Pro & Con Quotes: Should the United States Continue Its Use of Drone Strikes Abroad?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Dan Sabbagh, Defence and Security Editor for The Guardian, in a Nov. 18, 2019 article, “Killer Drones: How Many Are There and Who Do They Target?,” available at theguardian.com, stated:
“The vast majority of the many thousands of military drones are used for surveillance, and defence experts predict that will continue. Analysts at information group Jane’s estimate that more than 80,000 surveillance drones and almost 2,000 attack drones will be purchased around the world in the next 10 years.
Weaponised drones are not cheap: experts say the starting price for the technology is about $15m (£12m) per unit, with more for add-ons, on top of the training and the crews needed to pilot them…
The first phase of drone warfare was dominated by three countries: the US, the UK and Israel. The US and UK rely on Predator and latterly Reaper drones made by General Atomics, a Californian company owned by billionaire brothers Neal and Linden Blue. Israel develops its own technology.
Drones rapidly proliferated in a second wave over the past five years, with Pakistan and Turkey developing their own programmes. Since 2016, Turkey has used drones heavily, against the separatist Kurdish PKK in its own country, in northern Iraq and more recently against Kurdish groups in Syria.
China, meanwhile, has begun supplying a range of countries with its Wing Loong and CH series drones, including to the UAE – where they have been used in a string of deadly strikes in Libya – as well as Egypt Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, although not every country has been able to deploy what it has bought.
Iran was blamed for an attack on Saudi oil installations in September believed to have involved drones as well as missiles. Proliferation is expected to continue, not least because Russia and India are running behind.”Nov. 18, 2019
Amnesty International, in a 2018 report, “Deadly Assistance: The Role of European States in US Drone Strikes,” available at amnesty.org, stated:
“While Amnesty International does not oppose the use of armed drones, it has consistently called on the USA to ensure that the use of armed drones complies with its obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law. In its 2013 report on drone strikes in Pakistan, Amnesty International concluded that the USA had, by justifying the so-called targeted killing of individuals or groups suspected of involvement in any kind of terrorism against the USA, adopted a radical re-interpretation of the concept of “imminence” under the purported right of self-defence, in violation of international human rights law.
In particular, by permitting the intentional use of lethal force outside recognised conflict zones and in a manner incompatible with applicable human rights standards, the USA’s policies and practices regarding the use of drones violate the right to life. Furthermore, drone strikes carried out by the USA outside conflict zones against persons who were not posing an imminent threat to life may constitute extrajudicial executions. There have also been drone strikes in armed conflict situations that appear to have unlawfully killed civilians as they were carried out in a manner that failed to take adequate precautions or otherwise violated international humanitarian law.
President Trump’s reported dismantling of the limited restrictions imposed by the Obama administration on the US drone programme therefore increases the risk of civilian casualties and unlawful killings.”2018
Brian Finlay, President and CEO of the Stimson Center, in a June 2018 report, “An Action Plan on U.S. Drone Policy,” available at stimson.org, stated:
“Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, continue to shape how, when, and where the United States conducts military and counterterrorism operations around the world. Yet U.S. use of armed drones remains controversial, in large part because of ongoing secrecy surrounding the use of lethal drone strikes outside of traditional battlefields and the resulting lack of accountability that often goes hand in hand with the absence of transparency. Currently, the U.S. drone program rests on indistinct frameworks and an approach to drone strikes based on U.S. exceptionalism. Ambiguity surrounding U.S. drone policy has contributed to enduring questions about the legality, efficacy, and legitimacy of the U.S. drone program. And the drone debate continues in the Trump administration…
Given these and related concerns, such as the rapid spread of drone technology for military and national security purposes around the world, it is important that the United States develop a drone policy that is both practical and comprehensive, and that sets a constructive international precedent for future drone use worldwide.”June 2018
Michael V. Hayden, MA, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in a Feb. 19, 2016 article for the New York Times titled “To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare,” wrote:
“TARGETED killing using drones has become part of the American way of war…
The program is not perfect. No military program is. But here is the bottom line: It works. I think it fair to say that the targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict. It disrupted terrorist plots and reduced the original Qaeda organization along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to a shell of its former self…
For my part, the United States needs not only to maintain this capacity, but also to be willing to use it. Radical Islamism thrives in many corners of the world — Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Mali, the list goes on — where governments cannot or will not act. In some of these instances, the United States must.
And unmanned aerial vehicles carrying precision weapons and guided by powerful intelligence offer a proportional and discriminating response when response is necessary. Civilians have died, but in my firm opinion, the death toll from terrorist attacks would have been much higher if we had not taken action.”Feb. 19, 2016 - Michael V. Hayden, MA
Patrick B. Johnston, PhD, Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation, and Anoop K. Sarbahi, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, in a Jan. 2016 paper for International Studies Quarterly titled “The Impact of US Drone Strikes on Terrorism in Pakistan,” available from Patrick Johnston’s personal website, wrote:
“We find that drone strikes are associated with decreases in the incidence and lethality of terrorist attacks, as well as decreases in selective targeting of tribal elders… drone strikes, while unpopular, bolster US counterterrorism…
[O]ur findings provide key support for the hypothesis that new technologies – specifically, remote means of surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting – prove capable of disrupting and degrading militant organizations. In doing so, such technologies limit both the frequency and the lethality of militant attacks.”Jan. 2016 - Patrick B. Johnston, PhD
Anoop K. Sarbahi, PhD
Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States of America, said in his May 23, 2013 speech at National Defense University, available at whitehouse.gov:
“[T]he United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones…
To begin with, our actions are effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, ‘We could lose the reserves to enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives…’ Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives…
Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty.
Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes. So doing nothing is not an option.”May 23, 2013 - Barack Obama, JD
James E. Cartwright, MA, Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in his Mar. 24, 2013 testimony “Constitutional and Counter Terrorism Implications of Targeted Killing” to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, available at csis.org:
“Advances in high band-width satellite communications, sensing technologies – particularly full motion video – combined with existing aircraft technology has allowed armed drones to emerge as the platform of choice in this counter terror mission space. In military operations, these drones are highly capable and sought after by ground forces. They cost roughly $4-5M versus a modern fighter’s $150M. They persist on station for 15-20 hours without refueling, versus 1-2 hours for fighter attack aircraft. They consume 100 gallons of fuel per flight versus 1,000-3,000 gallons for an unrefueled fighter attack aircraft. Their optics provides full motion imagery at far greater distances and altitudes than the human eye, and the crews are not distracted or disabled by the constant duties of flight. Their sensor information can be distributed to fixed and mobile users in real time.
Drones offer many advantages over other conventional forces in counter terrorism missions. Basing can be located far from the area of interest without sacrificing time on station. They have far greater mobility than a similar ground or naval capability. Their elevated sensors are generally more effective in locating and pursuing a threat. They can persist in an area for extended periods of time awaiting emergence or a clear opportunity. They can quickly adapt to fixed and mobile targets. These and many other attributes of armed drones make them the leading choice in counter terrorism operations.”Mar. 24, 2013 - James E. Cartwright, MA
John Brennan, MA, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said in a Apr. 30, 2012 speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, available at wilsoncenter.org:
“[I]n full accordance with the law, and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives, the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones…
With the unprecedented ability of remotely piloted aircraft to precisely target a military objective while minimizing collateral damage, one could argue that never before has there been a weapon that allows us to distinguish more effectively between an al-Qaida terrorist and innocent civilians…
In addition, compared against other options, a pilot operating this aircraft remotely, with the benefit of technology and with the safety of distance, might actually have a clearer picture of the target and its surroundings, including the presence of innocent civilians. It’s this surgical precision, the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumor called an al-Qaida terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it, that makes this counterterrorism tool so essential.”Apr. 30, 2012 - John Brennan, MA
Paddy Ashdown, Former Member of UK Parliament and UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated in his Feb. 14, 2013 article “If You’re Opposed to Drones, Then Think Again” in the Times of London:
“A peer who ought to know better said in the House of Lords the other day that the drone was especially dangerous since it ‘kills people remotely from some leafy suburb in the middle of one’s own country’ — as though this was somehow happening in a garden shed close to you.
But of course it is not. Yes, these decisions are being controlled from thousands of miles away. But is that more thousands of miles away than the decision to send in a stealth fighter? Or give the order to launch a missile from a nearby Special Forces team? Or a Cruise missile from a submarine? And — and here’s the point — thousands of miles from the battlefield is thousands of miles closer to the politicians who have to be accountable.
