In last Sunday’s New York Times (Feb. 21, 2016, Sunday Review, The Case for Drones), he salutes predator drone warfare as a cornerstone to the destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and radical Islam around the globe by reliance on quantitative of pseudo-quantitative measurements. The retired general boasted that predator drones have shriveled the “enemy’s bench,” and forced the enemy’s leadership into a crouch. As partial proof, the general asserted that in the last seven months of the Bush administration, an escalation in drone use had killed 18 senior and midlevel Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. (He neglects to define “senior” or “midlevel” leader, which implies that he defines them in the manner of the Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity: “We know them when we see them.”
Contrary to the retired general’s quantitative measures, drones don’t work. They are not a strategy. They are a tactic that may — at best-shift the international terrorist danger from one place to another. Thus, diminished ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria are immediately offset with a spike in ISIL strength in Libya as in a game of Whack-a-Mole.
The inevitable killings of innocent civilians that mushroom ISIL recruiting explain the folly of predator drone quantitative assessments.
Don’t ask Code Pink.
Don’t ask pacifists.
Ask four former U.S. service members who participated in the Pentagon’s drone assassination programs who sport a collective experience of more than 20 years: Brandon Bryant, Michael Haas, Stephen Lewis, and Clan Westmoreland.
The four have written a letter to President Obama declaring that the drone program saluted by General Hayden has “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while serving as a fundamental recruiting tool similar to Guantanamo Bay.”
Consider the case of a 65-year-old Pakistani grandmother exterminated by a predator drone while picking vegetables with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Nabila.
At a Congressional briefing, Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman, the grandmother’s son, Nabila, and 13-year-old Zubair, son of Rafiq, recounted the extermination. Contrary to media assertions that the drone attacked a car, or house, or killed five militants, Rafiq testified that its sole casualty was his mother and the grandmother of nine killed in a vegetable field. Rafiq added, “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured on that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable.”
Zubair, whose leg was injured by shrapnel in the drone attack, testified, “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey.”
Nabila’s testimony was even grimmer:
“It was the day before Eid. My grandmother asked me to come help her outside. We were collecting okra, the vegetables. Then I saw in the sky the drone and I heard a ‘dum dum’ noise. Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream. I don’t know if it was my grandmother, but I couldn’t see her. I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run. I kept running but I felt something in my hand. And I looked at my hand. There was blood. I tried to bandage my hand but the blood kept coming.”
More than 15 years after 9/11, trillions of dollars in counterterrorism measures, and an escalation in predator drone use, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, recently testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Sunni violent extremism has been on an upward trajectory…and has more groups, members, and safe havens than at any other point in history…ISIL has become the preeminent terrorism threat because of its self-described caliphate in Syria and Iraq, its branches and emerging branches in other countries, and its increasing ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.”
Our war against Islamic State is a rerun of Vietnam.
By every quantitative measure Gen. Hayden relies upon to justify our predator drone policy, we are winning as we were in Vietnam.
But by every qualitative measure that determines the outcomes of wars—the willingness to fight and die for your country or caliphate to retaliate against U.S. predator drone killings of civilians — we are losing. We would end the war against Islamic State in a nanosecond if our casualties were even a fraction of theirs.
The former CIA director should read less about Ian Fleming’s James Bond and more about human nature captured in a paraphrase of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice:
Hath not a Muslim eyes? If you prick them, do they not bleed? if you tickle them, do they not laugh? if you poison
them, do they not die? and if you wrong them, will they not
revenge? If they are like you in all the rest, they will
resemble you in that. If a Muslim wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Muslim, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you
teach them, they will execute, and in doing so they will better the instruction.