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U.S. drone strike kills 30 pine nut farm workers in Afghanistan (reuters.com)
350 points by tepidandroid 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 297 comments

This is deeply tragic. I wish the story gave more details. Based on the provincial governor's statement, it sounds like U.S. forces were relying on the Afghan government's intelligence assessment.

I also wish news sources would be more careful about suggesting that there are autonomous killer robots in the sky. The drone didn't target anything. A remote pilot did, based on information he/she was provided.

The US can't sustain casualties and maintain any popular support for the war or the reputation of the military, so they use remote control killing machines on people the media don't care about. Unless you have people on the ground (and even then!) you can't really be sure of your intel. This media strategy allows them to not care about the quality of the intel. While the power of the state is still terrifying, it is vastly weaker than during the Vietnam era.

It's both typical and disingenuous to name an attack after the instrument rather than the agent that wields it.

Truck attacks, drone attacks, knife attacks - one might be forgiven for thinking these objects have developed minds of their own.

Or perhaps the insinuation is that most humans themselves are mere instruments of the cultures and institutions they're embedded in.

I have kids and live in a rural U.S. town. I fear "normal" things such as drugs, school/gun violence, sex predators, etc. This... this is next level. I couldn't even fathom what it would be like if missiles rained from the sky at faster-than-sound speeds - from another country no less. You could say: "There aren't terrorists in rural U.S. towns," but I'd argue that isn't the case anymore with all the mass shootings, racial hatred, and so on. The world is in such a sad state.

Now imagine “U.S. drone strike kills 30 pine nut farm workers in France” and feel the difference (which is non-existent). Then it goes on tv and reads the list of this morning’s evil men who must be stopped.

Or imagine "Taleban drone strike kills 30 farmers in Oklahoma". There would be a reaction!

Or Yemenis kill 30 Saudi date farm workers in Saud.

Or, God forbid, Iran kills 30 Saudis in Saud.

We've been exposed to so much propaganda that we instinctively know what is "worse", and who is "allowed" to kill without due process.

I think you’re conflating morally worse with practically worse. It’s not propaganda to note that certain countries attacking each other spell out graver consequences

That fact that you distinguish between morally worse and "practically worse" make me thing you are already under the influence of the propaganda.

But it does not mean you are right: Afganistan cannot attack the US over 30 dead civillians, the US can attack Iran for some Saudi property destruction by Yemenis who are being raped by Saudi using US weaponery on them.

> But it does not mean you are right

I meant: But it does not mean you not are right

Yeah? And why is that? Is it that certain countries' farm workers' lives are worth more than certain others? It sounds to me that the propaganda got you too.

... no, they’re worth the same. Hence morally vs practically. The difference is that killing some third world farmers doesn’t cause a war between first world powers.

Alternatively if Yemen rebels attack Saudi Arabia, that’s bad. If Iran does it, everybody in a thousand mile radius starts sweating.

> Alternatively if Yemen rebels attack Saudi Arabia, that’s bad.

Why is it bad? I mean, after they've been at the receiving end of Saud's war machine, why can they not retaliate? They sure did not cause as much boodshed (zero, just material damage) as the Sauds have caused them.

I get that you have a gripe with Saudi geo politics. And it’s probably one I agree with, but I’m really just trying to say that blowing random innocents can vary in the severity of repercussions and that you’re not “falling for propaganda” or following racist ideas if you acknowledge this- and that moral and practical concerns are separate things.

> that moral and practical concerns are separate things.

I agree. This separation I find problematic. How often we hear "I want to be vegan (for the animals = moral) but I cannot give up cheese/meat/etc (too convenient/tasty = practical)"

To me they are not separate. Oppression is oppression, I hate it regardless who does it or how inconvenient it is to stop it.

I’d go with “secretary of defense guns down thirty civilians with a machine gun in Times Square”.

Why these mass murderers are allowed to flourish in our society is a continuing source of dismay for me.

Because freedom and democracy. Wars of attrition for political purposes are nothing but state sponsored terror by another name. More than 16,000 dead and 30,000 injured. Talk about Afghan 9/11 ever year for the past 10 years probably 20 to 40 on which way you are counting. Who destabilized the country? Was it the Soviets or was it the Americans?

Both, what you mean is who keeps it instabil. But that's also not as simple as just looking at US drone strikes. Though they are a non small reason due to the mental trauma they caused in a lot of people in some regions, which IMHO is likely to caused more people to radicalize.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Right. It all depends on who believes the fake news.

> Now imagine “China drone strike kills 30 Muslim workers in Xinjiang”


Maybe not the right time and place to being this up, but I personally believe that such illegal activities conducted by the U.S. is hurting people of other nations who is fighting for their own democracy.

Just imagine China start to playing news such like this in those concentration camps, free golden material for showing people how rightful it is to follow the lead of CCP I'd say.

While it is true the U.S. is benefiting from it's strong global influence, but it is also true that nobody wants to be threatened. If the U.S. don't want to be the good guy in this game, at least don't be the bad one.

Now imagine

“France knowingly harbors 911 terrorists.”

“French leaders take credit for car bombing which kills 23 civilians.”

There’s a historical reason for this discrepancy.

Afghanistan does not harbor 9/11 terrorists. The 9/11 terrorists were all from Saudi Arabia, they did not learn how to fly in a cave in the Afghan mountains and their funding did not come from a financial center in Kandahar; Bin Laden was found hiding in Pakistan.

That war is absurd and should have stopped a long time ago. It's just fueling more terrorism. All western countries should leave the middle east, for good, forever (except maybe the odd ship to secure shipping lanes and stuff like that, but you get my point).

That's still no excuse to indiscriminately kill civilians - unless you deliberately want to increase the support for the terrorists...

The US "knowingly harbored" nazi war criminals.

If you think all Afghans are accountable, why stop there? Why just 30? US can bomb the hell out of AF, all terrorists after all.

If you don't think that way, assuming that you're from US, you should demand an answer for each and every civilian death.

Yo, u are aware Afghanistan and Taliban two different things, right? Afghanistan didn’t harbor 911 terrorist, Taliban did. Afghanistan doesn’t carry out car bombing, Taliban do. Now while those afghan pine workers do share land with some of the worst scums on earth, they are not anymore guilty for Taliban's action than some random french farmers.

There is a historical reason for everything. Who attacked US in the first place? It is not even reachable from countries they ‘democratized’, except for caribbean guys.

Afghanistan didn't do that, taliban did.

I’m pretty sure there aren’t people in France trying to establish a violent worldwide theocracy, and even if there were, the French government would have a handle on it/not be complicit.

We don’t conduct missions in Afghanistan for funsies. We do it because there is no State we can lean on to stamp down on the extremists.

Oh you mean like how the US government has a handle on it's own homegrown extremism?

As someone from a Muslim country that’s battling extremists—your false equivalence is ignorant, and your ignorance is dangerous.

As a muslim from a Muslim country, how so?

Extremists in Bangladesh are locally organized, capable of coordinated attacks, and part of an international movement. Extremists in the US are neither of those things. Often, Incidents in the US are chalked up to “white national extremists” based on nothing more than some murdered having searched such websites. There used to be an organized extremist threat in the US back when the KKK was active, but that was crushed. What’s left is remnants. That’s not true in Bangladesh. Extremists systematically killed journalists a few years ago. Before it was banned, the Islamist party got 3 million votes in national elections. Extremism is being bankrolled from foreign countries through schools that teach such views. There is a deep well of support for such views among the people—1/3 of Bangladeshis believe that people who leave Islam should be executed. And, finally, there is a real risk of extremists taking over the State, as happened with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

None of that is true in the US. People who say “hurr durr but Republicans are a white nationalist party” do so out of ignorance, because they have no idea what it’s like to have extremists actually threaten your democracy. And their ignorance is dangerous. It’s dangerous to a world that needs US leadership to overcome extremism. Their false equivalency and apologism undermines the people in countries like Bangladesh who continue to fight for liberal democracy and the rule of law.

For it to matter to the USG is has to be "X drone strike kills 30 pine nut farmers in [some US state]"

We already know that the current US administration and senate majority does not care about the lives of their own citizens either. Mass shootings, police brutality, the stoking of hate crimes and the absence of a modern social safety net, withholding support to domestic climate refugees, inadequate industrial regulation, are directly killing many US citizens right now. Those deaths could be prevented but our government willingly chooses not to.

The normalizing of imperialistic murder abroad is not an anomaly; it is a core part of US identity. The US itself is a product of imperialistic murder, its crowning achievement even.

To this day US soldiers deployed abroad use the term “indian country” to designate occupied territory where they conduct counter-insurgency operations. That term dates back to counter-insurgency operations conducted by the very same institution against Native Americans until 100 years ago. What was once abroad is now domestic - such is the nature of empire.

