Faculty of the New York and Stanford university law schools have come out with a report, Living Under Drones, about the use of flying killer drones in the border area of Pakistan, where members of the Taliban are believed to hide out. Based on interviews with eyewitnesses and people familiar with the region, they concluded that the drones have (1) killed a lot of civilians, including children, (2) killed very few identifiable leaders of the Taliban or Al Qaeda and (3) made a lot of new enemies for the United States.
President George W. Bush initiated the use of flying killer drones to kill people identified as leaders of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. President Barack Obama has stepped up the use of such “targeted killings” and initiated the use of “signature strikes,” which kills people whose patterns of behavior are suspicious. Another Obama practice is the “double tap,” where a second strike is used to kill rescuers or mourners.
Drones as such are not worse than other weapons of war. They are a more precise means of killing than carpet bombing or napalm bombing or dropping of land mines or a full-scale invasion. The problem with drones is that they make killing all too easy. They make it easy to commit acts of war by creating an illusion that this can be done with impunity.
I don’t know anything about the people who live in the drone kill zones of Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. I’d guess that the majority of people in those areas are more concerned about living their lives and going about their business than they are about the conflict between the United States and its far-flung enemies. I suspect that there are a lot of people in these areas who don’t necessarily support Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “militant Islam” (whatever that is), but are still friendly with relatives and neighbors who do.
What is the intended end result of the drone strikes? Does somebody in Washington think that that some point flying killer drones will have killed all the enemies and potential enemies of the United States, and we Americans will then be safe? When U.S. forces leave Afghanistan, they will leave behind more sworn enemies of the United States than there were at the time of the invasion.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats object to President Obama’s use of flying killer drones. We Americans complain about the deadlock in our government caused by extreme partisan conflict, but our worst policies have bipartisan support and are never discussed.
Click on Drone attacks on Pakistan are counterproductive, report says for an article in The Guardian about the report.
Click on ‘Every Person Is Afraid of the Drones’ for Conor Friedersdorf’s discussion of how people in the kill zones live in constant fear.
Click on Living Under Drones for the web site for the report.
Click on Living Under Drones: Stanford / NYU Report for the text of the report.
Hat tip to Oidin.