It is said that every week President Obama sits down with his advisers and personally decides how drones will be used in the week ahead. Can we imagine what that must be like for a democratically elected politician? No taking shelter behind a command chain that reaches right down to the judgment of the poor bloody soldier on the ground. This time the President is personally involved — personally accountable; perhaps even in a way that could, theoretically at least, be open to challenge before an international court of law.
So if we want political accountability for the violent actions of war taken in our name — and presumably we do — then we get more of it, not less, from a decision by a politician to launch a ‘smart’ bomb from a drone than one taken, for instance by a pilot in a split second, in the heat of conflict, 25,000ft above the battlefield.”Feb. 14, 2013 - Paddy Ashdown
Martha McSally, MPP, former Fighter Pilot and Drone Squadron Commander in the US Air Force, stated in her Apr. 23, 2013 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, available at lawfareblog.com:
“RPAs provide unprecedented intelligence and strike capability with persistence, precision, and oversight. RPAs can loiter overhead target areas around the clock and provide real-time infrared and electro-optical streaming video while remaining undetected in low threat environments. Once a decision to strike has been made and strike criteria have been met, RPAs provide the ability to have real-time intelligence and oversight with the capability to abort the strike at the last minute if conditions change.
Once a decision has been made that it is legal and wise strategy to conduct a target strike, the RPA platform is usually the hands-down best choice to maximize precisin, persistent intelligence, responsiveness, and oversight by commanders/intelligence/legal experts. It also has the benefit of minimizing civilian casualties at with[out] risk of US. casualties and at relatively low cost.”Apr. 23, 2013 - Martha McSally, MPP
Will Saletan, national correspondent at Slate, said in his Feb. 19, 2013 article “In Defense of Drones” at slate.com:
“You can fly them low without fear of losing your life. You can study your target carefully instead of reacting in the heat of the moment. You can watch and guide the missiles all the way down. Even the substitution of missiles for bombs saves lives. Look at the data from Iraq: In incidents that claimed civilian lives, the weapon with the highest body count per incident was suicide bombing. The second most deadly weapon was aerial bombing by coalition forces. By comparison, missile strikes killed fewer than half as many civilians per error.
Drones kill a lower ratio of civilians to combatants than we’ve seen in any recent war. Granted, many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other such wars were killed by our enemies rather than by us. But that’s part of the equation. One reason to prefer drones is that when you send troops, fighting breaks out, and the longer the fighting goes on, the more innocent people die. Drones are like laparoscopic surgery: They minimize the entry wound and the risk of infection.”Feb. 19, 2013 - William Saletan
Peter Beaumont, Foreign Affairs Editor at The Guardian and The Observer, states in his Aug. 18, 2012 article “Are Drone Any More Immoral than Other Weapons of War?” at theguardian.com:
“[T]he nature of drone warfare itself has become central. The operators’ very remoteness, it is claimed, leads to desensitisation. But throughout the history of weapons, designers have always sought to maximise lethality while reducing the vulnerability of those using the weapons. And while it has long been accepted that there is a relationship between increased distance from a target and the ability to kill with reduced feelings of guilt, recent anecdotal evidence suggests that some drone operators, because they spend so long intimately observing their targets, experience the same emotional damage as those who kill at close quarters…
The use of force against countries in peacetime… is governed by Article 51 of the UN Charter. This permits ‘the right of individual or collective defence’ across borders in peacetime if either one of two requirements is satisfied: that the group or individuals being targeted poses a threat or if the country, where the strike takes place, ‘consents’. While Pakistan has complained that drone strikes ‘infringe its sovereignty’, strong evidence exists that suggests it is heavily involved in providing the intelligence and other participation for strikes.
A case can be made too that drones might be ‘more ethical’ than other older systems because they can be more discriminate, lingering over their target for hours or returning for days to the location, giving those authorising the operations the opportunity to minimise noncombatant casualties.”Aug. 18, 2012 - Peter Beaumont
C. Christine Fair, PhD, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, stated in her Jan. 29, 2013 article “For Now, Drones Are the Best Option” at nytimes.com:
“The tribal areas are governed by the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation rather than Pakistan’s constitution. Because of this, there are no police forces in the area, but rather militias, paramilitary and military forces. Americans could not therefore detain suspects without ground operations.
Alternatives are more deadly and devastating: Pakistani military operations, which are not precise and have displaced up to 4 million people, devastate infrastructure and displace whole communities.
And while Pakistan helps the United States in some operations it undermines the United States in others. For this reason, the United States cannot simply outsource such an assignment to Pakistan because there have been too many cases where the Pakistanis have alerted the targets in advance.
Drones may not be the desirable, but they are the best option at least in the tribal areas.”Jan. 29, 2013 - C. Christine Fair, PhD
Drone Wars, in an undated article, “The Danger of Drones,” available at dronewars.net and accessed on Oct. 21, 2020, stated:
“The reality is that there is no such thing as a guaranteed accurate airstrike While laser-guided weapons are without doubt much more accurate than they were even 20 or 30 years ago, the myth of guaranteed precision is just that, a myth. Even under test conditions, only 50% of weapons are expected to hit within their ‘circular error of probability’. Once the blast radius of weapons is taken into account and indeed how such systems can be affected by things such as the weather, it is clear that ‘precision’ cannot by any means be assured…
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the rise of remote, drone warfare is that it is ushering in a state of permanent/forever war. With no (or very few) troops deployed on the ground and when air strikes can be carried out with impunity by drone operators who then commute home at the end of the day, there is little public or political pressure to bring interventions to an end.”Oct. 21, 2020
Omar Suleiman, PhD, founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, in a July 21, 2020 article, “America’s Problem with Policing Doesn’t Stop at the U.S. Border,” available at theintercept.com, stated:
“Now that [George] Floyd’s murder has forced a national conversation about policing within our country’s borders, it’s time the American public begins to reckon with the victims of our foreign policy abroad. Since waging the war on Iraq, how many Americans can name a single one of the approximately 200,000 civilian casualties of that war? Even when exposed to the gross images of torture at Abu Ghraib at the hands of members of the U.S. military, the victims’ faces remained blurred and their names unknown…
For years, researchers have logged the details of America’s opaque drone war, a fulcrum of the war on terror that is a signature part of President Barack Obama’s legacy, now continued by Trump. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that up to 17,000 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, while Airwars has tracked reports of nearly 30,000 civilians being killed by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria…
Despite these efforts, there has been an overall paucity in news coverage of the drone war, and specifically of the stories of those killed by drone operators pushing buttons from thousands of miles away: a combination of public apathy and efforts by the federal government to shield the drone program from public view…
We cannot make our government accountable for the victims of state violence if there is no transparency into its actions. We also cannot generate the moral outrage necessary to usher in change if we don’t consider the humanity of our victims.”July 21, 2020
Pauline Muchina, PhD, Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the Africa Region and Mike Merryman-Lotze, Palestine-Israel Program Director, both of the American Friends Service Committee, in a May 16, 2019 article, “The U.S. Has Killed Thousands of People with Lethal Drones – It’s Time to Put a Stop to It,” available at afsc.org, stated:
“For years, the American Friends Service Committee has joined other organizations in calling for a ban on drone warfare. The United States’ use of lethal drones has killed thousands of people – including hundreds of children – and displaced countless others. Instead of making the U.S. safer, drones have undermined efforts to end conflict and build stability and viable economies in countries around the world.
Since the start of the U.S. ‘war on terror’ in 2001, drone warfare has grown as U.S. military operations have expanded beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. A significant portion of U.S. military actions outside of Afghanistan and Iraq – including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya – are carried out with drones…
Our staff have documented how these attacks have displaced communities – as people flee after strikes – and caused immense human suffering in a country that already faces one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. And while the U.S. justifies drone strikes as a response to Al-Shabaab, these actions often have the opposite effect – driving affected community members to support the very groups the U.S. is targeting.”May 16, 2019
Maleeha Lodhi, PhD, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations (UN), in a July 1, 2016 speech to the 110th plenary meeting of the United Nations’ General Assembly Seventieth Session, a transcript of which is available in the UN’s online Official Records under the reference A/70/PV.110, stated:
“[W]hen counterterrorism efforts neglect the rule of law at the national and international levels and violate international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, and fundamental freedoms, they not only betray the values they seek to uphold, but they can also fuel violent extremism…
Pakistan has repeatedly emphasized this aspect in the context of the use of drone strikes that violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of States, seriously undermining the fundamental rights of innocent victims and further fuelling terrorism and violent extremism. We strongly condemn these unlawful measures and demand their immediate cessation. The continuation of these drone strikes reflects a blatant disregard for our unequivocal and existing commitments on the use of remotely piloted aircraft, as set forth in the resolution on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.”July 1, 2016 - Maleeha Lodhi, PhD
Ann Wright, former Army Reserves Colonel and former US diplomat, in an interview with Dennis J. Bernstein for Consortium News, a transcript of which is available in the June 8, 2016 article titled “Calling out Drone War as a War Crime,” stated:
“[T]he president of the United States [Barack Obama] is using [drones] as kind of his personal assassination tool.
