drones strikes

A View of U.S. Drone Policy from the Ground

Based on some of my discussions with people who tend to support U.S. foreign policy in general and the drone policy in particular, there seems to be a lack of empathy for those who have been victims of errant bombs (I’m told these people “hate us for our freedoms”). I think sometimes we Americans have no idea what it must be like to live anywhere in the third world as opposed to a superpower. It’s difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to live any place the U.S. is hunting terrorists with soldiers or drones. Would I be worried that my friends or family might be killed by mistake?

This isn’t to say that the U.S. should not hunt terrorists, drones or otherwise, but I do think it’s time for a serious debate about when and how drones should be used. The drones in of themselves are not the problem, it’s the drone policy. What is the cost/benefit of using drones in targeting these people? Can this be done without harming innocent bystanders? Are drones being used when less destructive means are available? Is this policy counterproductive in “winning the hearts and minds” of people who might otherwise fight against Islamic fundamentalists?

The video clip below is from the testimony of one individual who has experienced the reality of U.S. drone policy first hand. Despite this, Farea al-Muslimi is otherwise grateful for his experiences with America, Americans, and American generosity. His heart and mind seems to be on the side of America. His testimony offers a perspective we would all do well to consider when thinking about these questions.

Drones: Legal, Ethical, and Wise?

Since the first armed drone strike in Yemen 2002, the United States has been leveraging the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed on September 18, 2001, presumably for use in Afghanistan, to justify the use of drone warfare in numerous countries.  Drones have since been used in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Mali, but mostly in Pakistan, where strikes began in 2004, and accelerated in 2009; with more than 300 strikes, there have been six times more drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama than under Bush.

Obama Makes a Mockery of Due Process, DOJ Memo Justifies Targeted Killing

Imagine that you live in a country that is run by a powerful handful of people that can order the death of any of its citizens, at any time, for any given reason without ever pressing charges against that citizen or bringing him or her to justice.

Imagine that this country you live in has apologists picked by the democratically elected president telling you and your family that what the president decides to do, should be done, whether you like it or not. They claim that his decisions should be supported by you, whether you think that what he’s doing is right or not, or even if what he chooses to do doesn’t represent you or your loved ones in the slightest.

This country is the United States of America, and the handful of people ruling our resources and citizens have a hit list of Americans and non-Americans they can kill at any given time, for any given reason, without due process.

The president’s apologists also want you to believe that that’s okay, he knows exactly what he’s doing and you shouldn’t be afraid.

According to a Washington Post report, President Obama’s hit list, which goes by the title “disposition matrix,” included at least three Americans. During President George W. Bush’s administration, an intelligence official claimed that he “did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing.” Under Obama, at least three American names are known to have been part of the hit list.

Rand Paul Remains Consistent on Drones Strikes and Immediate Threats

Rand Paul

Last month, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made an impressive, 13-hour stand against the Obama Administration’s domestic drones policy. The Department of Justice had made a tepid legal case for drone strikes against American citizens who are merely suspected of being a terrorist. Attorney General Eric Holder later said that a president could conduct drone strikes on American citizens suspected of terrorist activities inside the United States.

Paul objected to the notion.  “I rise today for the principle,” Paul said during the filibuster. “The principle is one that as Americans we have fought long and hard for and to give up on that principle, to give up on the Bill of Rights, to give up on the Fifth Amendment protection that says that no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted.”

Holder eventually relented his comments, acknowledging that a president doesn’t have the authority to kill an American citizen on American soil, and the coverage of the filibuster boosted Paul’s profile and added to the speculation that he would seek the Republican nomination in 2016. He would go on to win the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll just days after giving a dynamic speech in which he essentially laid out a platform for the future of the Republican Party.


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