To the military they are known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems), but they are more commonly known as drones. Due to recent findings, the term “targeted killings” may seem more appropriate.
A 16-page white paper memo was leaked and published by NBC recently, justifying the use of drone strikes outside recognized war zones. Although there has always been controversy surrounding them since the start of their use under President George W Bush, this time, the outrage is due to their use on American citizens.
The document states that the Obama administration does not need to present evidence to a court before or after ordering these attacks. The White house defended this, saying that citizenship plays no role in targeting decisions, if the accused is suspected of high-level terrorist activity. But of course, they declined to outline the criteria for ordering these attacks.
What’s clear is that the U.S has given itself a carte blanche to strike just about anyone anywhere. Consider this.
The document reads, “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
Obama’s assassination project has killed not just American citizens, but civilians and children in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The most recent attack in Yemen on January 23 of this year mistakenly killed two children.
There can be no doubt that the Obama administration’s policies are consistent with Bush’s former ones. Obama has carried out more than 300 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, more than double that of his predecessor.
President Obama stated, “I want to make sure that people understand drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties, for the most part they have been very precise precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates.”
The facts, however, tell a different story.
Between 2004 and 2013, CIA drone attacks totaled 363. The Obama administration carried out 311 of them, killing approximately 890 civilians and 176 children.
The attacks do not violate U.S. constitution as long as an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses a threat of violent attack against the U.S.
Details outlining who or how an “informed, high-level official” is chosen remain ambiguous. Essentially, the executive branch can be judge, jury and executioner all at the same time.
The U.S. government has given itself the power and authority to place people on a military target list and lawfully kill them when located and identified. There is absolutely no exterior organization that challenges the government’s suspicions that lead to execution without trial.
A month ago, the UN began an inquiry into the impact of drone strikes on civilians. The U.S. states that it is acting in self-defense in accordance with international law. It seems the term “self defense”, when defined by the U.S., is all that is needed to justify the deaths of civilians and children. This “great nation” says it is simply protecting its country and citizens against imminent threats of violence. There’s just no evidence to support it.
Four more years of this and the U.S. will only worsen a problem that they are in fact attempting to control. Violence meets violence, and targeted killings might stifle what the U.S. sees as terrorist linked activities, but it will never resolve it.
Targeted killings must be investigated and challenged; inspections by people and organizations external to the U.S. government and their policies must be arranged. The Obama administration must be held accountable and they must tread softly, or else the consequences will be severe, at a time when the relationship between the East and West is demanding change and progress.
The continued killing of civilians as well as U.S. citizens will be a huge setback for Obama and his government, as hostility and anger from around the world as well as within the U.S. will rise.