This is what it feels like to be hunted by U.S. drones
April 12, 2016 4:33 PM   Subscribe

"I am on the US kill list. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again."
posted by zipadee (100 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know quite how much of this story is true, but I do know this part is.

Singling out people to assassinate, and killing nine of our innocent children for each person they target, is a crime of unspeakable proportions. Their policy is as foolish as it is criminal, as it radicalises the very people we are trying to calm down.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:38 PM on April 12, 2016 [62 favorites]


He was apparently brought to England by Reprieve, which is a pretty respected human rights organization. But of course just as a reader one cannot exactly verify the details of his story.
posted by zipadee at 4:43 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


The fact that he was willing to go to England at a time when he believes he is a terrorism suspect is very interesting. I can't help but contrast the...either bravery if he is innocent or chutzpah if he is guilty...of being willing to do that with Assange who is still cowering in his embassy and pretending it's bravery.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:48 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I really cannot understand the American strategy in the "War on Terror". Sure, we can kill people suspected of terrorism from afar without having to directly endanger American lives, but even I know that the idea of faceless death machines that blow up anybody the American government doesn't like with no warning or negotiation is going to radicalize a hell of a lot more people than it kills even if it harms nobody but the intended targets. If I know it, how can the people in power, who are surely receiving reports from our people on the ground there, not know it?

We can't kill the idea that we are evil by acting like comic book supervillains. If we continue to do evil, we will continue to be seen as evil, which means that fighting us will continue to be seen as righteous even by people who are reasonable. There are certainly some doomsday-minded hateful militants who will hate us no matter what (and we certainly have counterparts to them here as well), but we are turning everyone there into enemies by doing this. What's the endgame? Kill all of them?
posted by IAmUnaware at 4:57 PM on April 12, 2016 [51 favorites]




He's much less likely to be blown up in the UK, anyway, and his family is probably safer now that they're not near him, too.

Gandhi was another terrorist who chose to travel to the UK to make a direct appeal.
posted by clawsoon at 4:59 PM on April 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


Ironically, this is one of the greatest failures/travesties of the Obama Administration, and the people who make up fake scandals to oppose him are all good with it.
posted by Chuffy at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2016 [62 favorites]


You have to ask yourself "I have an army of killer robots. Am I the good guy?" What is the movie or book or comic where the person with the army of killer robots is the good guy?
posted by poe at 5:01 PM on April 12, 2016 [63 favorites]


Ironman 3.
posted by valkane at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2016 [27 favorites]


If Tony were the good guy I don't think I could get so much satisfaction from watching Steve and Bucky beat the shit out of him.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:05 PM on April 12, 2016 [25 favorites]


I dislike defending the drone killer program, but for those opposed to it, what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.
posted by Postroad at 5:06 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pretty weird that someone could be on a drone kill-list and also be granted a visa to enter the UK. Does the UK not have a problem with him, or what?

What is the movie or book or comic where the person with the army of killer robots is the good guy?

Big Hero 6? They're not killbots, exactly, but they're capable of it.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:06 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


When he says about the aftermath of the March 2011 dronestrike, "Like others that day, I said some things I regret. I was angry, and I said we would get our revenge. ", here is how it was reported in more complete detail:
Malik Jalal Sarhadi Qatkhel, head of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the tribes would wage a jihad against the US as well as Pakistanis who are helping them carry out the Predator drone strikes. He said that they had allowed their youths to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans.[...]

“Unlike [those] who pardoned the killer of two Pakistanis for dollars, we will take revenge for our dead and the world will see it.”

He said that they would avenge the killing “even if it takes a hundred years” and so they were announcing jihad against America and its allies in Pakistan.
Coming to the UK to protest the US killer drone program - whose numerous flaws are quite familiar to the Blue - sounds more like an admission that his group's suicide attacks weren't any more successful than the drone strikes in brining peace to the region.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:07 PM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


I dislike defending the drone killer program, but for those opposed to it, what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.

They really do kill a lot of innocent children. I think that this visualisation of drone strike deaths from Pitch Interactive is particularity horrifying.

And that's only the known deaths. Many, many fatalities are not reported.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:09 PM on April 12, 2016 [24 favorites]


90% of the justification of drone strikes is, "we would capture them, but we can't, and they pose an imminent danger." Him showing up in the UK undetained means nobody is even trying to capture him. If he's such a threat that he needs to be killed ASAP, how is he walking around the UK right now and not, say, getting bundled into an unmarked van?
posted by BungaDunga at 5:10 PM on April 12, 2016 [50 favorites]


You have to ask yourself "I have an army of killer robots. Am I the good guy?" What is the movie or book or comic where the person with the army of killer robots is the good guy?

Have you heard of this thing called “anime”?
posted by Going To Maine at 5:10 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I dislike defending the drone killer program, but for those opposed to it, what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.

They really do kill a lot of innocent children. I think that this visualisation of drone strike deaths from Pitch Interactive is particularity horrifying.

And that's only the known deaths. Many, many fatalities are not reported.


Do they kill more children than do soldiers or more conventional airstrikes? I ask this question seriously, though I recognize that any ethical calculus that wonders about if X kills more children than Y is already in a very, very uncomfortable place.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:12 PM on April 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.

Cut loose some so-called allies. What have the Saudis done for America lately?

America does not use drones in countries that are actually allies. Hellfire missiles do not rain down on Yorkshire. Law enforcement does counterterrorism far better than murder robots.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [23 favorites]


I dislike defending the drone killer program, but for those opposed to it, what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.

As a mental exercise, consider what would happen if the drone strikes were stopped. Would there be more violence in the form of terrorist attacks in Pakistan or Afghanistan, less violence, or about the same level of violence.

I would bet on the third option. In other words, the drone strikes aren't working.

