Saturday, January 23, 2016

Anti-ISIS coalition bombing campaign kills mostly innocent Muslims, yet one-track mind conservatives still support it...

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Canadian Press)
I saw a great documentary over the holidays called 'Drone,' by director Tonje Hessen Schei, which was originally released in 2014.

It's a balanced exploration of the ongoing use of military drones to target and assassinate alleged jihadist threats against America.  The film makes clear that the vast majority of people killed by drone attacks are innocent civilians including children and unidentified local people who were simply near the targeted individuals when they were struck by missiles.

The film states that in Pakistan between 2004 to 2013, the CIA estimates that between 2537 and 3646 were killed by U.S. drone attacks.   (Another 1128 to 1557 people were injured.)  Of those killed, only 49 were high profile militants.  Civilians made 416 to 951 of those killed.  Children killed were 168 to 200.  Unknowns were the big majority with 1904 to 2446 killed.  

It's safe to say these numbers are similar wherever drones are being used to replace fighter jets.  Plainly, the U.S. has no idea about the identities of the vast majority of the people they've killed in their ongoing drone war campaign.   But their families, friends and neighbours did, of course.  

Drone attacks are said to be more precise than anything dropped from fighter jets.  There's no doubt that even Canada, with its six CF-18 jets dropping bombs in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq, has likely killed mostly innocent civilians with our bombs.

Reliable reports last fall have put the number of civilians killed by the bombing campaign against ISIS as high as 600.  Of course, the U.S. defense establishment preposterously refused to admit any more than 2 innocent deaths after conducting only a handful of in-depth investigations.

The truth is the bombing campaign, while having uncertain effect on the strength of ISIS, is undoubtedly creating legions of anti-West haters among the survivors. If a country bombed and killed your loved ones, would you side with them? 

As Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, puts it in the film, “Tell me how we’re winning if every time we kill four, we create 10.”

The only two recent Jihadist attacks in Canada were themselves the acts of lone wolves, one of whom admitted that Canada's decision to bomb innocent people in the Middle East was the inspiration for his actions.

The more the West continues to bomb and kill innocent Muslims using its military might in the Middle East, the more enemies we will create.  It's a vicious cycle that's seemingly lost on most conservatives who cling to their simplistic, bombastic worldview that the only way to stop jihadist terrorism is to shoot missiles at random Muslims in the Middle East.

We ought not to be surprised by the one-track mind thinking of many conservatives.  Just like they cling to their stereotypes about Justin Trudeau (still often referencing Trudeau's willingness to take selfies as somehow an indication of his lack of gravitas), they continue to cling to many other stereotypes about how to beat back the jihadist threat.

For them, the answer is always simple: keep shooting bombs and missiles at any dark people in satellite feeds who appear to be threatening us and we'll magically be safer.

They argue the only way to combat violent jihadism is with more violence.  Using our military to train and assist local armies in the fight against ISIS isn't enough to satisfy most conservatives.  They want us to be tough guys dropping bombs ourselves.   It makes them feel like men, I suppose. 

Thus has always been the conservative answer to the jihadist threat: never-ending war.   Of course, this also profits the war machine which many conservatives also love.  What's wrong with a few high-powered business elites getting richer while we build more missiles and bombs and fighter jets?

The answer: everything. 

We've tried Stephen Harper and George Bush's way and it's not eliminated the threat.  Even Barack Obama has bought into the U.S. war establishment's thinking on this and we're not safer. 

This approach of bombing mostly innocent Muslims in the Middle East is having the opposite effect: it's emboldening the enemy and making it stronger.  Even if ISIS is weakened, there's no doubt that some other jihadist variation will take its place.  Anti-Western sentiment throughout the Muslim world is higher than ever thanks to the violence we continue to inflict upon the region.

If an approach is not working, why continue it?  Why ramp it up?  For me, it simply seems that many conservatives and others who support ongoing (presumably never-ending) bombing of Muslim targets in the Middle East are willfully stupid.   Most ordinary citizens have no real idea if this approach is working; they simply take the word of their leaders that this is the only way to undermine the jihadist threat.  Politicians are anxious to seem tough to curry favour with their voters, so they embrace the international military establishment's approach to this conflict, dictated by the U.S.

Even populists like Rosie DiManno are happy to side with the bombing mission.  Here's some advice for Rosie: maybe research how many innocent people have been killed by the bombing mission in which you demand Canadians continue to take part.  Sadly, the Toronto Star's research budget probably can't handle such a task.

Where is the evidence that our bombing campaign has weakened ISIS?  There hasn't been any released.  

The better way forward is to stop what we started and pull back from constantly intervening in the Middle East for the worse.  Intervening in Afghanistan had limited success for the west although it certainly did feel good attacking that country in the months following 9-11.   But today, Canada has little interest in continuing directly in this bombing mission, apart from making some allies feel better about us.  We've only taken part in recent years as part of Stephen Harper's warped sense of world priorities and his decision to chase the nostalgic dream of Canada as an international military player.

It's clear why the U.S. wants to intervene in the Middle East as the Americans see it as their mission to maintain control over the region to uphold its own economic interests.  The U.S. has engaged for decades in this and created a fervent and violent enemy that is a real threat to Americans.  They've made their own bed and now they have to sleep in it and spend trillions to do so.  And the military industrial complex gets richer.  

But Canadians don't have to get into bed with them. 

For these reasons, I support the Trudeau government's decision to pull back our fighter jets from killing dozens of innocent Muslim civilians, as well as maybe a few ISIS fighters.  Such actions create more threats to Canadians, not less.

The Trudeau government can be faulted for its lack of a coherent message around why it's ending the bombing mission. They continue to play their cards carefully, trying not to offend their allies or undermine their ongoing efforts with statements that would undermine diplomacy.  They're between a rock and a hard place.  It would be nice if Trudeau finally started to articulate what is underpinning his policy on this.  He might find that many Canadians support him.  

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