• The Strongest Argument in Favor of Drone War EVER?

    Surrounded by family and friends, Ellen Saracini (center)  and her two daughters Brielle (left) and Kirsten (right), attend a funeral mass for her husband, Victor Saracini, the pilot  of United Flight 175, which was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.  (Photo credit: TOM MIHALEK/AFP/Getty Images)
    Was her husband worth saving?

    Here on No Cross No Crescent, I have laid out my reasons for my approval of the US drone strikes against suspected terrorists and Islamist militants, and have faced scathing criticism over it. And while I do not make the claim that I have never made any mistakes in the back and forth, the main points remain: that drone strikes have been an effective way of stopping the terrorists, and that their opponents claims (such as, their violating of the international law, or the huge number of civilian casualties, or their supposedly “helping” the militants by encouraging more people to join them for revenge) simply don’t hold up under close scrutiny. A review of some of these arguments can be seen here.

    But just recently we may have come across the strongest argument in favor of this practice. What if Bin Laden had been killed before 9/11 was planned? Would 9/11 still happen? We will never know. We do know a few things for sure, though: that he went into hiding precisely because he considered his favorite lifestyle (cave life) too dangerous, for fear of drone strikes; that he remained obsessing with attacking the American homeland throughout his years in hiding; and that the only reason he did not organize them was that fear of detection made communication and planning too slow and inefficient for him. So it is entirely possible that if he were not in the picture, 9/11 might have been prevented.

    And was the chance to take him out missed? I appears so. And the way we learn about this is so odd, it almost sounds conspiratorial.

    The day before the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, former President Bill Clinton told a group of businessmen in Australia that he “could have killed” the man behind those attacks, Osama bin Laden, in 1998, but he decided against launching a strike out of concern for civilian casualties. [Emphasis added]

    It’s a startling and tragic bit of irony that remained hidden until Wednesday, when Michael Kroger, the former head of the Liberal Party in Australia, released the audio during an interview on Sky News. Mr. Clinton knew he was being recorded, but the audio was never released because Kroger said he’d forgotten about it until last week.

    Clinton was speaking to Kroger and about 30 other businessmen in Melbourne for a paid gig on September 10, 2001, when he was asked about international terrorism.

    “I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden – he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him – and I nearly got him once,” said Clinton, who’d departed the White House earlier that year. “I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

    The 9/11 Commission Report, released in the aftermath of the attacks, documented the proposed December 1998 strike on Kandahar, noting that the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised the president against launching cruise missiles at bin Laden and his associates. Officials were concerned about residual damage, including the roughly 200 to 300 civilians who could have been killed by such a strike.

    Well yes, that would have been tragic. And I have addressed this objection before:

    The only objection to the drone war that I find persuasive is the unintended victims. It is true, and it is heartbreaking. I truly wish that it could be avoided. Yet there is something important to remember here. These casualties could not have been avoided by sending in an armed force to capture the suspects. In the tribal areas where the suspects are sheltered, sending in a police or army unit to capture them would inevitably lead to a battle, and that would also cause unintended caualties. As much as I am disturbed by the fact that women and children are killed by drones, I can’t help asking the question: who is more to blame here? If the cowardly terrorists hide behind civilians to escape justice, shouldn’t they at least get part of the blame for such horrible outcomes? 

    Much as I hate to admit it-what we are dealing with is a game of numbers, and not by choice. The coward militants hide behind civilians, forcing inaction on us for fear of killing 300 people abroad-only to end up with 3000 dead at home. Except that they cannot count on this kind of inaction any longer. We had to learn our lesson the hard way.

    Image credit: CBS Chicago

    Category: Secularism

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