• Blowback: Why They Try to Bomb Us

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    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.”

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    17, 2010

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