Killing from afar: the evolving misuse of modern technology

BY GAVIN ROWLEY

A clear blue sky in the United States lends itself as a symbol of happiness, freedom, and pretty, western ideals. Our country is supposedly one that the rest of the world aspires to be.

In many countries in the Middle East, that is not the case. That is because on clear, sunny days an invisible robotic killer patrols the sky, striking down anyone it deems “dangerous.”

This may sound like the opening to a bad science fiction movie, but it is reality. As the technology for using and building unmanned drones has become more effective and easily accessible, so has the frequency with which these drones are used in the field.

The over-use of the CIA’s Drone-Strike program causes too many civilian casualties and too much damage, it should not be used so liberally.

Most Americans are aware of the fact that the United States government uses drone strike to supposedly “kill terrorists” in other countries. That is why even President Obama himself can joke about their use, and usually get a good reaction from their audience.

But, despite American awareness of the drone program’s existence, there is little known information on the subject.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2004 and 2014, there have been 401 strikes against targets in Pakistan. These strikes have killed at least 2,384 people, but some counts have reached as high as 3,858. Between 416 and 957 of those were civilians, and, of those civilians, as many as 200 of them were children. There were a total of nine strikes this October, the most ferocious bombardment since 2010; each one killing an average of 3.2 people. These numbers don’t even take into account the other drone operation in Yemen or Somalia, the two other primary receivers of drone strikes.

One reason for this uncertainty lies in the difficulty of identifying the victims of these strikes. Also, the CIA has some interesting ways of counting civilians versus militants, according to The New York Times’ Scott Shane.

“The CIA often counts able-bodied males, military age males who are killed in strikes as militants unless they have concrete evidence to sort of prove the innocents,” Shane said.

The U.S. government defends its drone program, claiming that the UN Charter allows for the use of such lethal force in self-defense against an imminent threat. There are still many critics of the program who question the validity of that defense and claim that the program breaks international human rights treaties.

According to a 16-page Justice Department memo, an imminent threat does not require the U.S. to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the near future. In other words, the Justice Department’s definition of “imminent” is almost the exact opposite of what it means.

“Imminent,” is watching a shadowy small sliver on the ground you’re walking on get bigger and bigger, until you’ve been pulverized. “Imminent,” is eradicating the life-forces of people thousands of miles away, from the comfort of your own home.

And when you mix a God-like power with convenience, the only thing imminent for us all is destruction.

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