This isn't the first time the United States has employed extrajudicial / quasi-terrorist killing. Think of the Phoenix Program in the Vietnam War. Did that work? Nope. Lost the war.
posted by My Dad at 5:17 PM on April 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


Some other links on Malik Jalal:

"The Unblinking Stare, New Yorker, November 24, 2014
"Drones may kill relatively few, but they terrify many more,” Malik Jalal, a tribal leader in North Waziristan, told me. “They turned the people into psychiatric patients. The F-16s might be less accurate, but they come and go.”
"North Waziristan drone strike: Tribesmen vow 'jihad' against US", Dawn newspaper, Pakistan, March 19, 2011
“We have allowed our youth to carry out suicide attacks on Americans and we will show to the world how to take revenge for the atrocities on our tribesmen,” the tribal elder said and added that they were now compelled to wage jihad against the US and its agents sitting in the country.

Rejecting reports about the presence of al Qaeda and Taliban in Fata, Mr Wazir said that there was no safe haven for militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He said that the American administration itself had endorsed the presence of about 70 per cent al Qaeda top leadership in Afghanistan.
"Pakistani Leaders Condemn Suspected US Drone Killing," CNN, March 21, 2011
"Americans don't spare us -- not our children, nor our elders, nor our younger," Malik Jalal Wazir, a tribal elder from North Waziristan, said in news conference. "That is why we have decided we will take blood revenge however we can."
A statement from the elders titled "Announcement of Jihad against America" said, "We have given permission to our loved ones to do suicide attacks against Americans. And we will take revenge so that Americans will remember it for centuries.
posted by msalt at 5:26 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


One problem with this narrative is that none of the attacks he's discussing have occurred since 2011. I suppose it's possible that he has evaded drone surveillance entirely for over 5 years, but it seems unlikely.

It could be that he was removed from the target list, or that he was never on it. He specifies alternate targets that were hit in each of his stories, trying to make the case that they were mistaken for him. But maybe they were the targets all along.
posted by msalt at 5:30 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Malik Jalal's rhetoric is far less inflammatory than much that escapes from US politicians mouths.
posted by wilful at 5:33 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


According to the Pitch Interactive visualization linked to above, civilian casualties from drone strikes essentially ended by the end of 2012, though drone strikes continue.

Perhaps there was some improvement in the technology, or in the intelligence used to develop targets, or in the monitoring of potential targets before a strike to confirm their identity or guilt?
posted by msalt at 5:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Perhaps there was some improvement in the technology, or in the intelligence used to develop targets, or in the monitoring of potential targets before a strike to confirm their identity or guilt?

Or some "improvement" in the accounting after the fact?
posted by fifthrider at 5:51 PM on April 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


"Drones may kill relatively few, but they terrify many more,” Malik Jalal, a tribal leader in North Waziristan, told me. “They turned the people into psychiatric patients. The F-16s might be less accurate, but they come and go.”
So if I understand this right -- we're talking about a military strategy that results in relatively few deaths but seems very effective in inciting terror (not to mention civilian casualties). The folks hanging out in bunkers on the other side of the world, scheming strategic murder with callous disregard for innocent life and inciting terror in the general populace -- that's us.

He who fights with monsters, indeed.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 5:52 PM on April 12, 2016 [17 favorites]


If I were one of the associates--or former associates--of this guy, I would have certain questions about the guy who was allegedly being repeatedly targeted, but never quite in the right place at the right time. It occurs to me that there's an alternative explanation for why he's gone to the ally of the people who are supposedly trying to kill him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


... is going to radicalize a hell of a lot more people ...

Maybe that's the plan. If all of them are radicalized then it makes sense to kill all of them.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


What have the Saudis done for America lately?

Given that the person in question is from Pakistan, I'm not sure how you think dropping them as an ally would affect this.

Pakistan is a nuclear state, with extremist factions that threaten its stability and a history of strife with India, who also possess nuclear weapons. There is no *good* solution to the problems there but there are certainly large stakes.
posted by Candleman at 5:56 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I really cannot understand the American strategy in the "War on Terror".

What gets lost in all of the technological navel gazing is that 'drones' are just a continuation of the long-standing US policy of "death squads" ie. the way to "solve" an insurgency is to kill the leaders and wage an campaign of terror against the insurgent organization, their friends, and families.

This isn't the first time the United States has employed extrajudicial / quasi-terrorist killing. Think of the Phoenix Program in the Vietnam War. Did that work? Nope. Lost the war.

or practically all of Central America and Colombia. Although we generally like to employ locals to do the killing. It goes back over 100 years to the US Marine Corp. in Philippines after the Spanish-American War but, I think it really starts with the wars against the plains Indians.

Don't think about the drones, or the soldiers who operate the drones. The policy of "death squads" is a long-standing consensus among US military and political leadership.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:59 PM on April 12, 2016 [26 favorites]


According to the Pitch Interactive visualization linked to above, civilian casualties from drone strikes essentially ended by the end of 2012, though drone strikes continue.

Perhaps there was some improvement in the technology, or in the intelligence used to develop targets, or in the monitoring of potential targets before a strike to confirm their identity or guilt?


Well, there is some haziness in the data. From the 'info' section - "The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise." Many of the deaths reported from 2013 on could be civilians.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:08 PM on April 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Via the Guardian - Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November - in Pakistan and Yemen, using (incomplete) data from Reprieve.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:17 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


One problem with this narrative is that none of the attacks he's discussing have occurred since 2011. I suppose it's possible that he has evaded drone surveillance entirely for over 5 years, but it seems unlikely.

Possibly related: drone strikes dropped dramatically in Pakistan around 2011-2012 as they were ramping up on Yemen and Somalia. Also, AFAIK, this was around the time they were trying to transfer command of the program from the CIA to JSOC, although the CIA still has a fleet, I think.
posted by bluecore at 6:18 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I dislike defending the drone killer program

Then don't! No one is making you.

but for those opposed to it, what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies

I don't know, how about all the things that police forces operating under laws in sovereign countries usually do, instead of completely illegal and extrajudicial attempted assassination from afar? It's not really clear why you, or anyone, thinks this is a hard question. Unsupervised illegal sky-robot death squads are not the only possible solution to any problem.
posted by RogerB at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2016 [40 favorites]


"The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise."

