Former US general warns of “tremendous resentment” of drones
January 21, 2014
Former US commander General Stanley McChrystal has warned that the US’s controversial drones programme creates “a tremendous amount of resentment” among “helpless” people in the areas it targets. McChrystal’s last post before retiring was overseeing NATO forces in Afghanistan, where drone strikes feature prominently in operations.
Asked by the BBC’s flagship radio programme Today what the future was for drone warfare, McChrystal talked of the dangers of seeing the drones programme as “antiseptic”:
“There’s a danger that something that feels easy to do and without risk to yourself, almost antiseptic to the person shooting, doesn’t feel that way at the point of impact. And so if it lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there’s danger in that.
“And then the other part is there’s a perception of arrogance, there is a perception of helpless people in an area being shot at like thunderbolts from the sky by an entity that is acting as though they have omniscience and omnipotence, and you can create a tremendous amount of resentment inside populations, even not the people that are themselves being targeted, but around, because of the way it appears and feels.
“So I think that we need to be very very cautious; what seems like a panacea to the messiness of war is not that at all.”
McChrystal’s comments come just days after a Yemeni delegation to the United Nations admitted it has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of trauma caused by US drone attacks in the country is so high.
The former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan joins a growing number of critics of the drone programme from the US military, intelligence and diplomatic establishments:
Robert Grenier, who was Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, recently asked: “how many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them [?]”
Meanwhile, the former US Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, has warned that “the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones.”
Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at legal charity Reprieve, which represents civilian victims of drone strikes, said: “For a former commander of General McChrystal’s reputation and experience to be speaking so forcefully on drones is damning. By terrorising populations in places like Yemen and Pakistan, drones create a breeding ground of resentment against the US and its allies. It is high time President Obama heeded the warnings of just how counter-productive the covert drone programme is, and put a stop to it.”
2. General Stanley McChrystal was speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. The programme can be accessed on the BBC website: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01q8v2y
3. Robert Grenier’s comments can be found at the Al Jazeera website: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/201251071458557719.html
4. Nabeel Khoury’s comments can be found at the website of the Cairo Review: http://www.aucegypt.edu/gapp/cairoreview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=443