. regimes willing to open their markets to US control). Much like the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, in fact. Human rights are simply not a priority for the US or any other big power in history .

  31. Nick Gotts says

    StevoR@32,

    The Cold War was one example where the US did prevent Communism from taking over a lot of places for instance

    Yes indeed. By supporting Suharto’s coup in Indonesia, which was accompanied by the massacre of around 1,000,000 “Communists” (how many were actual Communists, I don’t know). Support continued throughout Suharto’s invasion and genocidal suppression of East Timor. By supporting Pinochet’s coup against the democratically elected government of Chile, which was followed by an orgy of torture and murder. By supporting the Shah’s coup against the elected government of Mossadeq in Iran – again followed by the systematic torture, imprisonment and murder of his supporters, and leaving only the mullahs as a possible source of opposition. By supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa as long as it was politically expedient to do so. By supporting the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, long after their mass murders were known – because in the twists and turns of the Cold War, they were on the anti-Vietnamese and hence anti-Soviet side. I could go on, more or less indefinitely.

    It is quite true that on occasion, persecuted groups have benefitted by the intervention of the USA and its allies. But it is difficult to find a case where this was not a mere side-effect of power politics. The USA has behaved neither markedly better, nor markedly worse, than the average for great powers.

    the military experts and leadership disagree otherwise they’d do something else.

    Such naivete is almost touching. More likely, the logic goes: “Something must be done! This is something, therefore this must be done.”

  32. patrick2 says

    @Nick Gotts

    Yep, pretty much what I was trying to say, but better put.

    As for bombing Syria, the West suffers from the totally incoherent stand of opposing both ISIL and ISIL’s biggest enemy, the Syrian government. Unless some political agreement involving the Assad government and some of its opponents is reached, I don’t see how bombing will do anything except worsen the really hopeless-looking mess in Syria.

  33. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    Er, no, this is NOT a pre-emptive war but an ongoing one. Ever since Da’esh started taking over huge chunks of Syria and Iraq and starting to committ these genocides etc.

    (sigh)

    It’s all been an ongoing war, and it’s all been pre-emptive, just like the 2003 invasion by the “coalition of the willing”. Daesh wouldn’t exist without it.
    What’s it about? Resources, ideology, realpolitik, allies of convenience.
    Oh — and profit for the military-industrial complex.

    (The religious aspect, which you imagine is the major factor, actually falls within the rubric of ideology in the above list)

    Maybe re-read my last parenthetical subtext @17.

    Maybe check up on Nick Gotts’ claims, which, as he notes, are only a sampling of the historical reality.

    Want another source? Here: What If They Gave a War and Everyone Came?

    (Hell — maybe just watch Rambo 3 again, with the perspective of historical hindsight)

    That Mitchell and Webb (?) skulls on caps “are we the bad guys one” sketch y’mean? Yeah. I don’t think it applies in this case nor do I think the UAV pilots are “evil” although clearly PTSD does take a toll just as it does on others in the military.

    Curious how I knew you knew, eh? And how you knew to what I referred.

    Almost as if we were familiar with each other, for internet terms of “familiar”.

    Not so amusing is how you think it doesn’t apply because the pilots are not evil — every bit as much as the soldiers in that sketch.

    (Think, instead of just accepting!)

  34. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    Again, does it always need to be a direct existential threat to us for us to act or is it okay, even good, to use our military to help others as well and Da’esh terrorism is affecting people here – the recent Lindt cafe seige and the brainwashed 15 year old kid murdering a police worker and so on show that whilst Da’esh are influential they will inspire global attacks.

    It needs to be an actual threat, not an existential one. Otherwise, it’s not a self-defence force, is it?

    And the the recent “Lindt cafe seige and the brainwashed 15 year old kid murdering a police worker and so on ” were handled by the fucking police, not by the military dropping bombs on the other side of the world.

    (Remarkable how you don’t see why Daesh “are influential they will inspire global attacks”; you are no less brainwashed than that 15 year old kid to whom you refer)

    No, not really, I’m always learning and growing.

    I suppose; at least, you now ostensibly distinguish between Muslims and Islamists.