The parallels with US police departments' justifications for killing "threatening" young black men are staggering.
posted by duffell at 6:33 PM on April 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


From the OP: You have never been to Waziristan, so how would you know?

Now that is naive, or just playing to the crowd. There are USA Special Forces bootprints all over that corner of the world. (Including the CIA. The SAD and Heavy Weapons Squads kind of creep me out. Subtlety and discretion is no longer an imperative for these motherfuckers. We're not going to send Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt after you. We're going to send the Legiones Astartes.)

Perhaps there was some improvement in the technology, or in the intelligence used to develop targets, or in the monitoring of potential targets before a strike to confirm their identity or guilt?

This may be apocryphal, but! There's more skin in the game. Drones were being used very, very poorly. Bush legacy bullshit Obama should have squashed day one. Now batshit crazy things are being done where the missile needs to be called in by a ground observer, verified by another ground observer. Four years, and we ain't been caught at it, so let's just say "computers can tell kids and their momma's thermal signature from that of the well-fed AK-47 toting men around them" or "Millimeter wave radar can tell us if they're drinking tea or Coca Cola," instead. Maybe.

More logical answer is boots on the ground, smart and subtle humint, and much stricter rules of engagement.

It's nuts, but it seems to work. I'll take it everyday and on Sunday over what we did to Dresden and Tokyo... or Cambodia and Laos.

Also, in conclusion, I believe everyone who thinks they are a drone target should go to London, immediately. Then you will be effectively neutralized as a member of the Taliban's regional or local affiliates. Enjoy the food and theater and lack of dronestrikes for the duration of the conflict.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:33 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


"90% of the justification of drone strikes is, "we would capture them, but we can't, and they pose an imminent danger."

I've thought a long time about why we don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology instead of killing technology. And people seem to think this is ridiculous and impossible but we have a level of technological capacity at present that I really don't think it's impossible, I think people scoff at the mere IDEA we would invest billions of dollars in safe capture tech- I think we could.

I think we're smart enough and brilliant enough. If we valued making the investment.
posted by xarnop at 6:35 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Drone war a 'recruitment tool' for Isis, say US air force whistleblowers: Four former US air force service members, with more than 20 years of experience between them operating military drones, have written an open letter to Barack Obama warning that the program of targeted killings by unmanned aircraft has become a major driving force for Isis and other terrorist groups.

The group of servicemen have issued an impassioned plea to the Obama administration, calling for a rethink of a military tactic that they say has “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like Isis, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantánamo Bay”.

posted by dialetheia at 6:37 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]




Now batshit crazy things are being done where the missile needs to be called in by a ground observer, verified by another ground observer.

Sorry, why is this batshit crazy exactly? If true, then it would correlate with the reduction in 'obvious civilian' (ie, women) and child casualties.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've thought a long time about why we don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology instead of killing technology. And people seem to think this is ridiculous and impossible but we have a level of technological capacity at present that I really don't think it's impossible, I think people scoff at the mere IDEA we would invest billions of dollars in safe capture tech- I think we could.

because the whole point is to destroy the organization by death and terror. killing the friends and family of those on "kill lists" is absolutely part of that strategy.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:41 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]




Oh, that's good. So we're only killing one and a half people outside of our intended target now.

How civilized of our government.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:49 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Right, that's my assumption, I've been surprised by how many have tried to explain it as some sort of physical impossibility rather than facing the truth.
posted by xarnop at 6:49 PM on April 12, 2016


I've thought a long time about why we don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology instead of killing technology. And people seem to think this is ridiculous and impossible but we have a level of technological capacity at present that I really don't think it's impossible, I think people scoff at the mere IDEA we would invest billions of dollars in safe capture tech- I think we could.

Have you read The Men Who Stare At Goats? The movie is silly, but the book is in many ways about this idea, taken off in rather cock-eyed direction.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:49 PM on April 12, 2016


I really cannot understand the American strategy in the "War on Terror"
Follow the money: - Feb 2015 The War On Terror Has Cost Taxpayers $1.7 Trillion
posted by adamvasco at 7:01 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


My conservative relatives have completely othered all Muslims to the point that none of this fazes them. The only good one is a dead one, because if they're not dead, they're planning to blow up you and yours. Videos of IS killing people with swords get passed around, 9/11 is cited, Israel, Palestine, the end times, and so on.

Real-life examples of Muslim immigrants in the US living here peacefully mean nothing; they, or their families, are probably in league with some terrorist group. Because Islam=terrorism.

All I can do is point out to my family that they are advocating the deaths of many peaceful farmers and merchants and students who never killed anyone, along with their children. They tell me it's "nice that I'm so compassionate" but we must still kill them all because it's too dangerous.

If a scared Muslim toddler stood in front of them, would they think it ok to kill him? None of them have ever served in the military or shot someone. So I hope not. But how can they not hear the hate and evil in what they are saying? Or know that drone strikes do exactly that and not care?

For me it comes down to; if they are right and the world will end unless we (continue to be) murdering monsters, well fuck; let it end. We don't deserve to continue as a species. Blow us all up and get it over with.

But I don't believe they are right.
posted by emjaybee at 7:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


Sorry, why is this batshit crazy exactly?

Because if you were a coward, and believed the women and men fighting and dying on your behalf were cowards, too, it would be CRAZY to believe they would be competent and skilled enough to hang out in Waziristan. With no logistical support. To determine when women and children were being hosted at the local Taliban hangout and when the bigwigs sent them home to have a nice big meetup, just the guys, talking strategy. And still had full confidence in your observation and in your higher-ups action on your observations to be predictable and restrained. Just, crazy! Democrats are terrible at war, aren't they?

