U.S. army must respect life "without borders"

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If you were given the option to kill one terrorist leader with a drone strike but kill 28 innocent Americans as a result, would you do so? If the United States government openly took such an approach, there would be global outrage. Why, then, has the international community tolerated and ignored a similar scenario in the Middle East?

According to The Guardian, 1147 civilians have been killed in the Middle East (as of Nov. 24 2014) as a result of United States drone strikes that targeted 41 terrorist leaders. Considering this pattern, it was hard to be surprised last week when at least 22 innocents were killed by an American airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

After this news story exploded, President Obama formally apologized, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest added that there is no evidence "that this was anything other than a terrible, tragic mistake.” However, too many “terrible, tragic mistakes” have been linked to drone strikes, and it is time to re-evaluate the way that we as a nation use them.

Occasional civilian casualties are inevitable, but why has it taken the United States so long to realize how bad the situation has truly become? Do people only care about this tragedy because Doctors Without Borders is an American organization? If Doctors Without Borders was based in Afghanistan, this story wouldn't make a single America news cover, but it would certainly be used by terrorist organizations as a recruiting tool.

The irony of American drone use is that it “terrorizes” civilians in the Middle East. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 67.7 percent of Afghans had symptoms of depression, 72.2 percent had symptoms of anxiety, and 42 percent had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a result of living in constant fear of drone strikes and other life-threatening tragedies.

As Rooj Alwazir told Rolling Stone, “This feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound psychological effect on those living under drones.”

The Central Intelligence Agency even acknowledged this in a document leaked by last year, stating that “The potential negative effect of operations include increasing the level of insurgent support … strengthening an armed group’s bonds with the population … [and] creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter.”

Countless stories already exist of American drones devastating weddings, funerals, and other gatherings of innocent civilians. However, no matter how many times they go public, nothing happens. The United States simply continues its current drone strategies and continues taking many innocent lives.

If anyone is truly surprised by the Doctors Without Borders incident, they have little idea what has been happening overseas over the last decade. Civilian casualties have simply become a number, and respect for human life has been lost. Doctors Without Borders asserts that “[the drone attack] was not just an attack on our hospital, but it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions.” With its unchanging drone policy, America has crossed the border of both virtue and international law.