He has become the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and the executioner of people around the world, who the United States intelligence agencies have identified as people who are doing something that is against U.S. interests. And we certainly know that our intelligence community is not infallible, and they’ve made lots of mistakes.
We also know for a fact that the drone program kills lots and lots and lots of people who are no threat to the United States…
I would say, as a military officer with 29 years’ experience, and a U.S. diplomat, that we have a weapons system that is causing blowback to the interests of the United States. Using the assassin program is making the United States more insecure rather than secure. That it is harming our national security, not enhancing it. And that we should stop this drone program. And he, as president of the United States, should stop being the sign-off person on this, because, in my opinion, it’s illegal and he could be put up on war crimes charges.”June 8, 2016 - Ann Wright, JD
Khuram Iqbal, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Peace & Conflict Studies at National Defence University in Pakistan, stated the following in an Apr. 28, 2015 interview with Russian news agency RT titled “Strong Link Between US Drone Strikes and Rise of Suicide Terrorism in Pakistan,” available at rt.com:
“As far as US drone strikes in Pakistan are concerned, they are tactically successful but strategically counterproductive. No doubt, these drone strikes have managed to kill high-profile terrorist leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud. But look at the cost. If you look at the official figures collected by independent researchers, attempts to kill 41 militant commanders have resulted in the deaths of estimated 1,200 people. It means that for each militant commander the US has killed more than 30 civilians. So again collateral damage on such a high scale does not bode well for Pakistan’s national counter-terrorism policy that seeks to win over the population in conflict regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)…
[T]errorist groups in Pakistan are fighting with an anti-American agenda. They justify their violence against the Pakistani state and society as result of Islamabad’s support for the US occupation of Afghanistan. So to undo this perception, the US must stop the drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan and let the Pakistani state deal with these terrorist organizations with all its indigenous resources.”Apr. 28, 2015 - Khuram Iqbal, PhD
Michael Boyle, PhD, Assistant Professor of Political Science at LaSalle University and former member of President Obama’s counterterrorism expert advisory group, wrote in his Jan. 15, 2013 paper “The Costs and Consequences of Drone Warfare” in International Affairs:
“The Obama administration’s embrace of drones is encouraging a new arms race for drones that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent, destabilized and polarized between those who have drones and those who are victims of them.
It is ironic that Al-Qaeda’s image of the United States—as an all-seeing, irreconcilably hostile enemy who rains down bombs and death on innocent Muslims without a second thought—is inadvertently reinforced by a drones policy that does not bother to ask the names of its victims. Even the casual anti-Americanism common in many parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia, much of which portrays the US as cruel, domineering and indifferent to the suffering of others, is reinforced by a drones policy which involves killing foreign citizens on an almost daily basis. A choice must be made: the US cannot rely on drones as it does now while attempting to convince others that these depictions are gross caricatures. Over time, an excessive reliance on drones will deepen the reservoirs of anti-US sentiment, embolden America’s enemies and provide other governments with a compelling public rationale to resist a US-led international order which is underwritten by sudden, blinding strikes from the sky.”Jan. 15, 2013 - Michael Boyle, PhD
David Cole, JD, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, said in his Feb. 13, 2013 article “What’s Wrong with Obama’s Drone Policy” in The Nation:
“Imagine that Russian President Vladimir Putin had used remote-controlled drones armed with missiles to kill thousands of ‘enemies’ (and plenty of civilians) throughout Asia and Eastern Europe. Imagine, further, that Putin refused to acknowledge any of the killings and simply asserted in general terms that he had the right to kill anyone he secretly determined was a leader of the Chechen rebels or ‘associated forces,’ even if they posed no immediate threat of attack on Russia. How would the State Department treat such a practice in its annual reports on human rights compliance?