If you know women and men Enlisted or Rated of a certain age and skill-set, well! Not so nuts. Another day at the office...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:20 PM on April 12, 2016


civilian casualties from drone strikes essentially ended by the end of 2012

How strange. Only this morning I was reading about this:
"A second strike soon after killed two people who had come to pick up the bodies, Mr. Hasan said. A third strike killed three others who had climbed a small hill to try to see what had happened"
posted by sfenders at 7:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've thought a long time about why we don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology instead of killing technology.
Because these are heavily armed groups in a remote region with very strong clan ties who will do their best to kill you if you drive up and try to throw your fancy new mecho-stun-net over their uncle?
Or some "improvement" in the accounting after the fact?
The Bureau of Investigation and Pitch Interactive are well-established and openly anti-drone advocacy groups. If you don't trust their reports that civilian casualties are dropping, who would you trust?
Many of the deaths reported from 2013 on could be civilians.
The Bureau of Investigation and Pitch Media have never accepted the US military's count of who is civilian or military. That's precisely why they started keeping their own statistics.
bluecore: Possibly related: drone strikes dropped dramatically in Pakistan around 2011-2012 as they were ramping up on Yemen and Somalia. Also, AFAIK, this was around the time they were trying to transfer command of the program from the CIA to JSOC, although the CIA still has a fleet, I think.
Interesting. I certainly prefer the army to be running the program than the CIA and suspect they would be more careful. Numerically, while Pitch Interactive shows the number of air strikes dropping by half or maybe even 2/3rds, there are still plenty going on. I'm pretty sure that if they had wanted this guy dead over the past five years, they could have found a missile with his name on it.
posted by msalt at 8:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Numbers aside, this is the key question with drones: if they were nearly perfect in accuracy, would you still oppose them? I think many here would.

And we may be approaching that situation. You would expect them to improve in accuracy over time like any other technology, and there is some solid evidence it might be happening.

For me, the fact that drones -- properly used -- seem to kill many fewer civilians than other modes of attack mean that they should not be automatically dismissed as a tool of war. Even Malik Jalal said they kill fewer people but terrorize more than bombers.
posted by msalt at 8:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Drop a giant bulletproof tarp on the vehicle and pump some incapacitating gas in.
posted by ctmf at 8:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sfenders quoted: "A second strike soon after killed two people who had come to pick up the bodies, Mr. Hasan said. [...]"

I understand that the technical name for that is "double-tapping", and it's designed to kill people who are attempting to aid the victims. I can't imagine a clearer violation of international humanitarian laws regarding the treatment of casualties.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [25 favorites]


Numbers aside, this is the key question with drones: if they were nearly perfect in accuracy, would you still oppose them? I think many here would.

This is the key question with drones, perhaps, but there are a plethora of other, related questions tangled up in this scenario as well: should the government use “kill lists”? What do we do about the psyches of people trapped in a constant air war? Is this kind of constant anti-terrorist campaign the best way to further national security? & so on.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:49 PM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


and it's designed to kill people who are attempting to aid the victims.

This time, but also to make people afraid to aid victims in the future. Double gross.
posted by ctmf at 8:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Drop a giant bulletproof tarp on the vehicle and pump some incapacitating gas in.

If it’s good enough for sovereign citizens…
posted by Going To Maine at 8:51 PM on April 12, 2016


I've thought a long time about why we don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology instead of killing technology.
I hate to be the one ringing the pessimist bell but seriously, take a step back and look at... well, the entire history of humanity. Are you familiar with humans at all? How much have we spent throughout history -- money, time, human capital -- on finding ways to kill each other faster, harder, and deader? And how much have we spent throughout history on finding ways to make each other's lives better, to make ourselves and our families healthier, to save and prolong lives?

We don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology because there's no money in it and nobody who has the money gives a shit about sparing lives. Bombs are much easier to use, vastly more profitable to make and sell, and far more fun for pretty much everybody involved except for the unlucky recipients. And therein lies the fundamental tragedy and probable future epitaph of our species -- we are now, have always been, and likely always will be far more invested in death than we ever will be in life.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 10:14 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I dislike defending the drone killer program, but for those opposed to it, what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.

Leave. Mind our own damn business. Our allies are assholes.
posted by bukvich at 10:25 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Our allies are assholes.

Welcome to politics!
posted by Going To Maine at 10:29 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Drones are getting cheaper, easier to deploy, smaller - will there come a time where terrorists can use drones to cheaply and easily strike at American civilians?

What is the counter-terrorism strategy at that point?

I never see this discussed, so is it just too far down the road to worry about? Or impossible for some reason?
posted by imabanana at 10:37 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


What have the Saudis done for America lately?

Given that the person in question is from Pakistan, I'm not sure how you think dropping them as an ally would affect this.


Given that the madrassas that nurture many terrorists, and the groups that train them are largely funded by the Saudis, the connection is a lot more direct than it seems on the face of it.

In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.

I'm curious as to the extent that this is connected to the mass exodus from Waziristan in the face of the full-on Pakistani military offensive in the area (perhaps reducing the number of civilians available to kill) and the concomitant cutting off of access to the area for journalists and aid workers (rendering it virtually impossible to get accurate information about casualties).

Leave. Mind our own damn business. Our allies are assholes.

I hope you'll forgive me for finding it difficult not to take this a little personally. The US government is at least equally as culpable as the Pakistani and Saudi governments in the creation of the Taliban. The brunt of the human cost is borne by Pakistani civilians, who undergo a range of dangers and indignities: loss of life, loss of home, loss of homeland, loss of freedom to study, loss of freedom to play, and the list goes on. The time for minding your own damn business was before you unleashed these mad dogs.

