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The Year of the Drone
May 5, 2010 8:55 PM   Subscribe

The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010 (PDF). "Our study shows that the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 were described as militants in reliable press accounts, about two-thirds of the total on average. Thus, the true civilian fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 32 percent."

From the same authors: Come Clean About the Drones

Previously: Death by Joystick

The Legal Case for Robot War Gets Complicated

Wikileaks 'to release video of US strike on Afghan civilians'

President Obama's Joke About Predator Drones Draws Fire

Taliban lackey's twisted mission: Revenge for US drone slayings
posted by homunculus (113 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sheer terrorism.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2010


The drone attacks have been a sore point with me since the very first week of Obama's presidency. The extremely creepy jokes he made about them just alienated me further.

Perhaps - somehow - there is some good reason that these innocent people have to die, though Mr. Obama has not expressed this reason to us. But even so, this is no excuse for making jokes about people whose death you have caused.

My most charitable interpretation has it that he simply doesn't see the people who he blows up as human, but just as little counters on a map - which is pretty awful, but better than my other theory, which is that he actually noticed that he's killing these people and likes it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Our continued use of drones, given the civilian casualty rate, is absolutely morally repugnant and indefensible, and seeing this reaffirms why I was so taken aback that Obama would joke about drones the other night.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:25 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I'm really curious as to how Mr. Obama perceives that he has the legal right to order military strikes on a sovereign country with a friendly government? (Unfortunately, I don't believe moral questions occupy much if any time with our President when it comes to warfare.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:27 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would assume he has some level of approval from the Pakistani government, whether they publicly acknowledge it or not
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:46 PM on May 5, 2010


"some level of approval from the Pakistani government" does not constitute some sort of legal justification for a military attack on a friendly country.

I understand the practical explanation - the President considers the rule of law to be irrelevant, something that's been very clear since before he was elected - but is there any legal justification that lets him run an undeclared war like this indefinitely?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:49 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm left of Green Arrow, and I think we need these drones. Conventional bombing probably kills more innocent people because the cell hears it coming and flees. Nothing in war is perfect (except the A-10 Warthog) and the drones provide a way to hit even the most remote location. War sucks, but these drones are more or less the only thing that scares the hardcore, Mumbai-style assasins that will kill anything if it serves their mission. They are silent, deadly realpolitik, and we will probably live to see even more disturbing aspects of robotic warfare.
posted by vrakatar at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


vrakatar: I'm sorry, your explanation makes zero sense to me.

There's an underlying assumption that we need to kill Pakistanis. Sure, given that we need to murder randoms in foreign countries, you might as well kill them with drones as have them garroted or savaged by rabid dogs - but why exactly do we need to kill Pakistanis? What have Pakistanis ever done to the US?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:54 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and vrakatar: "War sucks" is not any sort of explanation for murder; but we aren't at war with Pakistan.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:55 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I understand the practical explanation - the President considers the rule of law to be irrelevant, something that's been very clear since before he was elected

I may be misunderstanding you, but I don't think there is a true "rule of law" at the international level. Whatever authority organizations like the UN had have been completely eroded since the Bush administration's post-9/11 orgy of destruction.
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:58 PM on May 5, 2010


On the question of the drone strikes and our realations with Pakistan, there is an unofficial understanding bordering on a partnership there. Pakistan has a host of troubles and they need all the help we (meaning the US, I speak for no one) can lend them when it comes to intel, weapons, and even diplomatic measures. Imagine the southwest states and Texas declared themselves a New Confederate Republic, formed up an army and began to push at the rest fo the US, and the brits offered us some way to eradicate the rebs. Off the record. of course.
posted by vrakatar at 10:00 PM on May 5, 2010


Don't pal around with terrorists!
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:01 PM on May 5, 2010


No, I mean the rule of law at the United States level. Doesn't the Constitution put the responsibility for declaring war with the Congress? And doesn't the War Powers Act further restrict the President's abilities in this matter?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2010


What have Pakistanis ever done to the US?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:06 PM on May 5, 2010


I don't know if you're being deliberately obtuse lupus but the reason we bomb targets in Pakistan is because large numbers of Al-Qaeda are based there. The Pakistani civilians are unintended collateral damage.
posted by Bonzai at 10:07 PM on May 5, 2010


It's really like I'm speaking a foreign language.

Let me be clear. We do not live in a monarchy - we live in a constitutional republic. The President has no powers aside from those spelled out in the Constitution of the US, as interpreted by the courts. To say that we have an "unofficial understanding" is merely to say that the President is ignoring the law.

So let me repeat my question - what legal justification does the President have for starting and continuing what are effectively undeclared wars?

There's of course the moral question - do we have the moral right to murder random people, some of whom are completely innocent and none of whom have offered us any harm? But I don't see anyone here seems to care whether we murder innocent people or not.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:07 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bonzai: why does an unsubstantiated claim that someone might be a member of a terrorist organization give us the moral or legal right to kill them and anyone who might be in the vicinity of them?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


So let me repeat my question - what legal justification does the President have for starting and continuing what are effectively undeclared wars?

We're not at war and haven't been, officially, since WWII. Military engagements are often authorized by Congress and/or the U.N Security Council absent an official declaration of war. This has been part of our nation's history since the late 18th century. Not to be pedantic, but this is pretty well-trod ground here.
posted by dhammond at 10:11 PM on May 5, 2010


Oh, sorry LY- yeah I totally didn't get that. It probably has something to do with a sneaky interpretation of the War Powers Resolution
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:11 PM on May 5, 2010


Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese: so you're saying the drone runs over the last two years, which have killed hundreds, are punishment for the failed car bombing of this weekend, which injured no one? Is there a time machine involved here or something?

Surely it makes even more sense to say that the Pakistanis have every right to try bombing us, since we've been doing it to them for many years...?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:12 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


unintended collateral damage.

This phrase has a magical power on many people to excuse all kinds of god awful terror by putting a neat little wrapper around it. I respectfully ask you to really imagine your house getting blown up and your family shredded to bits because there was a criminal two doors down, and then imagine that phrase again as applied to your family being scraped off the pavement. Then imagine how you might feel if the people responsible tossed an envelope with a few hundred dollars in it without so much as an apology. But hey, it's worth it, right?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:13 PM on May 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


The moral right is the right of self preservation. Al-Qaeda is not just some random terrorist organization they are the terrorist organization against whom we are waging a war.

The legal right? No idea. IANAL.
posted by Bonzai at 10:15 PM on May 5, 2010


Well, when you've got Blackwater on the ground in Pakistan, then I suppose drones are one way to keep our military from risking their lives in a sovereign country.

The collateral damage, mixed with the inability to have any true situational awareness from 20,000 feet is certainly an issue. Of course, we were desensitized during the first Gulf War, watching buildings get blown to shreds in black and white from above...like a video game.

Again, the reality of this type of death doesn't hit us. In the US, we got hit over the head with 9/11 - and since then, nothing like it...even on a smaller scale. Even flying a plane into the IRS building is no big deal to us. If the NYC bomb had been a suicide bomber on a bus...well, maybe that would make us take a closer look. I doubt it. People cheer on police officers using tasers on 17 year-olds at baseball games, so I don't really think that enough Americans would turn the mirror on themselves to make a difference.
posted by Chuffy at 10:16 PM on May 5, 2010


The War Powers Resolution allows for short military engagements only - the "interpretation" that all Presidents make is that law simply doesn't apply to them - this puts us back to "the President is above the law."

dhammond: I'm sorry, is there some legal justification in there that I missed?

What you're appearing to say is that everyone has ignored the law for a long while and will continue to do so. A legal justification would be an actual section of the Constitution, or a legal interpretation of that in court, that gave the President this power. I see nothing like that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:17 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lupus_Yonderboy: A little searching will turn up HUGE amounts of information on how Presidents are able to use military force without having Congress declare war. The big one here are the various Authorizations of Use of Military Force that Congress has passed. Congress hasn't declared war since WWII, but they pass these resolutions instead. The Courts have a tendency to read these things very broadly, mostly because they try to abide by Congress's intentions, and Congress intended for them to be VERY broad. If you're really interested, there's a goldmine of information out there, but I really do enough of this kind of stuff in my Con Law classes to talk more about it voluntarily.

You are also confusing two EXTREMELY disparate arguments. First, the moral issues, and Second, the legal issues. These are hardly ever the same thing, and certainly not when it comes to international military actions. There is absolutely no doubt that the Pakistan government allows the use of US drones in their country, While Pakistan decries the use in public, the drones use Pakistani airfields with their permissions and are often given locational data by Pakistani forces. There simply isn't a major legal question here.

Morally? That's another story
posted by cyphill at 10:20 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The moral right is the right of self preservation. Al-Qaeda is not just some random terrorist organization they are the terrorist organization against whom we are waging a war.

Our self-preservation is NOT in question. George Bush killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda ever has and ever will.

After eight years of this, you can still parrot these meaningless phrases, and believe it?! We've killed hundreds of thousands of innocents under the banner of "WE MUST SAVE OURSELVES FROM BEING DESTROYED".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:20 PM on May 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: "Is there a time machine involved here or something?"

With all due respect, the Taliban's operations in Pakistan have been widely documented for years now. Either you are being willfully obtuse or you could really benefit from picking up a newspaper every once in awhile. This is pretty basic stuff.
posted by dhammond at 10:23 PM on May 5, 2010


cyphill: you're saying the same thing as everyone else - "they've done this shit forever".

Again, you're all missing the point. For the President to have these powers, there needs to be somewhere in the Constitution that gives him these powers. The fact that the US government has behaved for a hundred years as if they had these rights does not in fact give them those rights.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:24 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm certainly not disagreeing with you at all lupus, just pointing out that there's a lot of grey areas here that the President can exploit. Guy is a lawyer, after all. Among other things, presidents are always challenging the War Powers Resolution's constitutionality, and it could be argued that some of the mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan are more of a lawless terra nullius, being occupied by trans-national terrorist groups rather than under the sovereignty of the Pakistani government.
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:25 PM on May 5, 2010


Lupus, we do not need to kill Pakistanis. "We" need to kill the crafty folks who are beyond diplomacy and are using methods just as crafty as those nasty dones to inflict massive civillian casualties all over. All I am saying is that the drones bring an unconventional answer to the problem of unconvential warfare, i.e. terrorism, that might be the best thing in the utility belt right now. Today Pakistan, tomorrow Lebanon, maybe before we die Iran. It will be a long war, with few if any winners. The drones, as flawed as they are, are better than the kind of random murder conventional airstrikes can create, and a serious problem for the nutjobs who fuel the war.
posted by vrakatar at 10:25 PM on May 5, 2010


I like how you read THE LAW that I linked to that allows the President to use military force. You seem really interested in having a debate, and not interested in grinding your axe AT ALL.
posted by cyphill at 10:27 PM on May 5, 2010


I respectfully ask you to really imagine your house getting blown up and your family shredded to bits because there was a criminal two doors down, and then imagine that phrase again as applied to your family being scraped off the pavement. Then imagine how you might feel if the people responsible tossed an envelope with a few hundred dollars in it without so much as an apology. But hey, it's worth it, right?

That's a false equivalency. These aren't criminals, they are armed combatants. We aren't arresting them, we are at war with them.

Believe me I'm not some flag waving git-er-done chickenhawk, I feel sick that innocents are dying for no reason except living in the wrong place at the wrong time. Civilian deaths are a fact of war and they have always have been. It's horrible and it's the reason war should be (although it never is) a last resort option.

However, after 9/11 I fully supported our current course and so did most of Americans, right or wrong we made that decision and we have to live with the consequences.
posted by Bonzai at 10:27 PM on May 5, 2010


dhammond: there are tons of criminals in Bed-Stuy too but this does not give anyone the moral, legal, or ethical right to start bombing missions there.

Why don't the Cambodians start carpet bombing around where Henry Kissenger lives? He's responsible for ten times the murders that Al Qaeda ever caused.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:28 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have the biggest gun, I am the law.
posted by dirty lies at 10:29 PM on May 5, 2010


Such tremendous callous bullshit. Peace out.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:30 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy, go look up the resolution authorizing military force against The Dread Terrists. It's shockingly broad.

It authorizes the President to use whatever force he wants against any nation or group that he says was involved with 9/11, or any nation or group he says is harboring people who he says were involved with 9/11.

So, Congress has already authorized the President to strike against Pakistan, so long as the President says there are TERRISTS!!!! in Pakistan. This preauthorization also renders the War Powers Resolution moot. Congress does retain the power to stop the war anytime they want by defunding it, which would never in a million years happen.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:30 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


So let me repeat my question - what legal justification does the President have for starting and continuing what are effectively undeclared wars?

Let me repeat my answer: he was specifically authorized to do so by Congress.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 PM on May 5, 2010


The drones, as flawed as they are, are better than the kind of random murder conventional airstrikes can create, and a serious problem for the nutjobs who fuel the war.

