Is The Drone War Finally Being Questioned? (Spoiler Alert: Not Really)

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Pater Tenebrarum of Acting-Man blog,

The ethical problems associated with the US 'drone war', as well as the enormous blow-back potential it harbors are seemingly finally rousing Congress into asking questions. It  would surely be a case of 'better late than never', but one should actually better not get one's hopes up:

“Are drone strikes creating more enemies for America than they are killing extremists? That’s the question at the heart of new bipartisan legislation aimed at requiring the executive branch to issue an annual report detailing the combatant and civilian death toll from missile strikes by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles.


Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, a frequent critic of “war on terrorism” policies, introduced the “Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act.” The goal? Find out who is dying in drone strikes.”

(emphasis added)

After hundreds of civilian deaths and the enormous help they have reportedly provided to Al Qaeda's recruitment drive in the regions concerned, it may indeed be time to wonder 'who is actually killed' by US drone strikes. The problem is especially acute in Yemen:

“According to Ibrahim Mothana, a Yemeni youth activist, “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair .” During the latest escalation of violence, Yemeni bloggers have claimed “there is more hostility now in Yemen against the US because of these attacks”. Even Robert Grenier, a former CIA station head, has said that the US’ policy in Yemen runs the risk of turning the country into a "safe haven" for al-Qaeda.”




"At the moment, the US is the worst and most feared enemy,” a Yemeni-born blogger known as Noon  told  me over email. “The US drones have claimed the lives of many more people than al-Qaeda. While al-Qaeda targets military personnel in Yemen, the US drones kill arbitrarily without differentiating between civilians and so called ‘militants’.”


One of the main attractions drones hold for the US is that they allow them to wage war remotely, thus avoiding the loss of life to military personnel and the domestic ill-feeling back home that comes with it.”

(emphasis added)

Gee, who would have thought that people might actually resent getting killed indiscriminately from afar? The 'blow-back' often arrives with a considerable delay, but if ever Yemeni terrorists immolate themselves in a strike on Western civilian targets at some point in the future, it is probably quite certain that 'hating our freedoms' won't be on their list of motives.

As one might imagine, US drone strikes are not exactly winning any popularity contests. Below are the results of a Pew survey showing 'drone approval rates':



This was the state of affairs as of July 2013. Those finding themselves on the receiving end of drone strikes not surprisingly like them least. We would bet that if indeed only militants were killed by drones, these survey results would look a lot different – via Pew Research.


Nothing Will Change

Further down in the report on the new legislation, we learn that although it 'might be useful' to learn what effects the drone strikes actually have, nothing is going to be done about it anyway. The proposed legislation will almost certainly land in 'file 13':

“But while Obama called in a speech in May 2013 for an overhaul of the law at the core of the “war on terrorism,” lawmakers say there is zero appetite ahead of the 2014 midterm elections for any sweeping changes.


“Drone strikes are sort of a resolved issue on Capitol Hill,” said Micah Zenko, a drone warfare expert with the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t see how this (bill) passes,” Zenko said. “These are CIA operations that are covert by definition. You cannot acknowledge or describe them in any way. I don’t see how they could disclose this.”


Asked about this potential obstacle, Schiff said the bill “doesn’t require identification of any agencies that may be involved, it doesn’t require that specific incidents be identified, only the raw counts at the end of each year.” Still, he acknowledged, “it’s going to be a tough legislative pathway.”


The human rights group Amnesty International USA endorsed the bill. “The White House approach to drone killings has been ‘trust us,’ but that’s untenable,” Steven W. Hawkins, its executive director said. “Instead of responding with generalizations to our documentation of potentially unlawful drone killings, the White House needs to provide the data it’s apparently sitting on.

(emphasis added)

Rest assured that they will keep 'sitting on the data'. There is not a snowball's chance in hell that the White House will ever officially admit to how many innocent people have been killed and maimed in the drone war. It is in fact a good bet that its own knowledge of the casualties is far from perfect, similar to the drone strikes themselves.

Not surprisingly, the 'intelligence community' has 'little appetite' for drone war disclosures. And of course they assure us that it's all good, with the CIA's Mr. Brennan providing a moment of unintentional hilarity with his apodictic certainty that drones are 'mitigating the threats to the homeland'.  Since they are helping to create thousands of fresh recruits for the jihadists via 'collateral damage', one may be forgiven for doubting this assertion:

The intelligence community has shown little appetite for Schiff’s proposal, which he previewed in a Feb. 4 House Intelligence Committee hearing with CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.




Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat on the committee, asked Brennan whether signature strikes might be motivating people to join extremists groups, effectively increasing the threat of attacks on the United States.


“From an intelligence community perspective, we're always evaluating and analyzing developments overseas to include any counter-terrorism activity that we might be involved in to see what the impact is,” Brennan replied. "And I think the feeling is that the counterterrorism activities that we have engaged in with our partners — we the U.S. government broadly, both from an intelligence perspective as well as from a military perspective — have greatly mitigated the threat to U.S. persons both overseas as well as in the homeland.”

(emphasis added)

Contrary to Mr Brennan's statements above, the threat has probably not only not been mitigated, but has been made a great deal worse. 20 or 30 years ago, Westerners could travel to most of the countries in which the drone wars are taking place without having to fear a thing. These days it is at best a coin flip whether one will survive such a trip unmolested or end up abducted or killed. Some 'threat mitigation'!


It's Better to Fight them with Coca Cola

In principle there is nothing wrong with taking measures against terrorists. Even though one man's terrorist is quite often another man's freedom fighter, the non-aggression principle should always apply. Whatever traumas the medieval throwbacks manning the jihadi groups believe to provide justification for their actions cannot excuse their killing of innocent people.

However, the same principle must apply to those seeking to defend themselves against the jihadists. In what way does killing a supposed 'Al Qaeda leader' from afar justify the killing of countless innocent people in the process? Note here that the US is often not even sure whether the intended targets are guilty or not (and hence deserving of being killed, which is debatable even if guilt could actually be established beyond doubt). After all, they are not subject to a trial, but are simply picked at will. Consider for instance this report on a drone strike in Yemen last year:

“The strike, which took place in the southern province of Lahj, targeted a vehicle as it traveled "on a mountain road late on Saturday evening,"  Reuters  reported. The vehicle was "believed to be carrying arms and its occupants were suspected members of al Qaeda."

No senior al Qaeda operatives or leaders are reported to have been killed at this time. The identities of the two al Qaeda operatives who were killed have not been disclosed.”

(emphasis added)

In another words, not only is no trial required,  but not even anything  remotely resembling definitive evidence. As the above example demonstrates, all it takes for a killing strike is for a vehicle to be 'believed' to be carrying arms, and its occupants to be 'suspected' of being members of Al Qaeda.

Admittedly, there may at times be a fine line between what constitutes justifiable defensive action and aggression. However, the fact that there is plenty of so-called 'collateral damage' (the euphemism for 'killing perfectly innocent people who simply happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time') by itself clearly makes drone strikes unethical. They are in definitely  conflict with the values allegedly defended and promoted by Western democracies. The people in the countries targeted are no doubt acutely aware of the hypocrisy involved.

Let us remember that the proper weapon to fight Marx was always Coca Cola, not nuclear arms. It is exactly the same with radical Islamists. They can probably never be defeated by force of arms – on the contrary, it appears that fighting them with drones is like adding fertilizer, as it swells rather than diminishes their ranks. What will defeat them is ultimately the economic advancement of the countries harboring them at present. Islamic terrorism is a reactionary phenomenon – a rearguard fight against modernity if you will. In   a way the jihadists are fighting a battle they have lost before it even began. However, it appears as though the US is hell-bent on continually providing the movement with a new lease of life, whether it is by invading Iraq or fighting the 'video game war' with drones.

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TeamDepends's picture

If a drone crashes in the woods

it makes the sound of an NSA harumph



SmilinJoeFizzion's picture

If Janet Yellen farts in the woods and nobody hears it... I bet a few squirrels die in their tracks

0b1knob's picture

The whole drone killing metadata collecting secret government agency thing is sort of the plot of the new Captain America movie.   Along with the fact that the US government of today has been taken over by the same fascists that ran the Third Reich.

Interesting movie although not really that good.  Too many plot holes.

Stackers's picture

" Micah Zenko, a drone warfare expert with the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t see how this (bill) passes,” Zenko said. “These are CIA operations that are covert by definition. You cannot acknowledge or describe them in any way. I don’t see how they could disclose this.”  "


Well Mr Zenko, of the Rockefeller globalist cabal, all they have to do is stand up on the floor of the US Congress and they can "disclose" anything and everything they want with zero threat of prosecution.

