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Wedding Party Mistaken for Al Qaeda Convoy in US Drone Attack; At Least 15 Killed

Yemeni government officials said the attack took place in the city of Radda, the capital of Bayda province, and left piles of charred bodies and burnt out cars lying along the road.

Air Strike that Kills 15 Civilians in Yemen Called 'tragic mistake' -Yemeni Officials

(Reuters) - Fifteen people traveling on their way to a wedding were killed in an air strike after their party was apparently mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

(CNN/CNN International) A “top Yemeni national security official who has asked not to be named” has said that “This was a tragic mistake and it comes at a very critical time. None of the killed was a wanted suspect by the Yemeni government.”
About eight years ago a young man from Texas moved into the apartment upstairs from mine. He came to Nevada from Houston to work as a dealer in a Casino somewhere out in Henderson. In the short time that I had to get to know him before he went happily on his way back home, he was like my own personal five minutes of Fox News. As I got to know him, he said all of the typical things that Bush supporters usually said about our involvement in Iraq. He had all the talking points down. Every last one. Especially the ones about how grateful the Iraqis would be.

Someday. Eventually.

One day I finally just hit a point with him where I just bluntly asked him something that had been on my mind since the day we met. "Hypothetically, just how long would, say, China have to occupy the state of Texas before you, and every other Texan you knew, loved the Chinese Army with all of your heart and minds? When would that day arrive when you all considered them not just your role models and mentors but straight up your best friends in the world?" Then I just stepped back until Lee Greenwood was ready to weep softly into Toby Keith's arms.

"Never," he said.

The answer came as quickly as it was delivered with the expected absolute total certainty. Never? I repeated it looking as if I was a little bit unconvinced. He instantly shook his head no. What if they built new roads? No. Modern dams? No. What if they doled out money? Hells no. No matter how big a payday? Nope. "I wouldn't like them right off the bat, I wouldn't help them, and if anything happened to me or my family I would hate them more and more every day. Everything that went wrong, or they did wrong, would only make me hate them more."

Then I asked him why he would ever assume that somebody from Iraq, or anyplace else a world away for that matter, would feel any differently than a Texan would feel about being occupied and about those who were occupying his country? He said something along the lines of "well, that's different". Ah. Because they are, what, not like us? "Well, yeah. That's something that should be pretty obvious." End of talk. I don't even remember his damned name, but he was like talking to the spirit of everyone who thought Iraq was a good idea and so there is a brain file.

I remember his face and that particular conversation more and more when I think about Drones.

And piles of dead innocent people who just happened to be nearby when all hellfire came down.

If it were your dead six year old that could be poured into her grave out of a plastic bucket you wouldn't accept anyone arguing that your fallen are tragic but grudgingly acceptable losses. You wouldn't be thinking about Jimmy the Fish being a high enough value target to offset your liquified six year old. You wouldn't be thinking about how 'yes, that was awful, but why aren't these people more grateful for all the other things we do to balance out these tragic mistakes?' The only thing you would be thinking about was the cold-blooded murder of your child. Period.

And so it is in Yemen. Or somewhere in Pakistan. Or Afghanistan.

When "the tragic mistakes" due to "some faulty intelligence" arise.

Or. When things go exactly as they were supposed to go. Exactly.

And several 100% innocent people happened to be around to burn.

Think like people are basically the same no matter where they may live, what language they may speak, what God they might worship, what dwellings they live in, or what clothes they choose to wear. Imagine that a foreign government's military is operating flying death robots by remote control over your head. Imagine these flying foreign death robots in the sky have a history of killing handfuls to crowds of innocent people to take out one or two alleged monsters. Being a terrorist would suddenly be a God-Given right if some foreign power did that shit here.

You kill innocent people by mistake or to successfully get one bad guy and rage is your legacy. Worse, when we have long since forgotten how some people died at a wedding in some foreign backyard, their friends and families and co-workers and neighbors will not let a day go by where they don't remember the US drone strike that killed all of those people. The people just dancing at Muhammad and Rasha's wedding. Driving to the banquet hall. You would see your cousin Mike's son Jeffrey with his legs ripped off every night in your sleep until the day you died.

And the surviving wedding guests will never forget who murdered them.

You did. I did. We all did. At least as far as the survivors are concerned.

If a drone killed your Grandmother, or your son, or your wife, or dozens of people who you had known since you were a child yourself what excuse would make you okay with it all? What sized settlement payment? What official apology from the high command of the military or government that did the deed or from that foreign nation's closest regional Embassy would cut it? I am reminded of that kid from Texas and his words when I think about the justification for our drone strikes. Because this is, allegedly, about saving lives. Just not innocent Yemeni ones.

'It's different', I hear a ghost say with a slight drawl.

No. It is not.  

'We are saving American lives by doing it this way.'

No. We are not.

We are trading feeling like we are saving American lives right now in exchange for minting future terrorists and creating scores of people whose pain and scars might enable such evil people to hide and thrive. Because they think of a bomb going off in some airport in America as a form of delayed justice for the crimes committed against them. A transient headline today in exchange for more terrorism later. If only two or three evolve into monsters from there, we lose. If only a handful grow up to write checks, we lose. If only a few hundred come to sympathize, we lose.

The math doesn't work in our favor. No matter how conservative the numbers you use.

Even if you do get a bad guy or several lying in shreds alongside the rest in the crater.

You lose your whole family to a mistake, or you lose it to a successful mission with unfortunate but unavoidable outside casualties, it doesn't matter. You lost your whole family. Gone forever.

It's a twist on the calculation I asked my Texan neighbor. Look at your family and picture it here in a bloody pile of parts like it is there. Status as the results of a tragic mistake or a tragic "success" aside. Imagine a fire in you that no apology can douse, no spokesperson can explain away, no cash award can expunge. Every innocent civilian, from elderly woman digging in her garden to child sitting and staring out an apartment window next to the targeted apartment below, killed in a drone strike has legions and scores who will never forget what happened.

Happened to their loved one, or their neighbor, or even their countrymen.

And who murdered them. Not just our flag. Or our military. Or our government. You did. I did.

Even if you do kill the bad guy, if you create two more in the process, the nation with the flying death robots abroad is not the House in the Casino running that game of chance. That's a bust.

There have been "tragic mistakes" and "regretful incidents" and "awful accidents" since the first drone armed with a missile skimmed semi-silently across the rocky hills and mountains and shifting sands of the middle eastern nations they hunt and kill by remote control in. You kill 4 here, and 11 there, and 28 by the side of the road long enough, and, next thing you know, you are talking about a real campaign of systemic mass murder of dispassionately dismissed as "unfortunate and tragic collateral damage" with your nation's fingerprints all over it.

I have no sympathy for terrorists. I have great sympathy for anonymous slaughtered innocents.

Because we are "saving American lives" by using flying death robots to do our remote controlled killing for us, because the worst thing that can happen to one of them is that they get shot up, destroyed, or crash, it is even easier than ever to never ever hear about all these many "tragic mistakes" and "regretful incidents" and "awful accidents". The ones that have gone down, again and again and again, since the drone strikes began. We aren't saving American lives as much as we are deferring the consequences until an unseen later date. That isn't winning. Or wise.

To a child who watched his father explode into burnt meat and red mist, you are his Bin Ladin.

Every terrorist who has ever successfully murdered has does so because, at some point, somebody who could have stopped it all by alerting the authorities has made a decision not to. We focus on the bombers. The plans. But what about what leads to accepting and enabling evil? Even if you dodge a bullet and your actions don't mint terrorists directly, if your actions mint sentiments that make terrorists thriving possible? You lose. It is an act of willful delusion to imagine this happening repeatedly is saving lives and bringing stability long term afterwards.

Speed the next generation's monsters, or their enablers, or those who accept them as just.

That is easiest to see when you imagine yourself there. If it happened to you. By mistake, or by "tragic" but ultimately acceptable loss in a successful outcome. What would make it okay. As your own innocent loved ones are gathered up with a shovel to be deposited into a heavy black plastic bag. One thrust of the gore-clotted blade scraped up and out at a time. All day. If it happened in Red Red Texas or Blue Blue California being a terrorist would suddenly be a God-Given Right if some faraway foreign power came and did that shit, repeatedly, to "help" us.

Even if it is revealed in the days and weeks to come that not everyone who died was innocent, my position is still the same. Tragic mistake or total tragic success. It's a bad idea either way.

If it was done to you, to yours, you would call it a war crime. Without a pause.

I used to think that far more rigorous oversight was long overdue. I was wrong.

That's not enough. A pattern of killing innocents, men, women, and children, both by accident and by consequence, has now been well established by past events. Be it rank incompetence, a willful disregard for their lives, or some combination of both. It is clear that Drones are the 90's era Smart Bombs of the new 21rst century reborn. That far too much of the hype and hope surrounding using them to "save" lives is little more than a sick self-delusional mirage that unhelpfully clouds an embarrassing record of malignant mayhem that can only haunt us all later.

Questioning the dim logic behind this entire enterprise's corrosive mythology is long overdue.

Originally posted to LeftHandedMan on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 01:25 AM PST.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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