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Drone Attacks: Yet Again, Terror War “Vital Tool” Revealed as Security Theater Prop

There goes another million dollar missile in the great security theater farce. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Just as we saw with the vaunted Bush-era color coded terror warning level charts that were overtly manipulated at election time and Obama-era rape-scanners that were turned off on national opt-out day, the increasing frequency of drone attacks in northwest Pakistan has been shown to be just another prop in the ongoing security theater farce directed by the US government and produced by the military industrial complex. Because drone attacks were simply “turned off” when the political pressure arising from the Raymond Davis affair got too high in Pakistan (and then turned back on when word got out), it cannot be concluded that the attacks are anything more than theater. Essential functions in a vital war cannot be turned off due to political pressure, just as essential screening practices cannot be turned off due to political pressure. Props, however, can be used as the situation allows.

Reports first started coming out on Sunday that there had been no drone attacks in northwest Pakistan since just a few days before Raymond Davis was captured in Lahore after killing two Pakistanis.  Almost immediately after those reports came out, however, a new attack occurred Monday:

A U.S. drone strike killed at least seven people on Monday in a tribal region along Pakistan’s western border, local officials said, the first such attack in a month as a diplomatic feud strains U.S.-Pakistani ties.


It is the first time since January 23 that intelligence officials have reported a U.S. drone attack, marking a resumption of a campaign that has become the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to halt militants launching attacks on its soldiers in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Washington halted the attacks for weeks to avoid further inflaming anti-American fury in Pakistan just as it pressures Islamabad to release Raymond Davis, a U.S.consulate employee imprisoned after shooting two Pakistanis last month in what he said was an attempted robbery.

Also published Sunday night was an analysis by the Washington Post revealing that although the US has dramatically stepped up the pace of drone attacks, these attacks are pitiful in terms of hitting high-value targets in the Taliban or al Qaeda:

CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two.

The article probes further into how the drone program evolved from targeting high-level operatives to the current claim of “foot soldiers” being targeted:

Experts who track the strikes closely said a program that began with intermittent lethal attacks on al-Qaeda leaders has evolved into a campaign that seems primarily focused on lower-level fighters. Peter Bergen, a director at the New America Foundation, said data on the strikes indicate that 94 percent of those killed are lower-level militants.

“I think it’s hard to make the case that the 94 percent cohort threaten the United States in some way,” Bergen said. “There’s been very little focus on that question from a human rights perspective. Targeted killings are about leaders – it shouldn’t be a blanket dispensation.”

Bearing witness to the “all war, all the time” attitude of the Obama administration, the government responds to the accusation:

“This effort has evolved because our intelligence has improved greatly over the years, and we’re able to identify not just senior terrorists, but also al-Qaeda foot soldiers who are planning attacks on our homeland and our troops in Afghanistan,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t go after people who have American blood on their hands,” the official said. “To use a military analogy, if you’re only going after the generals, you’re likely to be run over by tanks.”

During this month-long hiatus in killing foot soldiers, there doesn’t seem to have been a dramatic increase in attacks on US personnel near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan, so how can the drone attacks be as vital as the government claims?  In the meantime, the military contractors certainly reap rewards from the program, as each of the drone strikes (now at over 100 per year) costs the government over $1 million.

This ability by the government to merely turn drone attacks on and off depending on political factors puts them in the same class with rape-scanners and the color-coded terror warning system.   Those systems also have proven to be merely props in security theater, often employed at great expense to the government and to the profit of the military industrial complex.  Here is Michael Whitney on the rape-scanner:

TSA went behind Congress’s back to buy millions of dollars worth of porno scanners using stimulus money, without any evidence the machines actually work to prevent terrorism, and that may actually be harmful to people who go through the machines. And in order to force people into the porno scanners, TSA secretly rolled out “enhanced” security measures so invasive that the pilots’ union compared the process to “sexual molestation.” Rightly, people are pissed about the naked pictures and aggressive groping.


Numerous reports from airports across the country suggested that TSA had roped-off, turned off, or otherwise declined to select passengers for porno scanners before Thanksgiving.

How depraved has our government become when “analysts” in Pakistan and on US bases work together to sit in judgment on “foot soldiers” arbitrarily deemed guilty from afar and then execute them without detention and trial?  Now, heaped on that offense is the realization that all of this is for show, because it can be switched on and off depending on how much political “heat” is on the program.

And the US wonders why it is hated in Pakistan…

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Jim White

Jim White

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