  35. Dunc says

    That Mitchell and Webb (?) skulls on caps “are we the bad guys one” sketch y’mean? I don’t think it applies in this case nor do I think the UAV pilots are “evil”

    Good god, how can you be so dense? The whole frickin’ point of that sketch is that the Nazis were not “evil” in the simplistic, moustache-twirling sense of wanting to do evil because it’s evil. They genuinely thought that they were making the world a better place. Everybody always thinks they’re the good guys. The SS guys herding the Jews into the gas chambers struggled with their conciences, but convinced themselves they were doing the right thing.

  36. Silentbob says

    (off topic)

    Is it just me, or has John Morales had a radical personality change? He sounds like person instead of pedantry machine. Swearing and everything. And not a single use of the word “adumbrate”.

    (It’s not a criticism John, I’m just as discombobulated as I would be if Spock turned ’round to Kirk and said, “Captain, go fuck yourself”.) 😉

    (/off topic)

  37. komarov says

    [Note: I’ve inserted “-” between paragraphs since this blog doesn’t seem to permit blank lines in comments.]

    The right-wingers are certainly the loudest and with whom policy seems to roll along these days, regardless of who is or isn’t an actual extremist. I watched some of the live-feeds in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. It was completely unsurprising to watch the right-wingers immediately sound off on anti-refugee and anti-muslim sentiments. And it was infuriating, but equally predictable, when within hours various heads of state promised counter-attacks as part of their “support” for France, includging the French HoS himself..

    — — —

    As for the rest: I’m not a fan of excessive quotes and I mainly just want to respond to the contention regarding strategy anyway.

    In this “War on Terror” we have, on one side, the USA with various (strong) western allies. On the other hand we have various groups, not nations nor governments, with relatively few resources.

    Now let’s look at what the US can do when ‘properly motivated’. The second World War has already been mentioned, after all.
    Basically, some 70 years ago, the United States of America managed to turn around and win the biggest war in history. While fighting their own campaign they were also propping up their struggling allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, who, without that support would likely have lost. While doing that the US was also able to divert ample resources to run programmes like the Manhatten Project without knowing for certain if they’d pay off. The enemies, incidentally, were empires in their own right, with lots of resources at their disposal, and who were ready for the war and had, initially, been very successful in waging it.

    But wait, there’s more. Even before the war ended, the US was already preparing for the Cold War, during which they managed to best the Soviet Union in a very different kind of conflict, without setting off a nuclear catastrophe in the process. Among themselves the western allies, mainly the US, practically rebuilt Western Germany from scratch as a ‘bastion against communism’. They also pushed billions of dollars into endeavours like the space race, beating the USSR to the moon despite their rival’s head start.

    Why am I bringing this up? Because it shows that the US can and will bring enormous resources into play when they want to – the title of a ‘superpower’ is well earned. They can rebuild nations (properly) if it suits them. It also shows that the US leaders and its military can use a lot more finesse to achieve its aims (whatever they may be). It has options that don’t involve air strikes and sheer military might.
    After all, this is the nation that decided to fly supplies into Berlin for almost a year, costs be damned, rather than let Stalin have it. A military solution would probably have been a lot simpler – and a lot more final. I guess that’s what happens when you’re outmatched by the opposition. The air bridge to Berlin, by the way, is probably the most impressive and admirable application of the military to date. And I’d love to see it being outdone. Beats plain old bombing runs any day.

    Oh, and the US took roughly four years to end WWII. But when it comes to the Middle East, they have been ‘working it over’ for 15 years (longer, strictly speaking) and accomplished practically nothing. To me this say that the people in charge are either not really trying / don’t care or that their goals don’t actually include stabilising the region to create a lasting peace.
    Fifteen years of airstrikes simply don’t look like a winning strategy, especially not in a historical context. And they are continuing, always continuing. Where is the progress from that? Does the Pentagon have a secret counter? So many terrorists left, so many already killed, estimated time to victory 4858 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes, that sort of thing maybe? Even then it would be a terrible strategy. Callous, cruel and inefficient. Or, more likely, ineffective because the counter will never reach zero.

