War: Lies, Misinformation and Consequences

In my last blog, I spoke of lies and misinformation and their consequences in the case of COVID. Clearly, the consequences of those lies and misinformation were grave in that they have managed to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans needlessly and needlessly prolong the life of the virus which allows it to mutate to something more deadly. But what about the lies and misinformation and their consequences in the case of America’s never ending “War on Terror” and its insistence on the use of remote controlled drones and “precision weapons” to kill “terrorists”?

There are three fundamental problems with the means of which we are conducting this war. The first is in the accuracy of our intelligence. Exactly who is a terrorist and who is not? They don’t wear labels or uniforms and they don’t advertise themselves, so how do we identify them? We do so by taking the word of a “trusted informant”. The problem here is that anyone can be a “trusted informant” and the “terrorist” may be anyone this “trusted informant” dislikes, has a grudge against, or may receive a reward (bounty) for reporting. As a result, there is a high probability that a number of “terrorists” were actually innocent people.

The second fundamental problem is with the use of drones and “precision weapons” implying that only the “terrorist” is killed. That is clearly a lie of monumental proportion. These strikes are carried out with remote controlled drones and Hellfire missiles. Accuracy is aided with high resolution imaging sensors and precision guidance mechanisms, but neither of these are perfect. Furthermore, the missile itself (of which there are about 10 variants for different target types) has a lethal radius of several yards and will kill anything within that radius. When analyzing the probability of collateral damage (innocent victims), one has to take into account error rates in target location/pointing, error rates in guidance, probability of innocent people being within the weapon’s kill radius and, of course, the probability that the “terrorist” is not really a terrorist. Combining all the error probabilities results in a reasonably high probability of killing innocent people with each strike.

We really have no idea how much collateral damage these drone strikes have done. Estimates range from 15% to 90% depending on who you listen to and what their motives are. Clearly, our military officials want to make the percentage appear as small as possible and the anti-war people want to make it look as large as possible. But, in the end, so what? Who cares about collateral damage? (As General Tommy Franks said early in the Iraq war, “We don’t do body counts”.) The “peaceniks” care, but the “warmongers” don’t and the “warmongers” rule. Well, there are others who do care, and this brings us to the third fundamental problem with our war on terror – its consequences.

Every “terrorist” has friends and relatives who care about him/her and when that person is injured or “murdered” by an American weapon, and the result is, those friends and relatives become hostile to Americans (if they aren’t already). When an innocent person is injured or killed by an American weapon, the victim’s friends and relatives become doubly hostile to Americans.

So what have we achieved by killing the “terrorist”? We killed one terrorist and angered many who may not have been hostile towards us before but certainly are now. How many? No one really knows, but let’s just pull a number out of our hat and say 101. (If you think that number is large, ask yourself, how many people would be outraged if you were victim of a foreign attack?) Out of those 10, how many are likely to become sufficiently hostile to take action and become a real terrorist. One third, maybe? If so, we have just killed one terrorist and created 3 more. Now these numbers are totally artificial, and are used only to make a point. But you can rest assured that killing terrorists ultimately spawns as many (and probably far more) terrorists than the number killed. And those terrorists will ultimately kill many more people and possibly more Americans.

The bottom line is that we are told that our “forever war” is over and we are led to believe that our remote controlled drones and “precision weapons” will ensure peace, but both are myths. In reality, war cannot achieve peace (until all humanity is destroyed) and our drones and “precision weapons” will only spawn more hostility, more “terrorists” and more war. The consequences of the lies and misinformation about our war on terror are simply to prolong the war, kill more “terrorists” and innocent people, destroy more property and needlessly cost all of us much more (except, of course, the war profiteers).


PS As an aside, one must also take into account the long term consequences from the destruction of our environment and its impact on global warming.

1 In a 2010 interview in Rolling Stone, General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, figured that “for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” By the general’s equation, the U.S. created a minimum of 130 new enemies for itself in the strikes that Biden ordered on Aug. 27 and 29 alone.