David Pilling of the Financial Times continues:
“Just imagine the hell that would break loose if such an event were to occur. Defenders of US drone strikes will object that it is unfair to compare this fictional event with the deployment of US drones in Pakistan – or for that matter in Yemen or Somalia”.
Agreeing that the parallel is far from perfect, Pilling eventually declares that the case for stopping drone strikes is strong:
- Civilian deaths are real and numerous. A report by Amnesty International this week concluded that at least 19 civilians in North Waziristan had been killed by just two drone attacks. In July last year, it said, 18 casual labourers, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed near the Afghan border.
- So-called “rescuer attacks”, in which those who come to the aid of the wounded are hit with secondary drone strikes, cause particular outrage.
- The visceral anger that drone strikes provoke among many Pakistanis – even those strongly opposed to Islamist militancy – suggests that such attacks are a “recruiting sergeant” for militants.
He argues that two potent reasons to oppose drone strikes hinge on legality and precedent:
“Mr Obama said the use of drones was legal under both domestic and international law. That is dubious. Just because a country declares war on an abstract threat such as terrorism does not give it the automatic right to mount a pre-emptive killing spree. The US is not at war with Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. Amnesty says even the most carefully screened and targeted killings may constitute “extrajudicial executions” under international law.
“Then there is precedent. If it is legal for the US to deploy drones, what about other countries? Like computers, with each passing year drones are getting cheaper and more sophisticated. Would Washington object, for example, if Beijing started taking out perceived threats to the Chinese state in third states? One suspects it would”.
His conclusion: “Mr Obama says rightly that the US must guard ferociously against compromising its basic values. He cites torture and detention without trial. A perpetual war carried out through a secret programme of assassinations is surely another example”. assassinations is surely another example”.