Monday, June 28, 2010

Drone Zone

A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness,

a desire to kill, to torture,
to smash faces in with a sledge hammer,
seemed to flow through the whole group of people
like an electric current

--1984, George Orwell

Number nine, number nine,

number nine, number nine

--Revolution 9
, The Beatles

Earlier this month we were provided the happy news that another #3 was gone:

"Amid environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and diplomatic disaster in the Mediterranean comes this piece of welcome news from western Pakistan: Al-Qaeda
confirmed that its No. 3 leader, Mustafa al-Yazid (also known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri), was killed in an unmanned drone strike last month" (Drones Take Toll on al-Qaeda leaders).

But why would anybody see this as Good News, sufficient to counteract the grinding destruction of the Gulf that we euphemistically call an
environmental disaster, as though another unfortunate but unpreventable happening like a hurricane? Sure, we killed another guy with a towel wrapped around his head and the media is ecstatic -- but meanwhile, back at the ranch, we still have high unemployment, failing mortgages and myriad other serious issues supposedly eclipsed by a useless drone-induced death.

Who are we kidding: ". . .al-Yazid was, by some counts, the 10th
third-ranking al-Qaeda leader killed since Sept. 11, 2001, while Osama bin Laden (No. 1) and Ayman a'-Zawahri (No. 2) Ayman al-Zawahri remain at large. Individual deaths do not summate to victory; there must be identifiable goals associated with the carnage. The purpose of war is not to kill, but to kill with a purpose.

It is doubtful that that the al-Qaida of 2010 is the same organization that executed the 9-11 attacks, since men like al-Yazid may simply be fighting a defensive battle against foreign invaders. Ranger lacks the intel to definitively state this, but numerous indicators suggest this is a reasonable assumption.

"Since 2004, U.S. airstrikes have killed 15 senior and 15 mid-level al-Qaeda leaders, plus four senior and five mid-level Taliban leaders, according to the Long War Journal, which tracks the war on terror."

"The death of al-Yazid, who acted as al-Qaeda's chief operating officer, also is the latest proof of the value of
the controversial but effective CIA program that has become the centerpiece of that strategy."

These figures may be correct, but so what? The replacement pool is adequate fill leadership voids, and nowhere do we see a cost/benefit analysis of this U.S. application of violence. It is premature to believe this program is effective; races and wars are gauged by the final outcome.

The editorial continues, "Drone attacks convey unmistakable messages: U.S. forces are always watching, and someone close to the leaders might be betraying them.
With luck, this distracts and destabilizes al-Qaeda." Luck is not a military concept, and if the U.S. is hanging it's hat on that "hopey-changey thing" -- as the inimitable Ms. Palin calls it -- we are in dire straits.

In the Vietnam War, the Phoenix Program killed 20,000+ hardcore Vietnamese Communists, yet they achieved victory. If killing the VC infrastructure did not work then, why should it work now just because we are using drones? The final outcome on the ground is the yardstick, and all the salutary Op-Eds won't change that fact.

"The strike on al-Yazid, for example, is reported to have killed his wife and at least one of his three children. The drone strikes enrage many ordinary Pakistanis, both there and in the U.S. ..." Forget Pakistan's reaction to the killing of al-Yazid's wife, kids and (unmentioned in this piece) grandkids, MY reaction is one of revulsion. Why aren't other Americans similarly affected?

The drone program is justified as "[the enemy has] no compunction about hiding among civilians." This is not a justification for accepting collateral deaths. Collateral civilian deaths are only acceptable IF the targeted al-Qaeda assets are in the execution phase of an operation and the civilian deaths are essential to kill or capture the active terrorist elements.

Killing is killing, whether done by terrorists or U.S. agents. We can only control our side of the equation, and our failure to do so will ultimately lead to our unsuccessful campaign in Afghanistan. Killing must lead to a greater good; if we do not believe this, then we are not a Christian nation (as so many of the die-hards believe), and are as criminal as the al-Qaida leadership.

The editorial falsely concludes:
"[T]he drones deliver the essential message of the war on terror: Attack the United States, and you'll regret it. If al-Qaeda is neutered and its leaders are killed or captured, others won't be eager to repeat its mistake."

Others will always be ready to
assume leadership in a struggle in which they see themselves as justified in opposing foreign invaders. Ask yourself how you'd react if the shoe were on the other foot?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"[T]he drones deliver the essential message of the war on terror: Attack the United States, and you'll regret it. If al-Qaeda is neutered and its leaders are killed or captured, others won't be eager to repeat its mistake."

I agree with your conclusion about the above statement. But I also believe it goes well beyond our being tough on leadership (theirs, of course), it's become obvious that the strategy is "Machiavellian" in it's brutality. Basically, Afghanistan and Iraq should feel lucky we've shown the restraint that we have, cuz we're straight up loco, ese.

Apparently, our leadership believes if we keep at it long enough the younger, less-uptight-about-humiliation generation will be "willing to talk about it", instead of straight wanting to set the USA on fire. Look at Japan. We're like best friends now. And we're both doing and looking great. I'm guessing that's the logic anyway.

Ultimately, it comes down to responsibility and a sense of justice. I know, those are some pretty old-school concepts, but they come in handy sometimes. Who was ultimately responsible in deciding that "certain civilians" were not worth showing restraint for? Who spent the most money in marketing the idea that these "certain civilians" were better off dead than living under those "primitive conditions"?

Sure, they rationalized it. "Hey, we did for you but we would be stupid not to take advantage of this great opportunity. You're not a Commie-Pinko are ya?" Follow the money. Those are your guys.

Monday, June 28, 2010 at 5:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Serving Patriot said...

This "war" is like so many other elements of our selfish, nihilistic, short-attention-span society today. Why should it be any different? It does great damage to our long-term future as a coherent, respected republic for a (very) short term, gratifying payoff of long-range technologically empowered killing. And, it burns through our fiscal and moral resources like a wildfire. As Butler would say, "its a racket," with the only conceivable reasons for its continuance are the vast sums of future public money mortgaged to the corporations and the complete moral collapse of our "professional" military leadership who continue to fight the hopeless fight while (seemingly) uttering nary a word.

As a nation, we desperately need to return to first principles. One of which is the avoidance of war itself. From one current vet of SW Asia, there is this recognition... knowledge that should be part of every school kid's kit bag (and every politician's as well):

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.

(Brian Turner, Sadiq)

Unless and until we can get back to the fundamentals of war and killing -- and what it does to our own selves -- we will have a difficult time ending the addiction to killing others to salve our souls. And as long as the costs are not really borne except by the few (as Bacevich pointed out this weekend), I suspect only outside (or divine) intervention will get us to stop at all.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 6:58:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

Ranger, you've highlighted the problems with the breathless revelation AQ3 was killed (again). I saw the report on Katie Couric back when it was reported a segment later was a report that the NY Time Square bomber had no real contact with AQ and received nothing from them in furtherance of his attack.

But, and this is my feeling on the upper echelons of the military, they are stuck in a line and block OOB and HVT killing whirlpool. They can't understand why removing "leadership" people in an organization would fail.

AQ3 isn't an Alfred Jodl or J.E.B. Stuart. Killing him dosen't disrupt their organization. AQ3 in Waziristan is not planning an envelopment of Jalalabad or two pronged strike towards Kabul and Mazer-i-Sharif. He's not a ninja or 37th Dan Blackbelt training 50 AQ assassins every year in the arts of lethal hand-to-hand combat, he isn't in Zurich channelling a billion here and a billion there in furtherance of an international plot to destabilize currency or fund an attack.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 8:36:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

To aLL,
After writing this art. i came across intel reports that indicated a belief that the latest No 3 was opposed to 9-11. His reasons were spot on, as he believed that the US would over react and this would be in no ones best interest.
Theirs or ours. So my question is -why would we kill a moderate who could be helpful in the future.? ARE WE SO SHORT SIGHTED?
Killing a moderate is insane and counter productive.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 8:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I read the Bacevich article and liked it.
But i must say that the things he's saying in 2010 we at RAW were saying 4-5 years ago.
His commentary doesn't seem to factor in legality or morality, he seems stuck in the professional Klausewitz mobius loop.
Regardless ,I really like his stuff.
I'm proud to have men like you as a reader and commenter,since i know how busy you must be.
My best, and i'd like to meet you someday.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 8:46:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Your comments are spot on, and i'll add ,even if we kill all of their leaders in one fell swoop we will still lose in theater.
I have a art. coming up in which i discuss wars of identity which is my new concept concerning the pwot.
Hope you get to read it and comment.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 8:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Sven Ortmann said...

"It is doubtful that that the al-Qaida of 2010 is the same organization that executed the 9-11 attacks, since men like al-Yazid may simply be fighting a defensive battle against foreign invaders."

It could be the AQ of 1988, but then there are the sources that tell about less than 200, maybe less than 100 or even 50 AQ people in AFG.

AFG is about the Taliban, the pre-2002 hosts who were hospitable to an AQ leadership that still pretended to be not involved in 9/11 at that time.

The whole AFG war is without rational purpose, of course:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 11:03:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Very well-said. Thank you for bringing that serviceman's quote.

We do not often discuss the human psyche when we discuss war, but as Ranger has discussed -- there is a disconnect between "Thou shalt not kill" and this other project.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 11:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Thanks for the link.I read it and it was cogent.BUT.
I don't believe the intel or msm articles on the connections /linkages between the AQ and the Taliban.
I'm skeptical of anything that we're told in this senseless war.
Unlike you , i do not believe that there's any logic at all in this goat screw.
If we were Enlightened then i believe that war would be the last option to deal with AQ, rather than the first.
Thanks for your participation.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 1:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

This is NOT a slam.
ISTM that you are trying to use logic in an insane scenario.
That's the problem with the anti war types like myself, we try to be reasonable in an unreasonable grid square.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 1:26:00 PM GMT-5  

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