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    Connecting the Pieces

    Is the Drone Program Moral?

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    Flying robots ready to dish out death to anyone below is a common place in some parts of the world. If they hit their target or not, the result is the same for many, pain and sorrow. But how do ordinary people live with this? And what is it like to be a child growing up in a designated terror zone?

    The girl, only 8 years old, heard the low hum and looked frantically at the sky. High up in the sky, flying around in large circles was the dot, although it wasn't really a dot. She was the first to see it and cried out to the rest. The women, busy hanging up clothes, stopped what they were doing and ran to pick up their small children. Upon doing so, they covered their heads with scarves and rocked back and forth. The dot in the sky grew closer, although it was still high in the sky. Never sleeping, never stopping, always flying, the dot was a drone. A flying robot that dealt in indiscriminate death to those below.

    Now, if you are wondering why innocent people would be afraid of a drone, then you wouldn’t be alone. Surely the drone operators knew the difference between the good and bad guys, right? Surely they knew the difference between women and children just trying to live their lives and terrorists? An article at the Atlantic addressed this very question not so long ago when it wrote — “An eight-year-old girl spoke with Amnesty International about the targeted killing in Pakistan's tribal regions. A drone strike killed the girl's 68-year-old grandmother as the old woman gathered vegetables last autumn. The little girl said — "I wasn't scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?"

    The article goes on to note — “Her uncertainty is understandable. An elderly matriarch's death is inevitably tragic for her grandchild. Her survivors are made to bear an even greater burden when the death is cloaked in mystery. Was the strike a murder? A terrible mistake? Did the grandmother inadvertently do something to make the drone pilot suspicious? How can other innocents avoid her fate? The U.S. doesn't just refuse to explain its actions or to compensate the families of innocent people it wrongfully kills. Of course little eight-year-old girls wonder if they're next.” The author goes on to rhetorically ask — "What would you think if a Hellfire missile arbitrarily blew up your grandma?”

    In fact, it gets worse. The article quotes a person saying — “When children hear the drones, they get really scared, and they can hear them all the time so they're always fearful that the drone is going to attack them. Because of the noise, we're psychologically disturbed, women, men, and children…. Twenty-four hours, a person is in stress and there is pain in his head." A journalist who photographs drone strike craters agreed that children are perpetually terrorized. He said- "If you bang a door, they'll scream and drop like something bad is going to happen."

    Although we will never know the true death toll, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based on extensive research in mid-2011, claims that at least 385 civilians were among the dead by drone, including more than 160 children. In July 2009, Brookings Institution released a report stating that in the United States-led drone attacks in Pakistan, ten civilians died for every militant killed. But it gets worse. Wikipedia notes — “Pakistani authorities released statistics stating that between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2009, U.S. RQ-1 Predator and RQ-9 Reaper UAV strikes have killed over 700 innocent civilians.” That’s right. The Pakistani government says that more than 700 innocent civilians have been killed. And that’s just the ones they know about. And let’s not forget that those numbers were released several years ago. Now, no doubt, the figures are much higher.

    What about the man behind the machine? The man who ultimately pulls the trigger? A journalist at the Guardian interviewed a former drone pilot and he said — “"It is a lot like playing a video game. But playing the same video game four years straight on the same level. His bombs kill real people though and, he admits, often not the people he is aiming at.” In an interview with a former US air force drone operator, the operator admitted to making mistakes. He said — “You see a lot of death," before he paused and said — “…if it was not him then it might be some new kid doing it badly”.

    In a recent headline, the Guardian reports that the US government will finally announce how many people have died as a result of drone strikes. Of course, in that very same article, they also reported that — “the Pentagon confirmed it had conducted a massive airstrike in Somalia that left 150 people dead, one the largest casualty totals in a US military attack of the post-9/11 era.” That’s right. 150 dead in one drone strike. How many of those killed were terrorists?

    As reporters and the world await the news from the US government awaiting the total number of drone strikes worldwide, the number of terrorists dead and the total number of people killed, one needs to think about the legality of what is happening. One issue at hand is Point 6 of the 1970 declaration on principles of international law states: “No state or group of states has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state.” Maybe this applies to droning foreign nationals half-way around the world in an undeclared war?

    So, what do you think dear listeners? “Is the drone program moral?”

    Tags:
    Middle East, morality, death, drones, AGM-114K1A Hellfire, US government
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