You’re misunderstanding.

If X was not the USG, then the USG would care and probably go to war with any countries potentially related to, or sounding similar to, X

or "X drone strike kills 0 people but damages an oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia"

As much as I would love the US out of Afghanistan, there’s a war on over there. Yours is a disingenuous comparison.

A war where the US were totally forced to participate, of course, like always...

So do you care about the civilians, or not? It seems possible US engagement saves more civilians than it kills. At least that is presumably the general idea.

Unlikely. There were massacres during the Taliban rule outside of war, but it was at much lower scale than in the current war, and US only helps taliban grow by its intervention, it seems, if you look at the numbers of fighters.

It's not like killing a person with certain beliefs stops the beliefs from spreading.

So you think it would be OK to live under Taliban rule? They didn't come into power by democratic elections, it seems.

Also, killing people with beliefs does stop beliefs from spreading. How much of Afghanistan do the Taliban control these days, anyway?

Quite a lot: https://thedefensepost.com/2019/05/01/afghanistan-resolute-s...

The idea was that "possible US engagement saves more civilians than it kills", and I was reacting to that, as it is very doubtful.

I didn't say it would be ok to live under Taliban. But there are other weird islamic countries, where I wouldn't want to live either. Do you propose US making war there, too?

The US is in afghan for one reason only, opioids. It's no coincidence that US opioid addiction rates skyrocketed in the years following the Afghan invasion. The big pharma companies benefit from the US controlling the worlds major poppy fields, and in turn they pushed their product unto the masses.

I'm sorry but your explanation makes no sense. Oil is wherever it is located, so you have to go there if you want to take it or protect it. But you can grow poppies in most places. It makes no sense for the US to spend something like a trillion dollars and thousands of lives for something they could grow in California or Texas.

In fact we actually grow opium in Australia.

Which in reality should be the real crime. To start a war killing countless of innocent people... for what?

So how did war in Afghanistan start? Taliban apparently came to power via war a couple of years before US engagement.

Suppose that was a crime. Who punishes the criminals? Maybe that is exactly what the US sees itself doing?

Unfortunately to punish war criminals, usually you have to win against them in a war.

The Taliban were a tiny splinter group before the US financed and trained them. They have always been fanatics. Funny how they were not called terrorists while the US thought they could use them for their own ends.

Why did the US fiance and train them? So it seems there was another war going on? Who started that war, and why?

Also I think they changed their allegiances, so they became terrorist towards US people?

> Who started that war, and why?

Funny you ask... It was called the cold war, you might want to look it up. US was a pretty big player there.

So you would blame the US for cold war? What would you have done instead?

Before cold war, there was WWII, and communist revolutions.

I don't want to defend any particular war, I just think it may all be a bit more complicated than a simple "we shouldn't have started any wars".

Notice the wording - the drone targeted the workers. The drone didn’t make a decision and target the workers, the drone pilot targeted the workers, and whomever was standing behind them gave the order to launch the missle. The whole “I’m just doing what the computer said” defense only works in movies.

It doesn't work even in the movies. Last American movie I watched which featured a drone strike against civilians, involved an advanced AI that recommended not to proceed because of insufficient information, that got overruled by the president. The drone strike hit a wedding, which led to increase in attack on Americans, making the AI attempt to kill the president and most of the US government, following the "protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic" doctrine.

Which movie was that?

Sounds like Eagle Eye, movie didn't do well but I thought it was a fun watch at least.

Eagle Eye indeed. Sorry for spoilers, the AI revelation was in the middle of the movie.

I found the movie fun, I think I watched it three times over the last couple years.

What? That defense was presented 0 times in the article.

Here's the relevant U.S. quote, "U.S. forces conducted a drone strike..." the subject is clear and there is no equivocating about who was responsible for the drone strike.

The only sentence that says »[...] a drone targeted [the workers] [...]« is a quote from a tribal elder. I think the wording in the article is actually pretty good and Reuters has, as far as I know, pretty high standards for their wording in general, for example they never call someone a terrorist.

It’s possible some autonomous system marked them as candidates,

> In 2014, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said in a public debate, “We kill people based on metadata.”

> According to multiple reports and leaks, death-by-metadata could be triggered, without even knowing the target’s name, if too many derogatory checks appear on their profile. “Armed military aged males” exhibiting suspicious behavior in the wrong place can become targets, as can someone “seen to be giving out orders.” Such mathematics-based assassinations have come to be known as “signature strikes.”


> Notice the wording - the drone targeted the workers. ... The whole “I’m just doing what the computer said” defense only works in movies.

Fair enough, but I would not read too much into that choice of words. For example:

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters by telephone from Wazir Tangi.

I don't believe that Malik Rahat Gul (or possibly, his translator) was attempting to relieve anyone of moral agency or responsibility, do you?

I do see at first glance it could be seen as a simple choice of words, however, I do think it really leaves many readers with a different takeaway.

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters by telephone from Wazir Tangi.

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone pilot targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters by telephone from Wazir Tangi.

Small change, large impact on the takeaway.

Someone needs to tell that guy to choose his words a little more carefully after dozens of his neighbors are killed.

I think the person I was responding to was implying that the wording was chosen to downplay what had been done. I don't think that is likely, given the identity of the only person quoted in the article to use that choice of words.

> Small change, large impact on the takeaway.


Imagine being the person (even if you had little personal autonomy in the matter) who pulled the trigger or pressed the button. Imagine finding out what you had done. Would it break you?

Someone should correct me if I am wrong, but military training is mostly about obeying orders and desensitizing about what's going on the receiving end of your actions.

I have watched Restrepo on Netflix and found one thing interesting, that biggest thing soldiers have missed in their civilian lives is the adrenaline/joy rush of a shoot-out, no matter how dangerous it is. Paradoxically most of the interviewees are clearly suffering from some levels of PTSD, because probably you cannot be trained for when you see your friend's body/face to be blown apart.

It would be interesting to hear from someone in the military or someone with military psychology training knowledge, how this works. Seems that soldiers are fine with killing "the enemy", but seeing death of your friends gives you (understandably) PTSD.

I usually avoid these conversations about the military, because it's such a hot button issue. I have many family members who were/are in the military. I have one family member who died in WW2, buried in a US cemetery in France.

> but military training is mostly about obeying orders

Not at all. The military wants individuals to think for themselves. Strictly obeying orders would never get the job done. In fact, the large majority of military training is industrial/trade depending on the branch. When people see bootcamp, and orders being thrown around that's less of learning to obey and more of making people into a cohesive team (breakdown, then buildup). Think about how tight a startup team is after going through hell to get a product launched. Very similar but even tighter.

> that biggest thing soldiers have missed in their civilian lives is the adrenaline/joy rush of a shoot-out, no matter how dangerous it is

A very small percentage of the military ever gets in a firefight, again depending on branch. Of course there is an adrenaline rush that comes out of being in danger (just shooting guns in general is a rush). Every time I paddle out into big surf or when I have sky dived, the chance I may die is part of the 'fun'. I've never been in a shoot-out, but from what I've read it's those experiences X 100 or more. Finally, these are the exact type of people we want fighting. The best way to survive and win is to go all in 100%. When someone is there, on the ground being shot at, the time for them to debate is over.

> Seems that soldiers are fine with killing "the enemy"

Keep in mind that the US has strict rules of engagement (mistakes are sometimes made as reports have shown). By the time a soldier is killing the enemy they are also going to be receiving fire. Effectively if they do not kill this person, this person will kill them. Seeing friends die is obviously hard because they are your friends, and because of the way teams are built people end up very close.

With all that said, the military is the execution arm of politicians. A soldier on the ground has about as much power to decide to be in or out of war as you or I. People join for a lot of reasons. Financial is a common one. But, a lot of people also join out of a duty and a draw to be of service to a country they love regardless of who is POTUS at any given time.

>By the time a soldier is killing the enemy they are also going to be receiving fire.

I think this is what concerns people so much about the drone strikes. Clearly drone strikes are one sided fire fights. And even by the government's own statistics their signal to noise kill ratio is abysmal. This is categorically different than a soldier on the ground returning fire even if we might disagree with the soldier having been sent there in the first place.

Yeah, drone strikes are a tricky situation. On one hand, it's great that no Americans are put in harms way (other than the philosophical question if war should be so 'easy'), but I think we have seen time and again that intelligence is not good enough to kill others without having people on the ground.

This is not a new problem though. Cruise missiles did this for years before drones. Drones are just more prolific now, and we are more likely to see the aftermath.

We don’t need to imagine. There’s a number of good articles featuring interviews with drone operators asking this exact question.

