America is waging a “campaign of terror” against the people of northwest Pakistan, said Glenn Greenwald in Guardian.co.uk. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from a detailed new report, produced by the law schools at Stanford University and NYU, on U.S. drone strikes in the region. The report—based on on-the-ground interviews—found that up to 881 civilians, including 176 children, have been killed in drone attacks, despite the Obama administration’s insistence that collateral damage is rare. Locals live in constant terror, never knowing if a Hellfire missile will be fired at the person next to them in the market or mosque. “Drones are always on my mind,” said a father of three interviewed for the report. “It makes it difficult to sleep.” Tormenting this population isn’t making America any safer, said Robert Koehler in the Chicago Tribune. We’re only whipping up anti-American fury—74 percent of Pakistanis now consider the U.S. an enemy—and creating more recruits for terrorist organizations.
But do we have a better alternative? asked C. Christine Fair in NYTimes.com. The only other way to keep al Qaida terrorists and Taliban militants from creating a safe haven in this lawless, tribal region would be to launch a massive ground offensive. That would cause thousands of U.S. and civilian casualties. Indeed, previous Pakistani military operations there displaced up to 4 million people, and devastated the fragile agricultural economy. “Drones may not be desirable, but they are the best option at least in the tribal areas.” Besides, the new report suffers from serious bias, said Joshua Foust in TheAtlantic.com. An advocacy group opposed to drone strikes did some of the interviews, and the civilian casualty numbers are undoubtedly inflated. Surveys by the Community Appraisal and Motivation Program, a Pakistan-based research group, consistently find that “the most pressing security fear among residents is bomb blasts by terror groups, followed closely by the Pakistani military.” Very few ever mention drones.
Like it or not, drone warfare is here to stay, said Kevin Drum in MotherJones.com. “Republicans are in favor of anything that kills more bad guys.’’ Democrats want to show they’re tough on terrorism without putting more boots on the ground. “Drones have become stealth weapons both politically and technologically.” In Washington, at least, “everybody is in favor of them.”
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