When I first realized how many U.S. drone strikes had been made, and that my tax dollars were paying for them, it stunned me. Before this realization, I was like many other Americans. I assumed that all military actions our country might take were for the benefit of American citizens, freedom and democracy around the world. We were fighting bad people who sought to kill us and harm people in their own countries. War was bad — but in this case, I accepted the commonly-held wisdom that drone strikes were a necessary action to protect more people from being harmed in the future. I suppose I even thought that it was better that these machines could make “surgical strikes” and kill only a terrorist without involving U.S. or other troops who might have been hurt or killed.
I won’t say I was utterly a “baby” about the situation. I, like many other Americans, never gave drones, other countries, or U.S. policy regarding potential terrorism much thought. The proper description of my pre-drone awareness might be fool in a false paradise.
I can’t point to any one factor that made me more aware of these drone strikes and their true meaning. One day, I read an article in Time by a Pakistani teacher who witnessed his mother killed by a drone.
Rafeequl Rehman wrote,
My children — Mamana’s grandchildren — watched it happen. It was a sunny October afternoon in 2012, and she was gathering okra in our family’s mostly vacant fields in Ghundi Kala village, North Waziristan, intending to cook it that evening. My children were home, standing about a hundred feet from her. They watched as she was struck by two Hellfire missiles, blown to bits before their eyes. My daughters and sons felt the explosion and were covered with the smoke and dust.
I envisioned the enormity of the event. I thought, “Good Lord, this is horrible! That poor lady and family!” I learned later Mr. Rehman also was invited to speak to the U.S. Congress. The room to which he spoke was an awful lot like the CSPAN Congressional video I watched years ago. My former husband Mike and I watched some member of Congress giving an impassioned speech. We both laughed when the camera panned back to show an utterly empty room save a single man sweeping between the seats.
Let’s Break it Down
Mr. Rehman is a teacher. He’s a gifted writer, too, judging by his eloquent Time article. Instead of buying a plane ticket to America and getting hold of an RPG and camping at the end of the runway at LAX until he found a likely domestic flight to shoot down, he chose to speak, write and advocate to make Americans and others in the West realize the monstrosity that these mindless, nearly constant drone attacks represent.
That makes him an extraordinary man, worthy of respect and admiration. He’s worth more than his Time article being ignored, his speech to Congress made to an empty house, and our 24–7 news cycle blasting nonsense — anything other than the truth or facts.
Drone attacks began during the Bush Administration in 2004 because the technology was available and entered use; it’s possible its initial uses were as I had assumed — “surgical strikes” meant to take out terrorists without risking anyone else’s life, including civilians — especially women and children. The first such strike, however, the U.K. Guardian found did not fit that criteria. It injured only children; no terrorists. Between 2004 and 2008, the Bush Administration authorized 52 drone strikes, killing an estimated 500 people.
Then came 2009.
The New York Times, official Obama Administration newspaper of record, states that between January, 2009 and January 2016, the Obama Administration “authorized 506 strikes that have killed 3,040 terrorists and 391 civilians.”
The “civilian casualty” figure is an outright lie. In Pakistan alone, thousands of civilians, including an estimated 2,000 children, have been killed. It is likely that many more than the admitted 500 strikes were authorized as well and the attacks have occurred in 8 different countries. The United States is not at war with 8 countries. Pakistan, where so many drone attacks have occurred, is officially a U.S. ally.
What would you think if a U.S. ally like, oh, say, Germany, sent such drone missiles to kill people here?
The very first drone strike of Obama’s tenure killed no terrorist, but took out a young man’s eye, devastated a city block, and slaughtered his uncles.
Mr. Qureshi told the UK Guardian that “he does not believe ordinary Americans are ‘evil or unjust,’ and urges them not to believe what their government tells them about drone strikes and Pakistan.
‘I am the living example of what drones are,’ [he] said.
‘They have affected Waziristan as they have affected my personal life. I had all the hopes and potential and now I am doing nothing and don’t know what there is for me in the future.’
The drone strikes aren’t an isolated example. The series of 13 articles I wrote about the Clinton Foundation resulted from my own knowledge as a nonprofit executive and fundraiser. I found myself responding to articles that asserted Hillary Clinton was “the most qualified candidate ever” to run for the U.S. presidency and had “made the biggest difference ever” for women and girls — because she took pictures with them and made speeches. Several responses to my articles consisted of “These are all right wing lies!” and “The Clinton Foundation helps millions; they have a 4-star rating from Charity Watch.”
I, sadly, know exactly what these people would do if they were faced with circumstances like Rafeequl Rehman or Faheem Qureshi. If they survived, they would cry like babies, scream, or perhaps, if physically possible, seek to attack back and kill others.
Do they deserve their fat, happy, safe, self-satisfied lives?
I don’t think they do, but it’s the way things are. People of this level of maturity say, think (if and when they ever do think other than want, which is not the same as thinking) anything and everything they please all day long every day. They experience few, if any consequences for this behavior. Nothing much bad happens to them that isn’t an outright accident. They mistake momentary inconveniences as if they’re as bad as being stuck in steerage on the Titanic, going down.
A brilliant, sensitive, ethical, highly evolved man like Mr. Rehman looks out his window one day and sees two Hellfire missiles blow his mother to bits in front of his and her grandchildren’s eyes.
So much for dinner.
Some people say “Life’s not fair.” How many times have we heard this?
Countless. It’s time to change. God or nature didn’t send those Hellfire missiles. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA, NSA or branch of U.S. Military service did.
What are We?
Many Americans tell themselves that our country is much more humane and evolved than countries like Pakistan or Iran.
This is based in formless feeling, not fact.
I suppose I’m in an unusual position in that I have more exposure to other countries, their ways of doing business and government, languages and culture, than a number of other Americans. Many who comment on American policy or politics fail to recognize one of the important benefits of our armed forces being everywhere in the world, with over 700 military installations (as compared to the second world military nation — Russia, with 35). Our troops do get exposed to different cultures, worlds and ways of living and bring them home.
Otherwise, I think pretty much everyone would be like the wailing, crying, screaming babies threatening to move to Canada because Donald Trump was elected President or their enthusiastic, gloating #MAGA Trump counterparts.
Months ago, a trusted friend informed me how stupid and idiotic Trump was, and implied I was overly critical of Hillary Clinton because she was another female.
The truth based in evidence, I think, is otherwise. Our country and world, unlike Rafeequl Rehman’s mother and thousands — not a handful — of others did dodge a Hellfire missile with Clinton’s failed candidacy. I’ve read more than 500 of the Wikileaks emails. The entire Clinton team, including grim eminence John Podesta, “No Internal Editor” Neera Tanden and Robby “Suck-Up” Mook would bankrupt an average business in weeks, inspire a workplace shooting, and be lucky to escape the burning factory with their lives. These nicknames I give them aren’t because I can’t express myself any better; they are because I am imitating Trump’s communication strategy: one that’s proven to have worked.
This group is less than admirable and was unsuccessful because, as Podesta himself said of Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager, “The fish rots from the head.”
I’m not saying Donald Trump is marvelous. But those who think he’s a monster for saying he finds beautiful women irresistible and the crude, rude statements he’s made, would do well to reflect on the simple axiom that actions speak louder than words. Mr. Trump has spent his life chasing beautiful women, raising and blending not one, but three different families, gregariously socializing, and building his many projects, casinos and businesses — whether people like them or not, and whether they like his hair or skin or not. We can disapprove of his larger-than-life, extreme lifestyle. We can think his wall-building and stating Mexico will pay is racist. My logical assessment is that he’s not a stone cold killer without a conscience.
His competitor was someone who’d press a button on her Blackberry to authorize a Hellfire missile that blew up a lady picking okra before dinner while her son and grandchildren watched. She repeated this task more than 300 times, and she and her boss, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, lied about it later, doubled and tripled down, and likely will never own up to any of it in any way.
