In campaigning for the Presidency, Obama made it clear that he thought that much of the violence and hatred directed at Americans was self-inflicted -- ie our often ham-fisted, aggressive interventionism in the affairs of other countries, frequently backed by military force, was aggravating the world against us. If we stopped, the violence against us would stop.
I rate this as partially correct and partially naive. As the richest state in the world, one whose culture pours into other countries to the dismay of many of the local elites, we will always earn the ire of many. But we certainly have made it worse with our actions.
But this just makes it all the more frustrating to me to see Obama's continued support, even acceleration, of the drone war. I am not sure there is any other practice that emphasizes our arrogant authoritarian militarism than the drone war. Americans are not used to a feeling of helplessness, so it is perhaps hard to fully empathize. But imagine the sense of helplessness to watch American drones circling above your city, drones you can't get rid of or shoot down, drones that lazily circle and then bring death from above almost at random. I can't think of any similar experience in recent western experience, except perhaps the V2 rocket attacks on London in WWII.
The Obama Administration claims that these are clean, surgical tools without any collateral damage. They do this by a rhetorical slight of hand, essentially defining anyone who is killed in the attacks ex post facto as being guilty.
As is often the case with government activities, it is worse than we thought:
Via the British group Reprieve comes a report asserting that U.S. drones in Yemen and Pakistan kill 28 "unknowns" for every intended target. What's more, "41 names of men who seemed to have achieved the impossible: to have ‘died,’ in public reporting, not just once, not just twice, but again and again. Reports indicate that each assassination target ‘died’ on average more than three times before their actual death."
So much for the precision of drone strikes, which promise a future of war in which civilians and other forms of collateral damage are spared ruin and destruction. As President Obama said in 2013, by "narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.”
Well, sort of. From the Reprieve report:
As many as 1,147 people may have been killed during attempts to kill 41 men, accounting for a quarter of all possible drone strike casualties in Pakistan and Yemen. In Yemen, strikes against just 17 targets accounted for almost half of all confirmed civilian casualties. Yet evidence suggests that at least four of these 17 men are still alive. Similarly, in Pakistan, 221 people, including 103 children, have been killed in attempt sto kill four men, three of whom are still alive and a fourth of whom died from natural causes. One individual, Fahd al Quso, was reported killed in both Yemen and Pakistan. In four attempts to kill al Quso, 48 people potentially lost their lives.