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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Killer Robot Alert: Obama Edition 

Well, he said he'd do it and now he's done it. On Friday 23 January, US President Barack Obama ordered two unmanned drone aircraft to bomb a pair of villages in Pakistan's unstable Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Okay, so this is the region where Bin Laden is supposed to be hiding. There have been raids by the Pakistani Taliban into Afghanistan, killing people there. And militants from this area are probably responsible for the murder of Benazir Bhutto. But I'm against these attacks.

For one thing, our smart bombs aren't as smart as we'd like to believe. We always hear from our official sources that we take out The Bad Guys and the bombs only fall on the heads of Those Who Deserve It. But as Juan Cole points out in his excellent piece in Salon (you really should read the whole thing):
Pakistani sources disagreed over whether there had been any foreign fighters at all at the second target, with locals claiming that 10 family members, including women and children, were the only victims. Villagers in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt sometimes rent to the Arab fighters because they are sympathetic to their struggle, but sometimes they just need the money.
Cole makes two other important points:
  1. Pakistan's President Asaf Ali Zardari (Bhutto's husband) is trying to keep a very fragile government together, and he all but promised the people that the US drone attacks would stop when Obama took over. If we keep this up, he may lose his grip and extremists might gain political power — with the end result of nuclear weapons in the grip of a militant anti-US government.

  2. I'll just quote Cole: "[Obama] may find, as Lyndon Johnson did, that such military operations take on a momentum of their own, and produce popular discontents that can prove deadly to the military mission." Not to mention the thousands of people who would die along the way.
This week Democracy Now! had an interview with Pakistani scholar Sahar Shafqat, who had some important points to make.
I think a lot of disillusionment has set in, because there were hopes that there would be some kind of policy correction, policy change, and that appears to not be the case at all.
I don't have answers about what should be done in that part of the world, but I don't like the idea of US foreign policy coming in the form of killer robot airplanes.

Also: Pakistani tribal members — Get some SpellCheck for your banner!


And now for something completely different: A report from 1981 about new technologies that allow you to read the newspaper on a computer! WOW. (It takes two hours to download.) via RobotArm MonkeyBrain.

Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!