Trump’s competitor, apparently, believes her employees’ publicity that giving a speech in China about women’s rights 20 years ago is “helping women and girls.” She thinks putting the words “women and girls” on a website justifies spending tens, and likely hundreds, of millions of dollars on her daughter and husband’s personal needs such as weddings, birthday parties, large properties in Chappaqua, New York, and flights around the world.
I don’t know what Trump will or will not do. I just know that what Malak Chabkoun wrote in this article is true. People are rioting in the streets in America right now for three reasons. Reason #1 is some of them are paid by the brutes that facilitated the Clinton empire and dissolution of anything resembling a Democratic party representing “the working man.” Reason #2 is that some are opportunists. Reason #3 is exactly what Ms. Chabkoun described. Our country is raising, educating and socializing people to be infantile, dependent, incurious , and above all, ignorant of the realities of the world — or as I sometimes put it, mentally, physically and spiritually flaccid.
Only someone with a dead heart, mind and soul would read what Mr. Rehman wrote about his mother and not want to rise up and stop it. Either that, or they would be an infant unable to comprehend what he said and who did it.
There’s no honor in these drones. Once I understood what they were, I thought these things were far worse for our own troops than actual fighting. What kind of damage does remotely operating a joystick raining Hell down on women and children, over and over again, do to one of our young military service members?
Drones are poor from a “foreign policy” perspective as well. Not every resident of Pakistan or one of the 7 other countries in which we’ve been doing this for the past decade is a kind, spiritual man like Mr. Rehman. Some are mentally and physically able to defend themselves. Some want revenge. Some have taken it.
I wrote this not only because I read Ms. Chabkoun’s article and found it eloquent, profound and true, but because some infantile person on Twitter was screaming, “My children are afraid!” because Trump had won the election. They couldn’t tolerate it. They were going to go riot in the streets until Trump capitulated and their chosen one was installed.
I responded with an image similar to this picture:
Years ago, I think a white person, likely a woman, looked at the black people on her slave plantation and thought, “Why are they in the fields and I here in the house?”
Why do you have a silver Mercedes and somebody in Malawi has a goat and a two-wheeled cart?
The answer isn’t because they are stupid, inferior and intellectually backward. The opposite may well be true.
We have all heard, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”
This morning a young man on Facebook commented that he’d like to see a woman run for U.S. President in 2020 and win. He said, and I paraphrase, “If I’d gone through what women had, having to fight to be able to vote for over 150 years, I wouldn’t be as chill as most women seem to be right now.” I praised him, saying truthfully, that was the first time I’d ever seen a male publically, in writing, put himself in womens’ shoes and actually think about their perspective in an honest way.
Unlike some others, I know what it’s like to feel afraid every day. I know what it feels like to believe my life is about to end. I know what it feels like to have my baby die in my arms and for there to be nothing I can do about it. I know what it feels like to be responsible for others’ lives and livelihoods.
So yes, I can comment and no, I’m not a baby. We don’t just have a problem with people privileging their momentary feelings over any semblance of study and serious discussion in our colleges and universities or via social media (otherwise known as “if someone else says something you don’t care for, keep your mouth shut and mind your own business until or unless you’ve thought a lot about speaking up”), we have a problem with killing innocent people with no thought whatsoever, lying about it, and doubling and tripling down with no sense of any kind. We’re not stopping the drones, we’re investing billions in making them more, better and worse.
There is nothing praiseworthy in that.
For those who suggested Donald J. Trump should not be given the nuclear codes; we have lived for a decade ruled by people who, with apparently little thought except a desire not to be criticized publically, had these codes and so much more at their disposal, killing thousands of children and then lying about it with full knowledge that recent attacks by people who did kill our citizens here had understandable cause and were not 100% “insane.” In other words: second-degree, not first-degree murder.
Perhaps it will get worse. To make any change requires the same steps as a child takes when growing up. Learning to read, listening to others, thinking about the consequences of our actions, developing a conscience, and gaining some self-control.