It’s as bleak and distressing as you can imagine. Here’s a couple to get you started:



There's a reason they are sitting in trailers half a world away operating the drones usually. Detachment. You're looking at a grainy image, from altitude, on a monitor many time zones away.

Even being in a conventional aircraft you are largely removed from the situation because you are thousands (or tens of thousands) of feet above your target and any individual is an unrecognizable speck that your weapon system strikes after you're already well past your target.

This is a problem, for society, with modern warfare. You can sit a mile away and 'paint' a target with IR for someone else to fire a missile with, or you can call in on your radio coordinates and have artillery take out your target from even farther away, or you can effectively emulate a video game and drop a bomb on a few pixels in Afghanistan while sitting in an air conditioned trailer in Nevada. You can wage war without ever having to see the face of the enemy, you strip the enemy of their humanity making it easier to kill.

I imagine some drone operators struggle with severe depression but I imagine it's generally less than an infantrymen that was in CQB firefights in Ramadi or Fallujah or a trench in WWI.

Modern warfare allows us to be cold and calculating, it allows us to pause our humanity. It's good for a military but it's bad for civilization.

Probably not. Have you heard the rhetoric from some of our veterans and citizens. The victims were brown.

Most likely they went home, slept soundly, thinking it was a good day, god and country, etc.

I suspect it’s more along the lines of not wanting to be the guy who killed the least number of people that week because you have to buy the first round come Friday night.

Today I saw the BBC's "Bitter Lake" documentary. It explains why Afghanistan is so fucked up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p0z6iHGzdE

Don't get me wrong, I love an Adam Curtis film as much as the next guy, but...

His films should be interpreted as you might interpret a Malcolm Gladwell book: An entertaining, insightful, witty, and educational way of telling a story that the author wants to tell, supported by hand-picked facts and part-truths, whilst ignoring other information that might reveal a more well-rounded story.

Can someone explain to me how the US military is still unable to distinguish pine nut farmers from IS Jihadi terrorists? Where is all this advanced military tech I keep hearing the US military is developing that people are mistaking for aliens?

Yes, someone can but you'll need security clearance for that.

If we assume this was not intentional, then the two most probable causes are human or technical or any combination of both.

A drone can't land, open Skype and allow an interrogator to speak with the locals in their language- it flies high, have limited visibility and the interpretation of the incoming data is based on prior intelligence.

If you look at the pictures you'll see that pine nut farmers looks the same as IS Jihadi terrorists, both use civilian clothes and sometimes they are actually the same person.

The world's largest, most expensive military does not make mistakes. If they admit a mistake, it's to cover up something far more nefarious.

Every organization in the world makes mistakes all the time.

I’m assuming the grandparent comment is sarcasm.

... Have you ever met anyone in the US military?

You mean, like Facebook “admitting” to a “bug” that “leaked” user data after they'd been caught red-handed?

I wonder why, even though we generally try to be skeptical of the news, I’m not seeing many comments here that question whether what this article is saying is even accurate.

How exactly does the reporter know which people are IS fighters? Is there some notion that militants don’t ever also farm?

Also in these comments there seems to be a huge double standard. The idea the United States might accidentally kill some civilians is somehow morally outrageous, but the regular and deliberate targeting of civilians by the Taliban and the IS as they attempt to completely destabilize the Afghan government is taken as somehow normal?

> How exactly does the reporter know which people are IS fighters? Is there some notion that militants don’t ever also farm?

The article says it explicitly: the information is sourced from Afghan officials.

You could say that this may not be the most trustworthy source in this case, and I'd agree, but on the other hand, the problem of mounting civilian casualties of US drone strikes is already a decade if not more old, was widely reported on a few years ago, and is continuously being investigated by various organizations. If what Afghan officials are saying is true, it would not the least bit surprising - and that fact is a huge problem.

> Also in these comments there seems to be a huge double standard. The idea the United States might accidentally kill some civilians is somehow morally outrageous, but the regular and deliberate targeting of civilians by the Taliban and the IS as they attempt to completely destabilize the Afghan government is taken as somehow normal?

I think no one in their right mind would say that what the ISIS or other terrorist groups are doing is anything but repugnant. They're doing evil things, that's a baseline fact, so it's unmentioned - there's nothing interesting in pointing this out. What's more interesting is where did ISIS come from and why are they doing what they're doing, and a significant part of the answer to that question is American military excursions and regular, continued murder of civilians using remote-piloted drones. ISIS may be monsters, but the US is supposed to hold itself to higher standards, not step down to the same level.

That’s simply untrue. They are trying to set up a Caliphate. Not everything is a reaction to something the US did.

Shall we just let Israel get wiped off the map while we are at it?

Edit: “they” in my sentence is IS, and Al-Qaeda, if that wasn’t obvious.

Nothing to do with the power vacuum left by the US after destroying Iraq and Afghanistan? Nothing to do with weapons and training distributed in that region by the US many years ago? Nothing to do with drone strikes fueling anti-American sentiment that's then used as motivation and justification for performing acts of terror?

I didn't say US is the whole reason here. But it's a big part of it.

You, sir, have a lot of reading to do. I'd start with a few histories of the region, then move into political theory.

May I recommend the following?

"Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History" by Thomas Barfield

The "Good Guys" are fighting the "Bad Guys" because the "Bad Guys" do "Bad Guy Stuff".

It is taken as normal that the "Bad Guys" are "Bad". When they do "Bad Guy Stuff", it is further justification for the "Good Guys" continuing to target them. "Normal" does not mean "OK", it just means that it is what is expected - "Bad Guys are Bad" is not news.

It is morally outrageous when the "Good Guys" do "Bad Guy Stuff", because it calls into question the whole "We are good, they are bad" story that the "Good folk at home" are told. How can we be the "Good Guys" if we are killing innocents?

It also reinforces the "We are good, they are bad" story that the "Bad Guys" are selling their folk at home. When the "Great Satan" kills your innocent friends and family when they are at work picking pine nuts, or at a wedding, it becomes easier to encourage you to take up arms against them.

Can we really call it an accident when strikes are made at weddings, funerals, farms, vans, and even double striking to kill first responders based on a phone chip signal that might have, at some point in time, been used by rebels?

In fact it really doesn't matter how we see it, but how they see it.

Every strike has a chance of producing more rebels than they kill and I have a hard time thinking the arms industry doesn't also believe that.

I’m against continued involvement in Afghanistan, for financial and practical reasons. That said, many folks have trouble wrapping their heads around all this because they’re moral relativists. The problem with terrorism is not merely the mechanics of asymmetric warfare. Civilians dying is bad and we should avoid it, but it’s obviously not morally dispositive since we do it too. If a foreign power occupied America, Americans would do the exact same thing. In fact, that’s what Americans did during the Revolution. You can’t hope to make sense of the issue unless you morally analyze the ends for which people are fighting. Islamic State is wrong and must be stamped out because the end for which they’re fighting is wrong. Americans fighting the British to establish a Republic, by contrast, is right.

There's so much error being displayed here I barely know where to begin.

> Civilians dying is bad and we should avoid it, but it’s obviously not morally dispositive since we do it too.

Of course the killing of civilians is "morally dispositive." If civilians were accidentally killed in the strike our military will exhibit some accountability, and if civilians were deliberately targeted it would be a crime and it would be prosecuted.

When the Taliban kills civilians, that's the point. The civilians are the target.

Civilian deaths are an outrage but there's no moral equivalence between the parties or their actions.

> If a foreign power occupied America, Americans would do the exact same thing. In fact, that’s what Americans did during the Revolution. You can’t hope to make sense of the issue unless you morally analyze the ends for which people are fighting. Islamic State is wrong and must be stamped out because the end for which they’re fighting is wrong. Americans fighting the British to establish a Republic, by contrast, is right.

We aren't talking about the Islamic State, we're talking about the Taliban.

This just scratches the surface of how badly you misunderstand the conflict. There are a number of parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan - including the Taliban and IS - and some of them are our allies. It is literally nothing like Americans fighting the revolution.

(in that bizarre analogy, we would be... France?)

The double standard come from the fact that the USA is usually held to higher standards than terror organizations.

But you are correct, killing civilians with drones isn't much different compared to other acts of terror.

Acts of terror are commonly referred to in that manner because targeting civilians is the intention, with a desire to influence the population and politics.

Killing civilians accidentally is virtually guaranteed when engaging in military action.

So the tactics are extremely different in why they work, if they work at all. They are very different in the percentage of military vs civilians killed. They are very different in intention. The fact that they share some aspects in common doesn’t make them the same.

Think the size of this incident prompted immediate reporting, so I'd trust it to be fairly accurate in scope, but typically statistical sourcing is done by UNAMA (cited in article) and I'd consider them authoritative and accurate.