NoDebt's picture

OT:  Yet another dead banker.  Wife and daughter paid the price too, this time:

knukles's picture

For every action there is a dead banker .... no... er whatever...

AssFire's picture

Hitting the beehive with a stick is what we do. What could be more infuriating than another country 4000 miles away killing people in your country??

The US oftentimes had to pay the "Taliban*" to attack our forces just to keep the interest up- the Taliban were happy  & winning the waiting game. This droning policy is nothing more than a recruitment tool to help fill the ranks against us. Its just not a good show when only 1 team shows up.


*Taliban- bad guy army created by the CIA to be an excuse for conflict- see terrrerrisst.

indygo55's picture

I thought the CIA was Al Qieda. Why would we kill our own operatives. Did they go rouge? Just doesnt make any sence.

Normalcy Bias's picture

Many of them are probably into cross-dressing, but I'm thinking MSSRS Schiff and Jones had better stay away from tall buildings...

Mr Pink's picture

Why can't we just start building our own drones? 

We accuse every member of Congress, the CIA, the NSA and the potus of working with Al Queda and then light them up

We have plenty of evidence and when we get asked if it was right, we just say "they should have been more responsible"

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Tyler, it would be cool to post an article, showing who the  drone builders are.

E.g. start with the Prime Contractors (e.g., Boeing, Lockheed Martin...) who build the drone from the subsystems; and then the subsystems builders (communications, optics...).

JuliaS's picture

Look, there's even a who's killing and who's getting killed by drones chart! How cute!

Van Halen's picture

Obama bombs brown people back into Democracy!

Leaping Lizard's picture

After hundreds of civilian deaths and the enormous help they have reportedly provided to Al Qaeda's recruitment drive in the regions concerned, it may indeed be time to wonder 'who is actually killed' by US drone strikes.

What's not to like, dudes?  It's boosting our al Qaeda / al Nustra recruitment drive in Syria.  How do you say, "Be all you can be, Liver Eaters"  in Arabic.

Taint Boil's picture



If I was a “terrorist” I would just take out transformer / substations and knock out the electrical power grid; it would probably bring US to its knees for a year, you could probably do it with a handful of guys. I am actually surprised it hasn’t already happened, I mean with all the “terrorists” all over the world you would think there would at least be a handful here – no? Say one out a million people here in USA is a “terrorist” that would mean 300 bad guys running around ….. Hmmm nothing yet. I believe more people are killed from falling television sets than terrorists – google it.

I assume also that the bad guys can just walk across the border of Mexico if they wanted to. Long story short – I myself have gotten past airport security in Hermosillo without showing my passport to get on the plane (to buy the ticket yes). Imagine what you could do with some money behind you. Remember folks: They hate us for our freedom so I assume Mexico hates us too and most could be easily swayed for a few bucks.

Note to NSA:


Fuck You.


I am not a terrorist.


I clicked on that porn site by accident.

Hold on a second, someone is at the doo…<snap>

But seriously all joking aside, the whole fucking world knows that the NSA monitors everything you do. Do they really think the bad guys are going send their plots and their bad guy stuff over the internet, email, etc. …. Are they really that fucking stupid? Oops door again [talking in back ground] no I’m not interested in nail guns at this tim……<snap> <snap> <snap> …..<snap>

Sorry, had to rant

90&#039;s Child's picture


Only real terrorists are the ones governments create.

JuliaS's picture

A better name for terrorists would be "retaliators" or "blow-backers'.

Van Halen's picture

If I were a terrorist I'd just stand back and let the terrorists running the US politics, banking, media, and entertainment do their thing. Why try to horn in on the action and get your own guys killed when the best of the best are so successful at it already?

post turtle saver's picture

here it is boys and girls... the US electrical grid...

you're gonna sit there and tell me a handful of guys is going to take all that out? hell, the nanosecond they try that shit on ERCOT they'd have more armed Texans on their heels faster than you can say "yee haw"

let's keep it simple... if it was that easy to do, _someone would have done it by now_ - thus, it's not easy to do


Uncle Remus's picture

Or all the dominos aren't in place.

Gohn Galt's picture

If I was a terrorist I would do whatever the UN/USA Agencies paid me to do

McMolotov's picture

Just watch the documentary "Dirty Wars" to find out if our targeted assassinations and droning are actually helping or hurting.

Paraphrasing one of the people interviewed in the film, "We get a list of targets, and once we're done with that list, someone hands us a new list — only this time it's longer than the last one."

90&#039;s Child's picture


Watching that video now
VERY informative it's unfortunate that NOTHING is done bout prosecuting those responsible.

Ignatius's picture

A good criticism of the film by Douglas Valentine:

If you prefer a podcast with Valentine:

Good film as far as it goes, but it's not far enough.

medium giraffe's picture

The Incredible Adventures of Mr Obama and Team JSOC. 

I only wish that Hell was real, that they might all burn in it.

90&#039;s Child's picture

Hell? Yeah not happening. But one can only hope these fuckers get gaddafi'd

813kml's picture

The doc was a good watch, it's pretty scary the capability and latitude given to JSOC.  The evil A-Team.

I'm sure that they've been skulking around in Ukraine for quite some time.

medium giraffe's picture

Skulking? I bet they're balls deep.

One And Only's picture

I have a hard time understanding the outrage over drone strikes. I'm not a proponent of drone strikes but....what's the difference between a drone strike and a tomahawk missile strike? We've been doing those for 20 years and no one seemed to give a shit.

I think "drone" just has a negative connotation. If they were called "excelsia strikes" I'm sure no one would care.

post turtle saver's picture

there is no difference other than a bunch of whining from people who thought they'd be going to heaven killing the enemy, only to find their ass getting destroyed by fucking robots flown from halfway around the world

it's the usual loser talk from ankle biters who found out they bit off way more than they can chew... I've learned to ignore it

JustObserving's picture

It is completely insane that 61% of Americans approve of drone killings as they might easily be the target next (apart from the ethical revulsion from slaughtering people without a trial or even proper identification). How many wedding parties do we have to drone before we disapprove of drone strikes?

Obama droned a 16 year old American two weeks after his father had been droned. And here is Obama's justification:

How Team Obama Justifies the Killing of a 16-Year-Old American

The answer Gibbs gave is chilling: 

ADAMSON: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor.

GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

Again, note that this kid wasn't killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment

Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent — hardly “precision.” American officials vehemently dispute these figures, and it is likely that more militants and fewer civilians have been killed than is reported by the press in Pakistan. Nevertheless, every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.

shovelhead's picture

Think of it as gardening.

Sometimes when you're dead heading flowers you occasionally nip a few unwanted buds.

Roses...people...same thing.

lakecity55's picture

Add Gibbles to the growing War Crimes list.

Cattender's picture

Don't Drone me Bro..

Took Red Pill's picture

I think the US is deliberately trying to incite these people in Yemen & Pakistan and other countries in order to disrupt things, cause chaos, and give a reason to invade and take out regimes. Control through chaos. Gotta keep fighting this war on terror (by creating more terrorists)

bh2's picture

War is a racket, just as Major General Smedley Butler (USMC) wrote. It doesn't matter where the war is or with whom as long as it keeps "defense" budgets fat with government pork.

Yen Cross's picture

   The same syrup used to produce "Coca Cola" is used for other nefarious reasons?


djsmps's picture

Huffington Post readers overwhelmingly approve of drone strikes.


Van Halen's picture

"Huffington Post readers overwhelmingly approve of drone strikes."

Agreed! Since the last six years of them have been by Obama and the Democrats and the HuffPo crowd is almost 100% Liberal and pro-Obama.

Not in our name!

No war for oil!

Stop bombing brown people!

War is not the ans-



WHO is in charge now? WHO'S running wars all over the world from the safety of the White House? WHO bombs brown people on a whim and spies on American citizens? WHICH party has been primarily in control the last six years? WHO has been in charge while there's been a record death toll of American troops in Afghanistan?


dexter_morgan's picture

Exactly. Funny how all those liberal sensibilites and compassion fall to the wayside when its their douchebag doing it.

Hannibal's picture

The nation state war scum hide behind their patsy AG Holder's concocted "legal shields".

Just because its "legal" doesn't mean its ethical.


lakecity55's picture

I think Bath House and Out House both qualify as War Criminals.

new guy's picture

But while Obama called in a speech in May 2013 for an overhaul of the law at the core of the “war on terrorism,” lawmakers say there is zero appetite ahead of the 2014 midterm elections for any sweeping changes.

You  don't want to stop the slaughter innocent men, women and children because it might affect your election chances??? Please remember, the NSA may be watching us, but the entire world is watching you!

shovelhead's picture

I'll bet the stenciled "The Wedding Crashers" on the side doesn't help endearing them to the end users.