Imagine, if you can, an alternate universe.
Imagine that in this alternate universe, a foreign military power
begins flying remote-controlled warplanes over your town, using
onboard missiles to kill hundreds of your innocent neighbors.
Now imagine that when you read the newspaper about this ongoing
bloodbath, you learn that the foreign nation’s top general
is nonchalantly telling reporters that his troops are also killing
“an amazing number” of your cultural brethren in an adjacent
country. Imagine further learning that this foreign power is expanding
the drone attacks on your community despite the attacks’ well-known
record of killing innocents. And finally, imagine that when you
turn on your television, you see the perpetrator nation’s tuxedo-clad
leader cracking stand-up comedy jokes about drone strikes –
jokes that prompt guffaws from an audience of that nation’s
Ask yourself: How would you and your fellow citizens respond? Would
you call homegrown militias mounting a defense “patriots”
or would you call them “terrorists”? Would you agree with
your leaders when they angrily tell reporters that violent defiance
should be expected?
Fortunately, most Americans don’t have to worry about these
queries in their own lives. But how we answer them in a hypothetical
thought experiment provides us insight into how Pakistanis are likely
to be feeling right now. Why? Because thanks to our continued drone
assaults on their country, Pakistanis now confront these issues
every day. And if they answer these questions as many of us undoubtedly
would in a similar situation – well, that should trouble every
American in this age of asymmetrical warfare.
Though we don’t like to call it mass murder, the U.S. government’s
undeclared drone war in Pakistan is devolving into just that. As
noted by a former counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus
and a former Army officer in Afghanistan, the operation has become
a haphazard massacre.
“Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone
strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders,” David Kilcullen
and Andrew Exum wrote in 2009. “But, according to Pakistani
sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians
for every militant killed.”