To your point, typically the casualty verification (which UNAMA is tasked with) takes a very long time. Here's an example of three UNAMA reports stating three widely different casualty figures for aerial operations in 2011:

- 2011 report: deaths and injuries at 305 (pg 24)

- 2012 report: deaths and injuries at 353 (pg 31)

- 2014 report: deaths and injuries at 415 (pg 94)

These reports were released years apart and reflect revised figures for 2011. It simply takes that long to verify accounts and corroborate reports, reconcile conflicting information. It will take years to get a definitive confirmation for this incident.

Here's something seen in the UNAMA reports that's more harrowing than drone weapon releases mentioned in the article. When a drone operator merely reports activity, a typical response to it is that the local forces send out a team to investigate the location. They do this at night. Vehicles pull up, spotlights come on and distorted loudspeakers come on shouting screams at people to stay inside and wait. Disoriented and confused civilians, trying to make sense of the noise, do what any normal human beings do, which is go outside to see what this is all about. At that point, even children get shot because they're contravening instructions. They become a number in a report.

This is death by process.

> How exactly does the reporter know which people are IS fighters? Is there some notion that militants don’t ever also farm?

Guilty until proven innocent, right?

I think the parent is saying "how do reporters have better intel than the military?"

Then of course it might be the case here that civilians were targeted, by mistake or on purpose. But the parent point is quite valid.

A more apt question: why does the parent think the reporters claim to have better intel than the military?

It is baffling how poorly many people here read.

Wow, whiddershins, those are some baseless comments.

> How exactly does the reporter know which people are IS fighters?

You aren't reading carefully at all. The reporters are quoting Afghan officials. The reporters are quoting American officials. Afghan officials have indicated at least 30 civilians were killed and 40 were injured in an attack that accidentally targeted farmers and laborers. American officials "are working with local officials to determine the facts."

The reporters have not made the claim you are attributing to them.

> The idea the United States might accidentally kill some civilians is somehow morally outrageous, but the regular and deliberate targeting of civilians by the Taliban and the IS as they attempt to completely destabilize the Afghan government is taken as somehow normal?

That's a strawman, and you ought to avoid that sort of thing. (edit: although you've suckered some people into arguing about it. kudos!)

The double standard is easy to understand. The Taliban is evil, and we think that we are not.

"The enemy is stupid; they think we are the enemy, but they actually are the enemy!" (French comedian Pierre Desproges)

I think Reuters is generally a reliable source, but I agree with your double standard points.

This was a horrible accident, but you have to realize there are probably some very bad people they intended to target and the US doesn't blow up random Afghan farmers for fun and games.

HN is quite the liberal community so I'm not surprised if some of the posters here think the Trump administration is more evil than the people who want to blow up the Great Satan.

I like to imagine the reaction if it happened here.

Imagine that, say, China blew up 30 Americans in the US with a missile. And their reaction was, “sorry, my bad, I thought they were terrorists.”

Can you imagine the response? I think we’d have a nuclear war before the end of the day.

Of course. And? The implications of that hypothetical are surprising only to a very few with out of mainstream belief systems. Of course it’s worse when it happens to us than when it happens to someone else. The point hardly bears mentioning.

“This was a horrible accident, but you have to realize there are probably some very bad people they intended to target and the US doesn't blow up random Afghan farmers for fun and games.”

We wouldn’t accept this excuse in my hypothetical, so we shouldn’t accept this excuse when we’re the ones murdering dozens of innocents.

We wouldn’t accept the excuse because what China would be fighting for in your hypothetical would be bad, while what we’re fighting for is good. You can’t just transpose the hypothetical to suggest hypocrisy because there is none.

I didn’t say what China was fighting for. Why are you so sure it’s bad?

Because they’re a communist regime?

So anything they fight for must be bad no matter what it is? Even if they’re hunting down ISIS and al Qaeda members just like we are?

I assumed your hypothetical was framed in terms of the existing situation and interests. That it wasn’t along the lines of: “the US government has fallen to ISIS and cannot police its own territory; China accidentally kills some US civilians while bombing extremists.” If that was your hypothetical, then I think you’d be surprised how few Americans would be outraged. I’m pretty sure it’d make for a decent movie.

Sure, it’s in terms of the existing situation. Why can’t there be an ISIS cell in the US right now, or at least why can’t the Chinese think there is one?

Because the US government is a) strong and b) doesn't think there's one.

Neither of those is true of Afghanistan. The Taliban is quite capable of at least holding on, and the non-Taliban Afghani government isn't opposed to US support.

As evidence of this, President Ghani's reaction was to promise check and balances to reduce casualties, not kick the US out of the country.

So it’s nothing about the morality of killing dozens of innocents. It’s just might makes right?

You don't even have to go that far - imagine China flying combat drones over US territory.

The US is a military power house, and they use and abuse this power to maintain their ways of life, no matter the costs to others.

Americans don't behead innocent people in the streets and don't relentlessly kill people just because they don't share the same religious or political beliefs.

Your comparison is absurd, ignoring the politics of China launching a missile at American soil. The US War in Afghanistan is 17 years old. There were two suicide bombings just three days ago, each killing over 20 people.

Imagine a group of people who want to kill you because of where you were born. Who want to throw you off a building because you're homosexual.

When America kills terrorists, is it equally as bad as when terrorists bomb Americans or Europeans? Is killing in order to police the same as killing out of deep, radical beliefs (and hate)?

Why is my comparison absurd? Let’s say that the Chinese drone operators thought they were targeting an ISIS cell. (This is, in fact, what I had in mind.)

Anyway, I don’t have to imagine. There are, in fact, lots of people in this country who want to kill people for having the wrong birthplace or sexual orientation. One of them massacred twenty people just a few weeks ago.

Recall that time when the U.S. blew up a Chinese embassy. The excuse was "sorry, our bad, we were using an outdated map."

Would be really so unthinkable a high army charge going to the area to make in place a public televised apology to those people, asking how can help alleviate this disaster, and returning the families a little dignity at least?

And please journalists, stop referring to the people as "tribal this" or "tribal that". To always focus on that point is unnecessary and disrespective. A father is a father in any part of the world.

This is how you create terrorists. What do you think the children and friends feelings towards the US will be from now on? People get radicalized for much less than that.

Also stories like this will be passed down for generations to recruit new jihadists/terrorists. They use this stuff as proof that the USA is anti-muslim or to prove that there is a war against muslims going on. You simply cannot bomb your way out of resolving the terrorism issue. This will probably have the same effectiveness as the war on drugs: lots of money spent....little to no impact on drug smuggling/drug abuse etc.

This seems to surprise everyone though, and I don't understand why.

I remember in the early days of our being in Afghanistan, there were a few media pieces reporting that they remembered the last time the British were there, 100 or 150 years ago. The tone was very much that it was somehow surprising the Afghans brought this up again.

Yet Britain and the US are built on national history, myths and memories. The US has a huge national story around independence and the push west into the frontier. The UK has our tales and myths of 1940 and 1066. Scots still remember "the 45" (that's 1745). Why wouldn't Afghanistan or Iraq?

People should travel (and live!) more abroad for a while. As you wrote, many seem to be surprised that the people living in Asia, Africa, etc. are humans too (in the sense of: people with history, dreams, expectations on life, etc.)

My hope is that the Internet will have the positive effect of removing this misperception in the long run.

Personally, my eyes were opened quite a while ago when the US dropped one of the largest conventional bombs on some mountain region in Afghanistan where they suspected Taliban leaders to hide out. The next day some guy on Reddit wrote (loosely paraphrased) "Hey, that's were I always travel with my motorbike! Glad I wasn't there when that bomb went down..." and posted a picture of where the bomb hit, with his motorbike in the foreground.

The British oppressed the Irish for 800 years with a systematic destruction of culture and contribution to genocide which halved the population and then recently had the audacity to assume Ireland would be allies during Brexit negotiations.

The negotiations and the deal were extremely dumb in many ways (as is Brexit overall), but this is a really weird take on it. It does make sense that Britain would try to use the fact that Ireland has a substantial amount of trade with the UK and it is not inconceivable that Ireland might therefore in its own self-interest want some sort of deal.

Weird or not, that's the take in many places, Ireland and Afghanistan alike. A modest proposal, eh?

You're mistaken if you think that even the more recent atrocities like the great famine or the violent oppression of the Irish home rule (and ultimately independence) movement have informed the Irish response to Brexit negotiations. It is to their credit that they're pragmatic people, since they could easily dish out a black-eye to the UK if they wanted to.

If Éire had a few UK sponsored drone bombings I’d bet that would change real quick. Otherwise I take your point.

