Retired US Army General Stanley McChrystal, who once commanded all American forces in Afghanistan, has questioned the widespread use of unmanned aerial drones in the War on Terror.
McChrystal, 58, acknowledged that drones cause seething hatred of the United States and cautioned that their overuse could threaten US strategic objectives in the ongoing terror war.
“What scares me about drone strikes is how they’re perceived around the world,” McChrystal told Reuters. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes… is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
McChrystal, the architect of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, added that drones fuel a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘We can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.'”
Drones are a tool that should be used as part of a wider strategy, the former general said, and if their use creates more problems than it solves, Washington should reevaluate the situation.
Drone strikes, which terrorize populations subjected to them, have indeed stoked widespread anti-Americanism in the countries where they occur– Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia– as well as around the world. Three-quarters of Pakistanis, for example, consider the United States an “enemy.” Drones, which Pakistanis rightfully claim are a violation of their sovereignty, are a big part of the reason why.
Perceived American disregard for the hundreds of innocent civilians killed by drone strikes also infuriates many people in affected countries. According to Pakistan’s Interior Minister, up to 80 percent of those killed by drones are civilians, and the London-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism says that as many as 1,117 civilians, including up to 214 children, have been killed by strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2004.
Last October, the United Nations announced that it would investigate US drone strikes that killed Pakistani civilians as possible war crimes.
Still, the Obama administration has dramatically ramped up its drone program since taking over from Bush in 2009. Recently, the use of drones has increased significantly in Yemen, where there were more drone attacks in 2012 than there were in Pakistan.
Obama’s newly-chosen CIA director, John Brennan, is particularly controversial, both because he is the architect of the US drone war and because he has repeatedly lied about civilian drone deaths and the anti-Americanism they breed.