Last month, President Obama told the UN that “America is exceptional… because we… stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all.” It’s unclear how the administration’s use of drones and targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia serves the interests of the people anywhere, in the US or abroad. The more apparent fact is that the program, which Amnesty International concludes “may constitute war crimes,” violates basic tenets of law and order.
It’s Completely Illegal
Not only is drone warfare unconstitutional, but it’s also illegal per international law. Anyone who’s read the Bill of Rights, save the former constitutional law professor Obama, understands that it’s unconstitutional to deprive someone of due process or the right to a speedy, public trial by jury. Eric Holder admitted this, but limited these rights to US citizens, even though the Constitution applies to all people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948, upholds this right in Article 10: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing…” This fundamental pillar of law, habeas corpus, dates back to the Magna Carta in the 1200s. During Bush’s presidency, America violated this law by detaining suspects without trial. Now under Obama, the US can also simply kill them… what progress. Unfortunately, this makes President Obama a war criminal with a Nobel Peace Prize.
It Kills Many Innocent People
The Obama administration has, unsurprisingly, been highly secretive of the program, likely due to enormous civilian casualties. Obama claimed at the UN that, “there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.” This is a blatant lie. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that just 1.6% of those killed (3,149) in Pakistan with drones were “high-profile targets.” A considerable 22.6% were civilians or children, the rest being “alleged combatants,” against whom the government still doesn’t have any proof. This shouldn’t come as a shock given the loose criteria Obama uses to designate targets, revealed by the “white paper” leaked from the White House last year. To unlawfully target whoever seems suspicious in this manner is not only ineffective and inaccurate, but also shameful.
Punishing A Son For His Father’s “Crimes”
Perhaps no case illustrates this moral bankruptcy better than that of the 16-year old US citizen, Abdulrahman Awlaki. Just a few months after a drone strike killed his father, Anwar, Abdulrahman suffered the same fate in his village in Yemen. Initially, US officials referred to him as a “military-aged male,” misreporting his age to be 21. Later, the White House said that he was simply collateral damage, and the real target had been Ibrahim Al-Banna, a suspected Al Qaeda intelligence chief. It was later reported that Al-Banna is still alive. The former Press Secretary of the White House, Robert Gibbs, justified the attack, saying that “the boy should have had a more responsible father.” Even if you put aside the fact that the government never proved Anwar Awlaki’s affiliation to Al-Qaeda, punishing an innocent teenager for his father’s alleged crimes is callous and disgusting.
Latent racism in the American public attitude allows this injustice to continue. A March 2013 Gallup poll found that 65% of Americans support drone attacks on “suspected terrorists in other countries.” Just 13% support drone strikes in America on suspected terrorists who are US citizens. The implications are simple. American citizens have basic rights to life and liberty, while foreigners don’t. Collateral damage is more precious in America than in Pakistan or Yemen. In essence, we’re telling the world that our lives are worth more than yours.
It Makes Us Less Safe
This moral indifference makes us less safe by provoking anger and terrorism. For every few terrorists killed, many young boys see their families destroyed because of us; they swear revenge. Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the man behind the Boston bombings, justified his crime by asking, “what would [Americans] think if… foreign countries were doing” what the US does abroad? Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist and American student, testified before the Senate in April 2013 that a drone strike terrorized his village. He told the Senate, “when [the villagers] think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads…What [Islamist] radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.” Noam Chomsky, the noted linguist and political activist, rightly calls drone strikes “the biggest terrorist operation that exists”; if we’ve learned anything from history, it is that terrorism breeds more terrorism.
The Price of Hypocrisy
Obama’s drone policy sends a clear message to the rest of the world: International law does not apply to America. In other words, it’s not a crime if we do it – it’s “counterterrorism.” In Obama’s own words at the UN, “sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder.” Yes Mr. President, yes indeed.
No Room for Moderation
Some may refrain from such sharp condemnation and prefer a more moderate tone. William Lloyd Garrison, the noted abolitionist, rightly denounced such tolerant attitudes: “I will be as harsh as the truth… On this subject [slavery], I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm… urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — and I will be heard.” It’s outrageous to demand respect for murder; I refuse to comply, and I urge you to do the same.