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Drones and the rise of the high tech assassins (boingboing.net)
181 points by anigbrowl 984 days ago | hide | past | web | 156 comments | favorite



It is always intriguing that people in the West are so sheltered from the fact that this has been going on for over a decade. And they then are, not surprisingly, surprised that the people at the receiving end of this and those that are from the area are very upset about it.

What if some other nation had been bombing remote villages in your country whilst attempting to target "terrorists and extremists", but often killing civilians because of misstakes and poor intelligence?

Nice timeline for doing your research: http://www.theguardian.com/Iraq/page/0,12438,793802,00.html

Example of airstrikes killing civilians and accusations of poor intelligence preparations being the cause: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jun/14/iraq.usa


The links you posted reference Iraq, which was not a very nice place over the last decade. In many cases, a strong personality would emerge as a local leader. He'll usually have access to several small arms and enough money to feed and pay several dozen militia fighters. To legitimize his power he'll coordinate attacks on US personnel, usually ambushes, and make deals with people who have connections to global "terrorist and extremist" organizations who can provide him with resources to pay for more weapons and manpower. This hypothetical leader isn't beholden to the law and makes up the rules for the people in the areas that he controls based on his interpretations of religious teachings and personal views on justice and proper conduct. The government has so many problems to deal with that they aren't in a position to oppose him or restore any kind of rule of law to the people that live in his sphere of influence. As his power increases, he becomes a more useful piece on a larger chess board, controlled by leadership in Mosul, Yemen or Saudi Arabia.

To the US, the solution is clear: Kill that guy. The force of his personality is what's holding his local power structure together, and if he's dead there's a good chance that the whole thing will collapse. This will take a piece off the board for a global opponent and give the national or regional government one less problem to deal with. Given that he lives in a remote area that he knows like the back of his hand, getting close to him would be difficult. But if they can pay someone to tell them where he is at a specific time, all it takes is one drone strike to solve a lot of problems for a lot of people.

It's not a perfect system. Sources will frequently give false locations in order to kill their own enemies or settle personal scores. Sometimes the intelligence is out of date by only a few hours, the target leaves a house and innocent people move in to it behind him. Or the weapons just plain miss.

The question is, do you have a better plan? Because the guys at the Pentagon would really like to hear it. Ceding large swaths of a country to random strong men doesn't seem like a sustainable solution. It's not good for the people in that country, it's not good for global security and it's not good for business. Civilian casualties are always regrettable and make for compelling headlines. But at some point, someone has to have an eye on the bigger picture. If there's a better course of action, then it should be taken immediately. Until then all the US government can do is to use the tools that it has available to deal with the current situation.


Kill that guy. The force of his personality is what's holding his local power structure together, and if he's dead there's a good chance that the whole thing will collapse

This is true. But what happens next? A collapsed power structure is not a nice place to live. Someone has to deal with crime, resources, arbitration, and taking out the rubbish (qv http://www.luton-dunstable.co.uk/Luton-ISIS-recruit-Abu-Aziz... ). So another person steps up to fill that role. Unsurprisingly, he has to deal with the power structure of the region that he finds around him, so he makes deals; and he has to deal with bandits, so he makes a militia. Until he makes his way to the top of the US kill list, perhaps by phoning the wrong person.

"Local warlord" is a position, not a person. The replacement for warlordism is an accountable rights-respecting impartial justice system. Nothing less will do. You can't deal with injustice by committing more injustice. You can't eradicate violence with more violence. This isn't a Clint Eastwood movie, you can't just ride in, shoot some designated bad guys, and ride out again with everything fixed.

Also, would the US rather have an anti-US warlord who deals fairly with his own people or a pro-US one who is corrupt? The treatment of Latin America shows quite clearly that they'd prefer the latter.

Unfortunately as soon as you say, "So let's apply justice to the middle east", you trip face-first over the Palestinian question.


Iraq has a democratically elected government. Whether or not they are accountable, rights-respecting, impartial or even just is up for debate. But they can't govern without being able to impose the rule of law through a monopoly on force.

Warlords do serve a social purpose. But it's better for everyone if a stable government serves that purpose instead. The nature of being a warlord is such that they won't respond to reasoned arguments or give up the power they've risked their lives to build. The only way to get them to step aside to allow democratic governance is to kill them or convince them to surrender.

Killing a warlord has nothing to do with the concept of justice. The term "outlaw" originally applied to people who lived outside of the protection of the legal system, meaning that they could be robbed or killed by anyone. If a local leader wants the protection of justice, they should run for office or go through an official process to wield the sanctioned power of the state. Otherwise, they should be prepared to either get down or lay down when just democratic rule comes to their region.


(Another page on the subject: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/11/why-obamas-hopes-of-d... ; I don't really see what Obama is doing in the title, the policy would continue without him)

You're arguing "force first; justice later". In particular, you're arguing that state justice, and your particular version of it, is the only valid and legitimate kind of justice. This leaves no room for what's called "natural" justice.

But there's no point in trying to convince me. It's the neighbours of the people being bombed that you need to convince, that American death from the air with no trial or public evidence is "justice" and "the sanctioned power of the state". After all, is it how you deliver justice in your own country?

So long as America continues to kill unaccountably and without due process, people (especially those close to the bomb) will regard America as just another warlord, just another outlaw.

get down or lay down when just democratic rule

Get your face in the dirt and submit, citizen! Welcome to democracy! (You may want to work on your messaging here)


It is convenient to pretend that these missions are not being run from Europe, but they are and the battleground will be in Europe where it is much easier to attack.


Except that the US are the main cause for those bad guys being there in the first pace, as they waged war (with justifications that later proved worthless) against the dictator that was able to keep the area under control.

So, what the US should do now in Iraq? I have no idea. What should they do in general and in the future? Stop messing with foreign countries, destabilizing governments and waging wars with the silly idea of making the world a safer and more peaceful place. It doesn't work.


What the US should do now in Iraq is learn some restraint, diplomacy, and humility.

In other words, we should learn the lessons everybody but the military had already learned from Vietnam.


It might be a surprise to you, but it is the military who learned the most from Vietnam. It is the American public and our politicians who seem to have learned the least. The military is simply doing its job when presented with a task, whether it was spawned out of noble intentions or kneejerk reactionism.

They know that they must be careful in pursuing anything that looks vaguely like a target, because the sentiment of the population is far more important than a small victory like that. Hence the multi-billion-dollar communications and failsafes chain described in this article. This is a key concept that seems to be going over people's heads in this thread. Yes, it failed in this case and in many others. But the very fact that it exists at all and is sophisticated as it is should be a clue as to the lessons learned. The military is achieving far more value with far less collateral damage. Contrast this with the Soviet's preferred method of waging war against the Afghani Mujahideen, which was to kill every living thing and totally and utterly raze every structure in the direction from which they were shot at from.

