Laurie Calhoun, a philosopher and author of the influential book: ‘We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age' joins the program, as well as London based Peace Campaigner Russell Whiting.
Laurie starts the program by giving some background information and explains that the CIA ran the drone programs up until 2013, when Obama stripped them of that privilege. What the CIA are doing now, Laurie says, is basically asking to have the policy reinstated under Trump. Under CIA administration of the drone programs, no public accountability is required; thus shielding the administration from any kind of criticism of the policy.
Russell points out that drones started to be used in large numbers when George Bush and Tony Blair saw that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were dragging on a lot longer than was originally foreseen. Casualties were mounting up and politicians needed a way to carry on fighting these wars but without putting their own troops in the way of harm, and risk crating those damaging headlines. Drones dehumanize war as they are operated by people a long way away; detaching the process of killing from the emotions of killing.
The drone program has safeguards, Laurie says. She describes that a strike is only taken when there is near certainty that innocent civilians will not be killed, it is also said that the target has to be of high value. The problem is that they have not defined the terms. "So they say that they would only target lawful combatants but they never defined that term. Outside of an area of active hostility it is unclear what a lawful combatant is supposed to look like, and also an associate. What does an associate of these people look like?… They never defined ‘imminent threat', they only said that an imminent threat no longer has to be immediate."
The western press has perhaps not give this subject enough attention. Laurie feels this is because the operations were covert for so long that by the time that people woke up to it, the debate was over. This all happened under Obama's watch, Laurie says, and Obama has handed over to Trump the ability to kill directly, because people trusted Obama, and he assumed incredible executive privilege, allowing the normalization of assassination. The silver lining, Laurie says, is that: "in the present situation, when there are new developments such as eliminating the requirement that the target be of high value, eliminating an inter-agency vetting process, and eliminating the requirement that the target pose imminent and continuing threat to US citizens, Trump may have inadvertently put himself in the position of prompting the international community to finally take this issue up."
Russell, however, feels that in the US, where he was recently, any kind of questioning of the conduct of the military is now deemed as unpatriotic, and that feeling is increasing under the Trump regime. Chances of a sea change in the attitude towards drones within the US or Western Europe, he says is therefore limited.
Other themes discussed in this program include the possible adding of other countries to the drone program, the effect of Russia's use of drones in Syria, the manipulation of the general population by the media and other important relevant topics.
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