Sunday, February 24, 2013

Measles and drones

The widespread use of drones is outstripping the public debate.  Policy wonks are creating ludicrous white papers justifying the use of drones whilst the public argues  over gun control, immigration reform and the economy.

Case in point,  Michael Kugelman, a senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, has written this surreal explanation for Pakistan's protests against the use of drones;

"In Pakistan, there is much ire over civilian casualties. Reliable figures are highly elusive, though many cite the data of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Early this week, the BIJ was projecting that up to nearly 900 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013.

That averages out to about 100 per year — a sizable number, and, from a humanitarian perspective, 100 too many.

 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."

So it is okay to use remote controlled killing because it results in fewer deaths than measles?  Yes, according to Mr. Kugleman.  He goes on;

"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. Bad water also takes the lives of 30,000 Karachiities each year. 

 Widen the lens geographically, and you’ll find that more than 130 Pakistanis nationwide perished from measles in January 2013 alone. Or that 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)."

A comparative lack of protests over poor sanitation versus a foreign nation killing your citizens is the worst "apples to oranges"analogy.  What a smug, condescending and dangerous supposition.  We can kill with drones because it results in fewer deaths than measles or dirty water.  Isn't this how Europeans justified that taking of lands from Native Americans?

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine wrote a blistering criticism of Kugelman's article;

"It's been amazing, watching the histrionics and mental gymnastics some people have resorted to in their efforts to defend this infamous drone program. Extralegal murder is not an easy thing to manufacture consent around, and the signs of strain in the press have been pretty clear all around." Rolling Stone

The Obama administration has decided that the expanded use of drones is good and that's that, no arguments will be allowed.  Even if those criticisms come from one of allies in the war on terrorism (Pakistan).  We should be very vigilant that the policies governing the use of drones are not crafted by the likes of Kugelman.

No comments: