After the last Israeli bombardment on Gaza, Obama issued a statement stating ‘There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders’. In his hasty support for Israel he seems to have forgotten his missiles that rain down daily on the citizens of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
In comparison to Bush, Obama really represented himself as the “liberal” president; who intended to close down Guantanamo Bay and end all the malarkey of torture and the bewailing families who remained and remain adamant to see the release of their loved ones. But no, he did not close down Guantanamo. However, rather than continuing Bush’s plan of indefinite imprisonment for terrorists, he did devise a new plan to sort out those pesky terrorists. Now, instead of throwing them into Guantanamo and spending money on them, feeding them, clothing them, providing ‘security’ for them; oh and paying guards to torture them he has decided to just drone bomb them: the easiest solution for the messiest of problems.
Every aspect of drone bombing is against everything that America has stood for. These extra-judicial killings go against America’s fundamental principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'. Drones are used by America’s Central Intelligence Agency and due to the classified nature of their work are not accountable for their actions. They have secret kill lists and there is no telling who makes the list and why. However a distinction is made between the “types of strike” that are issued. Popular with the Bush administration, were 'personality' strikes; which are strikes issued to target 'named, allegedly high value armed non-state groups. Obama’s administration has opted for 'signature' strikes, which are ‘based on patterns of life‘ or ‘defining characteristics’, that the US authorities consider are associated with terrorist activities. The Times’ newspaper have also reported that some in the Obama administration joke that when the CIA sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks, they think it is a terrorist training camp’.
Drones are serious violation of Pakistan’s, Somalia’s and Yemen’s sovereignty. The most high profile killing was of an American citizen and his son in the ‘sovereign’ state of Yemen. Anwar Al-Awlaki was murdered in a drone strike in September 2011. He was accused of being a propagandist for a Yemeni terrorist organisation that was an offshoot of Al-Qaeda. However he was not charged with a crime or allowed a trial by jury, as he should have been entitled to, since he was an American citizen. A month later his son, Abdul-Rahman Awlaki, an American citizen was also killed in a drone strike. He was accused of being a 20-something militant male, in reality however, he was a 16-year-old boy who had snuck out of his family home to find his father who he had not seen in 2 years. The Obama administration then justified killing Awlaki’s son by simply stating that his father should not have joined Al-Qaeda. Now even if that were true since when was it okay for a son to be murdered for the crimes of his father?
Drones are counterproductive to their purpose of killing terrorists, as the majority of drone attacks kill civilians and those souls who are forced to watch their loved ones die then have no choice but to take up arms and defend their families; which in turn causes them to become ‘terrorists’. Militants in the area capitalise on the grief of family members and use drone attacks as recruitment opportunities. However in many cases, especially in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan where drone attacks have been most popular; the idea of ‘badal’ or ‘revenge’ is entrenched in their way of life and the ‘code of conduct’, which the Pashtun people live by. Drone attacks only further instigate the situation and only beget desperate people who see no solution and no way out. As the saying goes 'one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter' and this has never more applicable than to the victims of the ruthless drone attacks.
Obama and his administrations blatant hypocrisy has led to the killing of 3,247 people of which 852 have been confirmed civilians. Now before you shrug that number off let me end by telling you a story of just one of those civilians that was murdered in cold blood.
The Khan family never heard it. They had been sleeping for an hour when a hellfire missile pierced their mud hut. Black smoke and dust choked the villagers as they dug through the rubble. Four-year-old Zeerak’s legs were severed. His sister, Maria three, was badly scorched. Both were dead. When their cousin, Irfan, 16 saw them, he gently curled them into his arms, squeezed the rumpled bodies to his chest lightly kissed their faces, and slid into a stupor.1
The technological advancements in drone warfare and the removal of the ‘human’ aspect in war has only meant that it is now a whole lot easier for innocent people to be killed from a whole lot further away. Drones may save soldiers lives but they sure as hell don’t save civilians lives. And Irfan, from the Khan family is a living testament to that.
- Benjamin, Medea; Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, OR books, London: 2012.