Imagine the U.S. at some point in the future had as its policy the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens whom the government deemed “militants.” At this point in time, our government would have built up a massive database of citizen biometrics that included our facial structures and expressions, image scans of the retinas in our eyes, our behavior patterns and recordings of what our voices sounded like. And each of those characteristics would be tied to our identity. Since we would be under constant surveillance, computer software would be used to identify changes in our behavior. Any change in our behavior seen in the way we carry ourselves or the way we look around as we walk might make those watching over us suspicious. It might turn out to be behavior that was consistent with those that have carried out past terrorist attacks. Terrorists’ profiles would also be in this massive database for comparison purposes.
And all these “decisions” would be made in a matter of seconds by a computer based on complicated algorithms that had been programmed into it. Once the computer “suspected” someone was a terrorist, an attack drone would be summoned to take him out with a missile strike. When the missile hit him, it would take out 15 to 20 people around him and do substantial damage to the surrounding property. This person that was suspected of being a terrorist might have been your brother, your dad or your son. And all the people that were killed in the drone strike as “collateral damage” belonged to families as well.
Unfortunately, this horrific image may not be too far away in our own country. All the technology described above is available. It’s just a matter of implementing it, which will take time and money. How long will it be before each of us has lost someone in our own family due to a drone strike?
The idea of pre-emptive war was discussed extensively during the Bush years. Drone strikes can be pre-emptive acts in that they intend to prevent terrorism by killing those who might be planning an attack. Other than maybe a subtle change in behavior, authorities wouldn’t need any evidence, any formal charges or any trial in order to execute someone. These attacks would be legal thanks to “emergency” legislation passed and executive orders signed in the years since 9/11. The declaration of the War on Terror was a slippery slope that is getting us closer and closer to the point where government officials can assassinate anybody they want to on mere “suspicion.”
There is a segment of the world that knows a thing or two about drone strikes already. The Middle East has served as a testing ground of sorts for U.S. drone surveillance and attacks. Two U.S. law schools did a study on the effect of drone strikes in Pakistan based on interviews with victims, witnesses and experts. According to the UK’s Guardian, this is what the report revealed:
…[B]etween 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. The figures have been assembled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimated that a further 1,300 individuals were injured in drone strikes over that period.
The law schools report blamed the Obama administration for the increase of “signature strikes” where people and groups are targeted as a result of “pattern of life” analyses.
Drone strikes that result in the deaths of innocent civilians are a major terrorist recruitment motivation. The more innocent people are killed, the more terrorists are created. Is it any wonder that 74% of Pakistanis now view the U.S. as an enemy? Because of fear of seemingly random drone strikes, Pakistanis are afraid to go to weddings or funerals because being seen in a group is considered “suspicious.” The law schools’ report continued:
US drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in north-west Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.
I know we have a mixed readership on this website. Some may not care one bit about these strikes because “they’re all terrorists over there.” But this isn’t true. Yes, there are terrorists over there, but there are also innocent civilians, many of them Christians. How can the Obama administration or any administration justify such a cavalier attitude toward killing innocent men, women and children on account of relatively few “suspected terrorists?” The law schools’ report showed that only 2% of all the drone-related deaths have been “high-level militants.”
We have murderers, rapists and child molesters here in this country. For expediency and convenience purposes, would we really want the government to just “take care” of all those suspected criminals at the expense of law-abiding citizens? They might strike a neighborhood, and they might actually kill the criminal, but they also might kill a dozen innocent people. Should we be willing to just sacrifice ourselves to the “greater good of the greater number?”
This is why we have Law and the Constitution. These documents protect the innocent. And in order to protect the innocent, everybody has to be treated equally under the law. If someone is found guilty of a crime based on evidence and witnesses, the law will condemn him. Conversely, if there is not sufficient evidence or witness accounts, the law assumes the person is innocent. As soon as we give our government free reign to just kill all the “bad guys” without all the legal processes, that also gives them free reign to kill the “good guys” if it wants to. It’s the law that protects all of us equally.
These drone strikes might be coming to us here in this country sometime in the not-too-distant future, but they will be permissible under current legislation, because remember we’re at “war” with “terror.” When you’re at war, you don’t have to deal with filing formal charges, presenting evidence or using eyewitness accounts all in a courtroom with a jury. When you’re at war, you just kill. People had warned before that this “War on Terror” was so vague that anything could be considered “terrorism,” and that it left the door wide open to a literal presidential “kill list.” Well, those people were correct. It is happening now, and it might be too late to change it. There’s far too much money, politics and power involved in surveillance, drone and weapons technology for us to change course. When the drone strikes start happening here, how many “terrorists” will be created as a result? Or would those “terrorists” actually be “freedom fighters?” I guess it would depend on which news network you watch.