Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Drones and Democracy
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, August 20, 2009
With elections in Afghanistan, it might be timely to reflect on
the US engagement with that stricken nation and consider just how much
foreign intervention has contributed to the prospect and possibility of
free and democratic elections.
More, it is fitting to consider what
kind of example the US and its allies have given to the people of
Afghanistan, if they have bestowed any wisdom and guidance for a nation
facing a turbulent and uncertain future, to say the least.
initiated a sort of "shock and awe" operation in Afghanistan in late 2001,
what appeared to many as a knee-jerk reaction to September 11th, in the
midst of a half-heartedly supportive but largely bewildered American
The Bush administration gave many reasons and
justifications for that grizzly war, to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, to
defeat the newly exposed world-wide network of Al Qaeda, with its
countless numbers of active and "sleeper" cells spread throughout the
But the so-called Operation Enduring Freedom would not have
actualised without an intense propaganda campaign that once again
attempted to paint the US war as an act of liberation. To present the
deadly bombs and unforgiving missiles as such, mainstream media decried
the mistreatment and abuse of women, learning new and foreboding terms
such as "purdah", "burkah" and the like.
US public stared hunger
and poverty in the eyes on the nightly news, and the US prepared its
and enraged nation for decisive and direct action.
And so, the Bush administration and its many spin doctors taught us that
there was only one way to reform this nation, eliminating illiteracy,
advocating women's rights, improving access to food, proper educational
institutions, development, access to healthcare, essentially the hope for
a brighter future for a young generation of Afghani
children. And their
It is simply arcane to read the bantering
of mainstream US commentators these days, as they reflect on the upcoming
August 20th elections and ponder what else the US must do to "win hearts
and minds of the Afghani people". For one, might I suggest the arrest of
the use of drones in targeted assassinations of US enemies. In May 2009,
CIA director Leon Panetta
delivered a speech where he claimed that,
"(Drone) operations have been very effective because they have been very
precise in terms of the targeting
and it involved a minimum of
But the use of unmanned drones as weapons of
war has been decried as so "cruel as to be beyond the pale of human
tolerance", according to Lord Bingham, one of Britain's most senior
judges, in a recent interview cited in the Independent. "It may be — I'm
not expressing a view – that unmanned drones that fall on a house full of
civilians is a weapon the international community should decide should not
Lord Bingham's views, as those of others, are supported
by ample evidence, of weddings that turned into funerals, and funerals
that themselves turned into mass burial grounds.
regarding the success of the drones has in fact crossed borders into
Pakistan, also claiming the lives of hundreds.
counterinsurgency advisor to the US Army, David Kilcullen told Congress in
June 2009, "Since 2006, we've killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using
drone strikes. In the same period, we've killed 700 Pakistani civilians in
the same area.
Yet, the charade trudges on. Pro-US Afghan
President Hamid Karzai continues to stage his government's make-believe
democracy, although his loyalists are in continuous decline. Major media
continue to cite improvements in people's lives, regardless of
contradicting reports by the UN.
US officials tirelessly, although
unconvincingly prattle of winning hearts and minds, as bomb blasts, drone
attacks and death hover over the devastated place. Such a degrading
of human life, say nothing of our intelligence.
But the facts are
truly grim. According to a recent UNICEF report, an estimated 22 million
Afghans, or 70 per cent of the population, live in poverty and substandard
conditions. Forty per cent of children less than three years old are
underweight and 54 per cent of children under five are stunted. Over
100,000 people — most of them children and women — remain displaced by
conflict and drought.
Contrary to widespread claims of progress,
UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, says the
humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has worsened.
In fact, in
February of this year, and for the first time in seven years, the UN
launched a comprehensive humanitarian action plan to try and alleviate
even a small portion of the suffering there. A study conducted by the
American Medical Association a few years ago found that two-thirds of
Afghans over the age of 15 are depressed.
disorder was also reported as prevalent, with 41 per cent of non-disabled
persons showing symptoms. Of the individuals surveyed, 80 per cent
expressed feelings of hatred. It goes without question
statistics have ballooned with the rising death tolls that plague the
So, there hasn't been the kind of progress once hoped
for; not so many schools built, there haven't been so many hospitals
established. Hunger and illiteracy, for the most part have remained the
same if not on the incline. The refugee population continues to swell,
while delivering aid to desperately needy towns and villages becomes
But one thing cannot be disputed regarding
US contributions to the people of Afghanistan: a lot of people have been
ripped to pieces by botched drone operations, a lot of young minds have
been molded, through the tragedies that they endure and witness each day,
to distrust this notion of "democracy". This dilemma is of great concern
to the US Army.
In fact, in responding to this very problem,
National Security Adviser James L. Jones stated regarding the use of
drones in targeted assassinations, "In one mishap you can create thousands
of more terrorists than you had before the mishap".
Well, if this
is our sole concern, and if the pointless loss of life in itself is
deplored, if the suffering of the Afghans is only a point of unease when
it could potentially breed more "terrorists", then "winning their hearts
and minds" is quite simply outside the realm of possibilities.
Ramzy Baroud is an author of several books and editor of