civilian casualties

Suzanne Ross 06-13-2013
Military drone, F.Schmidt / Shutterstock.com

Military drone, F.Schmidt / Shutterstock.com

A fundamental principle [of ancient Greek tragedy], often overlooked, is that the double and the monster are one and the same being.

  - René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (p. 160)

The debate about the use of drone strikes in the so-called “War on Terror ” has shed light on an inevitable calculus of war: how many civilian casualties can be tolerated in pursuit of our goals? President Barack Obama, in his speech on May 23 at National Defense University, referred to the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, admitting, “It is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all war.” But of course, our wars and our use of drones were conceived as a legitimate response to the civilian deaths on 9/11 and a defensive maneuver to prevent future attacks.

Obama Defends Drone Attacks

In his speech, Obama further justified the use of drones by stating it reduces the number of civilian casualties compared to boots-on-the-ground wars. Though the numbers are hard to determine, it has been reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that civilian casualties caused by our invasion of Iraq number somewhere between 55,000 and 60,000. In Afghanistan, from the time reporting began in 2007, the Guardian reports that the total number of civilians who have lost their lives in the armed conflict to be 14,728. For drone strikes, the highest estimates put total civilian deaths at around 950, indisputably a better number.

The Illogical Logic of Violence

Reducing the number of deaths caused by our use of violence is a worthy goal, and Obama does seem genuinely engaged in drawing the number down. So for the sake of argument, I will take him at his word. But (you knew there was a but coming!), he is trapped, as so many of us are, within the logic of violence.

Hannah Lythe 03-08-2011
[Editors' note: As part of Sojourners campaign to end the war in Afghanistan, we will run a weekly Afghanistan news digest to educate our readers about the latest news
the Web Editors 03-08-2011
We remember that March is Women's History Month. Thank you for all the cherished women in our lives and in our histories: mothers, sisters, friends and neighbors.
Jim Wallis 03-02-2011
In November, 2010, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan. He became one of now nearly 1,500 young Americans to die there.
Hannah Lythe 02-22-2011
[Editors' note: As part of Sojourners campaign to end the war in Afghanistan, we will run a weekly Afghanistan news digest to educate our readers about the latest news and deve
Jim Wallis 02-18-2011

In as clear a statement as has been made, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep.

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