US – Pakistan – If Anti-Drone Activists Actually Care About Winning One, They Should Focus On Preventing “Double-Tap” Strikes – 18 April 2013

If anti-drone activists want to win one, I suggest they focus their efforts on the use of “double-tap” tactics. I do often wonder if the anti-drone types (I’ve taken to calling them droners) actually ever really want to win on any issue they ever take up, they seem to think being noble losers is preferable and a proof of liberal-left cred…but if they do, it seems like this is the part where they can actually accomplish something.

I can’t see any justification for the use of such tactics. A “double-tap” is a second attack on a target, which sometimes has the effect (intended or not, but very possibly intended) of killing first responders at the scene of a bombing.

One frustration I have with the droners is that they seem to have it in their head that a military response to those who have already attacked you and that have repeatedly demonstrated they wish to keep on attacking you is somehow contrary to international law. This is one of the reasons I can’t read Glenn Greenwald or any of the firebag bloggers without breaking into spots. Even when they have a good point (and I readily concede the point about the “double-taps” is a good point) they deliberately conflate that with the rest of the garbage they routinely spew.

Glenn Greenwald’s latest article in The Guardian sympathetically quotes a Guardian colleague’s view that demonstrating sympathy for completely innocent Bostonians is somehow equivalent to demonstrating sympathy for Yemeni and Pakistani terrorists. Of course that would be a fair comparison if we admit that any innocent civilians were accidentally hit, but the point of attacking sites in Yemen and Pakistan wasn’t to kill innocent people, and whoever attacked Boston had _only_ that goal in mind. In other words, I completely reject the premise of this kind of nonsense. Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing about how any compassion for Malala Yousafzai should be balanced with compassion for the Taliban who tried to kill her for wanting to go to school. That’s not balance, that’s horrific and inhuman slant.

Greenwald then continues his article by quoting Juan Cole, who thinks we should be showing similar sympathy for people killed in recent car bomb attacks in Iraq. Okay, that’s certainly not a problem, because the terrorists who killed the 42 people and injured 250 others are not even remotely connected to the United States or any of its Western allies. Greenwald thinks they are because the Iraq War apparently makes the US culpable for everything. There haven’t been coalition troops in the country for three years now. How exactly is it the fault of the US or any of its allies that these killings are occurring? What does Greenwald want, for us to send some troops to protect the Iraqis? Yeah, didn’t think so. So what is the point of such a spurious connection being made?

Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on the Greenwald piece because it basically just makes me ill. The guy is just a demagogic journalistic bully. If you think your country could ever do the right thing about anything, Greenwald is there to let you know that, no, it will always fail you, and anything you think you might do to fix things is also doomed. Far be it from him to actually do something to affect policy. He isn’t some kind of I. F. Stone, he’s Jonathan Edwards doing the “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” speech. The point is not to create change, it’s to issue condemnation.

But Gwynne Dyer I trust more than that. When he writes on this topic, I’m much more likely to credit the source – and he is extremely persuasive in this article. I commend it to your attention.

One thing that is missing even from Dyer’s article is a compelling explanation of why anyone in the US military would be _trying_ to kill first responders. More than likely that’s not the best description of things. I suspect that there is no order given to whack sites more than once, from Obama or any of the senior commanders, nor any implied green light given for this sort of thing. It’s probably more of a feature of the covert nature of the drone program and its current administration by the CIA. Most of the morally problematic policies of both the Bush-led War on Terror and what has followed have much more to do with an assumption that “they would certainly do this to us, therefore it’s okay to do this to them”. If I had to guess “why”, that would be my guess – because people in the military think those they are fighting aren’t playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules, so why should they?

The assumption that the terrorists wouldn’t observe the niceties of international law is more than likely correct, but any time Westerners respond in kind, it not only undercuts the idea that we fight for a moral purpose, but it allows propagandists (of both the Taliban and Greenwald variety) to make a case that there is really nothing different between a dictatorship and a democracy-in-quotes. It’s not about Marquis of Queensbury rules, in other words, it’s about winning hearts and minds in order to comprehensively defeat religious extremists. We can’t do that if we act contrary to our moral views, and in a way that is not even pragmatic or useful. It sends the message that we’re as much the problem as they are. And we are not.

In the time just before the war in Iraq, numerous public intellectuals argued earnestly about whether torture was a legitimate weapon to use in the War on Terror. We mock this now, but the discussion was a very earnest one. People would ask questions like “What if they had vital information, and this was the only way to get it, and thousands or millions of lives could be lost if we don’t do it?” I took those discussions seriously, myself. However, I did not reach the same conclusion. There’s never been any evidence that people will not just say anything to avoid being tortured. Beyond being morally iffy, it’s simply not effective. It doesn’t help us defeat them.

That’s how I feel about this as well. I don’t want anything I write here to be seen as a capitulation to a band of journalistic bullies I really don’t respect, and their noxious beliefs about foreign policy. But I don’t see any rationale for why this kind of attack could be justified. It makes us look like butchers instead of defenders, and as did the bombing of Dresden in an earlier war, it muddies the case for resistance to a very real oppression.

So, here’s what I would like to be the take away from this commentary, folks. If you want to move on from being a mere Greenwald droner to someone who changes US foreign policy, focus your activism on these “double-tap” attacks. They are neither moral nor effective policy. We don’t have to do it, our troops would not be in the least threatened if we didn’t do it, and doing it only confirms the world’s worst fears about Americans.

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