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The Guardian reported earlier this month:

A 13-year-old boy killed in Yemen last month by a CIA drone strike had told the Guardian just months earlier that he lived in constant fear of the “death machines” in the sky that had already killed his father and brother.

“I see them every day and we are scared of them,” said Mohammed Tuaiman, speaking from al-Zur village in Marib province, where he died two weeks ago.

“A lot of the kids in this area wake up from sleeping because of nightmares from them and some now have mental problems. They turned our area into hell and continuous horror, day and night, we even dream of them in our sleep.”


The Guardian notes that a U.S. drone strike killed his father and brother in 2011 as they were herding camels belonging to their family: “Several anonymous US government officials told Reuters that the strike had been carried out by the CIA and had killed ‘three men believed to be al-Qaida militants.'”

Some dismiss this and other similar tragic stories related to U.S. foreign policy, assuming that there must have been some sort of association or collaboration with legitimate terrorists, and thus these deaths fall somewhere between justified and collateral damage.

I’ve heard such rhetoric. Whether correct or incorrect, I’m always bothered by it. These folks put a lot more faith into our government’s wisdom and judgment than I do. There will always be human error, even in military or CIA operations.

But how much error? Have we become comfortable with a disturbingly high degree of it?

Consider the following:

Maqdad said the family had been wrongly associated with al-Qaida, and family members strongly deny that Mohammed was involved in any al-Qaida or anti-Houthi fighting. “He wasn’t a member of al-Qaida. He was a kid.”

Speaking from al-Zur the day after his brother’s death, Meqdad said: “After our father died, al-Qaida came to us to offer support. But we are not with them. Al-Qaida may have claimed Mohammed now but we will do anything – go to court, whatever – in order to prove that he was not with al-Qaida.”

For argument’s sake, let’s assume these men were innocent, or that “innocent until proven guilty” is something we can extend to fellow human beings who might not have the privilege of U.S. citizenship (though even that has not been enough to stop this administration from carrying out drone strikes at will).

If they were innocent, what are the people who suffer daily under U.S. drone policy, who even have nightmares from it, supposed to think of the U.S.?

The Guardian continues:

When the Guardian interviewed Mohammed last September, he spoke of his anger towards the US government for killing his father. “They tell us that these drones come from bases in Saudi Arabia and also from bases in the Yemeni seas and America sends them to kill terrorists, but they always kill innocent people. But we don’t know why they are killing us.”

“In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world and we don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.”

The Guardian notes, “The CIA and Pentagon were both asked to comment on whether the teenager had been confirmed as an al-Qaida militant. Both declined to comment.”

When Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai–the 16-year-old Pakastani shot by the Taliban for daring to attend school as a girl–met with President Obama in October, she said in a statement, “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism.”

“Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people,” she added.

It is easy to nonchalantly dismiss wartime deaths when they are something remote, or when you can rationalize some sort of justification.

But how many innocents do we kill with our drones? How right is Malala Yousafzai?

And do Americans of good conscience just keep on ignoring it?

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