If you read the international papers, you've surely noticed that a day no longer goes by without a story of "suspected US drone strikes" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes are always "suspected" because, even though everyone in the world knows about them, they are the work of the CIA's "clandestine" services, and thus officially secret. September was an especially busy time for the drones, with over 20 separate attacks reported in the media. Occasionally the US or Pakistani authorities will announce the death of a major militant figure in such a strike, but more often, it seems, America's robotic killers take innocent lives. Jason Ditz at antiwar.com puts it this way:
President Obama has made the drone strikes the centerpiece of his foreign policy, and has killed well over a thousand people inside Pakistan since taking office. The vast majority of those killed have turned out to be innocent civilians, while large numbers of others remain unidentified but classified as “suspects.”
Obviously, with so many victims to its credit, the impact of these clandestine weapons is only too visible to most Pakistanis and Afghans. But in the United States, drone warfare seems immune to the kinds of scrutiny and criticism that other elements of the president's military policy have faced. Politicians and generals in this country have long understood that the public will stand in their way if American lives are at stake; as long as the only people dying are foreign nationals, we as a people will keep quiet. This sense of safety, even from their enemies in the Republican Party, has allowed the Obama administration to develop a severe addiction to robotic warfare.
Given all of that, it should be obvious why I'm writing about AfPak policy in a blog about Yemen. Obama has already increased US military aid to President Saleh's government, and sent more covert CIA and Special Forces operatives to Yemen; the drones cannot be far behind. Right now, the American public knows almost nothing about Yemen, and is willing to believe anything about it. Aside from a few hardcore pacifists and Yemen-philes like us, Americans seem to be completely at ease with the expansion of the "War on Terror" to a new front. What this means is that Yemen will be an ideal killing ground for Obama's Predators and Reapers. American apathy, if left unchecked, will ensure that thousands of Yemenis are added to the civilian death toll that the US government touts as progress.
Obviously, the Yemen Peace Project opposes the use of drones in Yemen, just as we oppose all American military action in the country. But as the American presence grows and becomes more and more costly for the Yemeni people, we must increase our efforts to bring their suffering to the attention of the world. We'll want the help of our readers and friends, as well, to make sure that every death is counted, that the American public that funds and encourages this pointless war is forced to reckon with the true cost of their decisions.
Stay tuned for updates on this subject, and on our efforts to change America's policy toward Yemen.