So again, can you conceive a better alternative for dealing with reality as it is now? Time travel is not possible, answers like "don't invade other countries" are pretty worthless. Nobody wants this war(well, nobody with a soul and a modicum of compassion), but it is what it is, and as far I know, it's the best solution to minimize civilian deaths.


The military is simply doing its job when presented with a task

That was presented as a defense of My Lai and was a not successful argument.

The military is achieving far more value

You're going to need to quantify this statement, because from this distance it doesn't look like much is being achieved at all. Yemen has fallen to the rebels and ISIS still hold much of northern Iraq.

answers like "don't invade other countries" are pretty worthless.

Absolutely not! It's a simple, clear, actionable, moral rule. It's also a core principle of international law. I'm not sure why this is so much of a problem.


> That was presented as a defense of My Lai and was a not successful argument.

I'm not sure how that's relevant. The "job" here being of far larger scope along the lines of "prevent future terrorist attacks". If you're the military presented with that task, you will go down generally the same route that US has, though perhaps without the same level of consideration for innocents.

The real "solution"(which is only in retrospect) is to identify the factors leading to extremism in the first place(American foreign policy) and change them. But that wasn't done, so here we are. Are you to argue that we simply stop trying to fight them on their soil? Instead we hope they don't retaliate?

> Absolutely not! It's a simple, clear, actionable, moral rule. It's also a core principle of international law. I'm not sure why this is so much of a problem.

I totally agree, but it's not applicable to the current situation. I'm not sure why people think this is a "solution" rather than a "yeah, we should have done that instead".


same level of consideration for innocents

I'm trying to avoid Godwin territory here, but widespread ignoring of the Geneva conventions is not an excuse. It's not just a consideration, it's international law.

https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/7c4d08d9b287a4214125...

"Persons taking no active part in the hostilities ... [prohibited] violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds"

"the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples"

It is convenient for the US to deem anyone in the same building as a combatant to be "involved in hostilities". That does not make it true, and indeed it's a serious erosion of the concept of "civilian".

simply stop trying to fight them on their soil? Instead we hope they don't retaliate?

Are people more or less likely to retaliate if you murder their relatives and countrymen? This seems to be a fundamental point of disagreement.

In the end, coalition forces have withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. Drone strikes are ongoing in Yemen and Pakistan; I believe NATO airstrikes have been carried out against ISIS positions in Iraq but not Syria. Turkey are holding at the border with occasional sorties. Coalition forces should resist the idea of getting involved in Nigeria, Syria, etc. and withdraw from the internal conflicts in Pakistan and Yemen. Supply defensive assistance to places that request it (Kurdistan and the Yazidis), but no further.


> Absolutely not! It's a simple, clear, actionable, moral rule. It's also a core principle of international law. I'm not sure why this is so much of a problem.

> It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

This quote seems very fitting here. It is indeed a simple, clear, actionable, moral rule - just one that doesn't bring in profits.


So again, can you conceive a better alternative for dealing with reality as it is now?

Of course I can. Learn some humility, diplomacy, and restraint. The military has no business in Iraq and needs to leave. Iraqis have said so countless times.

You're assuming this is a military task. But I said "learn diplomacy." If your "reply" to a "learn diplomacy" comment assumes that this situation remains a military responsibility, then your reply is not a reply at all.

"Learn diplomacy" means "use diplomats." And it also means talk to some countries who know how to do so successfully, and follow their lead.

"Learn humility" means "stop assuming that this is America's problem to solve." It's not our business and all we're doing is fucking it up.


> Of course I can. Learn some humility, diplomacy, and restraint.

Huh. The fact that there is a chain of command that this decision must pass sounds like the idea of restraint is not lost on these people. In fact it seems quite the opposite, that there is a directive for restraint. It's not up to the pilots and spotters, no matter how gung-ho they may be(many aren't at all, unlike what is portrayed in the article).

The billions the US is pumping into their communities in the form of assistance seems like some form of diplomacy to me, or at least due diligence for the massive social disturbance. I could be wrong. You'll have to explain to the people receiving said aid that it's either misguided or not enough, though.

> The military has no business in Iraq and needs to leave. Iraqis have said so countless times.

We're talking about Afghanistan, not Iraq. The US involvement in Iraq was totally illegal, but it's worth noting that many Iraqis definitely wanted us there after the invasion. They certainly want us there now.

> Learn diplomacy" means "use diplomats." And it also means talk to some countries who know how to do so successfully, and follow their lead.

This statement sounds buried within ideology rather than facts. The US has a massive diplomat corps and engages in some form of diplomacy every day with every country on the planet, save a few. Even moreso in Afghanistan and Iraq. You'll recall that diplomacy did not work shortly after 9/11 when Afghanistan was identified as a host country to Al Queda.

Again, the situation is as it is today. We cannot go back and alter the past. So what better way is there to proceed? The US spends billions on aid and reconstruction efforts in both countries, are they simply supposed to ignore threats?


You are hopelessly mired by incorrect facts and perceived motivations.

Many posts above have alluded to this fact, but I'll repeat it since it may help you in the long run.

Neither of the two American wars being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq are for traditional reasons. There was no threat to the US. This has everything to do with the Military Industrial Complex, and its iron grip on American foreign policy.

The MIC requires war because that's how they sell their products. I would have expected that on a site like HN, this would be obvious. President Eisenhower prophetically warned [1] against the MIC, as he clearly saw how a positive feedback loop would form between private military contractors and US foreign policy, inciting conflict after conflict in order to keep customer demand high for their products.

Although you have obviously been thoroughly steeped in the propaganda offered by these two organizations, who could never acknowledge the truth of their actions, to any rational observer there can be no other justification. The US as a whole has everything to lose, and nothing to gain, by slaughtering defenseless civilians in an impoverished developing country.

Big defense contractors and the politicians they bribe, however, have everything to gain. And they are winning. This is one of the many failures of democracy, one that requires extreme oversight and prosecution. Sadly, we are primates, and we will succumb to our natures sooner or later.

1. http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html


No, I am simply approaching this from a balanced point of view. The situation is far more nuanced than the "good guys" are really the "bad guys", and that it's all about the money. That's the plot of a movie, not real life. There are many people at all levels and on all sides who have altruistic intent, just as I'm sure there are those who really are perpetuating further conflict for the money.

I am in no way questioning the existence or influence of the MIC, but to say that across-the-board this is all about blood money is just as narrow minded as blindly defending the US as if what they're doing is morally right. You'll notice that nowhere in my posts do I go about doing such a thing, by the way. Far from it. I could understand you might have preconceived notions about my position though, it's hard to see the nuance in people's opinions when we reduce things to simply "for" or "against". I subscribe to a Sagan-esque view of mankind as I'm sure many do here. But, again, that has to be tempered by reality or we reach solutions only useful in retrospect like "don't invade in the first place".