Better alternatives to drone strikes will take a long time to work, but drone strikes have made things worse in Pakistan, and not just in Waziristan, but in the urban centres as well. Using the US government's considerable clout to pressure the civilian government into : a)bringing FATA, of which Waziristan is a part, under the regular legislative umbrella of Pakistani law, instead of the Frontier code; b) administering social programs directly rather than through tribal leaders; c)doing the work for the social and economic development that has to take place before we have a hope of reducing terrorist recruitment. Spending money on those things rather than funding the obliteration of whole villages with bombs.
posted by bardophile at 11:18 PM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


what do they suggest be done against jihadists that are known to be operating in areas that are our allies and whose purpose is to destroy those allies.

None of those considerations apply to Malik Jalal or to Waziristan, so that's a total red herring.

In fact, I don't think any of those considerations apply to anywhere the US is operating drones. The USA's drone program is kept secret, but places like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia are hardly US allies. Even Pakistan is only an ally in the sense that the US is using it as a base from which to launch drones, which is a circular definition.

Also, the people being attacked don't want to "destroy" those countries; even the Taliban only want a change of government. The Taliban is deplorable, of course, but I don't know that the present regime is much better. And political power comes from the people: the US's own history shows that, as well as its experience in propping up unpopular regimes from The Philippines to South America.

I'm not saying that drones should be excluded from the weapons available to the USA, but that power should be wielded openly, in defense of a clearly articulable foreign policy. That's not the case right now, and it's one of the great failings of Obama's presidency.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:21 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Taliban is deplorable, of course, but I don't know that the present regime is much better.

Yeah, as a woman living in Pakistan, I'm going to have to disagree pretty strongly with that.
posted by bardophile at 11:24 PM on April 12, 2016 [27 favorites]


Fair enough.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:26 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Drones are getting cheaper, easier to deploy, smaller - will there come a time where terrorists can use drones to cheaply and easily strike at American civilians?

Even the cheapest military drones that currently carry out these kinds of strikes cost $5 million USD per unit. And they require a tremendous amount of infrastructure - training, operators, maintenance - to keep in the air.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:31 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


They have no desire to capture these people. What would they do with them?

See, two different groups of people thought it was a scandal that lots of people who couldn't be charged with anything were being held indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay. There were those who thought it was a scandalous injustice and a retreat from civilised values. Then there were those who thought all those inmates should have had a bullet in the head in the first place.

It's people like that who are sending the drones.
posted by Segundus at 11:40 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]




Shylock:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.
The Merchant Of Venice Act 3, scene 1, 58–68
posted by bardophile at 11:53 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've thought a long time about why we don't have brilliant minds creating safe capture technology instead of killing technology. And people seem to think this is ridiculous and impossible but we have a level of technological capacity at present that I really don't think it's impossible...

Well, what are the basic mechanisms that you think would allow this to work in the situations drones are used in right now? You can't just handwave "science" at it; there aren't just knock out gasses like in cartoons. Rendering people safely unconscious is tricky and slightly risky in hospitals with IV and respirators delivering the drugs directly to the patient and a team of professionals monitoring them. Among other issues, people that are rendered unconscious have a tendency to do things like choke on vomit.

Recall that in the Nord-Ost siege, which had the advantage of being inside a building that the Russians had external control of, 15% of the hostages are believed to have died from the drug that was used with many others suffering long term damage. Dropping enough gas to knock out occupants of a moving vehicle would require sufficient amounts as to cause horrific effects on the surrounding populace.

There's not enough precision to use something like a taser - the reason that we're dealing collateral damage from missiles is that it takes a crude area effect weapon to try to hit someone and even then, as it's been noted, our accuracy is pretty bad. Not to mention that a taser from a moving air vehicle just doesn't work.

I'm sure that someone's hard at work putting one of the pain rays into a drone, so let's assume that we can now do an area affect attack from the air that will incapacitate an area wide enough to get the target without doing permanent damage to the bystanders.

Extracting the target would mostly require sending in a helicopter or two and ground troops, which is both risky and expensive. Taking off and landing in a combat zone is hazardous. The political reality is that Americans coming home in body bags is considered way worse by a substantial portion of the voting public than killing people on the other side of the globe, even if some of them turn out to be innocent. We can barely even keep overt torture illegal..

Part of the advantage of drones is that they be kept aloft pretty much all the time waiting for targets of opportunity. To do the same thing with extraction would require keeping helicopters in the air, at somewhere around $25,000 of cost per hour as the starting rate that the Air Force gives - most likely significantly higher in war zones.

At a certain point, the grim math will say that expending millions of dollars to capture targets with no significant intelligence will not be justified compared to using that same money doing the social and economic development that bardophile suggested.

I'm certainly not in favor of our drone program at this time, but simply saying that things *should* be possible doesn't make it so.
posted by Candleman at 12:06 AM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's not enough precision to use something like a taser - the reason that we're dealing collateral damage from missiles is that it takes a crude area effect weapon to try to hit someone and even then, as it's been noted, our accuracy is pretty bad.

From the New Yorker: The Reaper can also fire a missile, known as the Small Smart Weapon, that is less than two feet long and can take out an individual without killing people in the next room.

The product brochure for the SSW.

The capability to precision target exists and could presumably be improved. Likely, identifying the specific target individual in a group is problematic. But maybe it's just more convenient to explodify everyone and not bother with precision.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:22 AM on April 13, 2016


You have to ask yourself "I have an army of killer robots. Am I the good guy?" What is the movie or book or comic where the person with the army of killer robots is the good guy?
Are we the baddies?
posted by PHINC at 12:22 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


See, two different groups of people thought it was a scandal that lots of people who couldn't be charged with anything were being held indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay. There were those who thought it was a scandalous injustice and a retreat from civilized values. Then there were those who thought all those inmates should have had a bullet in the head in the first place.

It's people like that who are sending the drones.

This feels like such a maddening over-simplification of a fairly complicated, weird drone-based-sort-of-secret-but-certainly-undeclared robot war. Obama is sending the drones and massively cranked up their use during his presidency. Obama also wanted to close Gitmo. Obama is also not the only person in the government, but the idea that these things have some sort of one-to-one correlation of interests is just… rrrrr.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:06 AM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


The clinical detachment with which people in this thread are discussing targeted killing is more than a little disconcerting. I'm going to step away from the thread, because otherwise I'm going to blow a gasket.
posted by bardophile at 1:50 AM on April 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


Drones are getting cheaper, easier to deploy, smaller - will there come a time where terrorists can use drones to cheaply and easily strike at American civilians?

I've been a bit surprised that there hasn't been a drone attack yet, probably using a drone to carry a small IED. If I had to guess, it might be a needless complication when there are so many other, more effective ways to make those attacks. Whereas for the US government, drones solve a problem by being cost-effective and low-risk (in terms of the risk of US casualties).

The clinical detachment with which people in this thread are discussing targeted killing is more than a little disconcerting. I'm going to step away from the thread, because otherwise I'm going to blow a gasket.

The entire language and discourse about drones and the targeted killing program is weird, entirely based on detachment and separation. It's like when "enhanced interrogation" (read: torture) started to be talked about by officials during the Bush presidency, and you'd have thought from their language and demeanor that they were describing a method of testing for MBA candidates. It says something when a program is troubling enough that even just talking about it requires that kind of detached language.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:47 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've been a bit surprised that there hasn't been a drone attack yet, probably using a drone to carry a small IED.

I have a feeling that the FAA is worried about someone using a drone (or lots of drones) against airplanes, hence the new restrictions on hobbyist drones. I have no idea how turbines react to intrusions, but I think that a bunch of drones flown into an intake would make a jet engine very unhappy indeed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:07 AM on April 13, 2016


The comparison of this guy, who supports suicide bombing, with Ghandi above is really strange. I don't like drones, but, then, I don't like war. But the comparison seems to reveal something that I have no idea how to engage. That's the notion that if only the US/Europe would leave these good people alone then the violence would just magically cease. I'm really not otherwise sure how to understand the comparison between a guy who is plenty happy to kill civilians on his side, and Ghandi. Frankly, the comparison, and the crickets with which it was met, suggest that there is no real conversation to be had here, because it's a completely ahistorical and insulting comparison.

None of this is to say that drone strikes are right, or good, or useful, or anything really. I frankly don't know enough about them to determine. But I think the objection displayed here seems more a matter of faith, and one which is more rooted in a one-sided condemnation than it is in a desire to understand and figure out how to solve the problems for which drone strikes have been prescribed. I mean, just as a for instance, I don't think another US President gets a 9-11 gimme like Bush did. We know that people sit around seeking to develop ways to kill US civilians. Just saying, "Drones make us war criminals," does nothing to address that fact, to make the world overall safer. It's just rhetoric.
posted by OmieWise at 4:57 AM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


It could be that he was removed from the target list, or that he was never on it. He specifies alternate targets that were hit in each of his stories, trying to make the case that they were mistaken for him. But maybe they were the targets all along.


Having a government with a secret list of people they're thirsty to kill, using a secret program that deploys secret flying robots is maybe a larger problem than we realized! It's as if it makes it really hard to hold our military and intelligence services accountable for what they say their mission is vs what it seems, from the outside, to actually be!
posted by turntraitor at 6:52 AM on April 13, 2016


There is an ocean of difference between suicide bombings aimed at terrorizing nonbelievers, aimed by ethnic hatreds, or aimed at a existing military occupation. In particular, only the first counts as "terrorism" in any reasonable sense.

All the attacks in Europe are clearly about terrorizing nonbelievers because the attackers said so. And because they targeted civilians, not military, police, etc.

American soldiers in Afghanistan or Pakistan are clearly a legitimate military target for anyone there who dislikes being occupied, seeing family members blown up, etc. If we do not like that, then we should bring them back home.

I agree that Malik Jalal's “even if it takes a hundred years” comment sounds closer to ethnic hatreds than aimed at a existing military occupation, but “[allowing] youths to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans” sounds like any actions went after legitimate military targets.

I therefore find it unlikely that Malik Jalal is a war criminal, while a number of officials from the Bush administration are war criminals, either for targeting civilians as state sponsored terrorism, or for torture. I donno if Malik Jalal has embraced nonviolence, but it's plausible. And he deserves more clemency, respect, etc. than dick Cheney.


As mentioned upthread, there is zero plausible legitimacy to the Obama's targeted killing programs now that Malik Jalal is walking around Britain. If he were a legitimate target, then the U.S. would simply extradite him, or ask the U.K. to detain him themselves.

It's fine that Jalal himself is neither a terrorist nor a war criminal because they could detain him as an ordinary enemy combatant, or maybe even a spy. America not arresting him clearly demonstrates that the Drone War is not about "legitimate" military objectives. What is it about then?

There are two other options in the list with which I opened this comment : Is Obama's drone war about simple ethnic hatreds? Or is it calculated to terrorize civilians? It's maybe partially ethnic hatreds of course, especially from the right wing, but mostly..

Jalal's presence in Britain demonstrates that the civilian deaths America caused by trying to kill him were not a mistake but a calculated policy goal. And that makes Obama a war criminal.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:55 AM on April 13, 2016


Jalal's presence in Britain demonstrates that the civilian deaths America caused by trying to kill him were not a mistake but a calculated policy goal. And that makes Obama a war criminal.

As I said, this seems like an article of faith discussion. You haven't remotely showed your work on the above.

I get it, you have faith that Obama is a war criminal. That's fine. (Seriously.) But the benefit of the doubt you give Jalal, and the surety with which you think you understand the opaque workings of very complicated issues so that you can reach your article of faith, indicate that there isn't a conversation to be had.
posted by OmieWise at 7:53 AM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes I did. If they want him, then they can take him right now. As they do not, it follows they do not want him now. Yet, he presents compelling evidence they were shooting missiles at him quite recently.

