Secretary of State Chuck Hagel revealed Wednesday that the U.S. is helping the Nigerian government by sending unmanned surveillance drones over Nigeria to find the abducted schoolgirls. Meanwhile, Muslims cleverly turned first lady Michelle Obama’s well-publicized hashtag photo, #Bring Back Our Girls, against President Obama and the White House by posting photos pointing out the many deaths caused by drone strikes.
The president’s drone program in the Middle East and Africa has been a source of considerable outrage among many Muslims around the world. That outrage has been on display over the last few days in response to the posting of a picture of Michelle Obama holding up a sign with the simple message: #BringBackOurGirls. The hashtag has been widely used to show support for the more than 220 Nigerian girls still being held hostage by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
One image that has been retweeted thousands of times shows a bearded man holding up his own sign that reads: #Your Husband Has Killed More Muslim Girls Than Boko Haram Ever Could #We Can’t Bring Back Our Dead.
Another shows the same picture of the first lady, but the sign she’s holding has been changed to say: “My husband has killed more young girls than Boko Haram ever could.”
The #WeCantBringBackOurDead hashtag is now spreading like wildfire across social media as a way to protest the drone program, which according to a report last year by Human Rights Watch killed at least 82 people — 57 of them civilians — in Yemen alone, between September 2012 and June 2013.
Altogether, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that among the 2,400 people allegedly killed by drones, 273 of them were civilians.
It goes to show that when you’re married to the most powerful man in the world, even the best-intentioned gestures can be incredibly complicated and blow back in your face. Many of the tweets responding to the first lady have added the hashtag #hypocrisy.
In a recent interview with The New Yorker, the president defended the drone program, while saying that he wrestles with the knowledge of civilian casualties.
“I have a solemn duty and responsibility to keep the American people safe,” he said. “That’s my most important obligation as president and commander-in-chief. And there are individuals and groups out there that are intent on killing Americans — killing American civilians, killing American children, blowing up American planes.”
As for the surveillance drones in Nigeria, the White House said the Obama administration is not planning for now to deploy U.S. troops or elite forces.
“At this point, we’re not actively considering the deployment of U.S. military personnel in a combined rescue attempt,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. “We would have to know where the girls are as a simple proposition before we could attempt rescue attempts.”