We have a PM who is filmed responding to a protester in front of dozens of press and TV cameras at an event with "there's no press here", while hearing constant shutter clicks audible in the background. That he's completely tone deaf dealing with the EU, our neighbours or electorate shouldn't be the least bit surprising.

That said, since Irish independence there has been a good degree of desired closeness between the two countries, not least the passport free freedom of movement and voting, which survived the worst of the NI violence. Looking back that can seem surprising. Record numbers of Brits have been applying for Irish passports (a remarkably high number are eligible) since the Brexit vote.

> They use this stuff as proof that the USA is anti-muslim or to prove that there is a war against muslims going on.

And the worst thing is: from a policy perspective (obviously not arguing about every single US citizen) that's really hard to argue with, given which countries the US has entered into armed conflicts with, which groups of people are most picked upon by politicians, etc.

Luckily (for muslims), the focus of racism is slowly changing to Chinese people now. It is as if Americans (and most others) can't exist without an ethnicity to be mad about.

I think 'entered into armed conflict with' is a judicious way to put it, given 9/11 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Neither of these are fights the USA would have freely chosen.

But for every confict in which the USA is fighting one group of Muslims, it's doing so to protect or ally with another group of Muslims. The Afghan government are Muslims, the elected Iraqi government are Muslims, the victims of IS and the Taliban are overwhelmingly Muslims. Saudi Arabia, the west's biggest ally in the region is Muslim. We are allying with tens of millions of Muslims against groups consisting of thousands of Muslims. The west has far, far more Muslim allies than Muslim enemies.

>hey use this stuff as proof that the USA is anti-muslim or to prove that there is a war against muslims going on.

isn't there though? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-49764305

Yep. Gunboat diplomacy is not a good way to spread democracy.

I think by bombing other countries and use other military power, US is establishing a target for the terrorists and prone terrorist people, shout out for a peaceful way to solve issues, anyway, it not the policy makers and politicians that got retaliated, it's the innocent civilians.

Don't forget when Trump said killing terrorists families, really shortly after the clips were in terrorist recruitment videos.

Comparing the reactions between this (seemlingly little) reported incident, and the attack on Saudi oil facilites (zero fatalities) is an interesting exercise.

edit: added word 'Saudi'

Yeh the difference in the press' reactions between the two is pretty stark. However the most interesting thing about the Saudi attack is the faux outrage at the idea that _Iranian_ arms were used in the attack. As if it's totally cool that British and American arms are used by the Saudis to flatten Yemen but the idea that the Houthis can strike back with Iranian-provided arms is somehow a despicable disgrace.

Do you think it might have something to do with one attack reducing the nut harvesting capacity of that town by 50%, versus the other reducing the oil output of Saudi Arabia by 50%?

Or maybe because one was a tactical op gone horribly wrong based on bad intel from the ground, and the other was a well planned and highly coordinated strategic op designed to destabilize international markets?

very good point, i didn't think about

alpb 24 days ago [flagged]

> This is how you create terrorists.

Um no, you are wrong.

_What USA does_ is terrorism. When you drop bombs on people out of nowhere, that's called terrorism. Sorry if you're an American but you've got some learning to do about the biggest terrorist organization in the world before calling others a terrorist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRbnPA3fd5U

Splitting hairs.

This is how the cycle of violence is perpetuated.


It sounds like you judge people by the consequences of their actions rather than their intentions. I tend to agree with that way of thinking but many people do the opposite and believe intentions are the morally superior way of judging good and bad.

The trouble with judging by actions is it makes everybody bad, including the judge! I suspect that's why people don't like it. Since nearly everyone believes their own intentions are good, judging by intentions preserves their own sense of goodness even if they contribute to a few killings by accident/negligence.

Even if the USA's intentions were good, they can be blamed for choosing the wrong kind of action.

It is well known that drone strikes are terribly inaccurate and therefore the risk for civilian casualties is high.

That's a fine and dandy distinction until it's not.

If you keep punching me in the face while claiming it was your intention to punch someone else I'm going to come to the conclusion sooner rather than later that you're lying or stupid or incompetent – either way I'm going to do something about it rather than continue to let you punch me in the face.

Is it too much to ask that a lot more effort be expended in not mowing down innocent civilians while prosecuting the so-called global-war-on-terror?

When it comes to this, taking intent on faith isn't good enough. Vietnam, a possible war of aggression in Iraq, illegal drone strikes in Pakistan, public threats and shows of force - the stick isn't subtle and I think it's fair to question whether it's measured (and what it means if it isn't).

I actually think I'm right of center on this issue in general, I just wish we called it as it is.

This is such an inane counter-argument.

Is it really? You're fighting by instilling fear in the enemy and mostly killing civilians.

But also, the US should be held accountable for its actions.

I ... kind of see the point. Do you have a more substantial counter argument?

Um no, you are wrong.

"A U.S. drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State (IS) hideout"

And the Islamic State is finished with this strike?

I urge you to take a closer look at U.S. drone strike programs and how effective they are. It's closer to 0 than it is to 100%. The U.S. takes no responsibility for its actions in the world stage, like ever. Have you even seen US held accountable for anything?

Yeah if US wasn't so hell-bent to be excluded from International Court of Justice in Hague, we would see quite a few US servicemen (and mercenaries from companies like Blackwater), err sorry 'patriots' being tried there and getting long/life sentences.

But that ain't gonna happen, ever.

Oh ok sorry, that's fine then.

> A U.S. drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State (IS)

Then what does the IS represent to you? The good guys?

ah yes. the perfect centrist. if you aren't black vs white, why are you playing chess?

bit of a flawed response really. i cant think of many subject matters that are more nuanced than middle-eastern affairs. almost nothing is black and white in this area

Aristotelian logic is flawed.

Only in some situations. In a lot of situations it works as intended. The crucial point is being able to distinguish when it applies and when it doesn't.

This is not a small thing, it easily steers your life only to where it works. In other words your life becomes a slave of your limited logic, it makes you optimize your life for the logic to be a safe and working.

> When you drop bombs on people out of nowhere, that's called terrorism

Only if the motive for dropping those bombs is to advance a political/ideological agenda.

We need to be very clear that "terrorism" has a very specific meaning. It's not just a group or individual who terrorises.

This definition only reinforces the parent's point. What it rules out as "not terrorism" is regular organized crime, which isn't too much into bombings anyway. Bombs are almost never used without a political/ideological agenda, because they're too expensive and require too much coordination to make, maintain and deploy.

By that logic, you could describe WWII as just a bunch of terrorists who disagreed.

Which of course, nobody does.

You're wrong, all those WWII resistance fighters were by definition terrorists to germans/japanese. Its just that US marketing over-used the term in past decade and a half to label anybody inconvenient as a justified target for extermination because 'national security'

Except that to some extent, they do. When my country was occupied by the Nazi Germany, people who fought back were called freedom fighters by us. They were called terrorists by the Nazis.

Sure, but I don't think that extent is useful for the purposes of this discussion.

FWIW, you and I are likely from the same country.

My point being, one country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter. There is some nuance here, but we're talking about somewhat random and indiscriminate murder of civilians who may or may not be connected to a military group in hopes people at large will stop supporting that group. There's a political agenda in there, and there's death of innocent civilians. There's strong element of fear too - I remember reading articles about drone strikes in Pakistan years ago, in which it was reported that the locals developed a fear of clear blue sky. A fear of good weather, because that's when drones come.

If one objects to calling it terrorism because they're really trying to hit the combatants only, and objects to calling it a war crime because technically there's no war with an internationally recognized nation state, then how should we call it?

Genuine question: if the motivation for this bombing was not political or ideological, what was it then?

I think terrorism is killing random members of a population to scare the others into some political or ideological change. It wouldn't count if it was targeted at fighters and civilians got killed by accident.

That sounds like a reasonable definition. But how would this definition qualify the Taliban attacks on military bases and police stations in Afghanistan?

I think one would need to put something like that as a guerrilla war.

There needs to be a distinction between:

* attacking civilians (terrorism)

* attacking The System, but going for softer targets and not taking its military might directly head on (guerilla war)

* attacking The System, in a Military v Military setting (regular warfare)

While there are groups that will never have the direct strength to take a head on fight, I think it's beneficial to have a category showing that they limit their targets to agents of the system rather than any random civilian.

It was an accident.

Sure, but what was the motivation for dropping the bombs if you say it was not political or ideological?

Is the killing of tens of millions of civilians so far with sanctions an accident too? If you can kill them with sanctions why not with drone strikes?

Just stop. Absolutely stop equating these things.

The world as we know it, the progress in art, science, and humanities. The cures for polio, infant mortality and poverty dropping.

The website you are currently using to spread poison.

Those are all “_What USA does_”

Cut it out with this evil language.