The drones are actually designed and manufactured, promoted, sold, purchased, and commanded by the nutjobs who fuel war. The nutjobs who fuel war also write the brochures for them.

All I am saying is that the drones bring an unconventional answer to the problem of unconvential warfare, i.e. terrorism, that might be the best thing in the utility belt right now. Today Pakistan, tomorrow Lebanon, maybe before we die Iran.

"Drones may not be perfect, but think about it: without them, there'd be no way for us to launch wars of aggression against half the goddamned planet without putting ourselves at risk."
posted by stammer at 10:32 PM on May 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why don't the Cambodians start carpet bombing around where Henry Kissenger lives?

Because they lack the physical capability to do so. They lack the military capacity to even attempt to do so, as they have no aircraft capable of carpet-bombing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:38 PM on May 5, 2010


LY: I'm all for a meaty discussion of this issue, which is very interesting and I think important, but your triumphal tone is a real conversational turnoff.

In short:
- the drone attacks are focused on people working very hard to fight and kill Americans.
- the drone attacks have strong bipartisan support in Congress
- they have the clear if tacit support of the Pakistani government. For one thing, the drones fly out of Pakistani air fields.
- drone attacks kill a lot fewer civilians than an armed invasion would, whether American or Pakistani troops carried it out.

Given that, what is your proposal? Simply let Al Qaeda, etc. attack us from tribal areas of Pakistan?
posted by msalt at 10:39 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe: again, this is a legal smokescreen.

The Constitution gives the Congress the power to declare war. I don't see the Constitution anywhere allowing "resolutions allowing military force". And this isn't an accident on the part of the framers - they explicitly wanted to make it hard for Presidents to pick fights with other countries.

Regardless, I'm pretty sickened by the responses here. When it comes down to it, I believe Americans feel they have a right to invade and kill people anywhere they please - and I believe that they very much enjoy doing that too - I don't believe it's an accident that Mr. Obama makes jokes about killing people with his drone missile fleet - I think that gloating over the bodies of their enemies is one of the things most characteristic of America in the 21st century.

I'm out of here.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:39 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Drones may not be perfect, but think about it: without them, there'd be no way for us to launch wars of aggression against half the goddamned planet without putting ourselves at risk."

This sounds entirely rational to me. Why risk yourself if you don't have to?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:41 PM on May 5, 2010


vrakatar: I'm sorry, your explanation makes zero sense to me.

QFT
posted by KokuRyu at 10:47 PM on May 5, 2010


Let me repeat my answer: he was specifically authorized to do so by Congress.

As I said the PREVIOUS time in response to your answer - the Constitution does not give the Congress the right to do so. They can declare war; they can use the War Powers Act, but only for a few weeks; if there is some other part of the Constitution or the Law that gives them the right for an "authorization of force" then show it to me.

Oh, and what should we do? We should get the fuck out of these tiny tinpot countries and work on improving our own country and our defenses! If there's one thing we've learned over the last 10 years it's that terrorism is a tiny problem - smaller than drunk drivers, smaller than cancer - that you're much more likely to slip and die in the bathtub than be killed by a terrorist if you live in the US!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:47 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also have to wonder if there's any significance in the fact that the drones are unmanned and technically not physically putting American troops in harm's way. Is that at all relevant, or am I out to lunch?

Regardless, I'm pretty sickened by the responses here. When it comes down to it, I believe Americans feel they have a right to invade and kill people anywhere they please


Again, in my eyes most of the responses here don't appear to be disagreeing with you're saying, they're merely trying to point out the actual means by which Obama is able to do this without Congress ripping him a new one. I'm totally behind you on this, FWIW
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:52 PM on May 5, 2010


This report is clearly designed to cast the drone program in a bad light, but even taking its data at face value you find:

1) civilian deaths from US drone attacks have dropped from 175/301 in 2008 (58%) to 120/502 in Obama's first year (24%) to 18/130 so far this year (14%). (What's the civilian death rate for invasions?)

2) in 2009, militant suicide attacks killed 1,300 people, of whom 1,155 were civilians (89%)

3) the conclusion of this reports says: "The drone attacks in the tribal regions seem to remain the only viable option for the United States to take on the militants based there who threaten the lives of Afghans, Pakistanis, and Westerners alike."
posted by msalt at 10:59 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Al-Qaeda network: the result of team B recruitment of the Muslim brotherhood in order to destabilize the government in Kabul (terrorize the people) and provoke a military response from the Soviet (cross border raids from NW Pakistan) this network is a complete assembly designed expressly by and for the neocon Long War, in a nut shell "white European men will rule the world." NATO as cross and we are witnessing a crusade in the Great Game. we have sown the wind.
posted by hortense at 11:11 PM on May 5, 2010


Seriously though, this whole debate is premised on the assumption that there are two categories of Pakistanis, militants and civilians, and that the former should be reduced by attrition and the latter protected as far as possible. So for each attack, and the campaign in general, we just have to run the numbers: this drone strike killed two militants and eight civilians, but it prevented a suicide attack that would have killed fifteen civilians, so on the balance the score is civilians +5, militants -2. If we keep this up we can create a population that is 0% militant and 100% civilian.

But, as the report says, the drones are universally hated throughout Pakistan - that is, among the civilians as well as the militants. In fact, a big majority of those civilians, about whom everyone at least pretends to care, describe themselves as either neutral or opposed on the Pakistani government's anti-Taliban campaign.

What does this mean about the drone campaign and the piecemeal eradication of militants? Consider what happens to those +5 survivors. Do they remain neutral? What if some of them become militants? What if the drone attacks don't just destroy militants, but also create them? Well, as this report says, suicide attacks in Pakistan have become much, much more common over the course of the drone campaign: from 9 per annum in 2006, to 87 per annum in 2009. There's no way to prove that drone attacks cause increased militancy, but there's definitely no reason to think it decreases militancy either, and there are good theoretical foundations for connecting the drone campaign, which Pakistanis hate, with an increase in the intensity and activities of militants.

What do drones definitely achieve? Well, they make it hard for militants to hold open public meetings. They make the Taliban subsist as an underground group dependent on safehouses and illegal finance, unable to fight openly, unable to stage public rallies, focusing instead on conspiracies and attacks against civilians. That is, they prevent it from developing into a broad political movement, and ensure that it remains permanently "terrorist" in strategy and organisational culture. Of course officially the strikes are intended to reduce terrorism, but which Taliban activity is worse for the United States: suicide bombing or electioneering?
posted by stammer at 11:20 PM on May 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


For a moment I thought this was about drone music - and then, suddenly, I became very, very sad.
posted by Rinku at 11:25 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact, a big majority of those civilians, about whom everyone at least pretends to care, describe themselves as either neutral or opposed on the Pakistani government's anti-Taliban campaign

What the majority of civilians think or want is apparently becoming less and less relevant when it comes to influencing foreign policy. Beyond that, what the US Constitution may dictate regarding the use of force is also less and less relevant when no one in government cares to seriously challenge the authority used to allow the use of drones in this fashion on constitutional grounds.

