US urged to seek open accords over drones
WASHINGTON: The US administration should seek open agreements with host countries before conducting drone strikes inside their territories, The Washington Post said on Friday.
In a lead editorial, the newspaper’s editorial board sought more political accountability for the unmanned strikes, more checks and balances and more collaboration with allies.
The Post also suggested that drone strikes should be carried out by military forces rather than by the CIA and as with other military activities, they should be publicly disclosed and subject to congressional review.
“The process and criteria for adding names to kill lists in non-battlefield zones should be disclosed and authorised by Congress — just like the rules for military detention and interrogation,” said the newspaper, which is published from the US capital and is popular among American lawmakers and officials.
“Before operations begin in a country, the administration should, as with other military operations, consult with Congress and, if possible, seek a vote of authorisation. It should seek open agreements with host countries and other allies,” the paper suggested.
The Post, however, noted that there might be cases where the president must act immediately against an imminent threat to the country, perhaps from an unexpected place.
“But to institutionalise a secret process of conducting covert drone strikes against militants across the world is contrary to US interests and ultimately unsustainable,” it warned.
The Post quoted its own report, saying that the US administration is working to institutionalise the system of creating “kill or capture” lists and is contemplating the use of drones in more countries where jihadist forces are active, including Libya and Mali.
“This raises new legal and political quandaries,” the paper warns, noting that in more than 400 “targeted killing,” about 3,000 people have been killed, “including scores — maybe hundreds — of civilians”.
And though the United States is winding down its military mission in Afghanistan, the Obama administration, “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years”, the report added.
“All of this causes increasing unease among Americans of both political parties — not to mention many US allies.”
Americans and allies are equally disturbed by “the antiseptic nature” of US personnel launching strikes that they watch on screens hundreds or thousands of miles from the action, the paper said.
“They question whether drone attacks are legal. They ask why the process of choosing names for the kill list as well as the strikes themselves are secret and whether such clandestine warfare does more harm than good to long-term US interests.”
The means and objectives of drone attacks — and the Obama administration’s steps toward institutionalising the system — “deserve muchmore debate than they have attracted during the presidential campaign”, the Post noted.
The newspaper quoted Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to Nato under President George W. Bush as saying that drone strikes allowed US adversaries to portray the United States as “a distant, high-tech, amoral purveyor of death”.
Mr Volker asked “what we would say if others used drones to take out their opponents” — such as Russia in Chechnya or China in Tibet.