  38. StevoR says

    @39. Dunc : American Drone pilots are NOT actually Nazis. There’s one very key difference for starters!

  39. StevoR says

    @36. John Morales :

    It’s all been an ongoing war, and it’s all been pre-emptive, just like the 2003 invasion by the “coalition of the willing”. Daesh wouldn’t exist without it.

    To that first sentence; er ..Huh?

    I’m referring to the current war on Daesh’es “khalifate” that started when they took over Syria and Iraq and started committing genocide and attacking our regional allies.

    Daesh grew out of the Syrian civil war where the USA did NOT intervene despite Obama’s “red lines” on the use of chemical weapons being breached. Its complicated and messy and not necessarily all that much to do with Saddam Hussein’s overthrow -more to do with the splintering of Al Quaida into even more extreme groups.

    It seems the West is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t intervention ~wise.

    (I gather the Syrian civil war was partially due to climate change and the failure of the local crops and also the “Arab Spring” movement among other things.)

    Want another source? Here: What If They Gave a War and Everyone Came?
    (Hell — maybe just watch Rambo 3 again, with the perspective of historical hindsight)

    Thanks – I’ll look at that later. Not even sure if I’ve seen Rambo III once before if so would be years decades ago.

    Almost as if we were familiar with each other, for internet terms of “familiar”.

    Well, there are certainly degrees of familiarity, I’ll grant you that.

    It needs to be an actual threat, not an existential one. Otherwise, it’s not a self-defence force, is it?

    Er, don’t you think Daesh counts as an actual threat? I do.

    at least, you now ostensibly distinguish between Muslims and Islamists.

    No “ostensibly”about it. I do see the difference and admit I was wrong before when I didn’t so much as I do now. I’m also not advocating war or bombing anyone. This is just a horrible situation that we are in with the war against Daesh and it seems like there’s no better option than what we’re doing because the alternative is worse. Where we have better options than drone strikes (eg. police forces used instead) I’ll definitely support and advocate using those better options instead.

    The very purpose of a military is to kill the enemy and destroy things — and the military damn well know that)

    Actually I think their main task is to deter attack by being there and willing to do what you suggest as a last resort. They are also good for disaster relief efforts among other things too.

  40. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    To that first sentence; er ..Huh?

    You could start with the 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech by the junior Bush* (aka the Shrub):
    “Our mission continues…The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide.”

    Here we are, near the end of 2015. Looking better all the time!

    I’m referring to the current war on Daesh’es “khalifate” that started when they took over Syria and Iraq and started committing genocide and attacking our regional allies.

    Right. This is not in any way a continuation of The War on Terror. It’s a brand-new war, which nobody could have foreseen.

    Oh, wait: “Effect on global war on terror

    During the runup to the [2003] invasion a group of 33 international relations scholars took out a full-page ad in the New York Times suggesting, among other things, that invading Iraq would distract the United States from its fight against al-Qaeda and further destabilize the Middle East.[28]

    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was advised prior to the invasion, “that the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests came from al-Qaeda and related groups, and that this threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.”[29] The International Institute for Strategic Studies agreed, saying in late 2003 that the war had swollen the ranks of al-Qaida and galvanised its will by increasing radical passions among Muslims.”

    Actually I think their [military forces] main task is to deter attack by being there and willing to do what you suggest as a last resort. They are also good for disaster relief efforts among other things too.

    Really. You seriously think terrorising populations with indiscriminate death from the sky deters attack!

    As for the disaster relief aspect, put it this way: you can use a revolver to hammer a nail and to lever a crate, but a hammer and a crowbar (respectively) fulfil both functions much better.

    (And you can use Predator drones to observe weather conditions, I suppose. No need to mount the Hellfire missiles for that!)

    * Or with the 1991 war, when Iraq was a secular nation with a decent standard of living, though that too was not the very start. It was only after that that Saddam began to turn to Islamists for support — and the reason it worked was that the Islamists were exercised by the presence in Arab lands established by the USA.

  41. Dunc says

    @39. Dunc : American Drone pilots are NOT actually Nazis. There’s one very key difference for starters!

    Nobody’s saying they are, you dimwit.

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