What do drones definitely achieve?

Cool new toys to play with, pork, and manufacturing and aerospace jobs?
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:40 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


For her album Perplexions, an offbeat artist I much like took many of her lyrics straight out of news articles. What could be stranger than reality?
"The lawyers tell me that there are no prohibitions,
against robots making life or death decisions
,"
— Mr. Johnson, the weapons inventor, from Tennessee
Sits standin' in his laboratory, recently

I'm gonna launch a drone up, a drone of my own, and I'll send it up to see
if anyone out there is lookin' out for me
— Melora Creager, "Warbots"
posted by adipocere at 2:51 AM on May 6, 2010


Wow, some of you actually seem to be convinced that killing people in foreign countries helps protects the USA.

Is it not quite clear by now that killing people is increasing the sentiment of hatred against the United States?

When the USA talks about how they're stopping terrorism that is delivered by a bomber on foot by delivering bombs from 30,000 feet?

Killing people is not a way to defeat an insurgency. The US really needs to learn that.
posted by knapah at 2:53 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


See, this is why I'm looking forward to the Republicans coming back into power. Once they do, liberals will suddenly forget all these excuses they've come up with for mass murder.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:26 AM on May 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Killing certain people in foreign countries who are vehemently opposed to the creation of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan, who undertake attacks whose sole purpose is to kill civilians, and who deny women all kinds of basic human rights can help protect the USA and help the world in the long run.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:04 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


lupus_yonderboy: “The Constitution gives the Congress the power to declare war. I don't see the Constitution anywhere allowing "resolutions allowing military force". And this isn't an accident on the part of the framers - they explicitly wanted to make it hard for Presidents to pick fights with other countries.

That's one interpretation of the Constitution, yes. And it's one that I actually tend to agree with you on. But let's not pretend that it's a popular one; as far as I know, the only member of Congress who has stood consistently behind such a stance is Ron Paul. And when you find yourself with nobody but Ron Paul on your side ... well, you're probably in a pretty lonely place, ideologically.

That orthodox (but correct, IMO) interpretation of the Constitution hasn't been shared by the Supreme Court or by anyone else whose opinions matter in over a generation. True strict constructionism — unless you can use it to pander to racists or misogynists — is out of style.

"Authorizations for Use of Military Force" in lieu of actual declarations of war are, whether we like it or not or whether we think it un-Constitutional or not, part of our political system now. The kind of supreme court justice that it would take to reverse that policy at this point, is unlikely to get appointed. You can look back historically and find justices who I'm sure would be apoplectic about the whole AUMF concept, but none of them would make it past the confirmation hearings today. This is sad, but it is the world we live in.

If you want to take a hard stance that the war is illegitimate because its legal basis is an AUMF rather than a true, Constitutionally-specified Declaration of War, you have my support, as much as it matters. It's a futile and doomed effort, but modern realpolitik is such an amoral abyss that I can't find fault in anyone who finds it repugnant. Just realize that you're joining the political equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade; you're running straight into the entrenched positions of the entire military-industrial complex, both political parties, a complacent electorate, and about a half-century of judicial precedent. Good luck.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:48 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Killing certain people in foreign countries who are vehemently opposed to the creation of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan, who undertake attacks whose sole purpose is to kill civilians, and who deny women all kinds of basic human rights can help protect the USA and help the world in the long run.

Hey, I can probably think of a dozen people that the world would be better off without. But, you know. I'm not a murderer.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2010


Meanwhile, back at the drone ranch: it's not a very good strategy. As a matter of fact, it looks more like a tactic substituting for a lack of strategy. The civilian deaths and inarguable violation of Pakistani sovereignty are creating political losses that exceed the military gains of "targets destroyed."

The underlying problem is the willingness to use military force as a substitute for political initiative. That, and the long history of the US / Soviet use of proxy wars through insurgency and terrorism. One spinoff of this is the creation of the Pakistani nuclear weapons black market - which was funded and winked at by the US for over twenty years.

It's a messy, complex , deep problem. And drones aren't the magic bullet of surgical strikes they were sold as. The military rarely has solutions to political and social problems.

AQ has the same problem. They've pretty much destroyed themselves though a policy of massacre by suicide attacks.

Nobody has an endgame. It's starting to look all too much like a clueless war of attrition; much like the quagmire of WWI. There may not be an endgame and resolution, only an armistice through exhaustion until the next go-round after a twenty year wait.
posted by warbaby at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Consider what happens to those +5 survivors. Do they remain neutral?


You've exposed a flaw in the reasoning here. Assuming an evil terrorist for the sake of argument, the people standing next to him inside a compound should not be assumed to be neutral. That's a political safeguard we blindly afford ourselves domestically, but one that the urban car bombers violently disagree with. Apparently it takes a village to raise a terrorist.
posted by Brian B. at 7:05 AM on May 6, 2010


The Constitution gives the Congress the power to declare war. I don't see the Constitution anywhere allowing "resolutions allowing military force".

This is crazy at the level of "That's not a real court because the flag has a fringe on it." A resolution authorizing the use of force is just fine as far as the Constitution is concerned, unless you think John Adams, Jefferson, and of all people James Madison were a bit fuzzy on what the Constitution says.

As I said the PREVIOUS time in response to your answer - the Constitution does not give the Congress the right to do so. They can declare war; they can use the War Powers Act, but only for a few weeks

And this is double-crazy.

You're saying that the Constitution only allows a declaration of war, as in a document that says "Declaration of War" on it, and anything less is forbidden, but then a few minutes later you say that they can also somehow "use" the "War Powers Act," which is not part of the Constitution and which is entirely about the use of military force in circumstances short of formally "declared" wars?

Either you are paying no attention whatsoever to the text and well-understood meaning of the laws you're talking about, or you're just cynically trumpeting whatever you think will score points even when you know your arguments are utterly void.

Incidentally, the thing you're thinking of is the War Powers Resolution. The last time we had a War Powers Act in force, it was a law expanding the power of the federal government to prosecute the Second World War.

