Villagers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen already know it, although the people on the ground near American drone bases in Somalia and Ethiopia are still blissfully unaware of it—Barack Obama is the uncrowned king of the killer drone. In Iraq, ordinary men and women scan the skies nervously for the telltale metallic shimmer, wondering whether they are being simply surveilled from above, as promised, or targeted by Hellfire missiles. Ditto the Iranians, who recently downed, and promptly displayed to the world, an RQ-170 Sentinel, launched into Iranian airspace by Uncle Sam.
According to the Washington Post, “When Obama was sworn into office in 2009, the nation’s clandestine drone war was confined to a single country, Pakistan, where 44 strikes over five years had left about 400 people dead. The number of strikes has since soared to nearly 240, and the number of those killed, according to conservative estimates, has more than quadrupled.”
The New America Foundation tabled the findings to reflect the carnage in Pakistan by presidency. Between 2004 and 2007, when Genghis Bush reigned supreme, America killed 112 Pakistanis. The total number of Pakistanis eliminated by drone between 2004 and 2011 was 2,680!
The POTUS’s growing fleet of armed Predators and Reapers is operated by both the CIA and the Military’s Joint Special Operations Command, each, evidently, with its own Kill List, and all under, “a complicated web of overlapping authorities.”
Illicit in the natural law— and dubious in the eyes of international law experts—these covert intelligence-cum-military operations derive legal justification from murky domestic laws passed by previous presidents and perfected by this one’s legal advisers.
Still, during his hour-long video “Hangout” on the social networking site Google Plus on January 31, a barefaced Barack Obama denied that his armed drone offensive in northwest Pakistan had claimed many civilian lives. By then, the Washington Post had outed the administration (albeit a little admiringly), estimating the number of civilians murdered by the teleprompter-guided drone who occupies the White House at between 1,350 to 2,250. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, cited by Antiwar.com, seconded these latest findings, and named each one of the hundreds of civilians, “including at least 168 children.”
On Google, Obama was sticking to his guns. “Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties,” the president insisted. How many innocents has Obama been willing to write-off as acceptable collateral damage? For every one militant assassinated, 15 civilians are murdered.
Little Shakira is the poster child for Uncle Sam’s outreach in the region. Obama’s smug, self-satisfied accomplices who cover for him in the media see nothing obscene about the angle taken in covering the travails of victims such as Shakira. The child, reported London’s Daily Mail, “was burned beyond recognition by a U.S. drone and left for dead in a trashcan. … She was found by a medical mission team two years ago and was described as ‘lucky’ by staff as two other children found with her were killed by the military attack.” “[B]rought to the U.S. from her home in Pakistan,” the girl’s American surgeons patched her up.
Or sort of, because, as you can see, not much remains of the small, charred face.
That’s the least we Americans can do, wouldn’t you think? But, no; a new caregiver named the victim Shakira. That’s thankful in Arabic. Evidently, this dolt thought the little girl should be grateful that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put little Shakira together again.
“What the hell are we doing to these people” would be a healthier reaction at the sight of this waif’s face. American exceptionalism, however, fuels a different reaction. When they bring their viewers stateside perverse snapshots from America’s war games, the networks are tapping into a pervasive and primitive sentiment among the public. It goes something like, “Aren’t we amazing for patching these poor people up,” never mind that we blew their faces off in the first place. And, “Hey, this is fun. Let’s smash ’em up so we can experience the self-congratulatory highs that come with putting them back together again.”
Princeton’s Joyce Carol Oates captured the US’s appetite for destruction (if not its addiction to sentimentality highs):
“[T]ravel to any foreign country,” Oates wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in November 2007, “and the consensus is: The American idea has become a cruel joke, a blustery and bellicose bodybuilder luridly bulked up on steroids…deranged and myopic, dangerous.”