Anyways, I was originally responding to the commentary that the military had "learned nothing from Vietnam" while "everyone else" did, which is patently false.


nobody wants this war? are you kidding sir? there is a lot to earn on every single war, these one being no exception. All companies manufacturing weapons, ammunition, subcontractors etc. Stop wars, they are out of job.

Is it utterly immoral? But yes of course. Is it clear to most people outside of US? Not much doubt there. Is this going to happen again? You bet it will. Why? Just because US can.

There was not so long ago perception that US is the world police, the good guys. Well, these days, you guys are working hard to convince all the rest that China might be more suitable for this task.

Is it really hard to see how much evil is US creating in our tiny world? Did it at least once to people like you occurred, that you really, REALLY cannot well justify waging war half across the world, for laughable reasons?


Did you stop reading immediately after the word "war" or something? I'm really shocked by the level of hivemindism on HN these days. I'm all for idealism but it really needs to be tempered with reality for any real progress to be made towards a better future with less war, more equality, etc.


> Is it clear to most people outside of US? Not much doubt there.

And yet all these operations are run from Europe. Where are the protests by Europeans?


The beginning of the 21st century shall always be remembered as the moment humanity became really sophisticated at killing poor people who live in mud houses from far far away.


...poor people with incredibly wealthy friends who fund their misdeeds. So yeah, relatively speaking they (the foot soldiers) may be poor but those controlling all sides are not.

And I'd say the 90's was the beginning of the "cruise missile" guided bomb era of warfare.


So you're saying we should just go and kill those incredibly wealthy friends of theirs instead of bothering with the foot soldiers?


Realistically, I think that will be a footnote to the explosion of computers and the Internet - and not because the "winner writes history"(which is rapidly becoming moot as time goes on) but because in the grand scheme of things it's nearly inconsequential compared to developments in doing the exact opposite of killing. Your notion also ignores the fact that the reason this exists in the first place is partially the desire to eliminate collateral damage, not perpetuate more of it.


> Realistically, I think that will be a footnote to the explosion of computers and the Internet.

> Your notion also ignores the fact that the reason this exists in the first place is partially the desire to eliminate collateral damage, not perpetuate more of it.

Well we'll see, human lives do seem like they're not worth much, especially those in the 3rd world, out of sight out of mind like another poster said. I mean you could probably kill a lot more of those people with the world standing idly by as long as you have some kind of justification, they can be invaded, bombed, displaced, held indefinitely and tortured with impunity, but now they are trying really hard to only kill as many of them as they really want to, are they not merciful ...

But what is the end goal here, what do they hope to accomplish, when will the killing end?

I think that the US government is in somewhat of a pickle, the war on terror is now being fought for more than a decade, has cost trillions of dollars and thousands of soldiers lives, and for what? There's no end in sight, no easy way out, heck we may be even worse off than before, we have an Al Qaeda offshoot building a state of their own as we speak. You can't just pull out completely and cut your losses because this might come back to haunt us all. The only thing they seem to be able to come up with right now is to further streamline killing to prolong the status quo as long as possible, and even that doesn't seem to be going well.

How the hell are we going to resolve this?

Or maybe I'm just crazy and this will all just blow over after a couple more years of targeted killings, all those islamists may just give up and go home to live peaceful lives, who knows.


knowaveragejoe: "the billions the US is pumping into these communities"

the actual article: "$5000 and a goat"


What a frustratingly simplistic retort.


That's what we tend to do in fact. We support whatever dictator is in power because it's better for business.

With Iraq we believed that they were still hoarding WMD's that they had from the 1980's. As we now know, that turned out to not be the case, and they actually did destroy them. Before the war, it was reported by most media outlets that WMD's were still in Iraq. Then you had the UN weapons inspectors who kept being thrown out of Iraq. If the weapons inspectors had been allowed to remain and do their job, there wouldn't have been a second Iraq war.


Your narrative is broken. What actually happened was a bunch of ideologues came to power, saw an opportunity to remake the middle east in aid of a "new american century", then lied about wmds to convince the public there were WMDs.

The weapons inspectors were thrown out of Iraq because they were spying for the CIA. They were desperately invited back by Iraq to try and stop the war, to no avail, because WMDs were never the issue: war was.


And the House and Senate just went along.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Resolution

Of course, the major news agencies colluded to deceive the American public because they propagated the lie.


"With Iraq we believed that they were still hoarding WMD's that they had from the 1980's."

Nope. It was a straight up war of aggression. Bush and Blair outright lied.


You'd think that if they outright lied, many people would step forward to verify your claim. If not because it's the right thing to do, then for the money; book deals, etc. Especially in politics where they love to stick it to each other. CNN can run with the Hillary email server for days, and everyone will weigh in. Imagine what they could do with anyone who could verify that "Bush lied!"


"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

'C' would be Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 at the time.


> With Iraq we believed that they were still hoarding WMD's that they had from the 1980's

That doesn't explain the necessity of the attack. If he'd had WMDs he'd had them since the 1980s and it's not clear why it was important at that point to remove a capability that had not caused us trouble in twenty years.


Well, he was clearly fine with using WMD's.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_chemical_weapons_progra...

I suppose if someone has a weapon, isn't afraid to use it, and actually has used it and many occasions, you'd be a bit foolish to argue that point, "well, he hasn't used them in 20 years..."


> Well, he was clearly fine with using WMD's

And? He didn't use them against us. To do so would have been suicide. From a strategic perspective, why was it necessary to our interests in the world to remove him from power in Iraq - as it was not during the Gulf War?


"Then you had the UN weapons inspectors who kept being thrown out of Iraq."

One of the reasons Iraq didn't co-operate with weapons inspectors was because they were infiltrated by US and UK intelligence. As far as I know they were never actually "thrown out". The other big reason is that the weapons inspections was the only bargaining chip they had left.

"If the weapons inspectors had been allowed to remain and do their job, there wouldn't have been a second Iraq war."

That is not what happened. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/weapons-inspectors-leave-iraq/


> The question is, do you have a better plan? Because the guys at the Pentagon would really like to hear it.

Stop invading other nations for oil then complain the locals dislike you and kill your troops.


I doubt the "guys at the Pentagon" would really like to hear that plan. They've got to keep profits up at Raytheon and Lockheed! b^)


Here's a better plan: stay out of other countries.


Isolationism is not a winning strategy for any nation. Soon enough, the world comes to your doorstep.


There's a pretty huge difference between "not invading other countries on a whim" and "isolationism."



