Give Us Nine Leaders More

Let me explain:
from the Pakistan press:

    Lahore, Pakistan: Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians.

Fourteen “wanted al-Qaeda leaders” and 687 innocent Pakistanis — men, women and children — killed by unmanned, controlled Predator airplanes firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles with blast fragmentation warheads.

Let’s illustrate:
where x = “wanted al-Qaeda leaders ” killed (14), and * = other men, women and children killed (687)
According to US doctrine on killing people, it should be
instead of
given the dead *’s
nine more
I’ll explain.
According to the experts, it has been US policy to kill no more than 29 innocents (without higher approval) for every “high-value” person killed. So for that amount of ‘collateral damage’* twenty-three al-Qaeda leaders ought to have been killed, nine more than were actually killed. (Does the US only kill leaders? Oh well.)
Here’s an expert to explain the US policy:

    “There’s this macabre kind of calculus that the military goes through on every air strike, where they try to figure out how many dead civilians is dead bad guy worth,” says Marc Garlasco [in 2007], who knows the calculus of civilian casualties as well as anyone. At the Pentagon, Garlasco was chief of high value targeting at the start of the Iraq war. He told 60 Minutes how many civilians he was allowed to kill around each high-value target — targets like Saddam Hussein and his leadership.
    “Our number was 30. So, for example, Saddam Hussein. If you’re gonna kill up to 29 people in a strike against Saddam Hussein, that’s not a problem,” Garlasco explains. “But once you hit that number 30, we actually had to go to either President Bush, or Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.”
    Garlasco says, before the invasion of Iraq, he recommended 50 air strikes aimed at high-value targets — Iraqi officials. But he says none of the targets on the list were actually killed. Instead, he says, “a couple of hundred civilians at least” were killed.

If the calculus is macabre then how would one characterize the arbitrary killing of women and children?
Incidentally, Marc Garlasco is currently the senior military analyst in Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Emergencies Division. He works in conflict zones where he assesses compliance with the Laws of Armed Conflict, focusing on weapons and military force.
It might have been worse (and if reporting were accurate, we would probably learn that it was).
from Human Rights Watch (caution, Garlasco at work) Mar 26, 2009:

    The US and NATO have taken steps in recent months to reduce civilian deaths, including the issuance of a tactical directive urging “proportionality, restraint, and utmost discrimination” in the use of firepower; making the greatest possible use of precision systems; having on-scene commanders make every effort to confirm that targeted houses are not sheltering civilians; and minimizing the use of deadly force in “escalation of force” procedures. Despite these commitments, there were continuing civilian casualties through the beginning of 2009. Following the influx of additional troops this year, there is even greater potential for civilian deaths with increased military operations.
    The occurrence of civilian casualties does not necessarily mean that there has been a violation of the laws of armed conflict, but any loss of civilian life can have a profoundly detrimental effect on the local population. Further efforts are needed to minimize civilian casualties. The use of high levels of military firepower in operations to kill or capture mid-level Taliban commanders has frequently resulted in civilian casualties that carry a high cost in terms of public opinion, often for limited military gain. When making proportionately assessments for such attacks, weighing anticipated civilian loss against expected military gain, US forces should consider the relative ease with which insurgent groups have been able to replace mid-level commanders.
    Human Rights Watch urges the US to (extract): Avoid carrying out airstrikes without an adequate Collateral Damage Estimate (CDE).

Got that? Human Rights Watch says there has been an issuance of a tactical directive urging “proportionality, restraint, and utmost discrimination” in the use of firepower . . .and bombers should do an adequate Collateral Damage Estimate before killing a bunch of Pakistanis.
And here’s a deep insight: “Any loss of civilian life can have a profoundly detrimental effect on the local population. . .that carr[ies] a high cost in terms of public opinion.”
Perhaps the US ought to consider Pakistan’s position on the killing of its citizens?

