“Did we just kill a kid?” Brandon Bryant, a drone operator working for the Air Force, realized aloud.
“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” another pilot replied.
“No. That was a dog,” someone answered via computer from a distant military command center.
Bryant’s scenario is an all-too-common occurrence in the War on Terror. Under President Obama, the use of military drones to conduct targeted assassinations against terrorists has exploded. More than 300 drone strikes have been conducted, killing some 2,500 people.
That is not even the worst of it. A recent Marine Times article ran the alarming headline “Some Afghan kids aren’t bystanders” on December 3, reporting on the death of three children in Afghanistan who were guilty of the crime of appearing to dig a hole in a road. Army Lt. Col. Marion Carrington, quoted in the article, said that “It kind of opens our aperture” that children are being used in the conflict. “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.”
Obama has authorized 193 drone strikes in Pakistan – 4 times the amount authorized by George W. Bush.
According to Global Research, over the past 4 years Obama has authorized attacks in Pakistan which have killed more than 800 innocent civilians and just 22 Al-Qaeda officers.
That constitutes at least 36 civilians per target. This is grotesquely unacceptable. Even if we accept the logic and rationale of drone strikes – which I do not – we should be shooting for zero civilians killed per target.
Worse: in August last year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism investigated the history of drone strikes in Pakistan, concluding that there have been credible reports of 168 children killed in Pakistan by CIA drone strikes over the previous 7 years. This would account for a “minimum” of 44% of civilians killed by the attacks.
The rationale for these strikes is morally flimsy. They reveal a disturbing lack of empathy for the helpless bystanders caught in an unclear conflict with no escape. While bombs drop in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Americans justify these strikes as necessary.
How could our national defense teeter on the murder of children?
Glenn Greenwald criticized pundit Joe Klein in October for his “sociopathic” statement that “the bottom line is: ‘whose 4-year-olds get killed?'”
“The problem with drones is it’s like your lawn mower. You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back,” said Bruce Riedel, an Obama counter-terrorism adviser, in the Hartford Courant in late October.
The Fourth Geneva Convention states that “children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault”; R.K. Dixit explains that “the use of the word ‘shall’ makes it a mandatory provision in the form of ‘duty’ and casts an obligation on the parties to carry out the provision in letter and spirit.” Presumably, "indecent assault" includes being targeted with a missile.
It also states that nations must respect the Geneva Convention in all situations, including the occupation of another country’s territory.
It is not enough to ask Obama to end the War on Terror.
It is time to ask Obama to publicly denounce the killing of children in the War on Terror, state in no uncertain terms that the killing of children is unacceptable, and take serious measures to ensure that children are never considered acceptable collateral damage in drone or air strikes – and especially that they are never designated as targets.