Recently MinistryofTruth and Troubadour have written great articles on U.S. Drone policy that I very much enjoyed. Now I wish to give my own take on this debate. I personally believe that Drone strikes create rather than reduce terrorism. Both the Washington Post and the Guardian concur with me (or rather I with them).
But as in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where U.S. drone strikes have significantly weakened al-Qaeda’s capabilities, an unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population.The Yemenis are telling us that they are angry with our drone strike policy and this anger transforms into violent retribution (again from Washington Post)
The evidence of radicalization emerged in more than 20 interviews with tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen where U.S. strikes have targeted suspected militants. They described a strong shift in sentiment toward militants affiliated with the transnational network’s most active wing, al-Qaeda in the -Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
“The drone strikes have not helped either the United States or Yemen,” said Sultan al-Barakani, who was a top adviser to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Yemen is paying a heavy price, losing its sons. But the Americans are not paying the same price.”
“Every time the American attacks increase, they increase the rage of the Yemeni people, especially in al-Qaeda-controlled areas,” said Mohammed al-Ahmadi, legal coordinator for Karama, a local human rights group. “The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders, but they are also turning them into heroes.”And,
“There is more hostility against America because the attacks have not stopped al-Qaeda, but rather they have expanded, and the tribes feel this is a violation of the country’s sovereignty,” said Anssaf Ali Mayo, Aden head of al-Islah, Yemen’s most influential Islamist party, which is now part of the coalition government. “There is a psychological acceptance of al-Qaeda because of the U.S. strikes.”And,
Awlak tribesmen are businessmen, lawmakers and politicians. But the strikes have pushed more of them to join the militants or to provide AQAP with safe haven in their areas, said tribal leaders and Yemeni officials.
“The Americans are targeting the sons of the Awlak,” Aidaroos said. “I would fight even the devil to exact revenge for my nephew.”
Basically our drone strikes in Yemen may have done more harm than good, as it compelled otherwise innocent people, who had very little or no hostility to the U.S. to become militants seeking blood-revenge against America:
No Yemeni has forgotten the U.S. cruise missile strike in the remote tribal region of al-Majala on Dec. 17, 2009 — the Obama administration’s first known missile strike inside Yemen. The attack killed dozens, including 14 women and 21 children, and whipped up rage at the United States.Something else we must consider that Drone strikes specifically in Pakistan are illegal, and such strikes were found to be illegal by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions
Today, the area is a haven for militants, said Abdelaziz Muhammed Hamza, head of the Revolutionary Council in Abyan province, a group that is fighting AQAP. “All the residents of the area have joined al-Qaeda,” he said.
The report, written by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston, will be formally submitted to the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva tomorrow. It says the use of drones to target militants "violate straightforward legal rules".The report can be read here:
"The refusal by States who conduct targeted killings to provide transparency about their policy violates the international framework that limits the unlawful use of legal force against individuals. A lack of disclosure gives States a virtual and impermissible licence to kill."
Watch Philip Alston explain his reasoning below:
Also as the Guardian notes, what we are doing in Pakistan is illegal and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.
The US's decision to step up the drone war again in Pakistan, opposed by both government and parliament in Islamabad as illegal and a violation of sovereignty, reflects its fury at the jailing of a CIA agent involved in the Bin Laden hunt and Pakistan's refusal to reopen supply routes for Nato forces in Afghanistan. Those routes were closed in protest at the US killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, for which Washington still refuses to apologise.Civilians have paid a heavy price for our drone campaign in Pakistan, these people are somebody’s sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers and while the American public may favor drone strike policy being distant from the violence and operating drones like a video game shelters us from the receiving end of this policy. It looks like this in Pakistan, once again from the Guardian
But that's a computer-game fantasy of clinical war. Since 2004, between 2,464 and 3,145 people are reported to have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan, of whom up to 828 were civilians (535 under Obama) and 175 children. Some Pakistani estimates put the civilian death toll much higher – plausibly, given the tendency to claim as "militants" victims later demonstrated to be nothing of the sort.Not even American citizens are spared death by drone (e.g. Awlaki ) hence, violating their due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution as Glenn Greenwald notes:
The US president insisted recently that the civilian death toll was not a "huge number". Not on the scale of Iraq, perhaps, where hundreds of thousands were killed; or Afghanistan, where tens of thousands have died. But they gruesomely include dozens killed in follow-up attacks after they had gone to help victims of earlier strikes – as well as teenagers like Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani boy decapitated in a strike last November after he had travelled to Islamabad to protest against drones.
So here we have this incredibly consequential policy adopted in total secrecy by the Obama administration, one that empowers the President to secretly target people, including American citizens, for instant, due-process-free death. They have placed the policy beyond the rule of law — by insisting that it’s too secret for courts to examine — and shielded it completely from democratic debateAlleged terrorist or not, all American citizens (and frankly all people), deserve to be protected by the due process of law. Because, if we are not protected by the Due Process of law, the President can kill me or you, based on whim or secret committee.
We liberals have condemned Bush for torture, but targeted killings are more heinous than torture or indefinite detention.
Unlike detention, however, the results of targeted killing are irreversible. Dead is dead. And the collateral damage is considerably greater, because civilians can be killed along with the targetYou cannot restore dead babies to their mother’s arms.
And our failure to widely condemn targeted killings is hypocrisy on our parts as Mother Jones once again notes:
Nevertheless, liberals' uncritical embrace of the Obama administration's widespread use of targeted killing represents a significant departure from their stated values. Although the ethics of targeted killing don't parallel the ethics of torture (except as far as disclosure is concerned), they do resemble the ethical debate around detention. For most of the Bush administration, liberals fought against President Bush's attempt to place suspected terror detainees in a legal black hole without habeas rights. Bush's critics understood that the concept of membership in a terrorist group is far more nebulous than being a soldier in a uniformed military. Establishing that the individuals we're treating as terrorists are actually terrorists is therefore a moral imperative.
That's a tragic abdication of responsibility that will have profound implications for national security in the future.