    Pakistan objects to the strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and the civilian casualties they cause enrage villagers and whip up support for the militants.
    But the United States has brushed off Pakistani complaints. U.S. commanders say eliminating militant enclaves in northwest Pakistan is vital to success in Afghanistan.

Whipping up support for the militants is supposedly against US military doctrine, according to General Petraus’s ballyhooed army Field Manual 3-24, ounterinsurgency:

    In a COIN [counterinsurgency] environment, it is vital for commanders to adopt appropriate and measured levels of force and apply that force precisely so that it accomplishes the mission without causing unnecessary loss of life or suffering. . .Ultimate success in COIN is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force.

” Ultimate success in COIN is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force.”
Despite the obvious failure of this strategy, the new US Commander-in-Chief has ordered more drone attacks.

    As Pakistan sharply rebukes United States Predator drone attacks inside Pakistani territory, the Obama administration plans to turn up the number of those attacks in Pakistan’s restive tribal belt, according to news reports.

So while Pakistan has criticized the drone strikes, saying they are a violation of the country’s sovereignty and kill innocent civilians, and it’s against US military doctrine, the US has said they are an effective tool to combat militants in the region.
I have a few questions on this “effective tool”:

    1. This assassination campaign is a more ruthless (because of the extensive “collateral damage”) escalation of “Operation Phoenix” in Vietnam, which had questionable results. What makes anyone think it will work in Pakistan? Hasn’t the last seven years of failure been instructive?
    2. What is the basis for the belief that assassinating “high value leaders” is a successful strategy? Can’t these “leaders” be easily replaced? Aren’t the actual combatants, the occupation resisters, and not the “high value leaders”, the heart and soul of the resistance, and don’t they represent the people?
    3. Why 30:1? Why not 50, or 10, or 1, or none? (I like none, myself.)
    4. Why is a strategy being pursued that is obviously going to fail according to COIN doctrine? The US is, in effect, recruiting the resistance (see Iraq).
    5. (Anticipating Salah) What give the US the right to assassinate foreigners who have done nothing? Or foreigners who have done something?
    6. How about Pakistan’s position regarding the killing of its citizens? What are they, chopped liver?

I wouldn’t have brought this subject up if the US had killed nine more wanted al-Qaeda leaders.
P.S Do you think Israel Aerospace Industries might ever sell their drones to Pakistan, as they are to Russia?
*collateral damage — DOD Dictionary:

    Unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time. Such damage is not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the overall military advantage anticipated from the attack.

Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here and here.

12 thoughts on “Give Us Nine Leaders More

  1. Michael Murry

    Thanks for the analysis, Don, especially your mention of the infamous “Phoenix” program in South Vietnam, about which, as Frances Fitzgerald wrote in Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam:

    In 1969 the United States set a goal for the Phoenix program to “neutralize” twenty thousand NLF agents during the year, and at the end of the year GVN authorities reported 19,534 agents “neutralized.” The figure was unsettling in that there had been no corresponding decline in American estimates of NLF agents at large. Who were the 19,534 people and what had become of them?

    Without going into the gory details of that failed and discredited “counter insurgency” program, a larger and more fundamental issue relates that military/political disaster with America’s indistinguishable “COIN” analogue in Iraq and Afghanistan today. (The acronym “COIN,” by the way, means Colonial Occupation of the Indigenous Natives.”) What, after all, does our military’s unconscionable addiction to Free Fire Zones and Body Counts (past and present) tell us about what, if anything, our vaunted Visigoths have actually accomplished over the past seven years? Again, as Fitzgerald put it so well:

    The accounting system in the [American] military was the description of all U.S. actions undertaken, followed by an enumeration of enemy deaths and enemy “structures” destroyed. Most Americans in Vietnam automatically discounted the ARVN “body counts” as fabrications, but they were not so willing to admit that the American tallies often reflected no more than Vietnamese dead and Vietnamese houses ruined — if that . The system put pressure on all military men to exaggerate or falsify statistics. Furthermore, as the only “indicator of progress,” it suggested that death and destuction had some absolute value in terms of winning the war. That the enemy might continue to recruit, rearm, and rebuild (often with the help of people enraged by the American destruction) did not seem to enter into the calculations [emphasis added].

