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Column: Beheadings versus drone attacks - one is bad and the other is OK?

Now fully engaged in another U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria, has anyone noticed that the more we bomb, the more enemies we have? Columnist Joe Gandelman hasn't noticed ("It is about brutality, not piety," Daily Courier, Sept. 12).

Remember Al-Qaeda? After more than 455 drone attacks by President Obama in Pakistan and Yemen since 2009, killing 1,300-2,300 militants, according to a January 2014 report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), we now face the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and an assortment of Al-Qaeda affiliated terror groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, Al-Nusra Front and Khorasan in Syria, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahara, Jamaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. Not to mention Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Taliban, still on its feet after 10 years resisting the American occupation of Afghanistan and surviving 1,015 drone strikes killing over 2,300 Taliban fighters.

According to Gregory Johnson, author of The Last Refuge, AQAP in Yemen numbered 300-400 fighters in 2009. During President Obama's five years in office, TBIJ reported between 65 and 77 drone attacks against AQAP killing 600 to 900 militants. In an interview on Sept. 11, Johnson told NPR that today AQAP counts three or four times as many fighters as in 2009.

As anti-drone activists warned back in 2009, "drone attacks do not eliminate or prevent terrorism, but rather incite more anger and hatred, violence, retaliation, and revenge attacks." By now we should wonder why U.S. air attacks remain the preferred option to combat terrorism when American drone strikes have been the best recruiting tool for jihadists.

Columnist Gandelman need not join in media fear-mongering, endless demonizing of ISIS or comparing ISIS to the worst horrors of the Nazis. A more appropriate comparison of ISIS might be made to America's drone war. Is a beheading more savage or more barbaric than a child being blown apart by a Hellfire missile?

As Pakistani journalist Safdar Darwar described the victims of a drone attack to Kathy Kelly and Josh Brollier of Voices for Creative Nonviolence in 2010, "Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and hands. One body was still on fire when he reached there. Then he learned that the charred and mutilated corpses were relatives of his who lived in his village, two men and a boy aged seven or eight. They couldn't pick up the charred parts in one piece." ("Drones and Democracy," Common Dreams, May 18, 2010.)

Video executions of American journalists were horrible enough to watch, but why don't we ever see video images of victims of a U.S. drone strike?

As Americans, we would do well to examine the values that justify assassination and the killing of innocent women and children in America's drone war that has claimed 500 to 1,000 civilian casualties, according to TBIJ's 2014 report. Costofwar.org counts at least 21,000 civilians killed in Afghanistan. How is it that Americans are appalled by the graphic execution of James Foley, but pay little notice that American-made bombs blew up 511 children in Gaza?

How is it that Americans are sickened by the video killing of Steven Sotloff but are indifferent to 200 children dismembered and incinerated by missiles launched from American drones in Pakistan and Yemen?

Anti-western hatred now manifested by ISIS is the logical outcome of the McCain Doctrine, that Washington bombs and bullets are the answer to violent ideologies that spurn American values.

As Gandelman points out, revulsion to the graphic images of beheadings has galvanized public support for air strikes against ISIS and pushed President Obama into a major military intervention in Syria. But this is a war the McCain Doctrine cannot win because, if anyone is paying attention, the more we bomb, the more enemies we will have.

Dennis DuVall is a member of Veterans For Peace and has lived in Prescott for 15 years.

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