Effective for your own people, but not your neighbors. For example. Let's take WWII for example. If your neighbors house is on fire would you not try to assist them, or would you shut your blinds because that fire is too bright in the middle of the night. That was the official attitude of Switzerland while Europe burned under Nazi occupation.

Isolationism alone is not an end all be all answer, we must use our best judgement to assess if assistance is necessary in international relations. It is true, that it is sometimes best to do nothing, (suppose your neighbor is an arsonist) but time and again people seem to forget that leaving nations to their cruelty because of sovereign rule has lead to catastrophe. For all of Europe (Nazi Germany) for all of Eurasia (Soviet Russia/Stalin), Manchuria (Japan), Rwanda, Mao's Cultural Revolution, North Korea, Burma... the list goes on, and by sheer numbers the consequence of inaction cost more than action.


> Effective for your own people

That's why nation states exist.

> For example. Let's take WWII for example

And your evidence that Switzerland would have helped prevent any of that?

While we're throwing unbacked statements around, had the US tried some "isolationism" in WW1, WW2 never would have happened! The Germans wouldn't have been forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles and the conditions that led to the rise of the Nazis wouldn't have existed.


Sounds great - let us know how the time travel thing is coming along. In the mean time, the US will have to deal with the present situation in some way or another. They already spend billions on aid, are they not supposed to deal with the other side of the coin - threats?


I know it's just utterly besides the point to cite the opinion of the locals regarding a foreign country bombing them in the name of their own country's well-being. Hence I'll choose to cite a Nobel Peace Laureate. "A drone attack may kill two or three terrorists but it will not kill terrorism. If the drones continue terrorism will spread." [1] There you have the better plan.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthasharf/2014/10/21/nobel-p...


> Ceding large swaths of a country to random strong men doesn't seem like a sustainable solution.

Why? At least some of those local strong men are going to be amenable to your ideals. Support them with knock off equipment and let them conquer their enemies. If they become hostile after they've conquered their enemies, you can kill them then and iterate the process with someone else - though ideally you're using the spreading of their influence to spread your culture and dependencies on your support at the same time.


>To the US, the solution is clear: Kill that guy.

And what happens after you kill that guy?

>In many cases, a strong personality would emerge as a local leader...


> To the US, the solution is clear: Kill that guy. The force of his personality is what's holding his local power structure together

On the surface of it, they would seem to hold a somewhat naive historical view of power dynamics, and how cultural and socioeconomic and forces really work.


Drones could of given the US a huge tactical advantage in a conflict between nations... their overuse has simply allowed the US's enemies to derive solutions against them removing any tactical advantage we originally had.


>The question is, do you have a better plan? Because the guys at the Pentagon would really like to hear it.

Plan:

1: stop.

2: give civilians money directly instead of buying bombs.

3: Profit.


This will be down voted, but it does accurately reflect the reality of the situation as perceived by those in power.


Those "in power" are motivated by far more prosaic notions than local leadership succession in certain Muslim nations. It's actually all about the money: for contractors, lobbyists, politicians, and those pundits who act as mouthpieces for all of those. Whether they "perceive" their own cupidity is a question the answer to which is of no consequence whatsoever.


The question is, do you have a better plan?

The better plan will take three or perhaps four generations. The Western world simply does not have the ability to do it, for various reasons.

all it takes is one drone strike to solve a lot of problems for a lot of people.

And also create a bunch more angry, humilated people with no recourse other than terror tactics. Hey look, we're creating terrorists! We are so fucking stupid it hurts my head.


but often killing civilians

They can simply be reclassified as combatants. I understand any male "of military age" is an enemy combatant [1]. They must be bad guys or else why would we be murdering them.

I happily admit that if this was happening around me, and I was as powerless as these people are, I'd strike back through terror tactics.

[1]http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/29/1095594/-WOW-to-avo...

Yes, of course this is sarcasm (except for the bit where I can understand why terror tactics are what people use; I really can understand that).


I don't really think the drones are the problem.

The problems are:

- Lack of intelligence. The drone may be hovering overhead, but you still need local intel. Which is unrealiable

- The weapons are not designed for the task. A hellfire missile is not the right weapon to target a single individual. There will be collateral damage unless the target is standing in a deserted area by himself. Also, while the hellfire may be supersonic, the travel time is still significant and other people may move next to the target

- Armed drones are not really what's needed. Anarchic organizations are not well suited for a decapitation strike. The next strong person will take the leader's place. At most, you buy some time while there's a power struggle. Also, killing religious leaders turns them into martyrs.

- And last, but not least: who judged those people? Serial killers are taken to the court, which then decides their fate. Deadly force is not automatically authorized even for such dangerous individuals. Too dangerous to apprehend those extremists? Well, I imagine such a wealthy nation can figure out ways around it.

Then again, a drone is an expensive machine which keeps contractors happy. And 'lets kill that asshole' is an easier sell than investing in intelligence and long term planning.


Neither of your arguments is the problem.

The real problem is a system, where it only takes three mutually self-assured groupthinkers, under stress, who have never seen a dead man, woman or child, to push a button and kill.

It might seem like unhappy accidents, but under these circumstances they are inevitable, and whoever set this system up should be judged and found guilty.

(The next level is that these systems grow this ugly exactly because there is no specific person responsible for that. The guilt is spread out thinly such that no one's moral sense is triggered. Exactly how the machinery of concentration camps worked, everyone is doing their job and at the end of the machine, people die).

I believe that only solution to this is to have a personal moral code, and if your higher ups are ordering you to do something that you know isn't right, fk the orders. But the army know this, and attracts losers that can be brainwashed so that belonging to army becomes their only way of life. Saying no to order then means being expelled from whole your life. So they rather press the button and kill twenty mothers in Afgnanistan.


Can't speak for other MOSs, but at least for infantry, infantry are exposed to videos where people die during training - one video I remember seeing was from the point of view from an insurgent, and it showed his comrades & him launching an assault on some Marines, only to promptly run away from a hail of gunfire. The person whose perspective is seen dies quickly.

I suspect that most training in the US military show such content, in order to avoid sudden shock from experiencing the situation for the first time. The US military trains as close to real scenarios as it can, so that the same decision making happens during actual combat situations.

Contrary to what you might believe, the training often stresses to use sound judgment - there are many accidental casualties in war, sometimes due to miscommunication. One story that a Marine told me was that in Afghanistan, while he was on watch at a vehicle checkpoint, a truck was speeding towards his post - his battle buddy and him were signaling to the driver to slow down/stop. The driver did not stop - they were forced to try to incapacitate the vehicle, which ended up killing the driver. There were no explosives, but you cannot know which vehicle has any - this is part of the fog of war. Contrast that with two recent Navy Cross awards for two Marines who died in the same situation in Iraq, except the vehicle was a suicide machine meant to do significant damage to the base.

War is not black and white - in war, the only thing people care about is helping get their buddies home safely. When it comes down to it, almost every person made the choice to be ready to sacrifice if necessary to achieve this. It is at least an honest choice when contrasted with those who have no experience with such a world commenting without the proper perspective.


No, the problem is that there is an armed robot equipped with hellfire missiles in a foreign country dispensing capital punishment.

We are way, way past the point of talking about a 'moral code' for people pushing the actual buttons. There shouldn't be any buttons being pushed at all.


But who was supposed to say no? The SF officer on the ground who did not have line of sight but was being told they had positive ID on military age males, weapons and no children? Or the helicopter pilots who were given a target, and who don't have the technology to provide any better or worse information?

The problem is that US Forces are almost permanently on a overkill strategy where the answer to this problem was using Hellfire missiles, in the same way as dropping artillery into Iraqi towns in the 2003 invasion.

Taliban dismounts from a SUV die quickly against helicopters, taking time to check the vehicles were hostile via an overflight or "warning shot" should be a valid tactic. But that is not for a specific flight commander to make.


> But the army know this, and attracts losers that can be brainwashed so that belonging to army becomes their only way of life.

This is only true of grunts. I think you would be surprised as to the level of intelligence present in the ranks of the military. Some of the most poignant writings on life, death, war and peace that I've ever read were written by either current or former members. Case in point(and I urge you to read the entirety with an open mind before making a judgement):

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/how-we-lear...


All of this ensures the organization will stay around.

Collateral, incorrect targets, and martyrs enrage the populace and get recruits. Killing the head keeps the group from getting too big. Keeping them out of the courts allows for any real grievances they have to remain unheard by the voters (out of sight out of mind means they won't be fixed). This gives the MICC a great target to keep them running.

I've heard that one should never blame one evil what could instead be attributed to stupidity, but I do not agree with such logic. Under that rule, there would only be stupidity.


Previous killings used mass bombing (which obviously kill too many civilians) or cluster bombing (again, killing and maiming too many civilians, especially hen the bomblets were the same colour as food-aid air-dropped packages http://www.landmineclearance.org/page2.html http://www.rawa.org/cluster2.htm)

In that context drones feel like an easy sell to the public. "Targeted!"

People opposed to drone use need to show how untargeted they actually are and how international law is probably being broken.


"People opposed to drone use need to show how untargeted they actually are and how international law is probably being broken."

Are you kidding us? People opposed to drones do not need to show anything - except to state that flying drones over sovereign countries without being officialy at war with that country is not the way to do it. Targetet killings are not the way to do it either.


Drones are to war what anesthesia is to surgery. It's not that people are against annihilating the enemy, we just don't want to know the dirty details. We know that there are times we'll need to eliminate an enemy -just don't get me dirty with it. This tool allows us to put fewer of our own in peril while putting out enemy at a disadvantage. Given that we are involved in conflict, neo liberal ideology has to step aside and let Realpolitik take over.

So just as we don't want to be conscious when the good doctor puts us under the knife and are spared from all the guts and nasties, so do drones do the dirty bidding for us. We could all clean up dirty toilets ourselves, but we'd mostly rather have someone else do that for us.

It's a job which must get done, just spare me the details.


"Anarchic organizations are not well suited for a decapitation strike."

You've been mislead if you believe ISIS and it's supporting factions are "anarchic" and don't have specialized training enough to cause disruption if personnel is lost.

Along with the "guys in pickups" you see in the media, there are highly trained, well funded, experienced foreign and domestic soldiers taking part (on all sides).


Except the decapitation strike we are talking here are not about ISIS (That is another matter entirely now, they are effectively a state in many respects).

We are talking about the places where drones are used in a controversial manner: Afghanistan, Yemen and some other countries few people heard about, in all those places, the enemies US are fighting are warlords, tribal leaders, and loose terrorist groups...

They are not anarchic in the classic sense, they have hierarchy and structure, but they are like the Hydra, no matter how many heads you cut off, other will always pop up in its place.


"but they are like the Hydra"

Over simplification of the issue. We're not talking about a single organization with a single motive. We're also not talking about replacing cogs in a wheel. These are people, with skills and experience that they bring to their organization. Eliminating leadership, or even mid level leaders can cripple an organization both psychologically and in a practical sense as they loose expertise/experience/connections etc.

"the enemies US are fighting are warlords, tribal leaders, and loose terrorist groups"

This is actually a very accurate description of the ground level soldiers the US is fighting. These warlards, tribal leaders and terrorist groups are funded however by much larger nation-states and those individuals and groups with the funds to pursue their agenda.


> And 'lets kill that asshole' is an easier sell than investing in intelligence and long term planning.

If that were true, how did we end up with a court to decide the fate of serial killers?


Let's not ignore the disgusting gun-ho attitude of these "pilots" who are looking for any excuse to pull that trigger and ignoring any possibility that these were civilians.

"I was hoping we could make a rifle out. Never mind."

"Yeah, review that shit . . . Why didn’t he say possible child, why are they so quick to call fucking kids but not to call shit a rifle."


I guess the people who downvoted this like to ignore the facts hey.


If you happen to work for one of the contractors in this program: I kindly ask you to think about your goals and your ideals for humanity.

I used to work for a sub-contractor to the military-industrial complex. I quit for ethical reasons. Never looked back.

Thank you.


In this program? Because that drone didn't fire a Hellfire, a human in a helicopter did. Hours were spent observing a suspicious target, far longer than would have happened in any previous conflict, and observed by people who are not "in country" and thus not under the same pressures.

Clearly the system isn't perfect, and there appears to be a major professionalism problem within the operators of the drone fleet. But removing drones from the equation in this scenario would have resulted in the AC130 spotting the convoy and making a determination based on less time and less imagery.


I applaud for doing that, and your request.

Reading that article was horrifying. One one side, the banality of it all. On the other... I can't even imagine what it was like to experience that, and I think I am happier that I can't.

The statement 'war is a game' has never been more true.


THANK YOU.

This is really all it takes.

Unfortunately there are way too many people who will "feed their kids" by any means necessary.


You did well


Thank you.

I'd like to have this subject discussed much more often than it is nowadays. Military is on an extreme of the ethical-unethical scale but there are many more cases which would deeply fall into the unethical side of the scale and are not being talked about at all.


This. Like unethical research, unetically selling 0days to various gov/3letter agencies etc. etc.


And this is how you create more terrorists. When you see an innocent family member being killed and you have nothing around you - no food, no education - hate overpowers you and you hate the people who did this to people you loved.


Armed drones is terrorism.

Imagine for a moment that drones were flying over the US and at anytime may strike. You don't know where or when but you are in constant fear of an attack.

Next time you go to an outdoor wedding take a moment and think about how that would feel. Do you absolutely know that everyone attending is not a 'person if interest' or even just related to one?


With that kind of argument all kind of warfare is terrorism, which means the word terrorism is redundant and useless.

Fact is we are at war with some bad people and when we do so innocent people are getting hurt - however we try really hard to minimize their numbers and one of the ways we do that is using drones.

And if you feel bad about it think this way: we try to avoid killing civilians, they use human shields.


> however we try really hard to minimize their numbers and one of the ways we do that is using drones.

Nope. That's how you minimize US casualties.

Which I suppose is an improvement compared to dumb bombs dropped by fighter jets, which could be shot down and the pilots captured.


> innocent people are getting hurt - however we try really hard to minimize their numbers

From the article:

> Sensor: Maybe just a warm spot from where he’s been sitting.

> Pilot: I was hoping we could make a rifle out. Never mind.


While it sounds compelling, such thought processes rarely drive Al Qaeda members or ISIS fighters. If you actually ask them, they say they are driven by their religion.[1] Obviously, airstrikes make it easier for them to hate us, but even if we did nothing but build schools and hospitals, they would try to kill us. This is evidenced by the fact that they behead aid workers and journalists from countries like France and Japan.

There is a huge moral difference between America and ISIS. If the US had perfectly accurate weaponry and information, they would spare every innocent life. If ISIS had the same technology, they would slaughter innocents by the millions.

Note: My comment should not be construed as endorsing the Iraq war. Armies are very blunt instruments, but knowledge of that fact is supposed to discourage going to war.

1. http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isi...


Wow, I didn't expect to find such shameless propaganda on HN. Every single sentence is factually wrong and insulting to readers' intelligence here.

If it's not obvious to someone: just read some actual interviews with radical muslims, purported reasoning by Bin Laden etc. - their reasons are always political, the US is targeted specifically because of all the death and destruction it has brought to the Middle East. Japanese "aid workers and journalists" (actually: a military contractor and a journalist) were targeted because Japan donated $100 mil. to the fight against IS (as said in the videos: http://www.newsnation.in/article/67223-is-threatens-kill-jap...), the ransom asked was $100 mil. for each hostage.

Don't believe the crappy propaganda: look for facts and then ask yourselves why the US supporters need these lies.


It's actually a mixture of both. Some extremists(particularly ISIS) firmly believe they are in they end times and are carrying out what they think scripture dictates, others are involved for the reasons you stated.


So is the US, apparently, if you're to believe the story about Bush's motivations.

> In the prelude to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush told Jacques Chirac that Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East: "This confrontation is willed by God," he told the French leader, "who wants us to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gog_and_Magog#Modern_apocalypti...


I would argue that this represents an almost trivial minority sentiment today, in contrast to a pervasive belief among IS militants and supporters.


> Every single sentence is factually wrong

You don't believe ISIS would kill as many innocents as possible? It is practically their mission statement.


> You don't believe ISIS would kill as many innocents as possible? It is practically their mission statement.

It's pointless to argue about statements containing words with highly subjective and arbitrary meanings like "innocents". Were the employees of the TV station the US bombed (with good precision and information!) in Serbia "innocent"? Of what crime were they guilty if not? The US apparently thought they weren't innocent. Who are we to claim the people brutally murdered by the IS are - to the IS - "innocent"?

The IS kills Japanese citizens because their government is "guilty". The US kills women and children because their high-tech drones aren't good enough and their information seems to be bad. Or so they've been saying for years, while still consciously deciding to use these weapons to said effect. While both are morally wrong, the latter is also disingenuous and not worthy of a civilized nation. It's the consequence of trying both to enforce the "right of the strongest" and to attempt to claim a moral high ground.


> Who are we to claim the people brutally murdered by the IS are - to the IS - "innocent"?

If you believe the West and IS are morally equivalent then you may want to revisit your worldview.


yes, US is less bad than ISIS. Still far from being good guys though


Europe works with the US on these attacks, are they evil too?


There is little moral difference in my mind between ISIS armies and Western armies attacking and killing people.


The your worldview is so devoid from reality as to be useless.


Not terrorists, but enemies.


The more degrees of separation there are between the order to kill and killing, the easier killing becomes.

This can cause all sorts of effects, including a fear of the sky itself, as can be see by the comments of this 13 year old who shortly after became the third member of his family to be killed by a drone in Yemen: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/10/drones-dream-ye...

It is also notable that the weapons used by predator drones when not just recon (as in the boingboing article) are hellfire missiles, burning innocents as well as targets.

It has been shown that "cutting the head off the snake"/killing leaders of these groups just doesn't work - ultimately since 2001 we have spent $1.6tr, killed thousands of civilians and the number of jihadists has gone from 1,000 to 100,000, with groups increasingly effective.

While an immediate threat/node is removed, the environment these attacks create leads to a multiplier effect on new nodes unless one is prepared to go for full on repression and savagery, in which case you are mirroring the enemy.

Finally the mass consumerisation of drone technology means it is only a matter of time before smaller versions are used against us, something that will cause huge levels of regulation on booming drone startups and likely wiping out of equity for many in the coming years.


But think of the opportunities for the drone counter-measures industry that hasn't been born yet.

In all seriousness, drones are tools. If you put hellfire's on them, they become quite deadly tools. However the root of the problem is not the tool, it is the people who decide to deploy the tool and the mechanisms in place that enable them to do so.

Focusing on "drone assassinations" detracts from the main storyline of "assassinations." The "drone" angle is just that, an angle.


I have been talking about this a lot with my friends. The question I raise is: when is the first private drone murder going to happen in the US and what will the implications be? There was a great ted talk on this http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_suarez_the_kill_decision_sho...

It's really not even something that's technically difficult. I am just thankful the best minds in the US tend to have plenty of healthy outlets for creativity but the situation in developing nations is not so ideal.


> when is the first private drone murder going to happen in the US and what will the implications be?

I'm fairly certain of the outcome; UAVs will be banned from private ownership.

Only the military and approved commercial organisations will be permitted to own and operate them, much as with armed aircraft today e.g. http://tacticalairsupport.com/services/our-aircraft/


Haven't seen the talk, but having just finished his Influx novel I'll have to check it out. REALLY scary how...possible...his story seemed with regards to how powerless a well-equipped/funded government entity can make someone in this day and age if you happen to piss them off. Terrifying.

That said, drone murder is an interesting concept. Given the size of drones and the many discrete ways of killing someone, you don't even need a gun at this point. Ram a small drone tipped with a poisoned needle into someone, land a drone on their roof and start a fire, etc. The reality is someone with the time and energy can get really creative and the technology is only improving.

It will be fascinating and probably not fun to watch how our police forces and government evolve to combat this as soon as it becomes high-profile enough.


