One of the problems with drones is that they are easy to use. Another is that they are proving to be counterproductive.
These are in essence one and the same argument. Easy to use, compared with say sending in the SAS who may take casualties.
Easy to use in that we seem to have no comeback. The same of could could be said of firing rockets, except as the Palestinians find, lob a few rockets over into Israel and all hell breaks out.
Soldiers in Afghanistan are seen as legitimate targets, as we see from what seems to be a daily toll of killings.
When we use drones, one of the problems is that we are not taking out the right people, this leads to more terrorists not less. The drones are launched from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, which is then seen as a legitimate target.
On the Moral Maze this evening, a dire programme at the best of times, Melanie Phillips tried to claim only one or two civilian casualties (just one example of the garbage she came out with). Maybe she would like to explain why Imran Khan led a demonstration against drones, why he was questioned by US Immigration Official as he tried to enter the US from Canada?
One of the questions that hangs over the is of drones, is the lack of democratic accountability. We see the civilian deaths in Pakistan, but what we are not seeing is any discussion on their use.
Another is that of legitimacy. Their use may be illegal under International Law.
Anyone who wonders what it is like to be on the receiving end, talk to those who were in London when the Germans used V-bombs
Unlike a missile, drones are relatively low technology, easy to build, easy to acquire, easy to use. Soon everyone will have them, then we will find out what it is like to be on the receiving end.
Since June 2008, UK forces have carried out around 300 airstrikes in Afghanistan using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as drones), controlled from thousands of miles away. Although there is some public information about US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, there is almost no public information about drone strikes carried out by the UK in Afghanistan.
There are serious ethical, moral and legal questions about the growing use of armed drones which need to be properly debated. However, it is impossible to have such a debate while information is being kept secret. At the very least, it seems that public discussion is being controlled.
Drones have enabled a huge increase in targeted killing is also causing deep disquiet amongst legal experts and scholars.
However, perhaps the greatest concern relates to what is seen as one of the key capabilities of drones – their ability to loiter over an area for hours or even days. Evidence is beginning to emerge that the persistent presence of drone sitting over remote villages and towns, simply looking for ‘targets of opportunity’, leads to an increase in civilian casualties.
Despite growing public concern, the UK is to double the number of armed Reaper drones in operation by 2013 and is also pressing ahead with plans to develop new armed drones over the next decade, all without public debate or parliamentary scrutiny.
There are serious questions about the use of drones:
- Does the geographic and psychological distance between the operator and target make attacks more likely?
- Does using unmanned systems mean attacks will happen more often?
- Does the supposed accuracy of drone sensors and cameras mean that commanders are more willing to undertake ‘riskier’ strikes (in terms of possible civilian casualties) than they would previously have undertaken?
All of these questions, and many more, need to be debated openly and honestly, requiring careful analysis and judgement based on evidence. Unfortunately, that evidence is being kept under wraps. While it may be necessary to keep some information secret, we do not believe it is appropriate or legitimate to refuse to disclose any and all information about the circumstances in which Reapers have been used over the past four years. There is, at the very least, a sense that public discussion is being stifled.
With the use of armed drones set to increase, we need a serious, public – and fully informed – debate on all these issues.
A petition has been drawn up to David Cameron asking for an open debate on the use of drones.
More information on drones and their use can be obtained from the Drone Campaign Network.
What is incredible is that the video feed is not encrypted. The targets on the ground can see what the drone can see.
In the last decade, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by drones.