How dare people criticize the U.S. They certainly created art, science and the humanities, not to mention put them in books to civilize all those shithole countries?

I was not aware that curing polio is a global absolution of sins.

I don't see how that prevents an organization from doing terrorist actions. In fact, it's fairly common, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah_social_services

I mean - the US can simultaneously do very good things and very bad things.

TeMPOraL 24 days ago [flagged]

Good you mention cures for polio. The US does both cures for polio and ensuring polio exists and spreads, by virtue of CIA pretending to be agents of vaccination charities, which killed polio eradication efforts in some places.

Point being, the US does a lot of things. Some good, some bad. You don't get to trade the good things for the bad things. There could be progress in art, science and humanities without indiscriminate drone bombings of innocent civilians worldwide.

alpb 24 days ago [flagged]

I think the downvotes you got speak for itself. I am not even gonna bother answering.

Also USA has some of the highest infant mortality and poverty rates in the western world.


Man stop drinking the kool-aid. You're lapping up your countries propoganda left, right and center. Apparently according to you, art, science and the humanities wouldn't exist if not for the USA? Get out of here, this is hackernews not 4chan.

It’s hard to make art when your country is being torn to shreds by war.

How much art was coming out of East Germany under the Soviet Union?

What other nation is deterring constant military expansion of China and Russia?

How many nations are confronting IS?

You are either naive or destructive.

pnako 24 days ago [flagged]

IS was created after the US destroyed Iraq, based on false evidence (just like America invaded Afghanistan based on false reasons). The damage is done, but why persist? What do you expect to happen exactly?

In fact Russia consolidated its influence and alliances in the middle east just by exploiting American mistakes there.

Just leave. It would be a hugely popular move everywhere: among the left, the right, veterans, other countries, etc. So why not do it?

> It’s so fashionable to hate America, that must make it true.

Let's be honest here, US is trying hard for last 15 years to be the most hated country anywhere, ever.

Millions of innocent civilians killed based on outright lies by US president in Iraq 2nd war (they were so glaringly obvious on UN meeting when GWB presented them that Germany and France outright rejected joining. UK couldn't care less). The consequences are felt across half of Asia and whole Europe till these days. Please tell me, what justice system in US does to a person who kills innocents without any reason? Nothing good. And if you kill millions? Good pension and CIA protection for rest of your life apparently. Plus Afghanistan, yet another battlefield where mighty US army is losing a battle with guys with AKs.

Another topic is online privacy, US could have been champion of freedom, and initially it was, but we had Snowden and stuff ain't better since then. That's plain amoral. Currently US can't claim much moral superiority over China for outsiders, like it or not.

I ain't even touching the topic of current US president because that would be for a separate thread.

To like US and its role in current politics these days requires super strong tint on ones pink glasses. Most of the world is kind of fed up and just wants to be left alone, not invaded for US version of 'freedom', oil, strategic place or whatever.

This is real world out there, where 95% of the mankind lives.

What prevented World War 3 so far was Mutually Assured Desctruction. "M.A.D." is beginning to look a bit long in the tooth, but it's clinging on to life yet.

I mean, the US are not even 250 years old and built by immigrants. The rest of the world didn't wait for them for science, medicine, art and philosophy. From a social standpoint they're still 20-30 years behind most EU countries for example.

I think most americans fail to recognise how much propaganda they're constantly fed about how great the US are. From the outside it almost looks like a parody, especially since Trump is in the office. Example: https://www.vox.com/2014/6/16/5814270/the-successful-70-year...

> This is how you create terrorists.

Which the war machine needs in order to grow.

Which the politicians need in order to get elected (Some people want "strong" leaders, for this definition of strong).

No, this is how you create market-share for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman etc.

yip, can't buy new weapons if you don't use the ones you already have

More like: you bomb them, they eventually find a way to strike back at you, and then you say you need more weapons and better weapons so "such tragedy never happens again".

With what the US had done, and continues to do, can you really blame them?

-- deleted --

Why not just kill those children and friends then, since we have reasonable expectation that they will become radicalized? We already extensively kill the family and children of terrorists

I hear this a lot but is there any basis for this? Were any of the 9/11 attackers widowed/orphaned by the US? Or were they just whipped up in religious fervor and an abstract idea of a cultural war with the US?

And does it go the other way? Do you create violent anti-Islamists when Muslims commit terror attacks? Were the orphans of 9/11 more likely to sign up for the US military, or commit hate crimes against Muslims than their non-directly-affected peers?

> And does it go the other way? Do you create violent anti-Islamists when Muslims commit terror attacks? Were the orphans of 9/11 more likely to sign up for the US military, or commit hate crimes against Muslims than their non-directly-affected peers?

Yes, of course it does. Hell, even on the recent 9/11 HN thread there were people who said they joined the military after the towers collapsed. It's only natural reaction when your nation gets attacked, and it works the same everywhere.

It's best to think of this as a single self-perpetuating process, with a strong feedback loop of hate and suffering inside. So the US bombs some Muslim countries, and eventually some group manages to pull off a 9/11 in retaliation. US reacts to this by utterly destroying several countries, and in reaction, ISIS is born. Which then US and others attempt to bomb out of existence. Rinse, lather, repeat. A kills B's people, B retaliates by killing A's people, A retaliates to retaliation by killing B's people, ...

I love how hn is all about logical discussion and data, but when the topic is emotional enough, now anecdotes count for something.

Considering America has concentrated a large number of bombs on Afghanistan, why are they underrepresented in terrorist bombing of American targets? Why didn't the US see a spate of attacks from Cambodia in the 70s?

These are all great stories that have been talked about. But unless there is some kind of supporting evidence, these are still just stories.

I don't know the answers to your questions, but they are good questions. Not inconsistent with the image of a feedback process I presented. As a supporting evidence, I can say that every single case of terrorism or genocide I recall from both news and history lessons always has the perpetrators retaliating for some perceived or real injustice that happened to them, or their forefathers, in the past. Circle of violence isn't a new concept.

It’s just not a loop.

Jihadists aren’t in a loop. That’s a myth. Jihad is real to them, and they are attacking non believers.

The stated motivation for the 9/11 attacks were the presence of U.S. airbases in Saudi Arabia. Not revenge for some past hurt or attack.

Why does everyone presume that what they say isn’t what they mean?

Someone else in this thread posted this [0]. They don't say what you tell us they say.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver

> Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures.

Did you read your own source? Yes, there's more to it than what OP said, but it is true that this was a motivation.

Yeah, yeah. Beliefs gets mixed on, always. But do you seriously believe the Troubles in Ireland were over theological hair splitting about who is the head of the Holy Church? Yet, it was always framed, even in my school books, as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Very puzzling if it were only that.

Oh they are in the loop, even if they don't see it.

This is how religion is used to get people to do things. You can read anything you like from a religious book; you'll find justification for anything if you comb for quotes enough. This makes religion a glue, or an amplifier, not a prescriber of behavior.

Consider Christianity - the religion that gave us half of what's nice about the Western culture. That same religion using that same, unchanging book, set half of Europe aflame multiple times, for ostensibly religious reasons. When you look at it from outside it looks ridiculous, and when you study history you discover obvious political goals behind the crusades and other European wars - but then, a lot of people fighting and directing forces believed they do it because "God commands it".

It's no different with Islam. Jihad is just an excuse to get people to fight and die for political causes. If the political reasons disappear, they'll soon find an excuse to not fight, and Jihad will again become "the internal struggle".

Doesn't Western culture look back on Roman and especially Greek times as their founding myth?

It does, that's why I said "half of" not "everything". The Western culture is built as much on Roman and Greek legacy as it is on Christianity in Europe. So e.g. while a lot of classical literature is Greek/Roman, classical art and music is mostly from Christianity (and usually religious or semi-religious in nature).

>Were any of the 9/11 attackers widowed/orphaned by the US? Or were they just whipped up in religious fervor and an abstract idea of a cultural war with the US?

It's so sad that you don't know this.


>Full text: bin Laden's 'letter to America'

>As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:

>(1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.

Cannot upvote this enough. Folks just don't want to know the truth: Asymmetric war just guarantees more war.

Funny how a CEOs public letter is looked at with more skepticism than OBL on here.

There was a wave of anti- Muslim hate crime in the US after 9/11, although not by any of the specific families of the victims.

> Do you create violent anti-Islamists when Muslims commit terror attacks?

Yes? E.g. after the murder of Lee Rigby in the UK there was a small wave of attempted arson on mosques.

Well we have been bombing a Muslim majority country for 18 years. That probably counts.

Counts for what? My question was about the basis for terrorism, not about the facts of bombing campaigns.

Terrorism is a label slapped on violence that breaks some arbitrary rules someone thinks ought to be followed.

Were the founding fathers terrorists? The British sure thought so...

You can be the gatekeeper of that word all you want, just know that you're playing that role.

The British thought the founding fathers were rebels, which is not the same thing as terrorists(not that they had that word to use anyway)

Nope, rebel is the positive (or at least neutral) version of terrorist, the terrorist for your side.

This exact oratory slight of hand is used constantly in media, virtue signaling through word choice.

No, there is a vast difference in tactics between rebels and terrorists. Rebels may use terrorism, terrorists may be rebels, but the two are not synonyms.

> not about the facts of bombing campaigns

Calling indiscriminately killing civilians something as generic as "a bombing campaign" is like calling 9/11 "a training flight gone wrong".

No it's not. These types of comments are extremely inappropriate. Your comment tries to suggest that:

1. Terrorists are people with legitimate grievances

2. Terrorists are representatives of oppressed people

3. Terrorists have genuine reasons for their actions

All of these things are false. People do not turn into international, careless murderers just because they experience travesty. Terrorists exploit this concept to try to give themselves legitimacy, but the reality is that it's highly removed from the actual reality of what's happening.

You know what does create terrorists though?

1. Sanctions and

2. Funding of militias.

These are things that everyone - except for isolationists - stand behind and support.


Thanks for the 5 downvotes in 10 minutes! Feel free to help me (someone from the region who was directly caught up in not one but two American wars) understand why I should be a terrorist now. I'll also forward the comments to my cousin who was working inside a Red Cross clinic hit by a US airstrike so she also knows what to think. Thanks in advance HN!

Because your average farmer is obviously going to join up with a militia or terrorist group because of some abstract political thing like sanctions, which he probably has trouble even measuring in his day to life.

As opposed to your elected politicians and your military having blown up his daughter at her wedding, scattering her remains over a wide enough area that it is hard even finding anything to bury.

Makes sense.

The only way you're going to get someone mad enough for that, is if the militia you equipped happens to inflict similar cruelties, or you otherwise mess with his nation in a way that is more than just an inconvenience.

If the US imposed sanctions against my country, I'd just shrug. If the US killed my family members and I had no recourse...

> If the US imposed sanctions against my country, I'd just shrug.

You obviously do not understand that sanctions are usually a way to prepare for war with weapons. Sanctions bring up the cracks in societies that are otherwise hidden under a thin layer of comfort we call civilized behavior. With sanctions you get a black market and all that is related to it. Sanctions are a trade war at another level.

> Because your average farmer is obviously going to join up with a militia or terrorist group because of some abstract political thing like sanctions which he probably has trouble even measuring in his day to life.

Sanctions starve people to death, literally. There is a blockade on food, medicine and your entire life savings turn to nothing. Your life becomes rations. It has such a significant effect that this even turned the non-religious Arab nationalist socialist Ba'ath party into an extremist Islamist brigade in under a decade[0].

These sanctions are even one the major stated reason of the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda[1] - not that Saudis flying planes into the world trade center somehow represents the suffering of Iraqis.

I'm not even sure why this would be contested, I don't think you understand what sanctions are or what kind of almost-genocidal effects they have[2] but with your comment I'm suddenly understanding the reasoning of the people downvoting me and upvoting others.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_campaign

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motives_for_the_September_11_a...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctions_against_Iraq#Effects...

Because you seem to be missing that it's not the "sanctions" that radicalize people, but the "starve to death" part, or in general, the "death" part. In so far as heavy sanctions breed resentment and further violence, bombing people's families into tiny pieces does that even more.

All those things you think are false are 100% absolutely true.

Terrorism is a political tactic coming from a power asymmetry and is labeled as such due to this power dynamic as a consequence of who controls the narrative.

What I find shocking about your comment is that your points 1-3 can obviously be true and very often are - and if you don't believe they can be true, then you couldn't possibly understand why terrorism exists in the first place.

The devil is always in the detail, but generally speaking terrorists are violent combatants who pursue certain political goals, but don't have a regular army, and at some point in their life unfortunately accepted the idea that it is legitimate to intentionally harm or kill civilians to reach those goals. Accepting this horrible idea is what makes them terrorists.

Sanctioned people are in a way oppressed people and their grievances may well be legitimate (i.e., "I had a nice family business and now my export targets are gone while I did nothing wrong.") Retaliation probably feels like a genuine reason for their actions too. Many sanctions hit the population while their government hardly feels it (they still have enough to eat, places to live etc.)

Perhaps you are confused with the term "terrorist". s/terrorist/freedom fighter/g. Is that more palatable ? Or is the narrative contextual, depending on which side you find yourself on ?

All three of your assertions are wrong, regardless. And you have no business judging 'appropriateness'. Of course there are criminals that take advantage of situations, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that they are not the types that blow themselves up to make a quick buck.

labels aside, if x state drops a bomb and kills your 4 year old playing outside you will want revenge, if you're from those areas. Simple as that, call it whatever you want. You killed my son for no reason...

USA should better rush with million dollar offers to families, along with apologies, of course.

Reminds me of this story of the British paying "blood money" in Iraq which I found quite illuminating at the time: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/jul/02/iraq.features1...

I disagree with this comment, I think, but it's well written and provides a useful alternative viewpoint. Upvoted to counter the downvotes.

Their feelings will be affected and rightly so, it is a tradegy. However the feelings of a few people about an error can not be the single parameter to decide if drone strikes are used. War have casualties.

What about the feelings of the children and friends after 9.11, Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, Stockholm, Trèbes, Paris, Liège and Strasbourg? I could go on. Of the 24 jihadist attacks in the EU in 2018, 10 occurred in France, four in the United Kingdom, four in the Netherlands, two in Germany and one each in Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden. In 2017, a total of 62 people were killed in ten completed jihadist attacks in the European Union, according to Europol figures. The number of attempted jihadist attacks reached 33 in 2017.

If a single drone strike is how you create terrorists, what is being created in Europe?

How many "error's" does the US make? Far too many for them to be called "error's" anymore. How many kids were radicalised by the US going into Iraq and killing millions of their people? Tens of thousands of orphans, with an evil imperial army coming into their home, bombing their farms, raiding their homes, murdering civilians. Enough to create ISIS and radicalise thousands upon thousands more.

How many families were put out by 9/11? About 3000. And you call that an excuse to invade Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan etc etc etc. So 3000 American lives, taken by Saudi Arabian citizens, cost the lives of millions across the world so that the American people can feel good about their hegemony?

Al-Qaeda won that war before the US even left their own soil. They had one aim, bring about the end of the USA, and they did it by getting your own government to strip away civil liberties overnight, and you didn't even care.

> How many "error's"

It starts with grocer's apostrophes, but before long everyone's splitting infinitives.

Damn I should have googled that one.

> How many "error's" does the US make?

Usually it's measured in the ratio of civilian casualties to combatants, and as far as I remember, US is keeping this ratio exceptionally low in comparison to other conflicts.

That's the key point here: your criticism applies to any war at all. War is hell, everybody knows that. To be objective in your judgement about US though, you have to quantatively compare different conflicts to each other.

Your memory is wrong. You may want to look that up before making such a dumb claim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_from_U.S._...

Ratio of 15-20% civilian deaths is not "exceptionally low" by any means.

But it is EXCEPTIONALLY low - even more so than I remember.

> Starting in the 1980s, it was often claimed that 90 percent of the victims of modern wars were civilians.

> The Vietnamese government has estimated the number of Vietnamese civilians killed in the Vietnam War at two million, and the number of NVA and Viet Cong killed at 1.1 million—estimates which approximate those of a number of other sources.[19] This would give a civilian-combatant fatality ratio of approximately 2:1, or 67%.

> During the First Chechen War, 4,000 separatist fighters and 40,000 civilians are estimated to have died, giving a civilian-combatant ratio of 10:1.


So essentially what you're saying is that it's ok to kill million's of people in Iraq and Afghanistan as long as it fit's into a ratio that they're killing enough enemies to make civilians inconsequential? What utter bullshit you spout and a sad world you live occupy in your own head.

Nobody whose family got blown up cares about one thing that you just typed.

Unfortunately, neither do many Americans who have been affected by terrorism as well (majority most likely). I'm not saying that's how I feel, but I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that it's probably true.

Maybe US just finally met nation/group of individuals pissed off enough to care and go and deliver revenge the deem adequate. I mean, expecting that some random casualties ratio being upheld means all is a-OK is a bit ridiculous, don't you think?

After all the hell and atrocities done by US in Vietnam, I absolutely do not understand how there was no strong resent towards US anymore after the war to the point of actively seeking and eliminating US targets like terrorist/spies do.

It was a humbling realization for me, and I have great respect for Vietnamese people not only for this.

where are you getting those numbers?

