America's Cowboy Problem in Afghanistan


| 5/14/2009 3:32:41 PM


Tags: Politics, Afghanistan War, Air War, Civilian Deaths, 60 Minutes, BAGnewsNotes, National Catholic Reporter, Jeff Severns Guntzel,

Logan on Predator camera

If you missed the 60 Minutes feature on Predator drones, you’ll have to get your military propaganda fix somewhere else.

America’s flying death machines do not enjoy a favorable reputation in Afghanistan or among many of our allies. It’s a problem that only seems to get worse. “While no military has ever done more to prevent civilian casualties,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said from a podium in Kabul last year, “it’s clear we have to work even harder.” That was October 2008. More than six months later Afghan families are routinely decimated by U.S. bombs or obliterated altogether.

In the 60 Minutes report, according to the show's website, "Laura Logan discovers first hand how precise the Predator can be.” It’s exactly the message the military needs out there right now: precision, precision, precision. It’s a battle they can’t win, however, if only because war (no matter how technologically advanced) is murderously imprecise.

To the grunts on the ground, war's imprecision is an uncontroversial notion. But the pilots of these deadly machines are different. They fly their drones remotely from a base forty-five miles north of Las Vegas and many worlds away from the particular patch of earth that shakes and burns from their Hellfire missiles and 500 lb bombs.

Not surprisingly, the pilots cleared to speak with Logan exuded confidence: