THE BLOG

The Mass Torture of Obama's Drone Strikes

05/04/2015 12:07 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2016

Leon Trotsky once said: "you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Unfortunately, that is true for the two innocent hostages -- one American, one Italian -- that were killed accidentally in a January 2015 CIA drone strike near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Warren Weinstein, a 73-year-old American aid worker, and Giovanni Lo Porto, a 37-year-old Italian citizen both died in a strike that targeted a compound linked to Al-Qaeda. Ahmed Farouq, an Al-Qaeda leader and a U.S. citizen, was also killed in the same strike.

In a brief press conference last Thursday morning, President Barack Obama took "full responsibility" and apologized for the death of the two hostages.

"I profoundly regret what happened," Obama said. "On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families."

Weinstein and Lo Porto's death mark the first known instance in which a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed hostages. But it certainly isn't the first time innocent civilians have been killed. Many men, women, and children in the Middle East have seen their loved ones blown to pieces by American drone strikes.

In October 2012, a young girl named Nabila Ur Rehman was tending to her cow in the family compound when she witnessed the slaughtering of her grandmother by a drone, right in front of her eyes. The trauma she must have experienced, and the fear that she continues to live with is unfathomable.

Forget waterboarding, a drone strike is torture.

In Pakistan alone, drone attacks have killed between 400 and 1,000 civilians and over 100 children.

Are drone strikes more efficient than ground troops? Have they killed top Al-Qaeda targets? Yes and yes.

The American approach to fighting the War on Terror has shifted from a counter-insurgency strategy into a counter-terrorism approach.

Counterinsurgency -- like in Iraq and Afghanistan -- requires protecting the population, winning them over, training the country's army, and gathering human intelligence. The amount of money and military personnel it takes to successfully deploy such a strategy is unsustainable in the long run. Not to mention the inevitability of mass casualties.

As a result, we see more targeted counter-terrorism operations through drone strikes. But that comes with unintended consequences. American intelligence officers from the comfort of their air-conditioned offices can now order the remote-control killing of another human-being in a country the United States may not even be at war with.

America does not capture terrorists anymore. We kill. The White House even has a running "secret kill list" and a "disposition matrix" to show for it.

The problem with an over-reliance on drones is not whether or not it's effective. It is.

But, at what cost? Are drones as surgical and precise as we think? Have they replaced Guantanamo Bay as the recruiting tool for terrorists? Should they only be used for high-valued terror targets or anyone with a known or unknown association with a terrorist organization? Shouldn't there be more transparency?

Will it ever end?

Perhaps Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and Obama counterterrorism adviser, said it best: "The problem with the drone is it's like your lawn mower, you've got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back."

Maybe there should be a greater focus on stopping the grass from growing.