Drone strikes: a debate
THIS refers to reports (Nov 29) about a US drone which missed its target in Pakistan. I for one feel relieved and hope that in future too these strikes prove equally harmless and ineffective.
There are no two opinions about the fact that the drone programme is controversial and the US, Pakistani officials and independent organisations have expressed different views about its impact and effectiveness.
Data compiled by the New America Foundation from reliable news reports estimates that 337 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan killed between 1,932 and 3,176 people since 2004, of which 1,487 to 2,595 were reported to be militants.
Civilian casualties include 176 innocent children as well. According to the New York Times, “the American government has implied that all military-aged males in a strike area are legitimate targets: a ‘guilt by association’ designation, meaning anyone living in the area is fair game.”
The Stanford Law School and University of New York’s Law School reported that the number of ‘high-level’ targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low, ‘about two per cent’.
As of Oct 20 last, there have been 40 US drone attacks in Pakistan this year. Washington’s claim about negligible casualties has also been debunked by this report as ‘efforts to shield this programme from democratic accountability’.
Here are the powerful first three paragraphs of the report, summarising its main findings:
“I believe President Obama has also expressed worries about a slippery slope into a place where we’re not being true to who we are.
“Kurt Volker, a former influential and respected American official, sees a bigger problem: drones have made killing too easy. In a recent article he asked: “What do we want to be as a nation? A country with a permanent kill list? A country where people go to the office, launch a few kill shots and get home in time for dinner?
“A country that instructs workers in high-tech operations centres to kill human beings on the far side of the planet because some government agency determined that those individuals are terrorists?”
The debate over drones is only just starting.