...when is the first private drone murder going to happen in the US...

Can we really assume it hasn't happened already? Of course we can imagine some users of killerdeathdrones that would be proud of themselves and would want to make it clear that no person is truly safe. Other purposes would be predicated on secrecy and uncertainty. At least until they work most of the bugs out, the first drone murderers will probably stay quiet about it.


true, maybe it has already happened. I guess we probably wouldn't really know until one messed up.


When all you have is a weapon everything looks like a target.

US are being irresponsible pricks playing with guns and technology that is obviously not well suited for this kind of threat assessment.

Also $5,000 per family? Really? Even after admitting the error? The U.S. Special Forces, Military, CIA or whatever are that low on budget (hardly) or simply do not give a flying fuck?


On the other hand, in theatre, a false positive is better than the alternative for mission success. Just like anti-virus software. You're better off flagging calc.exe as a virus than letting a 'maybe' through.


We're talking about human lives here. You can't restore from backup when you make a mistake. My god, what arrogance.


That's the fatal misunderstanding.

There is no theatre.


But `calc.exe` doesn't have family/children


Is this what "mission success" looks like?


Can we seriously stop using 'drone' for both remote controlled multi-million dollar military grade weapons and quad-copter plastic toys that cost $20? It's fucking stupid.


We use 'plane' for all kinds, from toy to passenger to freight to fighter. Perhaps 'fighter drone' or 'armed drone' would be better.


Drone also implies autonomy.


The word 'drone' has existed far longer than the $20 toy. As far back as the 60s when the military was using them for target practice.


Since the drone was undetected, they could've have informed the ground patrol of the convoy heading their direction, kept the choppers in the air, followed the convoy, and acted as soon the supposed terrorists engaged. If the convoy really headed the patrol direction, they would even have intel from the ground.

The problem is that you have here a military force doing the equivalent of police work. They are on war mode, shoot first ask later, be on the "safe" side, which is incompatible with how you're supposed to work when you have civilians everywhere.

If civilian casualties mattered as much to high command as troop casualties (and it should, not only for humanitarian reasons, but also political), the decision making would be different. The US has one of the best military in the world, they have the technology and the means to avoid collateral damage, what they lack is a change in culture if they're going to act as a peace force.


I was a bit disappointed not to find any thoughts about the proliferation of smaller, affordable drones and their potential uses in assassinating people (by criminals) in the article. It's not hard to imagine this happening sooner or later and it's scary to think about even smaller (insect-size) and more autonomous (no RC operator nearby) gadgets and their potential effectiveness.

How many years till a robotic fly can release a drop of poison in your mouth while you're sleeping? 30-40?


I was also disappointed the article was not about personal drones being modified to kill. It's going to happen, sooner rather than later.


Having seen a video[1] of a drone armed with a paintball pistol (and its precision), I would say that it will be much sooner than expected. Despite the fact that I'll probably be put on a watch-list for saying this, it would be the perfect crime. There would be no weapon left at the scene (provided the drone returns to its base), as well as no DNA samples. Anyone who could rig and pilot such a drone would probably be smart enough to leave minimal evidence related to motives, purchases, etc.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jplh7uatr-E&t=138


They already are deadly. Those spinning blades can do a lot of damage to a person. Just check drone forums.

All instances that I could find were accidents. So far.


I estimated 10 years until poison killer drones are wheeling beneath my ceiling light. - I wrote it 2 years ago on my website http://hashsign.co.uk/contact-stephen-winter.html#killer-dro... . (Already in 2009 I looked ahead fruit fly drones dropping plutonium in nasal cavities. http://hashsign.co.uk/notmute/20091129-hans-henny-jahnn.html... ) But yes, 30-40 years is more likely.



this is the question to be asking - it's only a matter of time. I think the only way to fight it is if the good guys are smarter and create the tech to protect us from these potential murders just like our immune system protects us from intruders


This is not the question to be asking. Not at all The robotic fly question describes a future danger of unknown magnitude. We, western societies, must ask the same question the article hints at: How can we be murdering innocents in the name of democracy? It's happening now, not in some future, it is actionable by us and it affects innocent lives both directly and indirectly.


I wasn't referring to the fly per se - but at the thought of privately owned drones committing crimes in the united states.

You are right that military use is a real and existing problem and thus clearly deserves more actual resources + action

I think the idea of this happening domestically in the US is just terrifying. I know that's a selfish thing because we are essentially doing it to other nations but it seems like more of an inevitability than something to put off before it becomes a problem.


This is slightly unsettling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUSMpCckEbY


It's also an advertisement for a Call of Duty game.


I know, but it is actually viable with current technology.


Well, sure, but with major caveats. That quadrotor would never work, there's no way it could carry a machine gun and much ammunition with a battery powered motor. Not to mention the problems of recoil in a (relatively) frictionless environment, telemetry, etc. It would look a lot more like the MQ-8 firescout, which is a hell of a lot bigger/louder/expensive than that. A small drone like that carrying lethal weaponry and being effective is still a ways off.


There is unfortunately no way out of this mess. Every war makes new combatants to kill, and every war enriches the military-industrial complex. Now there are new enemies to kill, and new lobbying to justify killing. This creates more enemies, and enriches the defense industry further. And so on and on it goes.

This country is fucked.


This is being done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and probably other countries too - the U.S. is at war and no-one seems to have approved it or noticed. Personally I think it's terrible strategically as well as morally, and most of the regimes being backed by the policy are dubious at best. This will not end well.

https://mobile.twitter.com/dronestream/tweets


In the article: "Bizarrely, the technology was less efficient than the Taliban’s."

From BB comments: "Actually people are shocked because this isn't what war has always looked like. Never has so little personal risk on the part of the invaders been accepted for the privilege of killing people in another country."


Daniel Suarez has a nice, fictional, book about a world where drones are used for targeted autonomous assassinations.

http://thedaemon.com/killdecisionsynopsis.html


Jon Evans (writer at Techcrunch) also wrote a novel with a similar plot (it was a sequel of a previous book called Invisible Armies that dealt with hackers) which you can download for free:

http://www.feedbooks.com/userbook/24466/swarm

I enjoyed both Swarm and Kill Decision.


> Families of the dead ultimately received $5,000 each, plus one goat.

What the hell am I reading?


I was looking for the prison sentences for the war criminals who committed the murders, but obviously there were none. Every character in that story belongs in a cage.


Disgusting, cowardly and counter productive.


Families of the dead ultimately received $5,000 each, plus one goat.

Unit cost of the MQ-1 Predator: $4.03M

Program cost, as of 2011: $2.38B


It's not long until US wars are fought entirely by remote.


Yes government Drones are a problem! They can kill anyone.


