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(Oct. 13) -- During the George W. Bush years, the CIA knew that the tribal regions of northwest Pakistan were a haven for al-Qaida and the Taliban. And yet the CIA once went eight months without bombing these regions with its unmanned drones, for fear of reprisal from the locals.

Contrast that with President Barack Obama. Last month, these same unmanned planes bombed five targets a week in tribal Pakistan. The attacks, the U.S. government argues, are working; reports have shown that al-Qaida's senior management in Pakistan has basically been wiped out, including one of Osama bin Laden's sons and the terrorist who orchestrated the Heathrow bombing plot. But many Pakistanis hate the U.S. involvement and counter that the majority of the dead are civilians.The Pakistani media reported that 700 civilians died from drone attacks in 2009 alone.



James L. Harper Jr, AFP / Getty Images
Unmanned drones like this Air Force MQ-9 Reaper bombed five targets a week in Pakistan last month.If that's the case, then Brian Williams' study should, well, shock and awe. Williams is a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and the author of a work, out this month, that argues that the civilians in these tribal regions actually favor the drone attacks.

"I went into this study with an open mind. I didn't know where the data would take me," Williams tells AOL News. "And what I found is that the people [in those regions] are in some sense rooting for the drones."

Since terrorist groups took over the largely autonomous northwest regions of Pakistan, they've imposed a strict, fundamentalist law, closed all-girls schools and executed those who dared to voice their opposition. "The Taliban and al-Qaida have turned their back on the Pakistani people," Williams says. So he went to work with a Pakistani colleague, devising a survey that asked hundreds of these civilians what they thought of their lives and the CIA drone attacks.
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The study concludes that 52 percent of respondents felt the strikes were accurate; 58 percent thought they did not cause anti-American sentiment; 60 percent felt militants were "damaged" by the strikes; and 70 percent thought the Pakistani military should carry out its own strikes against the terrorists. The civilians in the tribal regions "see the drones as their liberator," the study says.

Though his poll is in stark contrast to another recent published work that showed overwhelming displeasure from tribal residents with the drone attacks, Williams' contribution seems to jibe with a third study, released earlier this year, that looked at the accuracy of the drone attacks. That study says that in 2010, one civilian dies for every 10 militants in Pakistan. By extension, then, the civilians are pleased.

"Look, I'm not defending the drones," Williams says. He just hopes that studies like his can move the discourse "into this gray, middle zone."
 

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IDK, seems to me that flying unmanned aircraft into sovereign nations, and slaughtering their women and children will probably bring us more grief than burning a koran... :huh:
 
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