Why do you shoot missiles at someone you do not want captured or killed? It's only really because you're trying to kill those around him.

It beggars believe that they removed him from the kill list only recently, but obviously Reprieve can keep bringing over more drone assassination targets if they want to kill that myth.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2016


The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise." Many of the deaths reported from 2013 on could be civilians.

In devoutly Muslim societies (I'm speaking historically here, from courses on the Ottoman Empire), it's seldom acceptable for women to be alone with other men, and without family members. So unless we're talking about family homes, of course there will only be able-bodied men present. Pretty much any community activity or local government meetings will be almost all men. Big business deals would be conducted primarily without women present.

In a place like northen Pakistan, I have my doubts that government records have the penetration they might in the U.S. How can they even be sure all these "able-bodied men" are above 18? I refuse to believe they can pull up identification for everyone present at each strike. They must be killing boys under the age of 18 in some of these strikes and then writing them off as men.

You could have one guy who is a known militant come into your store, and then walk into the back room to discuss prices with you. You guys sit down, have tea. He's not buying guns, or doing anything sinister. Maybe he came with three other militants who are waiting in the front of the store, because they tend to travel together. Now the U.S. bombs your home, kills you and your son who tends storage. All able-bodied males, all terrorists, A-OK. Then the burden is on your family to go and contact the U.S. government themselves, at risk of being accused of being traitors, all so that they can clear your name in the records of an entity they've now learned to hate.


Another thing that is worth saying, I think, is that the Americans kill not just out of a tradition of death squads, but also because it is easier than jailing them. They used to want to capture some terrorists, at least. Or they'd do it at their convenience. All that did was create Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. That was a PR nightmare for them. They've learned to murder people, as they think that this will somehow lower demands for accountability. They didn't really think wrong, did they? It seems to have worked. No one but accused "bleeding-heart liberals" give a shit. There are people in this thread who think the practice is justified.
posted by constantinescharity at 9:28 AM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Because these are heavily armed groups in a remote region with very strong clan ties who will do their best to kill you if you drive up and try to throw your fancy new mecho-stun-net over their uncle?"

Who believed drones would be possible right now 50 years ago? It was a ton of money invested and time and effort focused. We can already send drones without people into areas, robotics are improving daily, self flying planes are a possibility if we invested, self driving cars are already here

We could ABSOLUTELY work to develop technology to fly or drive in without sending any humans at all, and identify and capture people especially if they are outside of a building. I mean, we find it totally acceptable to invest billions on the formerly "impossible" dream of new ways to kill without sending humans to do it, we ABSOLUTELY could invest billions in the "impossible" tech to safe capture-- IF IT WAS A VALUE we had.

The things that were once impossible and people were told it could never be done it's too hard, many of those things we have conquered because of awesome human beings who challenged those limits.
posted by xarnop at 9:29 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


jeffburdges: Why do you shoot missiles at someone you do not want captured or killed?

Clerical error. Mistaken identity. Fingered by a rival faction for personal reasons. Fingered by Pakistan ISI for non-terrorist but political reasons. All terrible reasons, but considering the lack of oversight and transparency of the kill list, and the turf war between the CIA and JSOC, they are more plausible to me than Obama's intended goal is to terrorize civilians. I believe it's entirely possible he or someone who looked like him or had a similar name or a similar car was targeted, but then when he made waves or his lawyer made waves or control shifted from the CIA to JSOC, someone removed him from the list.
posted by bluecore at 9:31 AM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


There are two other options in the list with which I opened this comment

There are at least two other options:

1. He wasn't the target.
2. The CIA, DOD, or DOJ are working w/ the UK right now on whether and how he can be extradited.
posted by jpe at 9:38 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


You make it sound as if the government was some sort of high stakes bureaucracy. Madness!
posted by Going To Maine at 9:45 AM on April 13, 2016


"The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise."

This isn't new information to me, but every time it comes up it blows my mind. The logic is insane, and if any other country used it to justify killing, US politicians would be screaming about how evil it is.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Those are all reasons why they might want him, bluecore, not reasons why the might shoot missiles at him, but not want him. There were enough attacks to make (1) very unlikely, jpe. And the U.K. has considerable powers to detain people without worrying about the details, making (2) appear unrealistic.

It's not literally "Obama's intended goal is to terrorize civilians", bluecore, but that the Bush administration adopted that goal when they adopted torture for similar real reasons. Intimidation is really a go-to policy of the U.S. government after all. It stuck around mostly because the official justifications sounds more believable, the victims kinda disappeared, etc.

Obama inherited that program but failed to critically analyze it. If it were torture, we'd call that omission a war crime. I think targeting civilians counts too because they do actually know about the civilian deaths and can evaluate the target's value.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:06 AM on April 13, 2016


I recommend Ibrahim Mohamoud of CAGE at Challenge Power: CIJ Logan Symposium yt or their talk The Price Of Dissent yt at 32c3.

Seriously?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:32 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


jeffburdges: You seem to be willfully ignoring evidence right in front of you, as when you say:
If they want him, then they can take him right now. As they do not, it follows they do not want him now. Yet, he presents compelling evidence they were shooting missiles at him quite recently.
No, Jalal presents very shaky evidence that he was targeted three time in 2010 and 2011. This has been pointed out to you several times, and it's hard to have a good faith discussion when you assert right past solid evidence wtih conclusionary statements like this.
posted by msalt at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Yet, he presents compelling evidence they were shooting missiles at him quite recently.

>> No, Jalal presents very shaky evidence...

Guys, "presenting evidence" does not mean what you seem to think it means.

I don't see any evidence at all. All we have is Jalal's story.
Of course, we can all chose to simply believe his story, even without evidence. Maybe his story appears to be plausible enough. Also, he says that he sincerely regrets his calls for a jihad that Americans will remember for centuries to come, so he must be one of the good guys, right? And his association with an NGO - surely this NGO would ever associate with a terrorist.