More drone bashing, despite the fact drones are less likely to hit innocent people than manned aircraft, because drones can study a target for extended periods of time, where manned jets have just seconds.

Edit: from the amount I've been down voted, I'm guess you'd be perfectly happy if a manned jet killed innocent people.

If you continue drone bashing, you might succeed in making them use drones less frequently or even stop their use completely, but this will not stop wars. Instead they will use manned aircraft and manned helicopters to do the job, and they kill MORE innocent people than drones.

So please, stop and use your brains for 5 miliseconds before down voting. If you have problems with civilians dying in wars, you have a problem with wars, not a problem with drones. Getting rid of drones will increase the numbers of civilians dying.


In one report, "Attempts to kill 41 men [using drones] resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November [2014]." http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/24/-sp-us-drone-... .

25 innocent deaths for each enemy kill? Is that really enough to justify "less likely" as a defense for drones?

In any case, as hizz pointed out, this specific report is about an attack where the information was gathered by drone, but the killing done by manned helicopters.


This article is somewhat unclear as it makes no distinction as to how many of those killed were militants. It's portrayed simply as either high value targets or "unknown", implied as civilians.


It is the OP who has made a statement about innocence, and implied that it's meaningful to make a comparison. The Guardian article sets a baseline as otherwise we're just flapping jaws.

Another baseline is to declare that all males of military age in a given zone are be definition enemy combatants. (Or that all people living in a city which contributes war materiel to the enemy are enemy combatants.)

The Guardian says "An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men" and "17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children". That's about 150 children. I'll presume that these children were not militants. So how about the baseline of saying that for every 6 militants we kill, we also kill one child?

It doesn't really matter though. The questions are 1) does the use of drones improve the baseline (the OP's argument) and 2) does it really make a difference to argue the issue, or draw a distinction? (my argument).


I think it's worth making the distinction among the people killed in addition to the target. These guys aren't just sitting alone in some hut, nor are they exclusively surrounded by innocent families. They're on top of a hierarchy of militants.

I say this worth knowing because even if we assume these were all 100% innocent civilians, this rate of collateral damage is far better than has ever been achieved in an armed conflict. That is not to justify this behavior or say it isn't shocking or disturbing, but it's statistical truth and it shouldn't be ignored.


We don't know these numbers. The US government uses numbers with a horrible baseline, or at the very least, one that is very different than used for previous wars. In the recent ISIS bombings, for example:

> Washington also continues to insist it cannot confirm a single noncombatant death from more than 1,100 airstrikes against Islamic State targets — despite a number of apparently well-documented cases of error or collateral damage in both Iraq and Syria. - http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/12/03/pentagon-in-denial-about...

As that Foreign Policy article describes, the numbers from the US government are not believable.

I know that you are over exaggerating when you say "this rate of collateral damage is far better than has ever been achieved in an armed conflict" because there have been had wars with no casualties at all ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodless_war ).

Even in wars with casualties, the first Gulf War had some 3,500 civilian casualties in Iraq, and about ~25K military casualties. That's 1 civilian killed for every 10 military.

The numbers in the recent Guardian article are 1 civilian killed for at least every 6 enemy combatants, if you assume that only the children are non-combatants, or up to several innocent civilians killed for each enemy combatant if assume these were all 100% innocent civilians. Hardly "far better than" the first Gulf War.


> I know that you are over exaggerating when you say "this rate of collateral damage is far better than has ever been achieved in an armed conflict" because there have been had wars with no casualties at all ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodless_war ).

I'm not sure why you even included this. Of course we're talking about conflicts where there is bloodshed.

> Even in wars with casualties, the first Gulf War had some 3,500 civilian casualties in Iraq, and about ~25K military casualties. That's 1 civilian killed for every 10 military.

The first gulf war was against an organized military and it lasted for roughly 4 months. It wasn't a long term occupation with ISAF essentially playing peacekeepers within the country. The US basically destroyed most of the Iraqi military and then withdrew after a peace agreement was struck.

The Iraqi military the US faced during the invasion in 2003 was a shadow of its former self, and during the occupation obviously they were fighting an insurgency. It's a terrible comparison. A more suitable example might be the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which is similar in many important respects, but the doctrine followed by each military was vastly different. The Soviets killed indiscriminately during their occupation. Their strategy was generally to seek out and kill every person in the direction from which they were shot at. This very article shows that there are multiple levels of approval that must be sought before the order to kill is given. Obviously, it has flaws, but it's not even in the same ballpark was the "conventional" way of doing things.


You said "has been achieved in an armed conflict". That's an exaggeration because 'armed conflict' is so very broad, and includes bloodless wars. You've qualified it now with "has been achieved in long term occupation by peacekeepers." I agree that if you narrow the definition enough, you can make it be correct.

(I should have included the Falklands War as a war with few innocent/non-combatant civilian deaths compared to military deaths. Argentina lost 649 people as part of their military force, the UK 255, and three Falklands civilians died, from friendly fire.)

There's little need to look towards Soviet occupation for a comparison. We did long term occupations of the Dominican Republic (1916-1924) (http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a491390.pdf is the best document I found on the occupation; most other references are to the 1965-1966 occupation) and Haiti (1915-1934), which was publicly described as a mission to 're-establish peace and order'. We also controlled the Philippines from 1902 to 1946. There was insurgent opposition in all three places. By comparison, the US response in Iraq is indeed much better than General Smith's order to "KILL EVERY ONE OVER TEN" as part of the American atrocities in the Philippines.

In any case, when you talk about long-term peacekeeper forces, you need to include things like the UN peacekeepers on Cyprus, who have helped prevent sectarian conflict between ethnically Greek and Turkish Cypriots. And done so with very few casualties. (Go ahead and add another qualifier, in that the UNFICYP has only 1,000 people.)

But put all that aside. When you write "this rate of collateral damage is far better than has ever been achieved in an armed conflict" ... how do you know? How do you measure collateral damage? Whose numbers do you trust, and why?


Send doctors, schools and money and not drones and people around the planet will love, not hate you. Very simple to understand.


Or they'll chop off their heads on camera, but hey, same difference.


That's literally a better use of the brain. But for some, it seems the "use of the brain" is turned off when is not about their own convenience.

I hope that were different


In this case the strike was actually carried out by attack helicopters, not the drone. The main point of the article is to highlight the poor communication between the various different groups involved in the operation and the overall ignorance of everyone involved, despite many hours of surveillance by the drone.


We need to understand that these death planes save lives: https://medium.com/matt-bors/yemen-bombs-yet-another-wedding...


You make it sound like that was an absolute truth. In what ways did the killing of those children and women in the main article save lives?


I think it was supposed to sound like sarcasm.


See the link for more information!


This is true until Turkmenian drones are hunting and killing not-innocent Americans in Kentucky.




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