It appears that at least four of those killed during the attack on a house believed to contain Ayman al-Zawahri were known terrorists, according to the Pakistani government. They acknowledge that women and children were also killed in the attack, something that we’ve heard all about.
One thing that hasn’t really been addressed is the issue of what to do about this type of thing. The terrorists are legitimate targets, and those that associate with them should be expected to know the risks. While the accidental death of non-terrorists associates is something that we must strive to avoid, we cannot allow the presence of family members to become an invulnerable force field of protection, either.
So what’s the answer? Free-fire zones in regions occupied by terrorists clearly aren’t the answer. But what of the friends, family, and hangers-on of terrorists, many of whom (leaders, anyway) are relatively rich and often accorded a sort of “superstar” status.
If professional football players suddenly became the most dangerous people on earth, and it became generally known that great powers were actively targeting professional football players for death by violent means, means which often caused significant “collateral damage”, wouldn’t you expect that some of the fans and autograph seekers and groupies would start keeping their distance? Wouldn’t worried parents keep their kids from attending training camps with football players? How many NFL replica jerseys would be worn openly on the street? And who in their right mind would attend NFL games? Wouldn’t a gathering of two large groups of those marked for death make an inviting target? And if someone took the risk and was killed when the stadium collapsed on them after seventeen hits by GPS-guided weapons, whose fault would it be?
In the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu (“Black Hawk Down” for those of you educated by Hollywood), the militants attacking US soldiers hid behind women in the street, often popping out just long enough to spray a few rounds in the general direction of our men before retreating back into a crowd with women at the forefront. When a Somali attacker was killed, a child would often be sent out into the street to retrieve the fallen man’s weapon with the knowledge that he could do so safely when an adult could not.
The stalking and assassination of terrorist leaders, of course, will usually occur far from the battlefield, and many additional steps, unavailable to the soldier under active attack, can be taken to get the right guys, all the right guys, and nothing but the right guys. But opportunities are scarce, and in many cases tough decisions are going to have to be made.
These aren’t easy questions to answer. And, despite what my critics are probably going to say in the comments section, I’m not advocating the targeting of women and children. But as long as we’re targeting terrorists, women and children are going to keep paying the price. It isn’t a secret. And we shouldn’t pretend that such terrible occurrences necessarily invalidate the strategy of killing the enemy.
Isn’t this a terrible time that we live in?