Regardless, I'm pretty sickened by the responses here. When it comes down to it, I believe Americans feel they have a right to invade and kill people anywhere they please

I've said absolutely nothing here about that. I've only pointed out that your argument that using drones to kill people in Pakistan is unconstitutional, illegal under US law, or anything other than legally pre-authorized by Congress is completely without merit. That does not mean I think it's a good or moral idea.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:18 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Authorizations for Use of Military Force" in lieu of actual declarations of war are, whether we like it or not or whether we think it un-Constitutional or not, part of our political system now.

They have been part of our political system since 1798 or 1801 depending on what you want to count.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:22 AM on May 6, 2010


homunculus this is a great post. I would be interested in Pakistani opinion on this. The New York Times op-ed said there was a large amount of Pakistani public support for waging war on the Taliban and I wonder if that is creditable. I appreciate stammer's al jazeera link but I ain't clicking that sucker from this computer.

Obama's joke was apalling.
posted by bukvich at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2010


I agree with warbaby who observed that military force is not a good substitute for political intiative. We do need political solutions to the underlying problems which have motivated terrorist attacks against the US and many other nations. So far no one is coming up with those solutions (although President Obama, having already won the Nobel Peace Prize, ought to feel motivated to do so, if only to prove the Nobel Committee right).
However, I am not concerned about the legality or morality of the use of drones against insurgents in Afghanistan. Insurgents deliberately kill civilians; it is their favorite technique as terrorists; in comparison drones kill some civilians accidentally, in the process of killing terrorists; which of these is less moral? Which is less legally justifiable? The idea that the US should fight against an absolutely ruthless enemy, but should take no risk of killing anyone accidentally, is a handicap that would guarantee failure. Wars, unfortunately, are not won by being more morally scrupulous than the enemy. Of course, the results are tragic, and it would have been much better for everyone concerned if all these disputes or grievances could have been addressed by means of diplomacy and mutual cooperation rather than by violence. Terrorism was never necessary; there were always better solutions. But once you have people commiting acts of terrorism, forceful responses are needed.
posted by grizzled at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2010


This is like complaining that someone is trespassing while in the middle of a gunfight.

Whether we're killing people over the border areas of Pakistan or over Afghanistan proper isn't super relevant in my mind. Those borders don't exist anywhere but on a map. No one controls them. War doesn't end when you cross an invisible line. When you're there to kill, you're already violating the most basic moral code we have. Cross border attacks don't make war go from good to evil. It's already evil.

This war is stupid and probably not winnable in the traditional sense. It's repugnant and a waste of resources and lives. But given that we're at war for the foreseeable future, the drones themselves seem to be a pretty good tool. You've got a system of checks on the operators. They need to get permission and meet a set of rules every time they pull the trigger. The lack of danger to the operator means they can hang out, watch, and make the decision to end a life free from fear-induced stupidity. It's a lot more controlled than any war we've engaged in previously. For pete's sake, free-fire zones used to be the norm in warfare. In Vietnam you had guys in helicopters gunning down women and children just for straying into the wrong area. Napalm dropped on whole villages. Mines left all over the place. Drones are creepy as hell, but I'll accept creepy if it means killing a tenth as many people.

I do agree that it might not be the best idea from the standpoint of winning people over to our side. Fortunately I don't have to make the decisions about whether we sacrifice killing efficiency for public image reasons.
posted by paanta at 7:57 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Terrorism was never necessary; there were always better solutions

This strikes me as a classic "that's easy for you to say."
posted by Kirk Grim at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2010


Sure, it's easy for me to say that there were always better solutions than terrorism, and of course, it's always easier to propose solutions than it is to implement them. But it still would have been worth doing.
posted by grizzled at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2010


Killing certain people in foreign countries who are vehemently opposed to the creation of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan, who undertake attacks whose sole purpose is to kill civilians, and who deny women all kinds of basic human rights can help protect the USA and help the world in the long run.

You are so wrong on this that I am struggling to respond to it in a civil manner.

1) They oppose the creation of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan.

They oppose Pax Americana. They oppose the occupation of their country by the USA and others. They oppose many things. They are not a unitary actor.

2) They undertake attacks whose sole purpose is to kill civilians.

They undertake attacks that are intended to influence a government and the civilians. This is rather like the Allies strategy in World War 2 of firebombing Dresden and nuking Japan.

3) ...can help protect the USA and help the world in the long run.

For every 'terrorist' you kill in Afghanistan, you create several more who see the videos and propaganda that emerges from the organisation of those you killed. Never mind what their families think.

If this is how most people think about how to deal with insurgencies then we are truly fucked.
posted by knapah at 9:58 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


CIA drones have broader list of targets: The agency since 2008 has been secretly allowed to kill unnamed suspects in Pakistan.
posted by homunculus at 10:58 AM on May 6, 2010


knapah, do you really intend to defend Taliban suicide attacks as simply "intended to influence a government and the civilians"? As if that's the local way to call your Congressman?

For every 'terrorist' you kill in Afghanistan, you create several more

Says who? Terrorists are not magical hydra-headed creatures, and many insurgencies have been successfully put down. Killing terrorists may help the jihadis recruit some new ones -- who knows how many -- IF the attacks are seen as manifestly unfair, untargeted and tied to general policies that Pakistanis or Aghanis hate.

Obama has done a lot to reduce the hatefulness of US policies -- note that civilian deaths have dropped from 58% to 18%, and many of those were harboring the jihadis so not exactly 100% civilian -- and the manyu unequivocally civilian deaths from suicide bombers also alienate the public against the Tabliban et al. There is a lot of evidence that Pakistani public opinion has turned against jihadis as a result of these changes.
posted by msalt at 2:16 PM on May 6, 2010



knapah, do you really intend to defend Taliban suicide attacks as simply "intended to influence a government and the civilians"


It's not a defense, it's a description of the ends they are trying to achieve. Through suicide bombings they are hoping to influence policy by terrorizing the population and the government. This is what differentiates terrorism from mass murder. More often than not terrorism and mass murder are equally morally reprehensible and lead to similar outcomes, however it is a useful distinction as anyone involved in the GWOT can surely tell you.

I would be hesitant to make the claim that a decrease in the percentage of civilian deaths v "jihadi" deaths from drone attacks will result in people deciding they are fair. I may be wrong here, but my impression is that the drone attacks in the region have been in the tribal areas, whereas the suicide bombing typically take place in more populous regions.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:53 PM on May 6, 2010


knapah, do you really intend to defend Taliban suicide attacks as simply "intended to influence a government and the civilians"? As if that's the local way to call your Congressman?

