Drone Strikes Are Killing Our Security
In more ways than one, the U.S.’s targeted killing program--including drone strikes in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen--is putting you in danger. Those who execute the strikes frequently kill civilians and stoke anti-American rage, providing opportunities for the growth of terrorist groups. The program also corrodes your rights at home. And the administration is pushing to make it worse.
“Drone strike” is a common way of referring to an attack on a target individual or group using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), usually an MQ-1 Predator or an MQ-9 Reaper. While the military does operate some of these drones, the “secret” drone war in Pakistan is largely carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency. These machines are piloted by remote from places like Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
UAVs like the Reaper and the Predator carry a variety of armaments, all the way up to 500-lbs. monster bombs with effective kill radius of about 200 feet. That’s roughly the size of San Francisco’s Union Square, if you need a reference. As ex-CIA operative Bob Baer puts it in Rethink Afghanistan's latest video, “you can’t help [killing innocent bystanders] with these weapons. They’re area weapons...If you get one person, you’re going to be killing 20 other innocent people, women and children.” That’s why estimates of the percentage of civilians killed in the strikes ranges from 28 percent all the way up to above 90 percent. They are not discriminate weapons.
Killing civilians is a moral outrage. People living in areas hit by drone strikes have a right to life independent of U.S. goals or concerns in the region. And if there were no other problems with the strikes, the high civilian toll would be enough to make them unjustifiable. But civilian death tolls aren’t the only problem.
The other glaring problem is that the drone program and the larger targeted killing program make us less safe by the day. We’re less safe because civilian killings outrage local people and turn them against the U.S. We’re less safe because we’re setting a bad precedent and undermining international law, making it more likely that UAVs will be used against us or our allies. And, we’re less safe because American citizens are now being put on kill lists without being given a trial.
The fact that killing innocent civilians makes us less safe is a no-brainer. If your son or father or mother or sister was killed by a remote-controlled robot piloted by a Syrian, how safe would Syrians be from you? You may not turn into a militant, but more than likely you’d certainly be more sympathetic to people who want to hurt Syrians. Think about that in reference to the casualty statistics above in places like Pakistan. Or if you want to get more concrete about it, think about Faisal Shazad, an actual guy who actually tried to blow up a car bomb in Times Square because he was outraged about drone killings in Pakistan.
In our new video, Baer poses a hypothetical question to get at this idea: how would we feel if Mexican authorities were bombing American towns in Texas and California and killing civilians, even if they were chasing drug dealers? When we're talking about, say, China, it's not such a hypothetical question. From Thursday’s Wall Street Journal:
ZHUHAI, China—China is ramping up production of unmanned aerial vehicles in an apparent bid to catch up with the U.S. and Israel in developing technology that is considered the future of military aviation.
Western defense officials and experts were surprised to see more than 25 different Chinese models of the unmanned aircraft, known as UAVs, on display at this week's Zhuhai air show in this southern Chinese city.
...This year's models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could—in theory—fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As early adopters of this technology, we are setting the standards for “normal” use of drones. Because of our use of drones in extrajudicial killings in other people’s countries where we’re not at war, “we’re setting precedents that will very quickly come back to haunt the U.S.,” as U.S. expert Philip Alston put it in our latest video. Watch out, towns in Texas, California. Or anyone helping people the Chinese government considers a “terrorist,” like the Dalai Lama.
But set aside all the increased danger of terrorism thanks to drones. Put aside the threat posed to you and your family by an increasingly accepted norm in international behavior regarding killing people in other people’s country by remote control. Even if neither of those dangers were present, you’d be in danger from this program because now U.S. citizens are starting to show up on the kill lists--without trial. Regardless of what a person is accused of, even if it’s preaching jihad, citizens have a right to a trial before executions are summarily carried out. That’s a foundational principle of our democracy that protects us from being murdered by crazy politicians. The drone strikes and the placing of U.S. citizens on kill lists in this program puts all of us, and our democracy, at risk.
We’ve got to stand up against this unconstitutional, violent campaign that makes all of us less safe now because the administration is rapidly expanding it, according to the Washington Post:
“The CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan has accelerated dramatically in recent months, with 47 attacks recorded since the beginning of September. ...By contrast, there were 45 strikes in the first five years of the drone program.”
The Post also reports that the U.S.is pushing Pakistan to allow more drone strikes, including the area around Quetta. Escalating the not-so-secret drone war over Pakistan in this way would be, frankly, stupid and amoral. Quetta is not a dusty hamlet in some remote region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. It has a population of almost a million people and is a Pakistani provincial capital. It is also surrounded by refugee camps. Firing area weapons on targets in Quetta is guaranteed to kill civilians and enrage the Pakistani public (which U.S. officials even acknowledged last year). We’d not only provide grist for al-Qaida propaganda machine--we’d cause more instability in a nuclear armed nation. Again, these strikes make the world more dangerous for you and your family.
The safety of your and your family demands that we stop this unconstitutional, brutal campaign of extrajudicial killings outside war zones. Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan campaign is partnering with the Center for Constitutional Rights to call for an end to these killings and for more transparency in the program. Please take a moment to watch our latest video and then sign the petition to stop drone strike and other killings outside war zones.
You can learn more about this issue and CCR’s work to protect Americans from the bad effect of this program at ccrjustice.org.
You can join the 50,000+ other people fighting to end these strikes and the brutal, futile war in Afghanistan at http://facebook.com/RethinkAfghanistan.