Drones: The Skies Killing Flies

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. 



  1. Benjamin, Medea; Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, OR books, London: 2012.


Koyrun Nahar


24 March 2013 delete
Eirteqa Sultan

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’. OBAMA SAYING THAT- WHAT A JOKE!!! He is such a HYPOCRITE!!

24 March 2013 delete
Jamal Mehmood

Drones. One of the biggest let downs of Barack Obama's presidency. So sad.

24 March 2013 delete
Sayeda Sen

This quote ‘There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders’ by Obama must be one of the most hypocritical sentences ever spoken. Clearly this anti-terrorist idea and hatred towards muslims (lets be honest), has completely blinded them of their (Americans) own terrorism. There is no justification for killing innocent civilians. What kind of end will justify these means?

25 March 2013 delete
Fareeda Miah

Drones have become the new tool for warfare and this article is right in saying that the 'human' element of war is being erased to satisfy the needs of people watching it from their seats. More drone attacks have been allowed under the Obama presidency than Bush and whilst western nations like the US are armed to the teeth with drones, there's no doubt that there will some sort of wider world drone proliferation by other states, such as Russian and China, leading to greater remote controlled warfare where ordinary citizens will bear the deathly costs. Drone warfare won't stop (just like nuclear proliferation hasn't) and was used in Libya and more recently Mali but a real (global) legal evaluation needs to considered and implemented against those committing such crimes.

25 March 2013 delete
Murshed Anwar

Are there some situations where the use of drones can be justified (or at least described as no better or no worse than any other weaponry)? Go back a decade, put aside your views on the rights or wrongs of killing him, but if someone offered you a drone attack on Saddam (plus let’s say some collateral damage of 10 people around him) in return for the 120,000+ that have died in Iraq subsequently - which one would you opt for?

25 March 2013 delete
Hassan Hirsi

Interesting point, Murshed. But the dilemma itself presupposes a that an actor (in this case the US) has righteous authority to make this decision, and that drone precision and collateral damage are carefully calculated, absolute factors. Furthermore, the premise works on the supposition of "unfair warfare". Every state has the right to defend themselves from foreign and domestic threats to security. However, uneven technological advancement combined with biased premises (often leaning on either 10 or 120'000 rhetoric) are misconstruing the principles of sovereignty for some nations, thereby undermining core pillars of the international peace. Simultaneous to this, the normalisation of drone attacks facilitates the idea that some states have an inherent (white man's) "burden" in foreign affairs.

The important question is: who gave them the authority, and what can be done to prohibit the use of drones? Thanks Undleeb for sharing an insight rarely provided by popular media.

26 March 2013 delete
Jakril Hoque

The increase in drone strikes under the Obama administration when compared to the Bush administration is largely as a result of improvements in technology than anything.

The ability to murder other human beings on a grand scale thousands of miles away without risking ones own life epitomises the asymmetrical nature of modern warfare.

Unfortunately, I only can only see drone strikes increasing in the near future. The process of fiscal tightening in the US and around the Western world and the inevitable cuts in military spending may well curb their capabilities to launch large scale operations like the ones we've seen in the last ten years but I don't think it'll do anything to curb their enthusiasm to resort to unilateral use of military power to ensure uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.

28 March 2013 delete