Follow us:

Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 27, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Drone weapons lack precision

Shrapnel is dangerous

This Jan. 31, 2010 file photo shows an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flying over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan. Drone warfare allows for attacks without putting U.S. soldiers in harm’s way. Their precision and the potential for civilian casualties is debated. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH, 2010)

Bill Distler is 100 percent correct in his description of the effects of shrapnel, “precision” and “effectiveness” of drones by our nation to fight “terrorists” [“Drone attacks are not precise,” Opinion, Feb. 25].

As a Vietnam veteran of the 4th Infantry Division myself, during 1967-68, I saw the effects of shrapnel. Although, I didn’t incur any personal injuries, I was present when one of my fellow soldiers dropped a live hand grenade after slipping in the mud, killing four of our own men. Also during the 1968 Tet Offensive we endured may rocket attacks and saw the halo of hot shrapnel that was produced.

To refer to the effects of shrapnel as precise is indeed misleading. Trying to explain to a family that has lost a member accidentally, due to our use of shrapnel-delivering devices, that we are there to “help and protect” is absurd.

Yes, I too believe we are creating more enemies than friends and we ourselves are the terrorists to the local people that we declare we are defending.

I also think that the appointment of John Brennan to lead the CIA is a mistake.

–Gerald C. Anderson, Mountlake Terrace

Current weapons more precise than during Vietnam

“Drone attacks are not precise” significantly misses the aiming point — opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Precision is measured by how close to the intended target the munition will hit.

The weapons carried by U.S. drones — Hellfire missiles and laser or GPS-guided bombs — will strike within two to five yards of the aim point compared with Vietnam-era artillery with a first-shot accuracy of about 300 yards.

The Hellfire’s extreme accuracy and small warhead translate into high lethality for the intended target while dramatically reducing collateral damage — civilian or friendly forces. Current fratricide rates (1.24 percent) are a small fraction of the 12 percent to 15 percent in Vietnam. Similarly, civilian deaths from coalition action in 2012 were about 400 individuals from all causes, including several thousand drone strikes, compared with about 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians killed in U.S. bombing raids.

Sadly, in war there will be unintended victims. However, the current levels of fratricide and civilian deaths are astonishing low compared with previous conflicts as a result of the extreme accuracy (precision) of allied munitions of all types.

Bill Distler should state the reasons for his opposition to the war rather than clouding the issue with unrelated, inaccurate and misleading sentimentality.

–Pete Soverel, Capt., U.S. Navy, retired, Edmonds

Comments | More in Afghanistan, military | Topics: drone warfare, Drones


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►