Staff Editorial: Drone Strikes’ Dreadful, Proven Pattern of Incidental Killing Needs Our Attention

If students … are willing to let such an obvious and direct injustice to go … unnoticed, there is scant hope of correcting more subtle and complex patterns of social, military, or any other variety of oppression

The sustained use of armed drones — unmanned, remote control aerial vehicles that bring death to suspected terrorist targets from afar — should churn the stomach of anyone even minimally interested in basic human rights and some semblance of justice.

The documented mishandling of the deadly power of  drone strikes — particularly in the United States’ wars on terror  —  makes them an embodiment of blatant, troublingly asymmetrical injustices that American and global citizens cannot and should not tolerate.
Independent investigations by organizations like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) have uncovered and continue to detail a tragic pattern of rising civilian death tolls resulting from hundreds of covert American drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Of the low count of just over 3,000 people reported killed by the strikes, a sobering minimum of 556 civilian non-combatants were felled by drones. Of these, the strikes shamefully killed over 200 children. The number of targeted and collateral wounded balloons to even more embarrassing figures. And of course, these figures are only from the strikes that we know about.

Combine these sad numbers with reports that “the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals” (BIJ) and we get a clearer but sickening picture of the unnecessarily cruel and one-sided nature of drone warfare.
Where the tragedy of these incidental deaths might have at least been owned up to by President Obama and the CIA — the curators of these drone campaigns — the Agency instead insisted in 2011 on a ridiculously unbelievable 100% accuracy rate, with zero civilian casualties. This was, of course, before the BIJ and other news outlets reported the very opposite: that drone warfare is fraught with collateral and innocent deaths. The failed cover-up of these operations’ deadly, careless mishandlings adds another layer of moral illegitimacy to an already shaky practice that borders on sanctioned manslaughter, if that line hasn’t long been crossed already.

Human rights issues are often complex and structural; patterns of oppression often seem to lack straightforward, obvious, or unilateral solutions, and in many cases, blame is not easily assigned (think of the marginalization of undocumented immigrant populations in the United States, or the persistent wage gap between male and female workers).

But in the case of drone warfare, the remedy this injustice is clear — stop it, drastically reduce it, or make it infinitely less secretive. Where the responsibility rests is also obvious: the United States executive, intelligence, and military leadership.
Although the topic of drone warfare seems far removed from the world of USF, it would certainly be revealing if students remained oblivious to the permitted spilling of innocent blood in the name of the United States.

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