That's exactly what I mean, minus the Congressman part obviously.

Perhaps you think that terrorism is mindless and evil, it's not. It is calculated and deeply political.

The reason 'terrorists' engage in violence is to effect political change. There wouldn't be a point otherwise.

The conflict in Ireland, where I am from, ended when the British realised that a military strategy would never succeed and engaged in real dialogue with the IRA and other combatants. The US will have to learn that the only way to truly resolve conflict is through dialogue not warfare.
posted by knapah at 5:26 PM on May 6, 2010


The US will have to learn that the only way to truly resolve conflict is through dialogue not warfare.

Maybe if we give the Taliban the Sudetenland they will leave us alone.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:13 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]



Maybe if we give the Taliban the Sudetenland they will leave us alone.

WE GOT OURSELVES A RIGHT WING PUNDIT HERE. I CANT SEE TOO GOOD, IS THAT BILL O'REILLY?

FFS. Cuz if there's one thing we've learned in the last decade, it's that terrorism is generated by too much dialog and accommodating the expansionist ambitions of a guy in a fucking cave, and if we don't stop OBL and the Taliban RIGHT NOW they're gonna covert the WHOLE WORLD TO AN ISLAMIC CALIPHATE!!!1!1!11!!!!

It honestly sounds like you're parroting the justifications of Bush and Rumsfeld circa 2003.
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:50 PM on May 6, 2010


Apologize for medieval cultures in the interest of understanding all you want. A fundy is a fundy.
posted by vapidave at 10:04 PM on May 6, 2010


Would you have women live under Sharia law? Because the fundies would.
posted by vapidave at 10:05 PM on May 6, 2010


More often than not terrorism and mass murder are equally morally reprehensible and lead to similar outcomes

I disagree. Terrorism may or may not involve actual murder; a threat of murder, validated by past real murders, can cause real agony to millions and serve as a means of mass repression and tyranny by a minority. To me, Taliban bombings in Pakistan are no different than lynchings in the U.S. South in the early 20th century. The fact that the threats are demonstrably credible allows a small group to oppress many. Taliban acid attacks on girls attending school, for example.

Mass murderers, if not terrorists, typically hide their crimes to not get caught. The deaths are awful of course but this blunts the harm to those not directly attacked. And of course, they rarely kill 3,000. Once a mass murderer is noticed enough to cause terror, they are usually caught very quickly.
posted by msalt at 11:42 PM on May 6, 2010


my impression is that the drone attacks in the region have been in the tribal areas, whereas the suicide bombing typically take place in more populous regions.

Exactly. That report has a chart making this clear. Which is exactly why drone attacks DON'T turn public opinion in Pakistan against America the way many here claim. Waziristan is a wild no-man's land to the average Pakistani; the "civilians" killed by drones these days are Waziris harboring the jihadis, the same jihadis who set off suicide bombs in Pakistan proper that kill average Pakistanis.

The reason 'terrorists' engage in violence is to effect political change.

Sez you. Another theory is, damaged people like to fight authority and fuck shit up. Heath Ledger in "Batman: The Dark Knight" made a compelling if artistic case to that effect. Or just look at vandalism, generally.
posted by msalt at 11:52 PM on May 6, 2010


Sez you. Another theory is, damaged people like to fight authority and fuck shit up. Heath Ledger in "Batman: The Dark Knight" made a compelling if artistic case to that effect. Or just look at vandalism, generally.

Fighting authority is a political act.

To compare the violence of groups like al Qaeda to vandalism is absolutely bizarre.
posted by knapah at 1:43 AM on May 7, 2010


I'm inclined to live and let live and whatever works for your culture and all that. But:

Where are the women in all this?
Seriously, since Bhutto (who was probably a kleptocrat but shit in a Muslim country, a woman?) I've not seen a representative of women or a girl in this debate.These motherfuckers won't even let a girl go to school.
To those that would apologize for the cultural hegemony of the West: Are you willing to trade the happiness of women?
I'm not, fuck those hillbilly Muslim shitheads. They are insane.
posted by vapidave at 2:09 AM on May 7, 2010


vapidave, do you think a women who's had close family killed by these drone attacks is actually going to be happy about it? Is that really your idea of increasing women's happiness in the region? That's insane.
posted by Juglandaceae at 5:31 AM on May 7, 2010


I think the comparison to the KKK is a useful one. If the Klan were to find some renewed popularity and begin terrorizing the South again, torching houses and lynching black people, would the correct response be to engage them in dialogue? Work out some sort of compromise, perhaps?

And supposing we did go the appeasement route; what would we do the next week, when they decide to push a little more? And a little more after that? They're not going to stop, and to try and meet them halfway would just prove that their tactics are sound and we are weak.

The war in Iraq was a grave mistake by virtually any measure. But the war against the Taliban is the most morally defensible conflict the U.S. has engaged itself in since the fall of the Third Reich.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:39 AM on May 7, 2010


"Is that really your idea of increasing women's happiness in the region?"

My idea for increasing the happiness of women in that region is for the men to graduate from the middle ages. You know, maybe even let them go to school, show their faces. That doesn't seem to be happening.
If I'm one of those men and a likely target I would remove myself from my families presence rather than hide behind my wife's burqa. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are scared little men retreated into an adolescent fantasy world. They hide behind their religion and choose which tenets to observe based upon what suits them. They blame and hold women responsible for being attractive as women as though they are so sexually voracious that they would lose control. They beat women ordinarily and kill them when the men suffer embarrassment.
They are males who fail to progress beyond adolescence. They need to grow the fuck up.
posted by vapidave at 1:32 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


if we don't stop OBL and the Taliban RIGHT NOW they're gonna covert the WHOLE WORLD TO AN ISLAMIC CALIPHATE!!!1!1!11!!!!

No, they're going to convert Afghanistan and Pakistan into a medieval hell-hole where women are a step below donkeys. But apparently you support this idea.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:59 PM on May 7, 2010


But apparently you support this idea.

Waitwaitwait what? "Going to"? The US had no problem with the Taliban until September 12. If you're telling me the USA has an obligation to clean up its' mess in Afghanistan, then fine, I gotcha. But you just compared the Taliban to Nazi Germany. That's fucking dumb, from any standard, and you sound like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney with that nonsense. And to say I support the Taliban is ludicrous and fuck you for even implying it, Bill O'Reilly.

the "civilians" killed by drones these days are Waziris harboring the jihadis, the same jihadis who set off suicide bombs in Pakistan proper that kill average Pakistanis


Technology sure is amazing, huh? First smart bombs, now drones making background checks and knocking on doors.

