The Predictable and Inevitable Blowback
Imagine that in this alternate universe, a foreign
military power begins flying remote-controlled warplanes over your town, using
on-board missiles to kill hundreds of your innocent neighbors.
Now imagine that when you read the newspaper about
this ongoing bloodbath, you learn that the foreign nation's top general is
nonchalantly telling reporters that his troops are also killing "an
amazing number" of your cultural brethren in an adjacent country. Imagine
further learning that this foreign power is expanding the drone attacks on your
community despite the attacks' well-known record of killing innocents. And
finally, imagine that when you turn on your television, you see the perpetrator
nation's tuxedo-clad leader cracking stand-up comedy jokes about drone
strikes—jokes that prompt guffaws from an audience of that nation's elite.
Ask yourself: How would you and your fellow citizens
respond? Would you call homegrown militias mounting a defense
"patriots" or would you call them "terrorists"? Would you
agree with your leaders when they angrily tell reporters that violent defiance
should be expected?
Fortunately, most Americans don't have to worry
about these queries in their own lives. But how we answer them in a
hypothetical thought experiment provides us insight into how Pakistanis are
likely feeling right now. Why? Because thanks to our continued drone assaults
on their country, Pakistanis now confront these issues every day. And if they
answer these questions as many of us undoubtedly would in a similar situation
-- well, that should trouble every American in this age of asymmetrical
Though we don't like to call it mass murder, the U.S. government's undeclared drone war in Pakistan is
devolving into just that. As noted by a former counterinsurgency adviser to
Gen. David Petraeus and a former Army officer in Afghanistan, the operation has
become a haphazard massacre.
"Press reports suggest that over the last three
years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders," David
Kilcullen and Andrew Exum wrote in 2009. "But, according to Pakistani
sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for
every militant killed."
Making matters worse, Gen. Stanley McChrystal has,
indeed, told journalists that in Afghanistan,
troops have "shot an amazing number of people" and "none has
proven to have been a real threat." Meanwhile, President Obama used his
internationally televised speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner to
jest about drone warfare—and the assembled Washington glitterati did, in fact,
reward him with approving laughs.
By eerie coincidence, that latter display of
monstrous insouciance occurred on the same night as the failed effort to raze Times Square. Though America reacted to that despicable
terrorism attempt with its routine spasms of cartoonish shock (why do they hate
us?!), the assailant's motive was anything but baffling. As law enforcement
officials soon reported, the accused bomber was probably trained and inspired
by Pakistani groups seeking revenge for U.S. drone strikes.
"This is a blowback," said Pakistan's
foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. "This is a reaction. And you could
expect that ... let's not be naive."
Obviously, regardless of rationale, a
"reaction" that involves trying to incinerate civilians in Manhattan is abhorrent
and unacceptable. But so is Obama's move to intensify drone assaults that we
know are regularly incinerating innocent civilians in Pakistan. And
while Qureshi's statement about "expecting" blowback seems radical,
he's merely echoing the CIA's reminder that "possibilities of
blowback" arise when we conduct martial operations abroad.
We might remember that somehow-forgotten warning
come the next terrorist assault. No matter how surprised we may feel after that
inevitable (and inevitably deplorable) attack, the fact remains that until we
halt our own indiscriminately violent actions, we ought to expect equally indiscriminate
and equally violent reactions.
David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at OpenLeft.com. E-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM