Dear President Obama:
You once quite accurately pointed out how “the voices of ordinary Americans are drowned out by a privileged few in Washington”. In the spirit of this sentiment, as a father of children, and as a truly ordinary American, I feel compelled to write you a letter in this regard.
The CIA’s remote-controlled drone program, which your administration neglects to even acknowledge as real and happening, has gone from “effective surveillance tool” into being a weaponized delivery system of “targeted murder”.
In the glaring absence of a courtroom, jury, judge, or even a “commission” being tapped for officially establishing those that should be killed in such a manner, I insist that this is a decidedly “un-American” way of doing things.
I will refrain from hurling the usual denunciations of transparency, or the lack thereof, as I am certain that the realities of being Commander-in-Chief involve multiple nuances that any humble citizen could scarcely imagine – especially when it comes to clandestine operations and “the assassination game”.
But according to a study conducted jointly by New York University’s School of Law and Stanford University, a shocking 2% of “drone victims” were actually those being targeted in the first place – so for every “enemy combatant” dead, there were a whopping forty-nine others incidentally executed by the U.S. government. I fail to see how that is an acceptable rate of so-called “collateral damage”.
Reports of wedding parties and funeral processions being annihilated have become far too commonplace. If our drone operators cannot discern between those and a suspected caravan of would-be terrorists, then we must not “open fire”. Why is this not obvious?
In the wake of the Sandy Hook horror, you’ve repeatedly described our children as “our most precious resource”. Should not this sentiment extend to the children of Pakistan? Assuredly, their families are equally shattered and irretrievably heartbroken by such an unimaginable loss of innocent kids.
You are an awesome father, and as such, I know you agree that the death of even one child marks an incalculable tragedy. As of last year, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 176 children were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone. Multiplying 176 times ‘that which is incalculable’ doesn’t compute. How many children will be added to last year’s tally before we’re through?
We must draw a proverbial line in the sand, and we must find the national strength never to cross it.
As I’m sure you recall, in 2010, there was a failed attempt to bomb Times Square. Fortunately, the trigger mechanism failed to detonate, and an unknown amount of lives were spared.
The American citizen who placed the bomb there told the federal court judge he did so because "drones don’t see children". He later received life-without-parole, and rightfully so. Now, this man was well-educated, married with children and living in Connecticut at the time. There is no reason to believe there won’t be another so motivated by righteous indignation that “We the People” again become targets for wanton acts of vengeance.
Most people, myself included, viewed this aspiring terrorist’s actions as the heinous aggression of a madman, since it is inexcusable to purposely target and murderously punish civilians for the actions of their government.
The same view extended to Osama bin Laden, who killed thousands of Americans while insanely attempting to “get his point across”. And for that, you personally ordered the assault which claimed his life in the name of justice. More importantly, you did it “the right way”. You chose not to wipe the town of Abbottabad, where he had cowardly stashed himself, off the map. You had “just him” wiped off the map - job well done, sir.
In what you must have seen as “politically shocking”, Congressional Republicans were joined by the ACLU in condemning the drone-targeting of American citizens – namely Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son. Personally, I disagree with them – the killing of al-Awlaki was justified, because a terrorist is a terrorist, and a terrorist should be stopped. What surprised me was that we had not, in point of fact, gone after his son whatsoever. Instead, while aiming and killing another bad guy on another day, the son happened to be killed for having the misfortune of eating a sandwich within 50 yards of this other intended target, and thus becoming yet another “collateral statistic”.
Until the CIA can improve its methodologies as we righteously hunt terror suspects globally, I humbly recommend that we maintain drone technology for surveillance purposes only. While droning may be an effective tactic, it may ultimately prove to be a counterproductive strategy if only serving to perpetually breed further acts of terrorism against our fellow Americans.
Your administration must concentrate on leaving targeted killings to the very capable hands of our special forces units, duly trained in eliminating the ‘evils that lurk’ in a manner consistent with our collective, national sense of morality. The U.S. must service the planet as a beacon of justice, and not a purveyor of technological bullying. Otherwise, we may find ourselves becoming the very terrorists we’ve come to loathe and despise.
Joshua Reese, Citizen