The Obama Administration continues to use unmanned drones as a tool of war - a tool that according The New York Times, the Administration claims has killed 600 militants in Pakistan and no civilians since May 2010. But the math doesn't add up. Nor does the policy.
Think of the use of drone air strikes as summary executions, extra-judicial killings justified by faceless bureaucrats using who-knows-what "intelligence," with no oversight whatsoever and you get the idea that we have slipped into spooky new world where joystick gods manipulating robots deal death from the skies and then go home and hug their children. Everything America was once said to stand for: the rule of law, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is in danger of becoming collateral damage as our fearful leaders continue to kill suspects and innocent alike, mindlessly unaware that the hellfire we are sowing will surely be reaped by Americans in the future. The proliferation of drone technology and its inevitable extension to civilian law enforcement is a leap into the arms of Big Brother.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently estimated that at least 2,292 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. The Bureau determined that of that number, over 350 are civilians. A July 2009 Brookings Institution report stated ten civilians die for every one suspected militant from U.S. drone strikes. Yet another study by the New American Foundation concluded that out of 114 drone attacks in Pakistan, at least 32% of those killed by the strikes were civilians.
President Obama has greatly expanded the use of drones over the past several years, authorizing more drone strikes during his first fifteen months in office than President Bush did during the entirety of his eight years in office. In addition to the use of drones in Pakistan, the Administration has authorized strikes in Yemen and Somalia. The increasing reliance on drones and the lack of recourse for the families of innocent civilians that are killed by such strikes demonstrate the impunity with which the U.S. uses this technology.
Drone attacks undermine our moral standing in the world. They foment anger and resentment toward the United States. We have spent years in Afghanistan and Iraq under the guise of nurturing democracy and the rule of law while at the same time, our use of unmanned drones severely undermines the rule of law.
Challenging the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan and calling to light their indiscriminate nature is vital to prevent a dangerous precedent from being set that would allow international law and the laws of war to be stretched to justify strikes elsewhere. The legal justification for their use in Pakistan can and will be used to justify their use in other countries. Under this legal framework, the battlefield could be stretched to include anywhere in the world. Anywhere.