    As we ought to know by now — after seven years of counting [some] dead Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis as well as [some] of their “safe houses” and “bad wedding parties” that we have destroyed, it ought to produce nothing but a loud, raucous national Bronx Cheer for Americans to day after day read yet more and more lies, damned lies, and statistics from their government and military which mean nothing more than that the American Lunatic Leviathan has run amok — again.
    Many years ago, the unwelcome return (on steroids) of this whole sorry business about destroying villages in order to save them inspired me to start writing poetry as therapy for what I could neither stomach nor change about my hare-brained, schizophrenic country. The imagery of the mythological Phoenix — rising at intervals from its own ashes to only crash and burn again — got me started composing Terza Rima sonnets such as Dante used in his Divine Comedy and Shelly employed in his last ironic poem, The Triumph of Life. Since it appeared obvious to me that nothing would ever stop my country from repeatedly embarking on insane, self-destructive military crusades, I titled my own poem, The Triumph of Strife (now at 2,660 lines and counting). At any rate, from the opening fourteen lines of that poem:

    The Triumph of Life
    Canto I: “A Clockwork Phoenix Epiphany” (lines 1-112)
    A poet woke midway through his life’s course
    Another dreamed beside a public way
    But this epiphany comes as remorse
    That our lost war should rise another day
    A clockwork lemon, Phoenix irony,
    With villages destroyed and left to lay
    In their salvation’s ashes, newly free
    To resurrect themselves in civil strife;
    To stay and die or else to live and flee:
    Westmoreland’s choice to those who “value life”
    Less than we value ours while taking theirs
    Computing, as we do, statistics rife
    With body counts our panic-proffered wares
    We sell again our sullied, soiled affairs

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2008

  2. scott

    Thanks Don. So many angles of horror herein.
    I want to learn more about this Marc Garlasco — the senior HRW military analyst?
    His utilitarian concept of “international law” appears revolting — even as it fits so much of the neocon project, e.g., if it defends our view of lording it over the world, then it must be “legal.” Wonder if he’s ever backed off a bit at HRW? And how indeed did he get that slot?
    Reminds me too of how increasingly rare international law has become as a field of study in IR programs. (sore subject)

  3. John Francis Lee

    HRW is part of the State Department, right?
    And Obama was the first guy to “embrace” drone terror, wasn’t he?
    Which is more abhorrent, the guy with the sword who decapitates another on TV, or the (presumably) mild-mannered guy who punches the clock in Arizona, Nevada, or Langley, the flying drone who squeezes the trigger when he sees a towel-head he doesn’t like in the front yard with his family… or when he just happens to be feelin’ that way for no reason.
    The one takes full responsibility for his murders, done one at a time with blood all around, and is certainly given wide berth by everyone he meets thereafter.
    The other sits next to you in church on sunday, if you go to church. Or maybe plays through your foursome at the links. No problem!

  4. Oscar Romero

    Your questions should include something about the morality of killing people, even if they are “high value leaders,” without benefit of trial. “High value leaders” indeed.

  5. Don Bacon

    Thanks, but this goes beyond Garlasco which is why I highlighted HRW. Even more, this is part of an administration effort to silence, and even receive support from, anti-war groups regarding Obama’s AfPak war. MoveOn and the Center of American Progress have been silenced, and the Institute of Peace has been infiltrated by Pentagon Newspeak (as I have written about) which are three other examples.
    In this case the administration obviously requested a blessing from HRW for the killing of innocents, and received it in the form of last month’s letter to the President.
    So a future Pentagon press conference might go like this, in the slight possibility that a Pentagon press sycophant might have the audacity to ask any question about killing innocents:
    “Look, we do everything humanly possible to avoid civilian casualties. We have coordinated with others. For example Human Rights Watch has noted our directives with approval and has only asked that we prepare Civilian Damage Estimates which of course we do in every case.
    “No, I can’t show them to you because of security reasons. Next question.”
    A more truthful response would be:
    “Look, you pussy-pawed pacifists, this is war, and anyone in the vicinity of somebody we think might be an enemy will receive a bit of shock and awe in his or her living room in the form of a fragmenting explosive warhead. If they’re not smart enough to get out of Dodge and join the million people in tents out in the desert then it’s not our problem. Next question.”

