The Guardian reports that, according to the United Nations, ‘an international drone’ (which only the US military operate) has killed at least 15 civilians and injured another 13 in the eastern district of Achin, Afghanistan. The US has not admitted any wrongdoing but said the incident was under investigation.
Bilal, 12 recovers in hospital after surviving a US drone strike that killed his father. Photo: Andrew Quilty
Earlier this year, Britain signed a £415 million contract with the Pentagon for 20 new ‘Protector’ drones. Described as a ‘signature counter-terrorism weapon’, drones have proved tactically effective in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria where the RAF’s Reaper drones have flown hundreds of sorties.
Strategically the increasing reliance on drones is less certain. In 2009, General Stanley McChrystal observed that ‘Destroying a home or property jeopardises the livelihood of an entire family – and creates more insurgents’. Multiply this ten fold or a hundred fold when drones kill innocent civilians.
Although the new drone will carry a greater payload of deadly Hellfire missiles, UK Defence Chiefs decided to drop the name Reaper in favour of Protector in an attempt to change public perceptions that they are unaccountable killing machines.
Try explaining that to the citizens of Achin.
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The moving image of a five year old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, sitting bloodied and dazed in the back of an ambulance has been widely circulated on social media. It highlights the desperate plight of the citizens of Aleppo, caught in the crossfire of an increasingly violent and vicious civil war.
The image has been compared with that of Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Bodrum beach and has renewed calls for the West to do something to stop the bloodshed. But the question is what?
Images of children wounded in NATO airstrikes resulted in widespread condemnation for the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which have proved disastrous for the citizens of those countries.
Painful images of innocence painfully lost have communicated the horrors of war in a way that words could never describe since Vietnam. Despite having witnessed lost innocence firsthand in the Balkans in the 1990s, I was still moved to tears in 2004 by the image of a bloodied Aida Sidakova climbing through the window of her school gymnasium in search of her mum following the Beslan school bombing by Islamist terrorists.
Our reaction to these images is instinctive and transcends religious or cultural divides but sadly does not endure. Tomorrow, or the next day, we will return to our lives of comfortable consumerism and forget about the difficult question of what to do in Aleppo – at least until the next image of innocence lost pricks our conscience.