Last week, the proverbial “drone strike” mess hit the fan when a very detailed document illustrating the United States’ criteria for killing US citizens abroad via drones was obtained by NBC News.
The “white paper”, 16 pages in all, details three very specific criteria which must be present in order to justify the targeted use of drones internationally against US citizens. First, an “informed, high-level official of the US government” must vouch for the fact that said individual poses an imminent threat to the US. Second, capturing the individual must be “infeasible.” And, lastly, the act must be performed in accordance with the pertinent “law of war principles.”
So, just to recap, if a very high-up and important official in the government deems me a threat and the government doesn’t feel like using the resources to capture me, they have a legitimate case for dropping missiles on my head thereby killing me and whomever else is within 100 yeards of me? While I agree with the use of drones in some cases, I find this particularly disturbing for several reasons.
Mainly, this is a little terrifying because the memo says little about what information would be needed to verify that a US citizen abroad poses an “imminent threat.” Not only that, it validates that only one US official has to hold this view in order for the drone attack to be executed. This seems extremely subjective. And, it completely eliminates the checks and balances system that we pride ourselves on in this country. It takes an act of Congress to declare war but it only takes a hunch by one individual to order a drone strike? That is both irresponsible and unjust.
To add, drone strikes are extremely rebuked by most of the world. Though our allies like the UK and France have resoundingly supported the US government in its use of drone strikes, many countries in the Middle East find the act deplorable and inhumane. And, after reviewing the loose language in this memo, I am inclined to agree.
Remember our most recent past President? His name started with a “B” and ended with an “-ush.” Well, he had some hunches too. And, there were some folks in his administration that had hunches about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Where did that get us? Exactly. No where. And everyone’s reaction to this type of “inkling” government as if it is something new is quite puzzling.
What was most striking about the reaction to this leaked memo was that there was any reaction at all. Media outlets were ablaze with the news of shocking unmanned drone strikes against US citizens abroad. And, Congressional officers started grasping for straws as if they had no idea that drones even existed. Pundits and government officials on both sides of the aisle were in total disbelief as “news” was released about the arbitrary and potentially unlawful use of drone strikes. Right. No one knew about these things? Drones strikes have been a major point of contention since the Bush Administration moved toward increased usage after the terrorist events on 9/11. And this is the big political news right now?
News should be new. And, this certainly is not new therefore it is not news. Congress continues to sweep issues like these under the rug and pass the buck to their contemporaries. Then, when news comes out that they’ve done nothing to remedy the issue, they point fingers in wide-eyed amazement. It is time that both the President and Congress are held accountable for these types of uncorroborated acts of violence against those in other countries.
What happens when our enemies acquire drones? What if they write a manifesto declaring how subjectively they can target US citizens living in America? This is a valid question and remains unanswered. We have got to demand more of our government. The White House’s “We the People “site already has a petition posted ecouraging discussion on the issue of drones yet it only has a little over 2000 signatures. Maybe when we start demanding action, Congress will get the point.