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Even The Warriors Say The Wars Make Us Less Safe

Above Photo: Jem Stone/Flickr

Experts Say U.S. Executive Secret War Harming U.S. National Security
collected by Fred Branfman

Admiral Dennis Blair, Former Director Of National Intelligence

“Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence (in the) New York Times [49]: While “drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” he wrote, “they also increased hatred of America.” He said the drone has also damaged “our ability to work with Pakistan [in] eliminating Taliban sanctuaries, encouraging Indian-Pakistani dialogue, and making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal more secure.””

–“The Petraeus Projection, Part I: The CIA Director’s Record Since The Surge [50] – Hero Worship Hides The Military Failures Of The CIA Director’s ‘Global Killing Machine’”, by Fred Branfman, Salon, October 3, 2011

Michael Boyle, Former Obama Counter-Terrorism Adviser

“Michael Boyle, who was on Obama’s counter-terrorism group in the run-up to his election in 2008, said the US administration’s growing reliance on drone technology was having “adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists … The vast increase in the number of deaths of low-ranking operatives has deepened political resistance to the US programme in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries.”

–“US Drone Attacks ‘Counter-Productive’, Former Obama Security Adviser Claims,” January 7, 2013, The Guardian

General James Cartwright, former Vice-Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff

“Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a favored adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, expressed concern in a speech here on Thursday that America’s aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism. ‘We’re seeing that blowback. If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.’”

–“As New Drone Policy Is Weighed, Few Practical Effects Are Seen”, NYT, March 22, 2013

CIA Station Chief in Islamabad

“The CIA station chief in Islamabad thought the drone strikes in 2005 and 2006 — which, while infrequent at that time, were often based on bad intelligence and had resulted in many civilian casualties — had done little except fuel hatred for the United States inside Pakistan and put Pakistani officials in the uncomfortable position of having to lie about the strikes.”

— The Way of the Knife, Mark Mazetti, Kindle loc. 2275

Council On Foreign Relations

“There appears to be a strong correlation in Yemen between increased targeted killings since December 2009 and heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to AQAP … One former senior military official closely involved in U.S. targeted killings argued that `drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America’ … A world characterized by the proliferation of armed drones … would undermine core U.S. interests, such as preventing armed conflict, promoting human rights, and strengthening international legal regimes.” Because of drones’ inherent advantages over other weapons platforms, states and nonstate actors would be much more likely to use lethal force against the United States and its allies.”

— “Reforming U.S.Drone Strike Policies,” January 2013, Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations

Sherard Cowper-Coles, Former U.K. Special Representative To Afghanistan

“Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, close ally Britain’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, stated that David Petraeus should be “ashamed of himself,” explaining that “he has increased the violence (and) trebled the number of special forces raids.” As Cowper-Coles has explained [51], “for every dead Pashtun warrior, there will be 10 pledged to revenge.”“

–“Obama’s Secret Wars: How Our Shady Counter-Terrorism Policies Are More Dangerous Than Terrorism”, by Fred Branfman, AlterNet, July 11, 2011

Muhammed Daudzai, Karzai Chief Of Staff

Muhammed Daudzai, chief of staff for Afghan president Hamid Karzai, said [52] “when we do those night raids the enemy will get stronger and stronger in numbers.”

–“The Petraeus Projection, Part I: The CIA Director’s Record Since The Surge [50] – Hero Worship Hides The Military Failures Of The CIA Director’s ‘Global Killing Machine’”, by Fred Branfman, Salon, October 3, 2011

Director of National Intelligence’s National Intelligence Estimate

“The final report concluded that Iraq had become a ‘”cause célèbre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.’ …  The report predicted that an increasingly decentralized global jihad movement would splinter even further, with regional militant groups proliferating. ”

— The Way of the Knife, Mark Mazetti, Kindle loc. 1945

Andrew Exum, ex-Army Ranger, Fellow, Center for a New American  Security

“We were so focused on getting these high value targets … I think we ended up exacerbating a lot of the drivers of conflict and exacerbating the insurgency … It doesn’t take a genius to realize that by dragging people out of their homes in the middle of the night … could inflame tensions, how this could actually exacerbate drivers of conflict,”

— from Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill, Kindle Loc. 3171

Farea al-Muslimi, Yemeni Villager

“Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What the violent militants had failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.”

–Testimony, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, quoted in “Drone Strikes Turn Allies Into Enemies, Yemeni Says”, NYT, April 23, 2013

Robert Grenier, Former Head Of The Cia Counterrorism Center

“The mentality behind counterrorism has been described by former head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center in 2005-6, Robert Grenier [53] … has explained that “it’s not just a matter of numbers of militants who are operating in that area, it also effects the motivations of those militants … They now see themselves as part of a global Jihad. They are not just focused on helping oppressed Muslims in Kashmir or trying to fight the NATO and the Americans in Afghanistan, they see themselves as part of a global struggle, and therefore are a much broader threat than they were previously. So in a sense, yes, we have helped to bring about the situation that we most fear.” (Emphasis added)

–“Obama’s Secret Wars: How Our Shady Counter-Terrorism Policies Are More Dangerous Than Terrorism”, by Fred Branfman Alternet, July 11, 2011

“We have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield. We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan,”

–“Drone Attacks Create Terrorist Safe Havens, Warns Former CIA Official”, Guardian, 6-5-12

Michael Hayden, Former Cia Director

“Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has openly criticized the Obama’s administration use of pilot-less drones to assassinate suspected militants around the world. Hayden said, “Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.” The drone program began under President George W. Bush but has rapidly expanded under Obama. So far, the Obama administration has carried out drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Libya. Hayden also criticized the U.S. assassination of the U.S. born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Hayden said, “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him, but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?”

–”Former CIA Director Hayden Slams Obama Drone Program”, Democracy Now, February 7, 2012

Mathew Hoh, ex-Combat Vet, Top Civilian Official in Afghanistan Province

“I think we’re engendering more hostility. We’re wasting a lot of very good assets going after midlevel guys who don’t threaten the United States or have no capacity to threaten the United States,”

— from Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill, Kindle Loc. 7393

David Ignatius, Washington Post Columnist

“My quick reaction, as a journalist who has chronicled the growing use of drones, is that this extension to the Libyan theater is a mistake. It brings a weapon that has become for many Muslims a symbol of the arrogance of U.S. power into a theater next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the most promising events in a generation. It projects American power in the most negative possible way.”

–“Drone attacks in Libya: A mistake”, Washington Post, 4-21-11

ISI – The Pakistan Interservices Intelligence Agency

“The Wall Street Journal reported [54]: Pakistan’s main spy agency says homegrown Islamist militants have overtaken the Indian army as the greatest threat to national security … for the first time in 63 years.

Yes, that’s right. Pakistani military intelligence now rates domestic insurgency a greater threat than India for the first time since Pakistan was created — largely as a result of U.S. actions.”

— “‘Beyond Madness’: Obama’s War on Terror Setting Nuclear-Armed Pakistan on Fire”, Fred Branfman, Alternet, November 3, 2010

Gregory Johnson, Princeton Yemen Expert

“The most enduring policy legacy of the past four years may well turn out to be an approach to counterterrorism that American officials call the “Yemen model,” a mixture of drone strikes and Special Forces raids targeting Al Qaeda leaders … Testimonies from Qaeda fighters and interviews I and local journalists have conducted across Yemen attest to the centrality of civilian casualties in explaining Al Qaeda’s rapid growth there. The United States is killing women, children and members of key tribes. “Each time they kill a tribesman, they create more fighters for Al Qaeda,” one Yemeni explained to me over tea in Sana, the capital, last month. Another told CNN, after a failed strike, “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined Al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake.”

–“The Wrong Man for the C.I.A.”, by Gregory Johnson, N.Y. Times, 11-19-12

David Kilcullen, Former Petraeus Counterinsurgency Advisor

“David Kilcullen, Petraeus’ own counterinsurgency adviser in Iraq, has characterized U.S. policy [55] as a fundamental “strategic error … our insistence on personalizing this conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, devoting time and resources toward killing or capturing ‘high-value’ targets … distracts us from larger problems.” As Kilcullen had noted earlier [56], these “larger problems” include the potential “collapse of the Pakistani state,” which he called a calamity that in light of the country’s size, strategic location and nuclear stockpile would “dwarf” all other dangers in the region … Kilcullen has warned [55] that the drone war “has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians … [is] now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces.” Kilcullen has noted[55],“Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies must be defeated by indigenous forces—not from the United States, and not even from Punjab, but from the parts of Pakistan in which they now hide. Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.”

–From “Replace Petraeus,” by Fred Branfman, Truthdig, June 2, 2009

Colonel David Kilcullen, a key Petraeus advisor in Iraq, who testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee [57] on May 23, 2009, that, “Since 2006, we’ve killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we’ve killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. We need to call off the drones.”

–“Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America’s Military Strategy in the Muslim World”,  by Fred Branfman, Alternet, August 24, 2010

Emile Nakhleh, Senior CIA Analyst

“We are not generating good will in these operations,” Emile Nakhleh … We might target radicals and potential radicals, but unfortunately…other things and other people are being destroyed or killed. So, in the long run … these operations will not necessarily help to  deradicalize potential recruits …”

— from Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill, Kindle Loc. 9824

General Stanley McChrystal

“[General McChrystal says that] for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.”

—  [58]The Runaway General [58],” Rolling Stone [58], 6/22/10

”There’s widespread resentment against drone strikes in Pakistan, says the former commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal. At the launching ceremony of his book, “My Share of the Task”, on Friday evening, the retired general repeated what he had said earlier that US drone strikes were “hated on a visceral level”. He warned that too many drone strikes in Pakistan without identifying suspected militants individually can be a bad thing. Gen McChrystal said he understood why Pakistanis, even in the areas not affected by the drones, reacted negatively against the strikes. He asked the Americans how they would react if a neighbouring country like Mexico started firing drone missiles at targets in Texas. The Pakistanis, he said, saw the drones as a demonstration of America’s might against their nation and reacted accordingly. “What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” Gen McChrystal said in an earlier interview. “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 opposes drone strikes [59]”, Dawn, 2-10-13

Cameron Munter, Former U.S. Ambassador To Pakistan

“The problem is the political fallout … Do you want to win a few battles and lose the war? … The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40 … My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s—well, a chump who went to a meeting.”

–“A Former Ambassador to Pakistan Speaks Out”, Daily Beast, Nov 20, 2012

Anne Patterson , Ex-U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan

“Patterson’s cables also reveal that U.S. leaders know that present policy is destabilizing Pakistan, thus making a nuclear disaster more likely. Referring to U.S. “unilateral operations” in northwest Pakistan (such as drone strikes, ground assassination and other infringements of Pakistani sovereignty), she wrote that “increased unilateral operations in these areas risk destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis in Pakistan without finally achieving the goal.” She then added that “to be effective, we must extend the writ of the Pakistani state into the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] in such a way that Taliban groups can no longer offer effective protection to al-Qaeda from Pakistan’s own security and law enforcement agencies in these areas” (9-23-09 cable) [60].

–“WikiLeaks Exposes the Danger of Pakistan’s Nukes”, Fred Branfman, Truthdig, January 13, 2011

Bruce Riedel, Obama “AfPak” Advisor

The evidence is mounting that U.S. assassinations are so ineffective they are actually strengthening anti-American forces in Pakistan. Bruce Riedel, a counterinsurgency expert who coordinated the Afghan review for President Obama, said: [61] “The pressure we’ve put on (jihadist forces) in the past year has also drawn them together, meaning that the network of alliances is growing stronger not weaker.”

–“Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America’s Military Strategy in the Muslim World”, Fred Branfman, Alternet, August 24, 2010

Jeremy Scahill, Author, Dirty Wars, On Somalia

“Many seasoned Somalia analysts believed that a handful of radicals in the country could have been contained and that the central aim of stabilizing the country should have been to disarm an disemplower the warlords. Instead, Washington directly supported an expansion their power and, in the process, caused a radical backlash in Somalia, opening the doors wide for al Qaeda to step in… Al Shabab’s meteoric rise in Somalia, and the legacy of terror it wrought, was a direct response to a decade of disastrous US policy, which had strengthened the very threat it was intended to crush.”

— from Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill, Kindle Loc. 2689

Michael Scheueur, Former CIA Counterterrorism Operative

“Former CIA counterrorism operative Michael Scheuer has stated [51] that “Petraeus’s ‘decapitation’ approach was also unlikely to work. ‘The Red Army tried that for 10 years, and they were far more ruthless and cruel about it than us, and it didn’t work so well for them.’” 

–“Obama’s Secret Wars: How Our Shady Counter-Terrorism Policies Are More Dangerous Than Terrorism”, by Fred Branfman, Alternet, July 11, 2011



Former US commander General Stanley McChrystal has warned that the US’s controversial drones programme creates “a tremendous amount of resentment” among “helpless” people in the areas it targets. McChrystal’s last post before retiring was overseeing NATO forces in Afghanistan, where drone strikes feature prominently in operations.

Asked by the BBC’s flagship radio programme Today what the future was for drone warfare, McChrystal talked of the dangers of seeing the drones programme as “antiseptic”:

“There’s a danger that something that feels easy to do and without risk to yourself, almost antiseptic to the person shooting, doesn’t feel that way at the point of impact. And so if it lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there’s danger in that.

“And then the other part is there’s a perception of arrogance, there is a perception of helpless people in an area being shot at like thunderbolts from the sky by an entity that is acting as though they have omniscience and omnipotence, and you can create a tremendous amount of resentment inside populations, even not the people that are themselves being targeted, but around, because of the way it appears and feels.

“So I think that we need to be very very cautious; what seems like a panacea to the messiness of war is not that at all.”

McChrystal’s comments come just days after a Yemeni delegation to the United Nations admitted it has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of trauma caused by US drone attacks in the country is so high.

The former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan joins a growing number of critics of the drone programme from the US military, intelligence and diplomatic establishments:

Robert Grenier, who was Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, recently asked: “How many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them [?]”

Meanwhile, the former US Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, has warned that “the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones.”

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