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US Predator and Reaper drones, the war on terror, and Mr. Obama

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There is a moral black hole at the core of the so called "war on terror'. It is a lack of empathy: an inability of politicians in the US and Europe to put themselves in the position of the "other', and to envision the world from the perspective of people at the receiving end of the most lethal weapons of war known to humanity.

In an article entitled "US drone attacks are no laughing matter, Mr. Obama", Mehdi Hasan in Britain's Guardian takes the president to task for the tasteless joke he made when speaking at the White House correspondents' association dinner in May. Spotting teen pop band, the Jones brothers, in the audience, the president said: "Sasha and Malia (his daughters) are huge fans, but boys don't get any ideas, two words for you: predator drones. You will never see them coming".

To appreciate the callousness of Obama's joke, one needs to look at the statistics associated with this kind of warfare, conducted by computer geeks, stationed thousands of miles from the killing zones. Those are presented in the article thus:

"According to the New America Foundation, one in four of those killed by drones since 2004 has been an innocent. The Brooking Institute, however, has calculated a much higher civilian-to-militant ratio of 10:1. Meanwhile, figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities suggest US strikes killed 701 people between January 2006 and April 2009, of which 14 were al-Qaida militants and 687 civilians. That produces a hit rate of just 2%- or 50 civilians dead for every militant killed"

Obama was elected by millions of young enthusiastic Americans who wanted him because he was different. They liked the fact that he has Muslim ancestry and probably even liked the fact that he has a Muslim middle name. People across the globe had hoped that Mr. Obama, with his background, would bring a new empathetic kind of politics to the White House following the aggressive, callous and war- oriented policies of his predecessor. To the Neocons and the right wing in American politics he will always be the "other', and as far as they are concerned he is not a legitimate president for the very reasons that progressives in America found appealing. He is now trying to emulate the swagger of George W Bush in a pathetic attempt at ingratiating himself with the warmongers and the Military-Security -"Industrial complex. Mr. President, you will not succeed.

Progressives in the US and millions across the globe feel let down by your presidency; they see you in one of two ways:

Either, as an American Tony Blair, unprincipled, self- serving, who used the progressive agenda and rhetoric to get into power, and had no conviction to carry out the programme on which he was elected.

Or, you believed in what you said, but found it too tough to stand up to the Military-Security-Industrial-complex and those powerful lobby groups who perch above politics, who seem to be in control no matter who occupies the White House.

If you belong to the latter, then, Mr. President, you have been mandated by the American people and democracy to stand up to these groups. There is still time to find the courage to steer US foreign policy in a direction that enhances the lives of the American people and millions across the globe who feel that you betrayed their trust.

Conducting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a response to 9/11, with massive loss of innocent Muslim lives, is the dumbest thing America and Britain could have done as it has acted as an effective recruiting sergeant for international terrorism. Addressing genuine grievances and injustice, believing in the universality of human rights, respect for the rule of law, and avoiding double standards in dealing with nations and individuals should become the guiding principles of America and Britain. Now that, Nobel Peace prize winner, in parallel with good intelligence and effective policing, is the moral and smart way to fight international terrorism.

As for the joke, it is outrageously callous, and I do hope that you regret making it.

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Dr Adnan Al-Daini took early retirement in 2005 as a principal lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at a British University. His PhD in Mechanical Engineering is from Birmingham University, UK. He has published numerous applied scientific research (more...)
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