Drones- The Ethical Question - Terrorism

Drones- The Ethical Question

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

`Once upon a time when Einstein’s work was to be used as precedence for nuclear technology, he said, “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”

So what is the way of thinking behind the Drone technology and its use? Were Einstein and thousands of other scientist and researchers responsible for the death of, by low estimate, 200,000 people in the two nuclear strikes? Or are those who design and assemble drone technology responsible for the civilian deaths it incurs. Or is the thinking always applied in a regressive way, like; the research community is always fed with the thinking that their research will be used for human progress and security and the world community is always fed with the idea that whatever collateral damage is incurred is tolerable for the sake of global security and those who are being treated with drone medication are fed with the thinking that their sickness is being treated for them.

To appreciate fully the way of thinking behind the use of drones, one must be able to analyze the issue from all possible angles first. One should consider the intent of the user; implications on the psychology of the people of the user state, implications on the targeted, on his/her bereaved, on the nation that is being operated upon, on the country that is being used for launching facility, on  the region and on the globe. One should be able to clearly draw the line between law of armed conflict (LOAC) and humanitarian law (IHRL), one must also be able to define the terms like, threat to a country, to the interests of a country and a terrorist and how he can or ever has harmed them. If, in the pursuit of trying to find logical answers to all these logical questions, one is led, at the emergence of any answer into a compartment that brings him to another question, then you are in a circular maze just like the one made for the guinea pigs, where you can keep on moving as long as you can be kept in the belief that you are progressing and not just moving in circles.

Let’s start with why the Drones have become a controversy not only in the targeted countries but highly so in US and the allies as well, why when the US and the allies blatantly declare their war against terror and consider themselves to be the greatest people on earth, upholding the highest moral values, shy down once they are asked to announce those morals. The American Civil liberties Union (ACLU) has been after their government since the beginning and asking the CIA through court for a Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) request. This court-war has been repeated again and again and the CIA has denied the public of any data pertaining the use and related damage to life due to the drones.

In March 2010 the CIA responded in court that “records pertaining to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly referred to as ‘drones’… the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request” CIA response to ACLU FOIA request.

October 2010: The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of responsive records because the existence or nonexistence of any such records is a currently and properly classified fact that is exempt from release CIA Information Review Officer Mary Cole,in a declaration.

November 2010: “There is no official information in the public sphere that confirms or denies the alleged involvement of the CIA in drone strikes” Justice Department lawyer Amy Powell, in a motion.

November 2010: The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request. CIA response

And so it goes on; what do the CIA and the US government have to hide, what they fear in releasing non-technical, humanitarian data. If there are numbers and if there is deterrence there should be no fear; the problems seems to be manifold, in the past years officials of CIA and the US government have been quoting figure from zero casualties, to a handful, to almost 60 in 8 years, to roughly 30 in 3 years. The truth is that there have been no defined procedures to count, confirm or even account for what devastation the drone may have incurred. It is simply not possible to have coordination between the US and Pakistani authorities on the 24 hour presence of the UAVs over Pak airspace; when and where the target will be hit; who will be informed about the hitting; who will count and identify the bodies; or how the bereaved will be compensated if the dead was a civilian. The impossibility lies in the real-time difference in the location of all the stake holders and the wide difference in the technical support each one has. So far what has been going on is that local news agencies get the news and lend it to the mainstream media; the local news agents are not government officials and are not responsible for the collection of data, and the government of Pakistan does not release any data on the drone attacks, neither on the body-counts. 

This perpetual US behavior upon Pak airspace has literally turned the north-west of Pakistan into a buffer-zone, a no-man’s land, wherein neither the Pak government nor the US/Allies nor the international community is able to take the responsibility for the well-being of the people living there. Different humanitarian agencies may be questioning the US/Allies upon the IHRL but when they do the officials seem to be bouncing between to opposite rhetoric; at times boasting that they take extreme care in their surgical strikes and at times declaring that all is tolerable in the LOAC zones.

John Brennan, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism has said that ”Strikes against individuals are subject to high levels of scrutiny and ordered when there is a high degree of confidence that civilians will not be injured or killed, “except in the rarest of circumstances.”

But on the other hand according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: from June 2004 till mid-September 2012, between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed in drone strikes Pakistan, and some 474 to 881 of those killed were civilians, including 176 children. Another 1,300 have been wounded.