Conveniently, the State Department’s country reports leave out the United States. Otherwise, it might have to pass judgment on President Obama’s use of drones to kill thousands of our ‘enemies,’ and lots of civilians, many of them far from any battlefield. But as citizens in whose name the president is exercising this power, we need to pass judgment… The more we learn, the more troubling the practice is…
The ambiguous definitions of the scope of this war and even of the enemy risk establishing a precedent that drones can be used against anyone a government considers even a long-term threat…
The root of the problem is that [drones] make it too easy to kill… In his only major presidential speech on national security, President Obama promised that he would fight terror within the confines of our values and the rule of law. What happened to that promise?”Feb. 13, 2013 - David Cole, JD
The Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law said in a 2012 report “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan” at law.stanford.edu:
“We are in the midst of a significant period of drone proliferation, pushed forward on the one hand by governments and militaries, and on the other, by manufacturers seeking to expand markets and profit. Unchecked armed drone proliferation poses a threat to global stability, and, as more countries and non-state actors obtain access to the technology, the risk of US-style practices of cross-border targeted killing spreading are clear…
The ways in which the US has used drones in the context of its targeted killing policies has facilitated an undermining of the constraints of democratic accountability, and rendered resort to lethal force easier and more attractive to policymakers. The decision to use military force must be subject to rigorous checks-and-balances; drones, however, have facilitated the use of killing as a convenient option that avoids the potential political fallout from US casualties and the challenges posed by detention…
With policymakers making critical decisions about US policy outside the public’s view, and an utter lack of any real transparency and accountability, the rule of law is undermined and a democratic deficit created.”2012 - Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic
Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law
David Rohde, Investigative Reporter for Reuters and Contributing Editor at The Atlantic, said in his Mar. 1, 2012 article “How Obama’s Drone War Is Backfiring” on reuters.com:
“[T]the administration’s excessive use of drone attacks undercuts one of its most laudable policies: a promising new post-9/11 approach to the use of lethal American force, one of multilateralism, transparency and narrow focus…
From Pakistan to Yemen to post-American Iraq, drones often spark deep resentment where they operate. When they do attack, they kill as brutally as any weapon of war. The administration’s practice of classifying the strikes as secret only exacerbates local anger and suspicion. Under Obama, drone strikes have become too frequent, too unilateral, and too much associated with the heavy-handed use of American power.”Mar. 1, 2012 - David Rohde
Ibrahim Mothana, late Yemeni activist, writer, and co-founder of Yemen’s Al-Watan political party, said in his June 13, 2012 op-ed “How Drones Help Al Qaeda” at nytimes.com:
“Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair… Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen…
Yemeni tribes are generally quite pragmatic and are by no means a default option for radical religious groups seeking a safe haven. However, the increasing civilian toll of drone strikes is turning the apathy of tribal factions into anger… Certainly, there may be short-term military gains from killing militant leaders in these strikes, but they are minuscule compared with the long-term damage the drone program is causing. A new generation of leaders is spontaneously emerging in furious retaliation to attacks on their territories and tribes.
This is why Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is much stronger in Yemen today than it was a few years ago. In 2009, A.Q.A.P. had only a few hundred members and controlled no territory; today it has, along with Ansar al-Sharia, at least 1,000 members and controls substantial amounts of territory…
America’s counterterrorism policy here is not only making Yemen less safe by strengthening support for A.Q.A.P., but it could also ultimately endanger the United States and the entire world.”June 13, 2012 - Ibrahim Mothana, MA
Jeremy Scahill, Investigative Journalist and War Correspondant for First Look Media’s “The Intercept,” said in a May 29, 2013 interview with Tom Wainwright, homepage editor for The Economist titled “Drone Strikes and Other Unsavoury Things,” available at economist.com:
“I think we should have a tactical discussion [about drones]. Who is actually being killed? We don’t know who we’re killing in these signature strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. So if you don’t know who you’re killing, and you don’t necessarily have actual evidence that they’re involved with terror plots, and you’ve decided to engage in a sort of pre-crime where you preemptively label military-age males in certain regions terrorists and then kill them, that sends a certain message to the world that the United States is acting with impunity and believes it has the right to intervene in sovereign nations and conduct war even without the authority of its own lawmakers.
I’m deeply concerned that the message we’re sending the world is going to cause blowback – that we’re going to get hit as a result of this, and that we lose our moral standing in the world.”May 29, 2013 - Jeremy Scahill
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