At Least We’re Not Measles: Rationalizing Drone Attacks Hits New Low
By Matt Taibbi
Read an absolutely amazing article today. Entitled “Droning on about Drones,” it was published in the online version of Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper, and written by one Michael Kugelman, identified as the Senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
In this piece, the author’s thesis is that all this fuss about America’s drone policy is overdone and perhaps a little hysterical. Yes, he admits, there are some figures that suggest that as many as 900 civilians have been killed in drone strikes between 2004 and 2013. But, he notes, that only averages out to about 100 civilians a year. Apparently, we need to put that number in perspective:
Now let’s consider some very different types of statistics.
In 2012, measles killed 210 children in Sindh. Karachiites staged numerous anti-drones protests last year, but I don’t recall them holding any rallies to highlight a scourge that was twice as deadly for their province’s kids than drone strikes were for Pakistani civilians.
Nor do I recall any mass action centered around unsafe water. More people in Karachi die each month from contaminated water than have been killed by India‘s army since 1947 . . . 630 Pakistani children die from water-borne illness every day (that’s more than three times the total number of Pakistani children the BIJ believes have died from drone strikes since 2004).
So I’m reading this and thinking, he’s not really going to go there, is he? But he does:
I am not minimising the civilian casualties from drone strikes. Nor am I denying that drones deserve rigorous debate in Pakistan (and beyond). Still, it’s striking how so much less is said about afflictions that affect – and kill – so many more people than do drones.
The reason, of course, is the allure of anti-Americanism. It’s easier – and more politically expedient – to rail en masse against Washington’s policies than Pakistan-patented problems (I also acknowledge the deep concerns about drones that go beyond civilian casualties – like radicalization risks and psychological trauma).