The war on terror tends to elicit strong reactions from the majority of Americans, as well as the rest of the nation. It’s a mystery why the US government continues to preach for/of a democratic front at home when doing the exact reverse in other countries, especially in the Middle East. The reason that America prefers to play big brother to countries with their own issues is also a mystery. The wars in which America has been embroiled over the past few decades have resulted in the loss of lives on both sides, as well as questions about the financial burden that the wars are putting on the nation (Turse 56). Any of the world’s nations have also chastised the United States for using aircraft to attack suspected Al-Qaeda strongholds. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has not been deterred from continuing its attacks on these international territories. This paper would look at the ethics of using drones to carry out attacks, and whether or not this is permissible under international law and also human rights.
The U.S. drone wars have affected regions such as Yemen and Pakistan, where the death of an unprecedented number of people has risen over the years. This has led to a public outcry, both at home and in the Middle East, as people are losing their lives over a war they feel is unwarranted. Al-Qaeda strongholds are the reasons for these attacks on the Middle East regions, where the Obama administration believes that they are responsible for rooting out the cause of all that is terror related (Turse 63). According to some reports, there have been calls for the Obama administration to make legal all the theories and frameworks that make these strikes acceptable, and to also account for the exact deaths of those caught in the crossfire.
The policy frameworks that surround the drone attacks have been classified making it almost impossible for the public and other interested parties to comprehend what exactly is happening on the ground. However, NGO’s have come up with their own research that meant going into the field to show of what is happening in the affected areas. These NGO’s, for example; Amnesty International, are making bold claims on what the U.S. is doing with regards to the drone programs as they also strive to question the legality that surrounds such programs (Turse 69). The question that most of these organizations ask is whether the government is acting on the law of war framework, or human rights framework. In any case, the government and its drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan seem to have violated both frameworks.
In a different report, there were claims that an attack on Yemen soil, meant for an Al-Qaeda leader, killed approximately twelve people. Those who died included three children, a pregnant woman, and some other unidentified people. It is not clear whether the target of the assault was even there, or whether he was a member of the terrorist-linked group. Previous attacks, for example; in the region of Majalah in Yemen, strikes from a navy ship killed approximately 41 individuals. According to some reports, after the missiles were fired, their design (cluster munitions), enabled them to explode having a greater impact. It is the use of such brute force that countless lobby groups are up in arms about, wondering why such inhumane acts are being carried by people who are yet to feel the impact of continuous war as the people in these regions (Turse 72).
Countless individuals believe that war is inevitable. This is especially if the other parties are always ready and willing to struggle for what they trust is true and just. However, it is also true that fighting wars with weapons that cannot be able to comprehend the difference between a combatant and a civilian is plain wrong. As with any war, there must be combatants and non-combatants, which mostly consist of civilians (Medea 112). U.S. drones are not programed to distinguish between these groups of people. They are simply meant to be launched and explode upon impact. The atrocity and devastation they are causing in these regions is too much to comprehend. In the opinion of many individuals, killings in which non-combatants are killed constitute to extra-judicial killings, and the group answerable ought to be brought to book.
The legal question that arises after the attacks on Pakistani and Yemen soil is whether these regions have consented to these attacks. It could be that the U.S. is acting in self-defense, hence; the knee-jerk reaction to attack and maim all in its path. Whatever the case, the people involved should not create double standards when it comes to handling terror suspects. This is with regards to bombing areas that are considered Al-Qaeda strongholds, and capturing other targets. The fact that the government has failed, and still fails to answer questions on the drone program raises more questions than answers for many people. The only responses provided are carefully thought-of and subjective to what the government wants the public to be privy to, so as to defend their integrity, in the long run (Medea 117).
The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) prohibits the use of any force on civilians, whether the region in question is in armed conflict, or not. It is the duty and obligation of all those involved to protect the rights of all these people while they engage in war. There is no report on whether this is happening in regions affected by drones. This makes it harder for groups to find an existing framework in which the actions of the American government are justified. Un-piloted or remote controlled weapons present the world with a challenge as it makes it particularly easy to target and kill people, whether dangerous or not. It is these manners of events that have led to summary killings of people purported to be linked to terrorism in the recent past (Medea 126).
Other quarters claim that the presence of war drones may not be illegal. However, critics may be quick to point out that drones are easier to deploy and wage attacks across international soil. This may be something worth taking into consideration. If the U.S. condones the use of drones on targets on allegations of Al-Qaeda presence in some areas, what may be stopping terrorist groups from launching their own drones, or drones stolen from military warehouses? These are some of the basic questions that arise with the use of drones to perform military functions across borders. The legal morals behind the use of drones can be questioned by various laws that safeguard and protect the lives of people (Springer 74).
International law that binds most regions may be violated if the drone war does not cease. The deals made secretly between nations on joint military action should be eradicated for the overall protection of civilians or citizens in a region. Failure to do this might result in more casualties of war, increasing the tension and anxiety that comes about as a result of suspicion and doubt. The lack of proper guidelines or law under which the deployment of drones is lawful makes it harder for all parties to come to a consensus on what is suitable for the greater good of a region. This leads to more chaos as the destruction of lives and property using war drones continues (Springer 83). In other cases, there have been indicators that the drones are controlled by people on the ground, which then makes it an un-piloted weapon. In these instances, the parties responsible go on further to say that this eradicates the illegality of the issue of war drone use.
Legal experts and human rights activists ask where the line ought to be drawn between potential targets for drone strikes and civilian casualties on the ground. Regions like China, which often stays away from contentious issues, indicated that the use of these drones was tantamount to abuse of international law. It is my belief that the sovereignty of democratic regions should reign supreme over certain issues. Pakistan, Yemen, and all other regions that are under attack in the name of terrorism should have the right to conduct search and arrest of all terrorists. If there is failure to capture, then it is also their right, under the law, to request for assistance (Springer 91). This does not involve the use of force to capture prisoners, which leads to the death of guiltless individuals who turn out to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
In conclusion, war drones have been used by different nations to achieve different results. The most used excuse by these nations is that they are using these drones to eliminate potential targets that have caused harm, or are likely to cause harm in the future. Tribal leaders of these radical groups have been targeted (Ahmed 57). Due to the secrecy and quiet nature of these situations, it is next to impossible to say how many people have been eliminated. However, the number of civilians or non-combatants that die as a result of drone attacks continues to grow. There is no law under the sun that condones such operations, especially one that overlooks the rights and privileges of free and democratic individuals. It fair to declare that the U.S. and any other nation that uses drones to eliminate targets is liable for war crimes and is subject to the law, regardless of their stature.
- Ahmed, Akbar. The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2013. Print.
- Medea, Benjamin. Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. New York: American Printing Press, 2013. Print.
- Springer, Joseph P. Military Robots and Drones. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
- Turse, Nick. The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare. New York: Bantam Books, 2013. Print.