Drones Create Hatred of the U.S.,
Which Is Their Real Purpose
November 24, 2012
[Also a must read for the larger historical background to these drones: Inventing the Enemy]
Pundits are perplexed. Why, they ask, does Obama carry out the drone attacks on Muslims in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen when he surely knows that the main thing they accomplish is to make more people hate the United States government and lean towards joining groups like Al Qaeda? The Washington Post reports, in an article titled, "In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes breed anger, and sympathy for al-Qaeda," that "Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States."
The drones kill a lot of civilians, often by targeting rescuers and mourners following an initial strike. A Columbia Law School investigation concludes that in 2011 U.S. drones killed between 72 and 155 "alleged civilians" and between 330 and 575 "alleged militants." But these "alleged militants" are seldom top level individuals whose deaths would substantially weaken the organizations they belong to. A Stanford Law School Investigation reports,
[T]he label “militant” also fails to distinguish between so-called “high-value” targets with alleged leadership roles in Al Qaeda or anti-US Taliban factions, and low-level alleged insurgents with no apparent access or means of posing a serious or imminent threat to the US. National security analysts—and the White House itself—have found that the vast majority of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan have been low-level alleged militants. Based on conversations with unnamed US officials, a Reuters journalist reported in 2010 that of the 500 “militants” the CIA believed it had killed since 2008, only 14 were “top-tier militant targets,” and 25 were “mid-to-high-level organizers” of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or other hostile groups. His analysis found that “the C.I.A. [had] killed around 12 times more low-level fighters than mid-to-high-level” during that same period. More recently, Peter Bergen and Megan Braun of the New America Foundation reported that fewer than 13% of drone strikes carried out under Obama have killed a “militant leader.” Bergen and Braun also reported that since 2004, some 49 “militant leaders” have been killed in drone strikes, constituting “2% of all drone-related fatalities.”
Obama, knowing that the drones don't seriously weaken the Al Qaeda-type organizations, and knowing that drone attacks in fact make it much easier for these organizations to recruit new members, nonetheless has persisted in launching drone attacks in Pakistan and has increased them in Somalia earlier this year and increased them in Yemen even after his 2012 election victory. How come? Doesn't he or any of his advisors read the Washington Post?
The explanation comes from understanding what the Soviet Union's last Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, meant when, as the Soviet Union was abolishing its communist self, he told American diplomats, "I will do something very terrible to you America--I am going to take away your enemy."
Perhaps most ordinary people would not have understood Gorbachev's remark, and would even, like the pundits who are perplexed about Obama's continued use of drones, have thought it quite bizarre. But sophisticated diplomats would know exactly what Gorbachev meant, and would understand how very true were his words. The explanation is this.
Rulers who represent the wealthy and privileged upper class of their nation, and who need somehow to make the general population obediently accept their place at the bottom of an unequal society, need an effective method of controlling their own people, and one of the most effective, time-tested methods is an Orwellian war of social control, a war whose purpose is to make one's own people so fearful of an external enemy that, with a "time of war" mentality, they will rally around the flag and, in the name of patriotism, obey their nation's rulers.
But an Orwellian war of social control requires a credible enemy. Gorbachev was simply saying that in dissolving the Soviet Union he was taking away the American ruling class's much needed Cold War enemy--a deed that America's rulers would certainly consider "something terrible."
After losing the Communist enemy America's rulers came up with the "Terrorist" enemy. The history and details of how they invented this useful enemy are spelled out by Dave Stratman in his articles here and here. To keep Americans in a war mentality there needs to be a credible terrorist enemy.
The problem for Obama, and the American ruling class he represents, is, "How can we generate credible terrorists?" One way is to support Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and its periodic violent attacks on Palestinians and other neighboring Muslims and Arabs. And another way is to launch drone attacks on Muslims. As I discuss here, Israel's violence against people in Gaza has never been, as Israeli leaders pretend, to weaken Hamas; it's purpose has been to strengthen Hamas, which every reporter on the scene, regardless of his or her political viewpoint, says has been the actual result of every Israeli attack on Gaza.
Likewise, all serious scholarly reporting on the drone attacks finds that they strengthen the organizations that the U.S. government claims it is trying to weaken.
But this is not paradoxical. Not at all! This is how rulers rule over their subjects. This is how one wages an Orwellian war of social control. Now you can join Gorbachev and the sophisticated diplomats in understanding what the pundits (at least the ones employed by the corporate-controlled media) have so much difficulty (feigned or otherwise) grasping, namely why the U.S. government keeps doing things that accomplish the opposite of its stated goals, over and over and over again. Is it insanity? No. It's hard, cold, rational behavior for a very immoral end.
Postscript: Here's yet more evidence that the drones create more enemies than they kill, in The Atlantic. (It's too bad the CIA hasn't been able to figure out how to read articles in The Atlantic, or else they, like you, dear reader, would understand that drones are counter-productive.) Hmmmm, is it possible the CIA can read such articles? Does the CIA like what the drones actually accomplish?
Postscript February 16, 2015: Glenn Greenwald observes here that U.S. military intervention in Lybia and the results (which were predicted by him and others) demonstrate that:
"What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the West’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the West. It was the invasion of Iraq that ushered in “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and ultimately ISIS. It has been the brutal, civilian-slaughtering drone bombing of Yemen which spawned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that country. As Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged, the U.S. helped create Al Qaeda itself by arming, recruiting and funding foreign “Mujahideen” to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (“the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”). And now it is the NATO intervention in Libya which has laid the groundwork for further intervention."
The problem is not that America's leaders are failing to accomplish what they want to accomplish. The problem is that we have leaders who want to accomplish exactly what they are in fact accomplishing, exactly what Greenwald says they are accomplishing. They deliberately create enemies in order to maintain their Orwellian War of social control.
Postscript November 20, 2015: Former U.S. drone operators say strikes feed Islamist militancy
Postscript July 23, 2016: A reader kindly sent me these very informative sources about American drones: