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Drones kill too many innocents

People are more than simply a number in a system. | wikimedia.org

Targeted killing is an euphemism for assassination. While every president since the Ford administration maintained an executive order banning assassination by U.S. forces, the Obama administration has redefined “assassination” with its use of drones in the War on Terror.

Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles

Drones are the tools of what is currently the largest assassination program to exist in global warfare. The drone has allowed the White House to effectively act as judge, jury and executioner. The use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles to attack military targets is perceived by the public as surgical, efficient and effective. The public also justifies drones by claiming they prevent the use of “boots on the ground.”

According to The Intercept, between 648 and 1,576 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and an estimated 65 to 249 people have been killed so far by U.S. drone strikes in Somalia. Yet, intelligence does not show how many civilians have been killed in these strikes. According to an article by The Intercept, “the identities of the ‘people killed’ were often unknown and may include civilians as well as suspected terrorists or militants. The U.S. almost never publicly acknowledges individual operations.”

Casualty Distortion

Current casualty statistics are always heavily distorted and underreported because all military-age males killed by drones are considered enemy combatants. If a 17-year-old male was killed by a U.S. drone strike, his death would not be considered a civilian casualty by U.S. statistics regardless of his innocence. Unless those killed by drone strikes are posthumously shown to be innocent, their death will not even appear on the military’s civilian casualty count. In the eyes of the law they are ultimately guilty until proven innocent.

The possibility of being a combatant is enough to justify one’s death under the current U.S. system. If killed with their families and neighbors, the victims of drone strikes would ultimately be forsaken by justice and forgotten by the world. Not only will the victims’ bodies be too burned or dismembered by the drone’s powerful Hellfire missiles, their very existence would be challenged by a war which is highly classified and sanitized.

Terror Weapons

Drone strikes are a terror weapon because they incite fear, death and suffering to the people below.

Political theorist Noam Chomsky states that the drone program “terrorizes villages, regions, huge areas. It is the most massive terror campaign going on by a long shot.” Drones bring death from above, and people cannot surrender to drones.

The Disconnect of War

Whether a villager in Yemen or a drone operator carrying out duties to kill from above, the disconnect of war will strip and simplify the person to a number in the system. The presumption of innocence has met the same fate as the very document it has been codified in; as English politician William Blackstone in 1759 said about the Magna Carta, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats.”

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Joseph DeClercq

    Seriously? "Drones Kill Too Many Innocents" coming from the writer who defended Planned Parenthood last week and called the murderous organization an "essential health care provider"?

    Have your opinions, but at least be consistent with them. Life is precious. 17 year old victims of drone attacks are no more or less innocent than the children Planned Parenthood happily slaughters and sells for profit every day.


    October 28, 2015

  2. Nathan Palatsky

    Your line is extremely illuminating... "Yet, intelligence does not show how many civilians have been killed in these strikes." Your title "Drones Kill Too Many Innocents" is a statement based on an assumption. As an infantry Marine who trained with drones, I can tell you they are an invaluable tool that undeniably save lives. Drones do a lot more than "assassinate." They provide oversight, feeding critical information to the decision-makers, while allowing our men to stay at a safe distance.

    Casualty distortion is an easy claim to make when you haven't dealt with today's rules of engagement. Even with human eyes on a confirmed target, the ROE often prevent servicemen from acting. One noted CIA operative had a clear shot at Osama Bid Laden with visual confirmation in 1995 and was waived off. There is nothing cavalier or casual about the decision to strike with ANY weapon in our arsenal.

    Two notes on your "terror weapon" objection. 1) You quoted a career-long anti-war activist. Chomsky made his name opposing Vietnam and was a known supporter of several other anti-war activists, including Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson. He may not be the most objective analyst of our military practices. 2) If drones inspire fear in our enemies and therefore decrease their activity, they are doing our servicemen a favor, even if they never fire a shot.

    Finally, my biggest issue with this article is it rails against a perceived problem while providing no solution. The solution for casualty distortion are strict rules of engagement, which we have. The solution for "terror weapons" is what, exactly? How do we kill the bad guys without scaring anyone? And the solution for the disconnect of war is to go back to a time in which men hacked at each other with swords and spears. That seems much more humane and connected to you?

    Ultimately, it comes down to who you believe. Lacking the relevant information to produce a better solution, I'm going to believe the American military leaders are doing their best to protect this country and the heroes who defend it. That's all we can ask of anyone. October 28, 2015

  3. jerry lewis

    Of course christians in comments blithely justify innocent casualties. October 29, 2015

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