Sunday, October 30, 2011

Remote Control Poison

I wondered how other nations viewed the current use of drones to take out people the current administration deemed "dangerous," and my weekly trip to Watching America provided me with at least one answer. The writer of an opinion piece in France's L'Express raises the kinds of questions which have been troubling many of us here in the US.

However, their use brings about a wave of objections. Should the calm and cold technician who guides this unit from Nevada or Virginia (sites of CIA headquarters) be judged more innocent than a tense fighter pilot in his cockpit — and, thus, do “laws of warfare” apply? Can the person giving the orders, in this case the president of the United States himself, be permanently exempt from any questioning? By extrapolation, with regard to authoritarian regimes, one instantly thinks of Russia or China; would they one day be permitted the same freedom on the territory of their opponents, Georgia or Taiwan, or even on their own soil as in Chechnya or Tibet? Recall that in 2006 the Russian parliament authorized the president to hunt down terrorists across borders.

The most questionable point comes from the secret and highly confidential nature of these operations; they are run entirely by the CIA. From the elimination of a military adversary to targeted killings, there is only one step, which requires a minimum amount of monitoring over the decision. The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice had authorized the operation against al-Awlaki only on the grounds of intelligence pushes aside the presidential decree prohibiting assassination, demonstrating a disturbing breach in the system. It is now right to require that the use of drones by the CIA be fully integrated into the chain of command of conventional forces. Again, the performance “technology” of the United States cannot be accomplished at the expense of fundamental principles on which the nation relies on. Otherwise the U.S. risks this turning into the new Guantanamo.
[Emphasis added]

The use of drones on an acknowledged battle field (Afghanistan) is one thing. Using them in countries we are not at war with (Pakistan or, as in the al-Awlaki case, Yemen) is something entirely different. Even assuming that permission was sought and granted by the nation in question to invade their air space with these unmanned death-dealers, their use to kill, to assassinate, solely on the basis of a CIA intelligence report seems contrary to all international rules of conduct. Their use certainly is contrary to the American ideals of due process and a violation of the decades old executive rule against assassinations.

The fact that the use of drones cuts down on (but has not ended) "collateral damage", a despicable euphemism for death and injury to innocent civilians in the neighborhood, does not mitigate the use that the current administration has put them to. The use of unmanned drones in this context is another case of "we do it because we can."

Congress and the American people should be howling with outrage, but we have been so indoctrinated by post-9/11 propaganda that we meekly accept such conduct as fitting within the "Global War on Terror" doctrine.

And that makes me feel very ashamed.

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