Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


The Year of the Drone.

8 Apr 2010

I need not repeat the whole ‘shi-bang’ in Facebook speak, about US air strikes in North West Pakistan.

The New York Times Blog, The Lede, recently had an interesting tidbit about how the Obama Administration justifies the attacks. The full post is here, but here are some salient points.

Mr. Koh was speaking at the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law…

Mr. Koh was a human-rights official during the Clinton administration. As the dean of Yale Law School during the Bush administration, he was an outspoken critic of the government’s policies on detention, interrogations, surveillance and other issues.

In his explanation, Mr. Koh said:

In particular, this Administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles, including:

* First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and
* Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

a detailed study [the title of which lends itself to this posts’ title]… — “found that one-third of those killed by drones were civilians.”

It just seems to bring it back to Mohsin Hamid’s argument. Imagine this were Brooklyn. The police knew that an Al Qaeda operative was in a building on Flat Bush Ave., would forces risk missing the building at instead killing innocent civilians in the house next door?

Somehow there seems to be an absence of empathy with those that live in these areas. What they go through is unimaginable to me even.

But here’s where the argument gets even more interesting. I was looking around the New
York Times, particularly around The Lede, and here’s a link I found in their “What We’re Reading” Section.

It’s an article on Pakistan’s responses to the drone attacks. I’d say its part academic, part journalist, but let’s not bother with that for a moment. Brian Glynn Williams, writes for the JamesTown Foundation, “not everyone in Pakistan is against the killing of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters by the CIA’s robotic killers in the sky”.

His most credible sources, mentioned next are snippets from the Pakistani media and blogs. The media, I agree, sounds relatively more credible, but here’s how the data is analyzed.

Williams simply looks at polls, and commentary showing that support for the Taliban is not extensive. Then goes on to cite how people have appreciated that the death of major extremist leaders through the air strikes was considered helpful to the cause on terror. Aside from the fact that isolated blogs are comparing with a member of the US administration in dialogue about drones, the article plainly ignores the possibility that while the attacks might weaken the Taliban, the way they’re doing it might be unacceptable, or just plain immoral. The article itself cites how many civilians have died and how the government has criticized the attacks, but apparently many people do not share this point of view.

The article does quote a journalist’s supposed perception of the views in Waziristan, published in the Daily Times, which I personally view with a little skepticism, but that’s just me. Read the link to see what you think. But for now it seems the conversation remains heavily one sided.

Whoever is implicit, needs to talk.