Column: Attack of the drones

The current presidential race has very little actual discussion on issues — President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney spent the entire debate bantering on non sequiturs about how the other one lied.

Why is it that the biggest piece of news this week is Romney and other Republicans bashing the Bureau of Labor Statistics for potentially falsifying September’s unemployment rate, which fell to its lowest levels since before Obama came to office?

That is a nonstory. Instead, in this week’s column, I’m going to talk about one issue I have, through all of this, instead of my usual banter about coffee.

My qualm started with this week’s presidential debate — one of the biggest issues is not being discussed.

As a whole, tractable changes around specific policies surrounding two specific topics — war and economics — have been out of the conversation.

Neither major candidate is discussing how the United States kills people in Pakistan on a daily basis with flying robots firing explosives.

Last week, New York University and Stanford University released their “Living Under Drones” report, which documents the United States’ regular bombing of the tribal areas of North Waziristan with two types of unmanned aircraft, the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper.

The Drones report — released fully and freely on the web — documents with full numbers the destruction of Pakistani life by our war.

They hear our drones flying overhead at all hours. Armed with deadly warheads, they strike without warning at all hours of the day. Parents keep their children out of schools, women are afraid to meet in markets and no one is going to coffee shops.

Up to 10 attacks weekly manage to kill as many as 50 people a week in an area just a little smaller than the Bay Area.

The Drones report documents 344 total strikes in Pakistan — 52 under former President George W. Bush and 292 under Obama. Yes, Obama has upped the ante by around six times the number of drone strikes.

Worse, the drone death toll is documented only by a “minimum casualty,” meaning it is unclear how many have died since the bombings started in 2004, and U.S. officials rarely ever mention civilian casualties by drone strikes in reports.

One such killing was that of a 16-year-old U.S. citizen.

Born in Colorado, he read Harry Potter and listened to Snoop Dogg — he was just a teenager. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki may have had family members with ties to al-Qaida, but that does not give the military any right to suspend habeas corpus and murder him with several family members.

Besides the depressing social cost of war, there’s also the actual fiscal cost.

Guided missiles cost thousands of dollars each — the most expensive speculated to cost $115,000 for every round. Just imagine how many teacher salaries are exploding into a Pakistani hillside every week.

Hospitals, mosques, schools and people’s homes have been destroyed. And you better believe we’re not reimbursing them.

Obama’s biggest misstep is the flagrant disregard for the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which was established to prevent another Vietnam-type extended war without nationwide approval via Congress.

The establishment of the drones’ “kill list” means that we have to pay the ongoing price of murder in a foreign land.

Technically, under the Geneva Conventions that establish a “humane war,” specifically 1977’s Protocol I, Articles 51and 54, Obama’s authorization of this list and the following indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations and the destruction of food, water and other materials needed for survival would make him a war criminal. It is unlikely he will ever be prosecuted, though.

As a 20-something in college, I listen to the indie band Explosions in the Sky and play video games, all the while soldiers my age are firing bombs into people’s homes with remote controllers. The parallels are striking and depressing.

Yes, people my age love Obama (and have in both the 2008 and 2012 election). As a democrat, he is more socially progressive and I think he is more economically driven than his opponent. But it doesn’t change the fact that, abroad, there is a pool of blood gathering in his hands. And Obama likely never met any of the people he murdered.

People my age (and anyone of voting age, really) need to know more about specific policies and issues, and it is the media’s job to report on this, not on if and how the government’s number counter may have fudged a digit or how sleepy Obama looked at the debate.

American media outlets are slowly starting to pick up this story as well as the protests happening daily in Pakistan regarding our foreign indiscretions, but it will likely be off-limits during next week’s presidential debate — which, fittingly, is focused on foreign policy.

I may not want a president who doesn’t drink coffee and made his money firing people, but I definitely don’t want a violent commander-in-chief who accepts this nonsense.

This should end, and with increased awareness we as citizens can pressure our the elected officials. But that won’t happen unless we talk about something — anything — real.

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