  6. Donald Johnson

    I’ve been a fan of HRW, but they are too close to the powerful for my tastes. On the whole they do good work, but I don’t always know what to make of them.
    Garlasco himself is hard to figure out. Despite what you mention here, he has also been quite forthright about, for instance, Israeli war crimes.

  7. Don Bacon

    HRW has been quite good on US cluster bombs, too, but this is a new arena. We are talking about widespread, and increasing, targeted assassinations in an allied country which while relatively ineffective in themselves are killing significant numbers of innocents, thereby earning the wrath of our ally and the deserved attention of many observers.
    Unmanned aircraft, armed with explosive missiles, like guided missiles, are a terrible new weapon on the world scene and if the US thinks it will have a monopoly on their use against civilians in their homes and places of employment, and can use them exclusively, and with impunity, then it might be mistaken. As I pointed out, the Israelis have sold some UAVs to the Russians, China I’m sure is interested, along with its ally Iran, and what’s fair for the goose . . . Now is the time to say STOP IT.

  8. Don Bacon

    Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is in Pakistan for meetings. In a press conference, Kerry said the collateral damage in the US drone attacks was unacceptable. He pledged to report Pakistani concerns to the relevant quarters in the US on his return.
    “I am confident that people will review it carefully,” he said, but also added that terrorism did not begin after the drone attacks.\04\14\story_14-4-2009_pg1_5

  9. John Francis Lee

    Don’t flash the yellow light
    As columnist Aluf Benn put it in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, “Defense experts say that without a green light from Washington, Netanyahu and Barak will not be able to send in the air force.” Kam adds, “In my judgment, it is somewhere between difficult to impossible for Israel to do it alone, for both technical and political reasons.”
    Barack will give Israel the green light, or Rahm will do it “for him”. After the fact the US “will have no choice” but to enter the resulting war on the side of Israel.
    We need to hear Barack’s unequivocal stand one way or the other loud and clear.
    We need a lot of things and none of them are forthcoming from the regime.
    It is not our needs that are the regime’s concern,

  10. JHM

    “Nine leaders more” is all very well, but what *I* want is one poster more!
    What has become of Not-Noah-from-H*rv*rd when (s)he might be really useful?
    Neocomrade N. Feldman (Miss Naomi?) appears to avoid all discussions not explicitly about the Palestine Puzzle, whereas my own policy is pretty much the reverse. Hence I can never get the benefit of her views on this sort of disproportionality in a case where there is no cupboard love or ideological/sentimental zeal involved on her side.
    Were it the policy of the Tel Avîv government in Gaza or elsewhere that gave rise to such arithmetical disparities, doubtless she would mention various considerations unlikely to cross my own mind.
    Does she think this sort of thing is perfectly OK when non-Zionist folks do it? Or only when the USA does it? Or only when NATO and “Western Civilisation” do it? Or perhaps only when the perps (pretend to) find themselves in so-miscalled ‘existential’ danger?
    Or what?
    Even from inside the chauvinist cocoon, I should think that the question of whether there exists some general principle of acceptable disproportionality ought to be visible.

    The movement amongst some peanut-gallery peanuts to shut Not-Noah-from-H*rv*rd up is sadly misguided, in my judgment. Moreover, they might be less hostile if she were willing to discuss matters a little farther afield, matters on which it is less likely that somebody else has pre-equipped her with talkin’ points.
    Happy days.

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