As I'm sure you all know by now, the recent CIA air strike in a remote Pakistani village has apparently killed eighteen people. None of the dead appear to be Osama bin Laden's top aid, Ayman al-Zawahiri, despite the CIA's insistence that he was invited.
It appears the New Year has seen the continuance of the same old trends within the Bush administration: more intelligence failures. However, unlike many of the other intelligence failures (Iraq and WMD for example), I will not get up in arms about this one. In fact, I am happy we dropped these bombs. Granted, it is unfortunate that Zawahiri appears to have escaped death, but I believe it was a shot we had to take.
Many people may disagree because of the 18 innocent people who were killed in the bombing. Don't get me wrong, I'm upset innocent people had to die just like everyone else is, but I hesitate to call them "innocent" given their supposed dinner guests.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, whether he was present for dinner or not, was an invited guest, which begs the question of who invited him and why. If these people we killed are in fact innocent, then why were they planning on having dinner with Osama bin Laden's top aid? This is a man who wants to kill as many Americans as possible and a man who could be leading the entire al-Qaeda organization if in fact bin Laden is dead.
These 18 people we killed were not average civilians like many people think. Chances are if they were not involved with al-Qaeda directly, they likely hated America all the same. Innocent civilians? Maybe these innocent civilians aren't exactly as we imagine them to be. I'm not saying they were terrorists, but they certainly weren't angels either.
And speaking of innocent civilians, how about Sept. 11? As Americans know all too well, thousands of innocent Americans lost their lives that day, so if it takes 18 Pakistanis to die so that our country does not have to go through another 9/11 then I'm all for it.
I understand al-Zawahiri might not have been there at the time, but our intelligence somehow knew he was supposed to be there. I say if there is a chance a top al-Qaeda aid is at a dinner then we should take him out, regardless of the surrounding civilians. I urge you to redirect your anger to the fact that American soldiers are being lost in Iraq. We have more than 18 people dying over there each day and this is acceptable, but 18 Pakistanis being killed is not? Give me a break. Get your priorities straight.
The one really bad thing about killing these civilians involves our reputation in that region. Pakistan is one of the few allies we have in the Middle East and this event might shake up our relationship with them.
Even though the Pakistani government allows the U.S. to launch air strikes within their country, it doesn't mean the Pakistani people support it. Clearly this latest miscue will provoke Pakistanis to protest America, which may ultimately hurt our relationship with our ally. The fact that 18 Pakistanis are dead is regrettable, but not nearly as much as the domino effect these deaths will have on the relationship between Pakistan and America.
The debate about whether or not we should have bombed this remote Pakistani village comes down to one question: What would people be saying if we did not bomb this village and a year from now Zawahiri orchestrated another attack on American soil?
The answer is obvious. And when you consider the collateral damage was 18 civilians, it seems like it was worth it to try to eliminate al-Qaeda's number two man. We just have to hope that next time al-Zawahiri shows up for his dinner.
Tim Waddingham is a senior, double majoring in political science and speech communication. His column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.