Drone strikes ineffective, harmful

By Dennis Topakov


Before you begin to form an opinion on this column, I ask you one question: If all people are created equal, does one innocent individual matter more than the next?

The Justice Department recently released an explanatory “white paper” to justify the targeted killing of American citizens, as the government attempts to enact legislation to that effect. The basis of the document says that it is lawful to target and kill an American citizen “who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force” if and only if “an informed, high-level, official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States”

At first I was all for this document, as I am sure most American citizens would be. However, give it a second thought.

In recent years we have not seen an enemy country attack our land with unrelenting force. The only way we know what war feels like is when we vicariously live it through our television sets. Over the past wars we have waged, which have depleted our resources significantly, America has been depicted as the bad guy to the people of the native country. After looking at the facts, I can understand why. In Afghanistan it is estimated that at least 15,500 civilians who have been killed. for every one terrorist, 50 civilians are killed. Those are innocent people with families, jobs and lives. This casualty total leads to overpacked hospitals and mental anguish.

The method by which most of these individuals have been killed is drone warfare. This tactic involves sending in remotely controlled drones to bomb a selected area. It is America’s favorite and “safest” war tactic. Regardless of how safe it is for our troops, it is heinous in terms of job efficiency. The statistics behind drone warfare state that.

I don’t know about your logic, but that sounds like a slaughter to me.

A study conducted by Stanford and NYU, titled “Living Under Drones” interviewed individuals who have experienced the consequences of drone warfare and paired the interviews with thoughts made by our “high-level” government officials. To start off, Obama has confirmed that he has authorized 283 strikes in Pakistan, which is six times more than that of the Bush administration, according to CNN. This increase causes nothing but terror for civilians throughout foreign countries.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the London-based organization Reprieve, which facilitated many of the interviews used in the study, said, “Drone strikes go further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies.
“Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups. Yet there is no end in sight.”

Just imagine relating these statements to your life. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays because of drone strike fear. Imagine not being able to work because of the fear you that you might not see your family again if you leave.

The reason I targeted drone warfare specifically is because one of the guidelines listed in the white paper for lawful killing of a foreign civilian is, “the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.” Well if we stay consistent with the actions of the Obama administration, then we can clearly see that he will not send in a tactical team in for the kill. He will send in one of his drones, which might get the job done, or might kill 50 civilians instead.

Having said this, and conveying such facts, I ask you two final questions. Is it worth risking the lives of 50 civilians just to hopefully eliminate one terrorist? And are we as a nation going to support this white paper, which gives our government, which prides itself on drone warfare, even more military control?

Dennis Topakov is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]