So, we can simply take him at his word. We can chose to believe that disavowing any jihads was not something that was edited into the text by the NGO in order to make him appear more human and trustworthy. We can chose to believe that he is one of the good guys.

But we should not mistake this act of faith of believing him for actual evidence.
posted by sour cream at 1:36 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


All this effort directed to killing individual people, like they each had some magic power, in themselves, to make the world worse. Like they had the Anti-Life Equation, as if killing one wouldn't just cause the next guy in line to step up and take his place, and cause a hundred more to enlist in his cause.

They either seriously didn't think this through, or someone with a vested economic interest in a forever war set all this in motion.
posted by JHarris at 2:01 AM on April 14, 2016


They either seriously didn't think this through, or someone with a vested economic interest in a forever war set all this in motion.

I'm not sure about "economic" interests, but an unending war against the rest of the world is pretty much the ideological basis of ISIS as well as those flavors of Islam that believe that we are on path to the Day of Judgment.

Yes, I'm aware that ISIS has no presence in Pakistan at the moment.
posted by sour cream at 2:50 AM on April 14, 2016


Guys, "presenting evidence" does not mean what you seem to think it means.

I don't see any evidence at all. All we have is Jalal's story.


That's what evidence is. If he testified about the things he saw in court it would be something the court would consider. But his story would be easy to refute - if the USA didn't have this paranoid secrecy thing going on where the military won't confirm or deny anything. So at present, his testimony is the only evidence we have.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:25 AM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't see any evidence at all. All we have is Jalal's story.

If one actually applied this kind of Humean radical skepticism consistently to articles whether one were politically predisposed to like their content or not, reading the news every morning would certainly be more entertaining. "They say it's going to rain today, but what is their evidence? All we have is some meteorologist's story…"
posted by RogerB at 10:16 AM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


But his story would be easy to refute - if the USA didn't have this paranoid secrecy thing going on where the military won't confirm or deny anything. So at present, his testimony is the only evidence we have.

Right. I have serious doubts about his story, but when you accuse the US government of something you are accusing an organization that has done horrible things and pathologically lies. I'm going to listen to your testimony with an open mind and go from there.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:27 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]




"The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise."

Yeah, it makes me depressed when this is an acknowledged fact about how the US classifies combatants, and yet people will say "well, in this case he seems like a bad guy who supports bad things, and anyway he's probably lying about being targeted." Like, I don't think the real shocker is that this one guy was targeted so much as it is the fact that, true or not, his story is plausible on so many levels.

I was recently at a lecture about how the increased precision of military technology has actually been correlated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in the number of civilians killed in combat. By the first Gulf War civilians made up 90% of war deaths. There's, well, a lecture's worth of comments to make about why this is, but it's pretty hard to take any claims about the pluses of drones seriously. Especially not when we've got an openly acknowledged policy of super broad criteria for classifying someone as a military combatant - and there are still civilian deaths on top of that. And we're talking about suicide bombing?
posted by teponaztli at 1:46 AM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's entirely possible - actually, I can almost guarantee - that the kill list criteria have changed over time, as the military goals in the area have changed.

We don't know what the goals or criteria were in 2010. It's possible that any organizational structure was considered suspicious and threatening, because organizations are more threatening than individuals, and even a non-militant group can become threatening as soon as the leadership changes their mind. Kill the leaders, and you scatter the group into individuals - cut the head off the snake - and some of them become radicalized, but that's better than the whole group. Not that it works that way. As mentioned upthread, it's a pretty standard anti-insurgent strategy, meant to intimidate and demoralize.

In that case, targeting him has nothing to do with what he has done, and more to do with what he could do - but mostly with what he represents. So when he's in the UK, and no longer leading his people, there's no more reason to kill him. And if they extradite him, they have to explain why he was targeted in the first place.

That's leaving aside the possibility that they targeted him based on bad intelligence which was then corrected - like, maybe they didn't know it was North Waziristan Peace Council.

We certainly don't know what the military goals and criteria are now, but I guarantee they're different from 2010.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:15 PM on April 15, 2016


@Drinky Die

Assange is cowardly for not wanting to be put in a US prison where he is no longer able to help expose the crimes of the powerful?
posted by blankdawn at 12:26 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was recently at a lecture about how the increased precision of military technology has actually been correlated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in the number of civilians killed in combat. By the first Gulf War civilians made up 90% of war deaths.

The first Gulf war was 25 years ago. If it brought civilian deaths to 90% of the war total, how much higher do you think the percentage has risen to now?

And how much lower do you think the civilian death rate was in, say, Dresden and Nagasaki at the end of second world war?
posted by msalt at 9:59 PM on April 15, 2016


I wonder if the anomaly is actually the historically low proportion of civilian deaths in the last couple of centuries, in the period where states agreed (tacitly or Geneva-convention explicitly) to have their soldiers fight primarily as defined units in defined battles on defined battlefields. If you look back further, you see wars like the Thirty Years' War or the Hundred Years' War or the Cathar Crusades or the Mongol conquests where civilians were fodder in huge numbers.
posted by clawsoon at 10:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, I'm aware that ISIS has no presence in Pakistan at the moment.

That's not true. Numerous terrorist attacks in the urban centres of Pakistan explicitly invoke allegiance to ISIS in their messages and flyers. Can't be bothered to search for links right now, it's too personally painful, but if you read the stories around Sabeen Mahmud's assassination (she was a personal friend, the upcoming death anniversary has me dreaming about her many nights), and the Safoora massacre, you will see explicit mentions. Oh wait, here's a story I have had open in my browser for over a month but haven't summoned the nerve to sit and read, on the subject of ISIS moving into Afghanistan and Pakistan.
posted by bardophile at 12:36 AM on April 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


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