Perhaps no mass shooting made us weep as a nation more than Newtown. Something about the murder of children generates an incomparable visceral reaction; their innocence, helplessness, and the wasted potential of entire lives left un-lived. Well last month the Brave New Foundation released a powerful video, above, drawing attention to another situation in which children are being killed in a different, but no less heart-breaking way. The US drone program.
Pictures and personal information of the 178 children killed in Pakistan and Yemen flash across the screen, juxtaposed by the verbal assurances of Democratic and Republican politicians explaining the accuracy and precision of drone technology, and the lack of civilian casualties or collateral damage. But the depths to which US politicians have gone to shield the American public from the horrors of the drone program go beyond the usual duplicitous statements on mainstream television.
Abdulelah Shaye is serving five years right now in a Yemeni prison for his “association with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)”. Only problem is he’s not a terrorist; he’s a journalist. His actual “crime” was reporting on a controversial drone strike in the village of al Majala in southern Yemen in which fourteen women and twenty one children were killed, back in 2009. The Yemeni government tried to take credit for the bombing (at the request of the US government), but when Shaye investigated the site he found weapons that the Yemeni air force did not possess, and took pictures of “Made in the USA” labels.
After uncovering this obvious lie, Shaye proceeded to act as a responsible journalist and continually tell the world in a variety of media appearances that the Yemeni government was lying and that the US military was actually responsible for the attack. Eventually he was arrested, tortured, and incarcerated by the Yemeni government. But perhaps the most egregious part of this story is that President Saleh of Yemen actually wanted to release Shaye in February of 2011, and was asked not to in a personal phone call with President Obama (a terrible reminder that politics is always a choice between the lesser of two evils).
This is a difficult subject to discuss, but a critical one for the general public to understand if the scourge of terrorism is ever to be eradicated. The drone program is not entirely without merit. When used with proper discretion and deliberation, it provides a means for our pilots to target and eliminate suspected terrorists overseas, from the safety of a military base in New Mexico. But without the proper accountability, they can actually be counter-productive to the defeat of terrorism.
Think about how you would feel if one of those 178 children was a member of your family. Would you ever feel whole again? What would you be willing to do to the people responsible? The answers to these questions are the real root cause of terrorism.
Right now, Washington politicians are taking the easy way out. Rather than dealing with the issue of drone-related collateral damage, they would rather pretend it doesn’t exist, and silence anyone pointing out that it does, because they understand the depths of human empathy. They know that if what we’re doing to these innocent children were widespread knowledge, the public would demand accountability, just like they are in the wake of the Newtown shooting, and Democrats and Republicans can’t have that. They’re quite busy enough servicing their benefactors in the military-industrial complex. But until these concerns are addressed, we’re not “winning” the “War on terror”. We’re just creating more cannon fodder on both sides.