Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. The views expressed are his own. Sign our CREDO petition to reject escalation in Afghanistan & join Brave New Foundation’s #NoWar candlelight vigil on Facebook and Twitter. But make these your first steps as an activist to end this war, not your last.
Once again, the United States is rattling a saber about killing people in Quetta, despite all the inevitable civilian death and mass outrage. Such a move would show the shallowness of the “just war” talk in President Obama’s disgraceful Nobel paean to Mars. Quetta is a city of 850,000 people, which is somewhere between the size of Detroit, Michigan and San Francisco, California. Imagine targeting a person or group with a drone-borne, 500-lbs., roughly 125,600-square-foot-effective-kill-area [pi x (effective kill radius of 200 ft., squared)] bomb in San Francisco’s Union Square, and you get some idea of the civilian death and injury we’re talking about. (Actually, this kill area is larger than Union Square…)
And if you think that the U.S. would never use a drone to drop that kind of weapon on a mass of noncombatants that might also contain Taliban heavies, you’d be wrong.
According to Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, between 35-40 percent of those killed by drone strikes are civilians, and that’s a middle-of-the-road estimate. David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum estimated that as many as 50 civilians die for every two militants. The drones have been used in such an indiscriminate way that British legal expert Lord Bingham, a senior law lord, said:
the aircraft could follow other weapons considered “so cruel as to be beyond the pale of human tolerance” in being consigned to the history books. He likened drones, which have killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza, to cluster bombs and landmines.
Rather than furthering the U.S. cause in the “war on terror,” the [remotely piloted vehicle] RPV program, which President Obama seeks to expand in the Af-Pak theater, in reality represents a force-enhancement tool for the Taliban. Its indiscriminate application of death and destruction serves as a recruitment vehicle, with scores of new jihadists rising up to replace each individual who might have been killed by a missile attack. Like the surge that it is designed to complement, the expanded RPV program plays into the hands of those whom America is ostensibly targeting. While the U.S. military, aided by a fawning press, may seek to disguise the reality of the RPV program through catchy slogans such as “warheads through foreheads,” in reality it is murder by another name.
If the U.S. pushes ahead with the idea of targeting suspected militants in Quetta, we can put this idea of “just war” to bed. Or, in any of the inevitable civilian graves.