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Kucinich: US drone attacks in Pakistan could ‘inspire radicalism’

By Sahil Kapur
Monday, April 19, 2010 10:16 EDT
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WASHINGTON – Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) forcefully criticized the United States’ drone strikes in Pakistan as inspiring the anti-American sentiments they seek to quell, touching upon a consequence of the policy rarely discussed in the media but well-recognized in the region.

“I do not support the drone attacks,” Kucinich told Raw Story, arguing that they are pushing the United States “into an area of unaccountability that would lead to blowback, where we actually lose friends, where we help inspire anti-American sentiments and fanaticism and radicalism.”

The missile strikes, carried out by aircraft drones piloted remotely, have wiped out many Islamic militants, including high-level Al-Qaeda operatives, according to Pentagon officials.

But they have also killed civilians, sparking anger in the Islamic nation and fueling dissatisfaction with the United States and Pakistan’s pro-American government alike. Kucinich argued that the strikes are, as a result, counterproductive.

“Just as an occupation fuels an insurgency, these drones build feelings and resistance against the United States and help gain support for those elements who wish to do America harm,” he said, alleging that Pakistan’s support and cooperation is vital to nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism efforts.

President George W. Bush initiated the policy in 2005 with the intention of wiping out spillover militant activity from the Afghanistan war into western Pakistan. The attacks have been used with greater frequency under his successor, according to The Associated Press.

The policy’s unintended consequence of fueling anti-American sentiments is seldom debated, but Pakistani leaders and citizens are acutely aware of the brewing backlash.

“The Pakistan Government and anti-US elements are condemning the US drone attacks as violation of their sovereignty and innocent tribal people being killed,” remarked D. Suba Chandran, deputy director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, in a recent op-ed. “They argue that these attacks result in increasing anti-American feelings and the Taliban gaining local support.”

The Ohio congressman called for a careful re-evaluation of US strategy in the region, urging military officials to “be careful not to inadvertently create the circumstances that push Pakistan into becoming a failed state.” He opposed the five-year $7.5 billion aid package the administration recently gave Islamabad to help subdue brewing terrorist activity.

The Obama administration publicly defended the strikes for the first time on March 25 as both legal and necessary for self-defense, but didn’t address the issue of pushback in Pakistan.

State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh declared that the drone strikes “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war,” in a speech to the American Society of International Law. “A state that is engaged in armed conflict – or in legitimate self-defense – is not required to provide targets or legal process before the state may use lethal force.”

Although anti-war activists have criticized the unilateral use of missile attacks in the region, the policy enjoys comfortable – if tacit – support from in Congress.

Correction: This article originally suggested that Rep. Kucinich favored the US aid package to Pakistan. The congressman voted against the measure last June.

 
 
 
 
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