Sez you. Another theory is, damaged people like to fight authority and fuck shit up. Heath Ledger in "Batman: The Dark Knight" made a compelling if artistic case to that effect.


Good lord. The Batman movie? The definition of terrorism used by every country on earth and in the GWOT all acknowledge that it is used for a purpose other than just fucking shit up for no reason. The people that would engage in the type of shit you're describing can't be stopped or predicted, so drones won't help you there.
posted by Kirk Grim at 6:33 PM on May 7, 2010


I didn't compare the Taliban to the Nazis, I was simply mocking the stupidity of another commenter's suggestion that the Taliban can be negotiated with. I'm sorry your mind is too small to comprehend this. Perhaps you shouldn't get involved in discussions you don't understand.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:06 PM on May 7, 2010


You certainly did, unless you are aware of some other country who was offered the Sudetenland in an effort to appease territorial ambition. I find it highly amusing that you use this example of "negotiations" not having the intended result while overlooking the many, many military failures against insurgencies throughout history. You're well beyond "simply mocking" and into a tremendous stupidity of your own. Let me know how the "counterinsurgency" or whatever you're calling it these days works out for you, champ. Team America, World Police!
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:19 PM on May 7, 2010


I'm glad you're highly amused.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:54 PM on May 7, 2010


I wonder what the Afghani and Pakistani women think. If only the men would tell them.
posted by vapidave at 11:10 PM on May 7, 2010


What they think about the drone attacks? I'm not sure about the breakdown of how many women vs men responded in this opinion poll (warning, axe-grindey presentation), but in the tribal areas of Pakistan the surveys suggest a narrow majority (58%) think the drone attacks don't increase anti-American sentiment, while the other 42% do. They generally don't like the Taliban or Al-Qaeda (2/3 think they are enemy #1) and aren't as concerned when the drones take out people who aren't "locals." Some of them feel the drones are effective in causing problems for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda (60%). They also point out that not everyone who "harbors the terrorists" in the targeted homes had a choice in the matter. Some of the respondents indicated explicitly that they wanted revenge for the loss of their innocent loved ones.

I'm not sure the only 2 options are drone attacks or "medieval donkey hell-hole", or even if drone attacks accomplish anything for women's rights as you seem to be implying, I don't think it would be fair to dismiss the idea that the attacks could be somewhat counter-productive in trying to eradicate insurgents and terrorists. I also would suggest that anyone who takes this view is not, as you and Mr Cheese seem to take, an indication that they support the Taliban or are against women's rights in Afghanistan and know nothing of what they're talking about.

If the solution to the problem of women's rights in Afghanistan that you put forward is "continue to drop bombs and fire missiles on people", I think there's an onus on you to demonstrate how exactly that's going to help change peoples' minds about practices with hundreds of years of tradition behind them. Just kill all of the men who think that way?

Call me cynical but I highly doubt that the Taliban's treatment of women factored in to the decision to invade or the continued military strikes. These are not the same issue and it does not help to conflate being against "targeted assassinations" that kill innocents with being against womens' rights.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:45 AM on May 8, 2010


"My idea for increasing the happiness of women in that region is for the men to graduate from the middle ages. You know, maybe even let them go to school, show their faces. That doesn't seem to be happening."

Your idea of increasing women's happiness in the region is slaughtering their close family members indiscriminately in drone attacks. I'm sure women in the region will be really grateful to you for advocating such barbarism.
posted by Juglandaceae at 7:17 AM on May 9, 2010


"No, they're going to convert Afghanistan and Pakistan into a medieval hell-hole where women are a step below donkeys. But apparently you support this idea."

This is actually amusing since the US actually nurtured and armed Muslim fundamentalists (remnants of these groups ended up becoming the Taliban) in the region during the 70s and 80s to counter democratic socialist movements and then the Soviets. Afghanistan was one of the most progressive countries on Earth, in terms of women's rights, until the US decided it got too progressive:

- http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11279
- http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/19/afghan.untold/index.html

So forgive me for not taking this "we're doing it for the women" justification seriously. American interference has been a total disaster for women in the region.
posted by Juglandaceae at 7:27 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your idea of increasing women's happiness in the region is slaughtering their close family members indiscriminately in drone attacks. I'm sure women in the region will be really grateful to you for advocating such barbarism.

Kill a terrorist, make a woman cry, and all women in Afghanistan cry with her. It doesn't follow, in case anyone was wondering.

This is actually amusing since the US actually nurtured and armed Muslim fundamentalists (remnants of these groups ended up becoming the Taliban) in the region during the 70s and 80s to counter democratic socialist movements and then the Soviets. Afghanistan was one of the most progressive countries on Earth, in terms of women's rights, until the US decided it got too progressive.... So forgive me for not taking this "we're doing it for the women" justification seriously. American interference has been a total disaster for women in the region.

Yet another non sequitur, because they weren't doing it for the women per se. But what we have here goes beyond generalizations and resembles a bait and switch (a form of straw man), because the modern argument to engage terrorists locally is framed as misogynist, thereby giving the real misogynists a free pass. It's nice to believe that doing nothing will quell a religious fervor, but I would like to hear the arguments for it instead.
posted by Brian B. at 8:41 AM on May 9, 2010


"Your idea of increasing women's happiness in the region is slaughtering their close family members indiscriminately in drone attacks. I'm sure women in the region will be really grateful to you for advocating such barbarism."
Yeah, lets all unpack our knapsack. Please. What do you propose? I find those men the least defensible of any in the world. I'll counter with "honor killings".

I'm not sure the only 2 options are drone attacks or "medieval donkey hell-hole", or even if drone attacks accomplish anything for women's rights as you seem to be implying
I agree that we should expand our reasons for killing.

"This is actually amusing since the US actually nurtured and armed Muslim fundamentalists (remnants of these groups ended up becoming the Taliban) in the region during the 70s and 80s to counter democratic socialist movements and then the Soviets. Afghanistan was one of the most progressive countries on Earth, in terms of women's rights, until the US decided it got too progressive:" Right, I'm sure you would be comfortable with the female members of your family living there. Also my time machine is in the shop.

"...because they weren't doing it for the women per se."
So? If the women happen to benefit so much the better.

My thinking is that we are there for a very legitimate reason and it doesn't matter that our culture is better to women. Piggy has the conch there and it's not good. The Taliban and all those little boys will be easily slain by Baywatch and ipods.
posted by vapidave at 11:32 PM on May 9, 2010


Washington Finally Feeling Drone War Backlash
posted by homunculus at 1:13 PM on May 10, 2010


‘18 Missiles,’ 14 Dead in Latest Drone Attack
posted by homunculus at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2010


Afghanistan was one of the most progressive countries on Earth, in terms of women's rights, until the US decided it got too progressive....

What the hell are you talking about? Are you confusing Afghanistan with Allende's Chile or something? An easy mistake, I know.
posted by msalt at 4:21 PM on May 12, 2010


Afghanistan was one of the most progressive countries on Earth, in terms of women's rights, until the US decided it got too progressive.
not far from the mark, womens sufferage 1920. The current state of affairs in the region is a direct result of our cold war escalation tactics. prev. Also .
posted by hortense at 12:00 AM on May 13, 2010


Your links don't back that up -- they don't really cover women's rights much at all, despite "revealing" long conspiracies by the US (to help the Shah of Iran conquer Afghanistan, etc.)

This timeline appears to be pretty balanced and on point, though I'm no expert. Basically, a pattern of reforms (sometimes ignored outside of Kabul) and retrenchment. No suffrage until 1964. Veil mandatory until 1959, and violent riots when that was changed.

The short-lived Communist governnment in 1978 issued a bunch of decrees on behalf of women's rights, but I've seen very little evidence that it controlled society in general or made real changes in the lives of women on the ground. It needed 100,000 Soviet troops to prop up its control within a few months, after all.

Interestingly, the first Mujahideen government under Rabbani (1992-1996) was not that bad on women, apparently. In fact, before the Taliban took over Kabul, about half of the working population were women. They were employed as teachers, doctors, as well as in other professional occupations. It was under Hekmatyr as prime minister and then the Taliban that it really went to hell.
posted by msalt at 9:35 AM on May 13, 2010


After the treaty of Rawalpindi Amanullah's rule pushes pro-western reforms including the right to vote for women(1920). Amanullah is overthrown in 1929 following tribal unrest on the borders with India for which nationalist Afghans blame the British.
found in this timeline.
The Mujaheddin (Muslim Brotherhood) were recruited by team B from Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is seen by some as an attempt to make Afghanistan a Saudi/Wahhabi colony.
posted by hortense at 5:58 PM on May 13, 2010


OK, so there was women's suffrage (at least on paper) for 9 years in the 1920s until resistance to those very reforms led to a coup. Like I said, a history of reforms and retrenchment.

That makes it pretty misleading to say
Afghanistan was one of the most progressive countries on Earth, in terms of women's rights, until the US decided it got too progressive,
or as you put it,
The current state of affairs in the region is a direct result of our cold war escalation tactics.

The repression of women in Afghanistan (and, not coincidentally, in each of the countries around it) has been a constant for centuries. The fact that more progressive reforms are declared from time to time (though not necessarily implemented) doesn't change this fact. America's support for the mujahideen leveraged this history but certainly didn't create it or change the tide. That Soviet-back communist government was a highly unstable and short-lived outlier.
posted by msalt at 12:40 AM on May 14, 2010


That's not what the lady said,"In the words of Cheryl Bernard, a RAND analyst and expert on the Middle East who is married to Zalmay Khalilzad, ‘In Afghanistan, we made a deliberate choice . . . At first, everyone thought, There’s no way to beat the Soviets. So what we have to do is throw the worst crazies against them that we can find, and there was a lot of collateral damage. We knew exactly who these people were, and what their organizations were like and we didn’t care,’ she says. ‘Then we allowed them to get rid of, kill all the moderate leaders. The reason we don’t have moderate leaders in Afghanistan today is because we let the nuts kill them all. They killed the leftists, the moderates, the middle-of-the-roaders. They were just eliminated, during the 1980’s and afterward." so much for outlier governments.
The "crazies" were recruited with help from the Muslim Brotherhood from around the Muslim world using a data base maintained by CIA and MI6 this is the origin of the term 'Al-Qaeda' btw. lots of well heeled ,well armed Saudi Wahhabists like Bin-Laden showed up in NW Pakistan to provoke the Soviets and destabilize the Government in Kabul, the Wahhabi stay behind guys were the Mujaheddin, imposing their brand of Islam until the students (talib) from the South began trying to put Afghanistan together again. This particular imposition of Radical Islam on Afghanistan is a phenomena of complex modern policies and the oil bossiness.
posted by hortense at 1:32 AM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why do you keep quoting people who are not talking about women's rights? You seem to be discussing a different subject than the one here, with lots of conspiracies thrown in. But you continue to ignore tons of evidence of the long term history of repression of women in Afghanistan.

BTW, Cheryl Benard (not Bernard) and Zalmay Kalilzad are hardly reliable witnesses. They're neocon activists with wildly oscillating agendas. Benard wrote a highly controversial report urging the US government to rebuild Islam to our liking; Khalilzad negotiated for Unocal with the Taliban over a pipeline (which didn't happen) and was a major part of Reagan and Bush strategy in Afghanistan. Including all the stuff you are criticizing.
posted by msalt at 10:42 AM on May 14, 2010


In other news: U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts
posted by homunculus at 11:25 AM on May 16, 2010


Gitmo Shutdown Means More Drone Strikes, Officials Claim
posted by homunculus at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2010


The absence of debate over war
posted by homunculus at 11:07 AM on May 24, 2010


Predators vs. Aliens: Arizona Wants More Drones
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2010


U.N. Official to Ask U.S. to End C.I.A. Drone Strikes
posted by homunculus at 8:40 AM on May 28, 2010


That last headline is a bit misleading; according to NPR, the UN official just wants to drones to be under US Army control rather than CIA control.
posted by msalt at 12:15 AM on May 29, 2010


True.
posted by homunculus at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2010


In other, somewhat lower-tech aerial espionage news: Pigeon held in India on suspicion of spying
posted by homunculus at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2010


Think the cops can make him sing? How do we know it's not a CIA stool pigeon?
posted by msalt at 10:54 AM on May 29, 2010


New Study Suggests Drone Strikes Don’t Kill as Many Pakistani Civilians as Claimed
posted by homunculus at 8:41 AM on May 30, 2010


Operators of Drones Are Faulted in Afghan Deaths
posted by homunculus at 1:20 PM on May 30, 2010


U.N. Report Highly Critical of U.S. Drone Attacks

"A senior United Nations official said on Wednesday that the growing use of armed drones by the United States to kill terrorism suspects is undermining global constraints on the use of military force. He warned that the American example will lead to a chaotic world as the new weapons technology inevitably spreads."
posted by homunculus at 1:20 PM on June 2, 2010


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