Our elected and unelected officials tell us that drone strikes target top level enemies of the United States who are imminent threats to us, and that killing innocent people is avoided altogether or minimized.
Congressional hearings, with a couple of excellent exceptions, question outside academics about the legality of this purported strategy. The Obama administration declines to send any witnesses.
But drone pilots have begun talking to the media. And they describe policies that bear a lot closer resemblance to reporting from the areas where the missiles strike. These pilots should be brought before Congress.
Here is a stunning new interview with one of them:
“So the pilot is not only flying the airplane, he or she is using all those sensors to watch a potential target, circling over it for hours or days at a time. What can you really see?
“Okay, so in a village in, say, country X, where the houses are built together, there are adults who live in this house, and these children belong to those adults because we see them out in the fields together or we see them eating dinner. So you can start figuring out who is associated with who. Who is a stranger, who is it that’s visiting this house? There’s a dog and it barks at strangers, so if we needed to go in and free a hostage or conduct a raid, you’d want to tell the land forces there’s a dog there and either it’s an attack dog or it alerts the village that somebody’s coming.
“You must develop an emotional tie with the people on the ground that makes it hard if there is going to be a strike or a raid, people are going to be killed.
“I would couch it not in terms of an emotional connection, but a … seriousness. I have watched this individual, and regardless of how many children he has, no matter how close his wife is, no matter what they do, that individual fired at Americans or coalition forces, or planted an IED — did something that met the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict, and I am tasked to strike that individual. The seriousness of it is that I am going to do this and it will affect his family. But that individual is the one that brought it on himself. He became a combatant the minute he took up arms.”
This pilot, in fact this director of the Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Division, has not said that a high level operation leader of terrorists who is imminently threatening the United States is targeted. He has said that some ordinary guy who has chosen to violently resist the hostile foreign occupation of his country by shooting at the occupiers is targeted.
He has also not said anything to satisfy those who support the notion of just wars but want them conducted in compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other such legally binding limitations. This director of a U.S. drone kill program openly says that our public employees target a family for death if needed in order to blow up a foreign soldier from thousands of miles away. Every effort is made to avoid killing innocent family members, he says in the interview, but if it can’t be avoided, well, the target “brought it on himself.”
Here another pilot describes specific such incidents. Here the New York Times reports on the resulting PTSD suffered by drone pilots.
War is murder, and this type of war ought to look to most people like the murder that it is. But even if you accept war, this is not how ANYBODY claims it is to be legally done. This is beyond what Congressional witnesses or even Congress members would say is acceptable or legal. Yet this pilot blurts it out to the media with apparently no concern that his life will be inconvenienced by further questioning.
Enough is enough is enough. End this madness now.