Drones over California?

On my wedding day, my wife and I hired a couple of shuttle vans to ferry guests between a San Clemente hotel and the nearby site where we held our ceremony and reception. I thought of our friends and family members packed into those vehicles when I read about the latest nightmarish consequence of America’s drone war: “A U.S. drone mistakenly targeted a wedding convoy in Yemen’s al-Baitha province after intelligence reports identified the vehicles as carrying al Qaeda militants,” CNN reported, citing government sources in Yemen.

I’ve read a lot of very poor analysis of the CIA’s lethal drones programme. But this piece really takes the biscuit, comparing as it does the use of lethal strikes in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, where al-Qaeda controls a growing swath of territory and where terrorism is a threat to all Western interests and the Sana’a regime, with the idea of a similar use of deadly force in the US, with its police and intelligence agencies entirely capable of detecting and arresting suspects. Nor do I really think the writer would have included five al-Qaeda suspects on his guest list.

There are many problems with drone strikes. And although this sort of silly comparison may create an emotional response in people who don’t usually think about these things (“Oh yeah, I got married once too”), to suggest that America’s law enforcement and terrorism environment – or indeed a wedding in San Clemente – is somehow analagous to conditions in Yemen is short-sighted and plain wrong.

Of course a drone strike on California would get more media coverage.


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