Obama (finally) confirms drone strikes in Pakistan

Barack Obama has confirmed for the first time that US drones have been used to target individuals in Pakistan, the Telegraph reports.

In a chat with web users on Google+ and YouTube, Obama discussed for the first time the covert drone program that has dramatically escalated under the Obama administration. Previously the administration refused to discuss the strikes publicly.

Talking down the estimated civilian casualties as a result of the strikes, Obama said: “I want to make sure the people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part they have been very precise, precision strikes against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and we’re very careful in terms of how it’s been applied.”

The New America Foundation think tank in Washington says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years, while the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates between 2,386 and 3,015 people have been killed including between 391 and 780 civilians and around 175 children killed. It is not known whether Obama is accepting these civilian death counts as not being a “huge number” or whether his own administration has much lower estimated death counts. Either way, human rights campaigners have expressed deep concern over increased use of drone strikes.

Obama has increased drone strikes since he came into presidency. The Telegraph has a video of Obama discussing the drone strikes for the first time.

Obama jokes about Predator drone strikes

Hellfire missile explosion. Quote from site: 1...

Image via Wikipedia

Hellfire Missile Explosion

Just who is the real Barack Obama? The Nobel-peace-price-winning President ordered air strikes inside Pakistan just three days after being sworn in. During his first nine months he authorised as many strikes as George W Bush did in his final three years of office. And 2010 saw the number of drone strikes rise to 115 in that year alone, equal to a drone strike every three days. According to New America Foundation, one in four of those killed by drones has been an innocent. However, the Brookings Institute estimates are much higher – a civilian-to-militant ratio of 10:1. Just remember this fact: the US is not even at war with Pakistan.

Despite authorising the ongoing civilian casualties and horrific air strikes by unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, Obama took time out last year to enjoy a dinner attended by annoying teenage pop “band” the Jonas Brothers. Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last May, Obama took the opportunity to joke about the recent drone strikes. Seeing the Jonas Brothers in the audience, Obama referred to his daughters, saying: “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don’t get any ideas”. A small titter arises from the crowd. Obama should have left the ‘joke’ here. Instead he carries on: “Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?” The crowd laughs, the dinner continues. But how can the Nobel peace prize winning President so casually joke about the attacks on innocent Pakistani citizens, attacks which he authorised, attacks which he has stepped-up since coming into office?

Since he came into power, Obama has expanded and escalated covert CIA programmes of “targeted killings” inside Pakistan. The programme, started by the Bush administration in 2004, uses Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles to bomb targets in Pakistan, often culminating in the deaths of innocent civilians. Merely the names alone should set off alarm bells: what sort of Nobel peace prize winner authorises Hellfire missiles to rain down on a country that is not at war? The drone strikes on Pakistan have been criticised by many, including the UK’s former air chief marshal in Iraq, Sir Brian Burridge, who describes the strikes by unmanned drones as a “virtueless war”. The remote-controlled aircraft are controlled from thousands of miles away – away from the violence, the slaughter, and the cold reality. Meanwhile, the next generation is being trained to use these drones through the use of video-games such as Call of Duty – modern warfare games that are all about the “killstreaks”. This is not me being cynical or satirical – games like CoD really are, in their own way, mimicking reality. Take a look at this clip from the game CoD: Modern Warfare 2. The clip is over 7 minutes long so you don’t have to watch the whole thing. Just take a couple of minutes to have a look. When you get a high-enough “killstreak” in the game, you get the option of utilising air strikes and calling in helicopters for “support”. This is as close to Predator/Reaper drones as any 14 year old kid can get, until (sorry – unless) they join the army at a later age:

Pakistani civilians are being killed by remote-controlled aircraft which don’t know the difference between man, woman or child. They don’t know the difference between “terrorist” or farmer, and the ones controlling the drones are so far removed from the “war-zone” that they cannot differentiate between friend or foe. The “virtual” reality overcomes the true reality and it just becomes another part of the game, another kill to add to the killstreak.

Obama should apologise for his tasteless joke and show some respect for the countless innocents who have lost their lives and their families through the strikes he has authorised inside Pakistan. Or perhaps he should just hand back his Nobel peace prize. It is clear that they gave it to the wrong guy.