Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America's Military Strategy in the Muslim World
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More information, however, has emerged about the parallel and unprecedented mass mechanized assassinations being carried out by the C.I.A. drone programs. It is clear that they have already expanded far beyond the official cover story of targeting only "high-level insurgent leaders," and are killing increasing numbers of people.
The CIA, of course, is no novice at assassination. Future CIA Director William Colby's Operation Phoenix program in South Vietnam gave South Vietnamese police quotas of the number of civilians to be murdered on a weekly and monthly basis, eventually killing 20-50,000 people. CIA operatives such as Latin American Station Chef Duane "Dewey" Clarridge also established, trained and operated local paramilitary and death squads throughout Central and Latin America that brutally tortured and murdered tens of thousands of civilians, most notably in El Salvador where CIA-trained and -directed killers murdered Archbishop Romero and countless other Salvadorans.
But the present CIA assassination program in Pakistan and elsewhere is different not only because it is Americans who are themselves the assassins, but because of the unprecedented act of conducting mechanized mass assassination from the air. The CIA, as Nick Turse has reported for TomDispatch.com, is exponentially increasing its drone assassination program:
"(Drone) Reapers flew 25,391 hours (in 2009). This year, the air force projects that the combined flight hours of all its drones will exceed 250,000 hours. More flight time will, undoubtedly, mean more killing."
There were already signs in 2009, when drone strikes were a fraction of what they are now, that they were striking large numbers of civilians and proving militarily and politically counterproductive. Most Pakistanis believe it is largely civilians who are being killed, and anti-American hatred is growing accordingly. A Gallup poll conducted in July 2009, based on 2,500 face-to-face interviews, found that "only 9 percent of Pakistanis supported the drone strikes." A Global Research study documented the drone murder of 123 civilians in January 2010 alone.
A particularly significant indication of the drone strikes' military ineffectiveness has come from Colonel David Kilcullen, a key Petraeus advisor in Iraq, who testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 23, 2009, that, "Since 2006, we've killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we've killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. We need to call off the drones."
Kilcullen's testimony was ignored, however, and as drone strikes have not only been continued but exponentially increased, there are increasing signs that they have vastly increased the scope of the killing far beyond the claimed "high-level insurgent leaders." The N.Y. Times reported on Aug. 14:
[The CIA has] broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.
Reuters reported on May 5 that:
The CIA received approval to target a wider range of targets in Pakistan's tribal areas, including low-level fighters whose identities may not be known, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. Former intelligence officials acknowledged that in many, if not most cases, the CIA had little information about the foot soldiers killed in the strikes.
What this means is clear: the CIA is assassinating an expanding number of "low-level" people, labeling them as "fighters," but has little if any idea of who they really are. The history of such mechanized campaigns from the air, such as Laos where I have studied the U.S. 1964-'73 air war intensively, is that increased warfare from the air inevitably becomes increasingly indiscriminate, destroying civilian and military targets alike. As the drone program continues to expand, it will inevitably wind up killing more civilians -- and, if McChrystal is right, exponentially create more people committed to killing Americans.