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US Diplomat: Each US Drone Attack Creates '40 to 60' New Enemies

Former US deputy chief to US embassy in Yemen calculates 'blowback machine' theory of US counterterrorism is spot on

- Jon Queally, staff writer

"My former colleagues are probably going to get upset with me," says former diplomat who calls out US government for failed strategy in Yemen.The U.S. military, according to one former diplomat with a frontrow seat to its drone policy in Yemen, is creating new terrorists in that country at breakneck speed.

In an article published at TomDispatch earlier this week, the site's editor Tom Engelhardt gave the recent and ongoing counterterrorism strategy of the U.S. military an unkind moniker by dubbing it a perpetual "blowback machine."

In the post-9/11 world, according to Engelhardt, "wherever U.S. military power has been applied," the consistent outcome of armed intervention—from the illegal invasion of Iraq and the NATO-backed overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya to the ongoing U.S. drone campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere —has been to "destabilize whole regions."

But—despite being one of the most informed and sharply critical voices on the failure of the U.S. drone war—you don't have to take Engelhardt's word for it.

As the Huffington Post's Matt Sledge reports, a former high-level U.S. State Department official in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, is saying that for every drone strike launched by the U.S. military, as many as  "40 to 60 new enemies of America" are created.

Spurred by an article Khoury wrote for The Cairo Review slamming the misguided drone policy in Yemen, Sledge reached out to the now retired diplomat.

"My former colleagues are probably going to get upset with me, because the policy now is to do this," Khoury said.

No military dove, Khoury told the HuffPost he was not "absolutely against the use of drones," but added, in "any country where we're not at war, then it has the complications of sovereignty, of popular opinion. In the end, I'm not talking about international law. I'm talking about cost-benefits."

 And the HuffPost continues:

Khoury said his estimate, while not "scientifically drawn," was based on his knowledge of the tribal nature of Yemeni society. His concern over drone strikes is based more than anything else, he said, on the pragmatic question: Should the U.S. be creating this many future enemies?

A report released on Tuesday by Human Rights Watch found that the U.S. policy of not acknowledging drone strikes means innocent victims' families are without the ability to seek U.S. compensation -- further fueling anti-American anger.

This argument is by no means a new one—foreign policy analysts, Yemeni citizens, and knowledgeable experts have been making the same case for years. But Khoury's role as a former insider—especially with a recent focus on the drone wars drawn by a series reports from both the UN and independent human rights groups—give his comments unique weight at a possible crucial moment.

As Engelhardt, taking a slightly broader view of U.S. imperialism and its flailing attempt to maintain military dominance and power projection, summarized:

Washington’s military plans and tactics since 9/11 have been a spectacular train wreck.  When you look back, counterinsurgency doctrine, resuscitated from the ashes of America’s defeat in Vietnam, is once again on the scrap heap of history.  (Who today even remembers its key organizing phrase -- “clear, hold, and build” -- which now looks like the punch line for some malign joke?)  “Surges,” once hailed as brilliant military strategy, have already disappeared into the mists.  “Nation-building,” once a term of tradecraft in Washington, is in the doghouse.  “Boots on the ground,” of which the U.S. had enormous numbers and still has 51,000 in Afghanistan, are now a no-no.  The American public is, everyone universally agrees, “exhausted” with war.  Major American armies arriving to fight anywhere on the Eurasian continent in the foreseeable future?  Don’t count on it.

But lessons learned from the collapse of war policy?  Don’t count on that, either.  It’s clear enough that Washington still can’t fully absorb what’s happened.  Its faith in war remains remarkably unbroken in a century in which military power has become the American political equivalent of a state religion.  Our leaders are still high on the counterterrorism wars of the future, even as they drown in their military efforts of the present. 

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