Drones: Made In America
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For many drones symbolize American aggression that cannot discriminate between the good and the bad.
When Hell comes down from Heaven.
I immediately turned my gaze skyward to see a number of fighter jets screaming overhead at what seemed like an incredibly low altitude, especially given they were flying above a crowded residential area in a capital city in the Middle East. Then, they were gone; or so I thought.
Less than one minute later, however, the second pass came, and then the third, both just as low and fear-inducing as the first. I knew this was not any sort of training exercise; training exercises for fighter pilots generally don't involve multiple passes at extremely low altitudes over densely populated residential neighborhoods in the capital city of a nation - at least not that I am aware of.
I did not know what actually was happening. All I knew is that multiple fighter jets had taken three passes overhead, and that in my gut it seemed as if something was not right. And then, just as quickly as the deafening sounds had shattered the calm and quite afforded by the mid-afternoon siesta, we were back in utter silence. Eery, utter silence.
The reality of the situation only truly hit home when I looked over at my wife, who at the time was pregnant with our first child.
There we were, US citizens living abroad in a foreign country, entirely at the mercy of others.
We were ' at that moment in time ' no safer, no different, and indistinguishable from the tens-of-thousands of other residents in the neighborhood in which we were living. We were ' at that moment in time ' very vulnerable, to say the least.
I never found out what that day's events were all about, and I highly doubt I ever will. What I did gain from the event ' albeit in a very small way ' was a better understanding of the emotions unarmed, innocent civilians experience when their eyes are turned heavenward, only to see hell coming out of the clouds.
I have never had the experience of looking into the sky and seeing a drone flying directly overhead, but I expect it would be a similar experience. And for many in Yemen, this is a common occurrence nowadays. It is true that drone strikes have killed high-level al-Qaeda terrorists, people whom the world is better off without. However, it is also true that in the minds of most Yemenis, drones are strictly instruments of death. Furthermore, for most Yemenis, these instruments of death, are Made In America.
Whether or not drone strikes are effective in the campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and whether or not drone strikes result in too much "collateral damage" is not the point here. The point is that in the minds of Yemenis, drones symbolize American aggression that cannot discriminate between the good guys and the bad guys.
Indeed, drones are effective at killing. They are not, however, effective at killing secretly or silently. If they were, the number of innocent Yemeni civilians who now live in terror of what they believe to be instruments of death Made In America would not be so incredibly high. If they were, the number of Yemenis who now vehemently despise the United States would not be so incredibly high. If they were, the number of previously non-violent Muslims now rushing to join the ranks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not still be climbing. I'm not convinced these are good things.
Actually, I'm fairly confident they are not.
No, I'm entirely certain they are bad.
Jeff d. Patterson, Middle East Specialist: While the ashes were beginning to settle in New York City with the setting of the sun on 9/11, Jeff D. Patterson was unpacking his bags far, far away from American shores; far, far away from his family and friends; far, far away from his homeland. He was starting a new phase of life in a region of the world he would call ‘home’ for most of the next decade. Jeff was taking his first breaths of Middle Eastern air, thinking of the world becoming a better place… In contrast to most... (more...)