Some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist ‘signature’ are too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp. While the US officials try to put the ethical burden equally upon the Pakistan by boasting that their targets are nominated by the Pak intelligence agencies, it is the most daunting apprehension that an agent of an agency the US/Allies overtly distrust, would roughly inform the US agents the name and location of a potential target, this info would be transferred thousands of miles across the globe, to high-tech joy-stick players, totally disconnect from the real time local situation, to assimilate the whereabouts of a terrorist who is neither bugged, nor wears a tag, nor bears facial recognition. If the US cannot supply humanitarian information perhaps they should at least aware the world community about their technical ability of pin-pointing individuals and surgically disposing them as opposed to the idea that crude information, matched by mid-air cameras, is passed over to joy-stick killers, who assimilate the worth of human life on their technical whims. If there is the ultimate surety of precision, it should be scientifically un-demonstrable, and proven in the UN security council.

What effect does this killing have upon the inflicted, wherein the killer does not recon the killed nor the killed know their killers; wherein the dwellers of the land not know who of them will be the next target; wherein the individual has no means to know if he is next in the list and by what criteria. Wherein no questions are asked, no answers given to a people labeled as one diseased section to be dissected off the human society. Researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School have released a study entitled “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan”, the much acknowledged study says:

“…the dominant narrative …of surgically precise and effective tools …is false …nine months of extensive research …130 interviews … review of thousands of pages of documents …present new first hand testimony about the negative impacts …on civilians living under drones … Drones hover twenty-four hours a day in north-west Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning …terrorizing men, women, children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma …the practice of striking one area multiple times (secondary strikes as means of deterrence), and evidence that it has killed rescuers, make both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims …community members are shy of gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract attention of drone operators …parents choose not to send their children to school …people are afraid to attend funerals …(terrorist to civilian ratio)is extremely low-2% (of killed are terrorists) …(and has encouraged) recruitment of non-state armed groups and motivated further violent attacks …the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as ‘militants’, absent exonerating evidence…

The report clearly shows that the Drone-game is a no-rules game, which smashes the humanitarian element, enhancing resentment against blind vengeance of the US/Allies, for a one-time 9/11, that has urged them to kill the good and bad alike, for ten years, every day.

The effect of this phenomenon upon the nation of Pakistan is just as adverse; the average Pakistani feels disgrace and spite against an enemy, who breaches their human rights in the name of humanity. They feel powerless against an enemy, totally secure and hidden, un-reachable, overtly ultra-civilized but covertly governed by animal instincts.

The region is cultured into tolerance and identification of interests opposite to the interests of their neighbours and the global community is dragged into an indifference to human suffering and a constant double-standard in the basic definitions of right and wrong. Drones are not just a tool unleashed against the so-called terrorists; they are a new-world-order being rehearsed by the US in the remote labs of guinea-pigs. Wherein the subjects have no identity except the property, X or Y, they have to be observed for; in a global laboratory, wherein the subject can be induced to appear at any desired location at any desired time. Perhaps the lab-boys don’t even look for targets, perhaps they are just supposed to hit the number of time issued by the state-department. Experiment, laboratory and guinea pigs; let’s elaborate this theory:

The terrorist is inherently a person, who has no identification, no permanent location, no citizenship; he is a man known to jump from state to state, recruiting underground militants; they attack unmarked targets, die beyond recognition or run away, claiming responsibility through unknown sources; if a terrorist is ever captured alive, he turns out to be a hypnotized teenage villager. Perhaps humanity will realize that this was a high-tech experiment after all, only when it will be, itself wholly exposed to it. News has confirmed that Drones have already occupied US airspace and there are plans to completely fill this airspace with this technology in near future to secure the Americans from looming threats. Soon will come a time when the godly state-power of the US will surgically remove one its citizen as a suspect/potential terror unit, without trial or proof and the Americans will be grateful to the all-powerful state-machine for saving them from their diseased neighbor. And the omnipresent eye-in-the-air will create the deterrence required for terror to be contained. Is extreme liberty not equal to complete slavery; the liberal who used to brag, ‘is God going to decide if I go to heavens or hell? Are we going to do good for the greed of heavens and not do the bad for the fear of hell? Now the all-seeing eye of the US state-department will create that greed and fear in the complete air they breathe in. So here’s to liberty and free will, the will is ‘completely free’ and now and it wants ‘total control’.