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Crikey says: a discussion, at least, on drones

The ads you won’t see supporting the Vodafone class action. The trends that justify Ford’s decision to drive away. Proposals to limit sports betting ads (but not ban them). Bernard Keane on what to be aware of in cybersecurity awareness week. And time to neuter tabby.

US President Barack Obama’s overnight announcement that he would be placing some additional restrictions on drone strikes and scale back the CIA’s use of drones to kill targets is welcome. But his claim that this practice is “necessary, legal and just” demonstrates a continued unwillingness to face the reality of drone strikes.

Simply put, the use of drones to kill terrorist targets is unnecessary, illegal and unjust.

As senior US military figures like Stanley McChrystal have argued, drone strikes inflict major damage on the United States as well as their targets. Credible estimates suggest many hundreds of civilians have been killed in drone strikes, including scores and almost certainly hundreds of children. The blood of these people, of these children, is on the hands of US personnel and officials right up to Obama. The President may claim to be “haunted” by these deaths, but his words will do nothing to comfort those who have seen their children killed, or lost family and friends in drone strikes, nor will it assuage the visceral anger these incidents produce.

Nor will those words wish away the responsibility Obama and officials like the new CIA director John Brennan have for the death of American teenager Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old boy from Denver killed in Yemen in 2011 while looking for his father Anwar, who had been targeted and killed in a drone strike two weeks before. At the time, the inevitably unnamed administration sources first tried to claim the boy was a “militant”, then dismissed it as him being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” And the administration has never explained why US citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki — an active member of Al Qaeda — was killed by his own government, rather than captured and given a trial.

The call yesterday by Australia’s Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, for a discussion about the use of armed drones by Australian defence forces is a welcome one. The Obama’s administrations slaughter of civilians, and its own citizens, demonstrates how these tools can be profoundly misused.

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  • 1
    John Hamer
    Posted Friday, 24 May 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    And of course the terrorists play by the rules don’t they. Though the family of the British soldier slain in Woolwich might diasagree. So they don’t have pinpoint accuracy, but drones are a necessary part of the war on terrorism.

  • 2
    Posted Friday, 24 May 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree with this anonymous editorialist.

    Of course ‘terrorists’ don’t abide by the rule of law: that is part of being called a ‘terrorist’. But a higher standard should be met by nations, especially those with pretensions of being civilised, let alone democracies and beacons of freedom, etc.

  • 3
    mikeb
    Posted Friday, 24 May 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Gosh this is difficult. The American admin doesn’t want to kill innocents but on the other hand the terrorists don’t care about collateral damage and don’t fight clean. What are the sentiments of the common people on the ground? Do they support the terrorists and so allow them in their midst, or do they hate them but have no choice? I suspect it’s somewhere in between.

  • 4
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Friday, 24 May 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Eventually the other side will get hold of drones, what then? At least our side claims they only kill people in a responsible manner. In the future, will the other side do likewise.

  • 5
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 24 May 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    The “terrorist” depends on which side you’re on - sometimes which corrupt, tyrannical government is being propped up, by whom - you can imagine one of those posters with a drone pointed at the viewer, “Uncle Al Qaeda Needs You!”?

  • 6
    AR
    Posted Friday, 24 May 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    The history of 20thC ‘terrorists’ becoming esteemed statesmen is too old a joke to need repeating. Just for laffs, recall Raygun’s reference to the wholly owned US subsidiary, the Contras (Nicaragua for young’uns - Central America, 1980s…)as “the moral equivalent of our Founding fathers!”. OK, he was already in the grip of senile dementia but so, ‘twould seem, was 90% of the US political Establishment.

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