Ethics of Drone Strikes


Above the law: Murder without consequence

As stated in the 10 commandments, “Thou shalt not kill.” A clear statement, yet if necessary we kill without thought, but mostly for self-defense; but if, for example, you killed an innocent civilian, you would spend 15 years to life in prison. If thousands of people are getting locked up every day for murder, why shouldn’t the government? Our government has been using drones to indirectly bomb foreign locals since 2001, resulting in staggering amounts of casualties over the years. The United States of America should stop drone strikes abroad because it kills a drastic number of foreign citizens and traumatizes local populations; it is secretive, lacks adequate legal oversight, and it targets men and women who may not even be enemy combatants or terrorists.

Unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, are remotely-controlled aircrafts which are loaded with bombs and missiles for various missions involving the CIA. Beginning with the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, along with the succeeding “War on Terror,” the U.S. has been using drones to take out ‘suspected’ terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and some other countries. A campaign of drone strikes calculated to take out certain ‘high-value’ enemies, a project called Operation Haymaker, had, throughout a five-month time period that ended the February of 2013, “resulted in no more than 35 ‘jackpots,’ a term used to signal the neutralization of a specific targeted individual, while more than 200 people were declared EKIA ‘enemy killed in action'” (Zenko). The Pakistan government has even released estimates of deaths in specific drone strikes. From January 13, 2006, to October 24, 2009, it is stated that out of 746 deaths from drone strikes, 147 are clearly casualties, with 94 being children (Woods). That means that the U.S. government would have to serve up to 220 years in prison for manslaughter under normal circumstances; but, I suppose when you are the law, you choose your own consequences. Per Clive Stafford Smith, attorney at law and founder of the organization Reprieve, “an entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies. Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups.” If you are wondering how this is legal, don’t ask the government. The U.S. has been bombing innocent civilians for far too long with far too few punishments, and we can no longer justify it.

The use of pilotless aircrafts for surveillance and targeted killings by the United States has quickly become a very controversial human rights issue; especially since the CIA has kept all the information as private as possible. The fact that the government is getting away with these irresponsible and reckless actions every year is astonishing. But casualties aren’t the only thing keeping these bombings from being successful. Another large problem is that these strikes are secretive and lack legal oversight, which leads to us not being able to hold our leaders liable. “The CIA has yet to officially acknowledge its drone programs anywhere in the world, let alone describe the rules and procedures for compliance with US and international law” (Amnesty International). Drones are used in places where war is not openly stated or permitted by Congress, which lets our nation’s leaders have virtually limitless power over undisclosed wars all around the world.

Sadly, with the government controlling nearly everything, there’s not a lot that has been done to stop drone strikes, or even slow them down. Although there have been some small things here and there, the largest and most common defense is petitions. Unfortunately, these petitions haven’t done a lot. Although it may sound farfetched, congress should think about taking away the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). “The Obama administration’s domestic legal justification for most drone strikes relies on the AUMF, which it interprets to authorize the use of force not only against those individuals and organizations with some real connection to the 9/11 attacks, but also against all ‘associates’ of al Qaeda.” (Brooks). This vastly pliable elucidation of the AUMF has lowered the point for the U.S. to start using force. Taking away the AUMF would not deny our president the capability of using force when necessary, to prevent or respond to a serious attack on our country, the president would retain his existing power as commander in chief and chief executive, to protect our nation when needed; Nonetheless, taking away the 2001 AUMF would certainly minimize the frequency in which our president needs to resort to targeted killings.

Saying to stop drone strikes completely would be rather farfetched, as there are benefits from them. Drone strikes help to create a much safer experience for our soldiers by taking them from the battlefield; Instead of “boots on the ground” combat, we can keep certain soldiers on U.S. soil, piloting drones out of allied territory. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and their partners often work in unforgiving, distant locations where sending out teams of special forces to locate and apprehend terrorists would be exceptionally dangerous, and drones keep us from doing so. Although this operation is a life saver, it is also a life taker.

Indeed, the United States does warrant the use for drone strikes; but if you look at the facts or even talk to the locals in the countries receiving these strikes, it is apparent that the U.S. is being negligent, irresponsible and paying no attention to the thousands of casualties in the process. The United States of America should stop drone strikes abroad because it kills a drastic amount of pedestrians and traumatizes local populations; it is secretive, lacks adequate legal oversight, and it targets men and women who may not even be enemy combatants or terrorists.

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