The High Cost of Killing

Zackary Mejia, Staff Writer

Over the centuries war has evolved in various ways. The ways in which we kill each other, the reasons we kill each other and how we conduct the killing of each other being the most significant.

Through the UN and international law, war is supposed to be conducted in a civilized manner in which we, the free world, have a set of rules and guidelines we must follow. A system that our enemies often do not adhere to.

In his 2009 acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize, President Obama talked about how important it is that all governments adhere to these laws stating “…I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war.  That is what makes us different from those whom we fight.  That is a source of our strength.”

Drone Strike Children

By having the CIA run the program it is difficult to get the information on who exactly is flying these missions and creates a feeling of a shadow army within the military that can, and has, killed indiscriminately and are for the most part, not held accountable for their actions.”

Despite the president’s inspiring words and America’s belief that it is the focal point of the world’s moral authority, the US government has been committing war crimes and violating human rights in its drone operations throughout the globe.

More specifically in Pakistan and Yemen, two countries that the United states are not at war with but according to the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, between 2004 and 2013 as many as 3,350 people have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone.

Of these, only 54 have been confirmed militants and high level personnel in Al-Qaeda and other terror groups that have no connection to US interest, which accounts for only 2% of drone fatalities.

1,567-2,713 drone casualties were classified as “signature strikes” which are attacks based solely on suspicious movement patterns by a group of men. These extrajudicial killings are supported by no evidence or intelligence that these victims were involved or affiliated with any terrorist organizations.

In a sense, the US government has no idea who they are killing in these strikes which generates a great deal of questions as to the legitimacy and legality of the drone program that by both the Director of the CIA, Jon Brennan and President Obama have hailed as being a cheap, effective and secure way of eliminating terrorist without risking American lives.

By their actions, these heads of State and their supporters are saying that the thousands of innocent men, women and children that were killed by drone strikes were worth the cost of assassinating leaders of Al-Qaeda, chalking up their lives to be nothing more than collateral damage. A claim that they will fervently deny but covertly commit.

Due to the classification of the CIA drone program, the actual figures may be higher but the public has no access to the records. The fact that this assassination program is labeled as a CIA operation ensures that there is no accountability for the people that are being killed.

Yet evidence and whistleblowers have surfaced connecting this “CIA program” to all levels of the US chain of command.

The CIA is responsible for selecting the target, the NSA, with the aid of European intelligence agencies finds the targets, the White House signs off the assassinations and the operations are carried out by the Air Force.

The problem with this is that the Air Force is a branch of the military and supposed to be under the control of the Department of Defense, not the CIA, a civilian agency.

By having the CIA run the program it is difficult to get the information on who exactly is flying these missions and creates a feeling of a shadow army within the military that can, and has, killed indiscriminately and are for the most part, not held accountable for their actions.

Accountability is important because potential war crimes have been committed by these soldiers. Aside from the extrajudicial killings, there has been recorded evidence within Pakistan that the drone operators have returned after an initial strike and bombed the people that try to rescue survivors.

If the US government and public are fine with the current way this program is being conducted, that is fine. But they have to acknowledge and own it in a sense that what they are doing is not only immoral but internationally illegal. The US government has the power and authority to act as if they are above the very same rules they set forth.

Yet, as President Obama said in his Nobel Prize winning speech, “Furthermore, America — in fact, no nation — can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves.  For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified.”