"Trump Revokes Obama-Era Rule on Disclosing Civilian Casualties From U.S. Airstrikes Outside War Zones"


This post is wrong for obvious reasons, but it's a good point that it goes both ways: drone strikes create anti-western sentiment, and Muslim terrorist attacks create anti-Muslim sentiment.

yes, they're mutually reinforcing. in a perverse way, u.s. drone strikes are good for terrorist organizations, and terrorist attacks are good for major stakeholders of military capital.

that's why you will see some perverts who will openly reminisce about the days after 9/11 and how we were all united, etc.

at some point, cooler heads should intervene, but fear is just too easy to engineer, apparently.

Reminds me of how two rappers (or youtubers or what will you) who have "beef" both benefit in the end (assuming they don't get shot)

If the West (and USSR/Russia) hadn't been meddling in the political and social affairs of the Middle East for decades, it's completely possible that we wouldn't have any/many Middle Eastern terrorists with the funding and capabilities to do any damage outside their own countries.

It's tempting to suggest, "or if we had done a better job with our meddling", but... no, it just doesn't work, empirically so, and we should stop doing it.

Unfortunately, pushing diplomatic solutions hard would be political suicide in the US; the "us vs. them" mentality is strong here, and I don't think most Americans would be ok with what they'd see as giving in or giving up. And even if the politics at home could work, it's unclear if all that many on the other side are interested in a diplomatic solution, given how radicalized some of them have become due to our recklessness and hubris.

But you are not really opposing his theory. The terrorists are counting on this effect. They want to trigger radicalization of the populous in their target countries. Their idea is to stir up war, because in chaos there's a potential of drastic radical changes. If you truly want to fight terror, you should focus on prevention and educating the masses to not get drawn to a blood thirsty revenge cycle. Because once you start thinking like a terrorist, i.e. justifying civilian bloodshed for ideology, demanding violent response, etc. they win.

You seem to actually believe that and I think that deserves a serious answer, because the terror attacks are changing European society. It’s given us some of our only mass shootings from politically motivated right-wingers like Breviek and the recent would be mosque shooter.

What’s worse though is that it’s given us a general apathy toward the bureaucratic abuse of immigrants that happens everywhere. I live in Denmark, we have a place called Sjælsmark, which is an internment camp for immigrants who weren’t granted asylum but refused to leave. I understand why some people would go “well they could just leave”, but there are children in that camp who’ve been there for years. That would have caused a public outcry throughout danish society 25 years ago. I know because that’s exactly what happened during the Balkan wars where society as a whole cake together and did what the government failed to do, and actually integrated the “unwanted” as the decent thing to do.

After 18 years of anti-Islamic sentiment, however, we instead talked about putting the “unwanted” on a prison island to isolate them even further.

That’s what 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, Batavian and so on has done to Europe.

Thank you for the serious and interesting reply.

You actually got my point, that these wars and terror attacks have a large effect on feelings and behaviours in Europe as well.

I think that there is an inherent difference between drone killings and atrocities committed by people.

The drone killings are anonymous, out of the sky, with no idea who the guilty party is besides a nebulous "USA" or "the West"; a vacuum of information besides a robotic, faceless apology in a press release (that is itself just more insult, more humiliation), and the knowledge that a foreign country can reach out and murder people living next door to you without consequence. The humiliation and rage and sense of powerlessness and living every day knowing that they'll do it again and nobody will do anything about it simply festers. These are key ingredients in growing terrorists. This is how you make terrorists. Humilation and anger and a sense of powerlessness and that the perpetrator will face no justice.

When some idiot boy shoots up an office in Paris there's a guilty party, a reckoning with a body (or an arrest), a name, an investigation and professional state employees actively going after someone, actively pursuing justice (very different to the state doing no more than shrugging and saying "yeah, that's the USA for you, they murder you and your neighbours, nothing we can do about it"). There is a qualitative difference; the key ingredients above aren't present. Even if the terrorist gets away, it's recognised that it was an individual(s) and that they are being pursued; someone is seeking justice on your behalf.

If a single drone strike is how you create terrorists, what is being created in Europe?

On the face of it, not terrorists.

> Even if the terrorist gets away, it's recognised that it was an individual(s).

That's a tough sell when (large) parts of communities are complicit, hiding, funding, supporting the individuals.

It's my impression that the primary difference is that we expect better from advanced nations and their citizens, not that there's a large difference in behavior. Denmark officially murdering people because of their sexual identity would be a shock. Saudi Arabia doing the same isn't, because we don't see SA anywhere near the level of (cultural, social, civilizational) development of Denmark. A child throwing a temper tantrum is normal, an adult doing the same raises suspicion of delayed development.

> when (large) parts of communities are complicit

you put parentheses around the "large" but I'm still gonna pick on this. For my part, I have yet to hear of a major jihadist attack in the west in which the perpetrators and their supporters were not completely surrounded by police and intelligence personel. In Germany we're watching a parliamentary commission pick apart what happened in the "lone wolf" case where someone drove a truck into a christmas market in Berlin. "You can't do anything about these things!" people exclaim. They're lone wolves after all. BS. That guy, and his supporters, were in constant contact with embedded sources around their milieu. I'm not a big friend of the police state as it is, and especially of intelligence services. And this story and others like it make it really hard to still believe in incompetence and bad coordination as the sources for all the fuck-ups that lead to him succeeding in the first place, and then the crucial witnesses being conveniently deported days after.

But my real point (sorry for digressing here for a bit) is that even in this in-depth investigation, the number of active supporters was tiny. And they were not even really organized. It was more like "I have a friend here ho will help me out, and one here, and one here." Your statement (even with parentheses) does not reflect how small these "parts" are.

Certainly, intelligence services do play a role, both in pushing actors over the threshold and in hindering investigations. In the case of the Bataclan attacks, the perpetrators fled to Belgium and hid in their local communities. It's also where they recruit, get support from and funnel funding through. Obviously it's not "everybody there is on board", but there is an enabling base and little push back from those opposed to the measures chosen by radicals.

That's a tough sell when (large) parts of communities are complicit, hiding, funding, supporting the individuals.

I'm unconvinced; I believe it's not a tough sell. This is based on my observations of to whom people ascribe these crimes. They blame individuals first. Even if they should ascribe more blame to the organisations behind those individuals, those individuals are recognised (rightly or wrongly) as the primary culprits.

When I see news reports of such things, it's individual people that are presented as the culprits. News articles and Wiki articles name the individuals involved. While they do have organisations and groups behind them, if you ask people "who did this" you don't get a nebulous set of organisations; you get a name.

> They blame individuals first.

That depends on who those individuals are though. The media reports and reactions do change very much if you exchange some words, like replacing "islamist radical" with "white supremacist" or "christian fundamentalist" and "mosque" with "website".

You will certainly get individual names for each attack, the difference is whether having those names concludes the investigation or not. There are exceptions to this, of course, it's just my general expression.

If your argument starts with "what about", you may want to reconsider it.

1) Whataboutism

2) False equivalent, if you think the USA should be held to the same standards that we hold the terrorists to then effectively the USA have become terrorists as well.

3) The EU has taken its attacks so far quite well, no other countries were invaded, no mass deportations or murders of muslims or immigrants have happened. Unfortunately this bs has shifted the political climate.

Please try to argue your case better.


The Taliban (who the drone strikes were targeting) are at war with Afghanistan. The US is allied with Afghanistan’s government.

Wars aren’t as simple as good guys vs bad guys fighting between their own respective countries.

> The US is allied with Afghanistan’s government.

The US allied with the Northern Alliance after invading Afghanistan, and they had no say in whether we invaded or not.

The US asked the Taliban to extradite Osama Bin Laden, they refused, so the US invaded Afghanistan to bring him to justice and dismantle the Taliban.

The US killed Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban is just as powerful today as they were then. The conflict has also killed over 100,000 civilians, and almost the same number of US citizens have been killed in battle as on 9/11

Oh and let's not talk about how the officially stated purpose of the Taliban was to kick US armed forces out of Somalia and Saudi Arabia... We chose to get involved in Saudi Arabia's war with Pakistan in the first place! If it's a "war" then US military leadership's decisions are directly responsible for 9/11. The US military leadership has been actively endangering national security with their reckless support for Saudi Arabia's wars for decades, and continue to do so to this day.

US presidents and businessmen sold out their fellow citizens and soldiers to arm an absolute monarchy so Aramco could make money.

Isn't it a funny coincidence that the invasion of Afghanistan coincided with the sharp increase in opioid addiction across the USA? I think not, and it wouldn't be the first time that the US government has caused drug addiction epidemics in it's own country. Just look at how the CIA caused the crack-cocaine problem in the African American community.

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