Why Arenít Americans Outraged Over Trumpís Escalation of Drone Strikes?

There is something profoundly wrong with a society that isnít disturbed by Trumpís indifference to civilian deaths

By Matthew Rozsa

February 05, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - When I read of America bombing other countries, a line penned by former Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald comes to mind: "The worst and most tyrannical government actions in Washington are equally supported on a fully bipartisan basis."

It is striking to me that, for all of the fierce criticisms of President Donald Trump coming from Democrats, the man's disregard for the human lives lost through bombing campaigns isn't chief among them. Of course, knowing recent history this isn't particularly surprising (more on that in a moment), but the fact still merits attention.

Let's start, though, by looking at how Trump has escalated the use of military air power since taking office. While his administration has been opaque about the full sweep of his policy changes, Trump's boast of having "totally changed rules of engagement" appears to be at least somewhat rooted in truth, according to the Guardian. The president has considerably loosened the rules of engagement for bombing campaigns, and although it is unclear precisely how much they have changed, it's a fair bet that more civilians were killed in bombing campaigns in Syria and Somalia than would have been the case during the period when President Barack Obama maintained political control over those operations.

Nor are those the only two countries to experience the wrath of American military power since Trump took office. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Niger have all experienced American bombing campaigns since Trump took office, and as Foreign Policy reported, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria all saw drastically increased numbers of civilian casualties just in the first six months after Trump took office. Last month the Guardian reported that "in five attacks since July, more than 50 civilians appear to have been killed or injured. At least two involved US aircraft."

 
So why aren't people more outraged by the bloodiness of this approach to war?
"I think that there's so many things that come across the TV screens that are spectacles, that people tend to pay attention to," Lisa Ling, a former technical sergeant on drone surveillance systems who later became a whistleblower, told Salon. "But the use of these technologies to kill remotely has desensitized Western cultures to the real atrocities of war, and it's basically relegated men, women and children to be as simple as something like, say, a video game. Because of that, it's not as much of a spectacle as what we've been seeing on news media."

She added, "I'd like to say that remote killing is not a partisan issue, and so many things are not partisan issues that are portrayed as being completely partisan, and that's divisive. It divides the Americans where they're talking more about whether theyíre Democrats or Republicans than the actual issues."

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Another part of the problem, as journalist and CorpsWatch Executive Director Pratap Chatterjee told Salon, is that drone technology isn't anywhere near as precise as its supporters want you to think. As a result, while Americans are misled into believing that drones are only taking out "the bad guys," the reality is much more complicated ó and tragic.

"Letís start with the kinds of coverage that you typically see in the media or the public, how wonderful and how accurate the video cameras are and how you can see anything on the ground and you can ascertain killers from across the world," Chatterjee told Salon. "The reality is in fact quite different, because remember the average drone flies between the predator drone or the reaper drone, flies between 10,000 feet and 30,000 feet above the ground; that is between two and six miles, if my math is correct. One of the problems is how accurately are you going to be able to see with a camera thatís two miles up, even if itís zoomed in."

 
After pointing out that the military uses soldiers who come from thousands of miles away from the areas where they're bombing, Chatterjee then came up with a useful analogy to illustrate the ineffectiveness of these techniques.

"Imagine that wherever you live, there is trouble in town, there has been a serial killer on the loose and youíre worried about it and your neighbors are worried about it; would you trust your safety to a group of 20-year-old kids in rural China who donít speak English, donít know your neighborhood but have access to planes that are two miles above you and can watch and are then allowed to make decisions on their own or really, letís say, as a group," Chatterjee told Salon. "Thatís essentially what weíre doing, and I donít mean to say the group of people in rural China or rural Nevada are not literate. I just think thereís a tremendous cultural difference that is hard to bridge, and knowing kids in rural Nevada cannot actually read street signs or understand conversations in Pakistan unless they have linguist to help them who are online, and it is actually a much more complicated thing than you think."

So why aren't Democrats ó the same people rightly calling attention to Trump's immoral actions against undocumented immigrants and Muslims, or his obviously shady relationship with Russia ó not expressing similar outrage here?

I suspect it's because, while Trump may have escalated the drone wars implemented by Obama, his Democratic predecessor still has a considerable amount of blood on his hands. After all, drones were Obama's default weapon, and he significantly expanded their use during his own administration. If the previous Democratic president had cared more about innocent life and gone out of his way to protect it, perhaps his co-partisans would be willing to hold Trump accountable on this issue.
 
Then again, in an ideal world, we would stop using partisan paradigms as a replacement for sound moral standards.

This article was originally published by "Salon" -

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