The latest American casualty of President Obama’s drone warfare programme that we know about, was at the beginning of the year (but only acknowledged in April) when an American hostage, Warren Weinstein, had been inadvertently killed in a U.S. strike against al-Qaeda militants along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.The same operation also killed an American al-Qaeda militant named Ahmed Farouq.
Americans have been killed by U.S. drone strikes from the very beginning. In 2002, in an operation coordinated by the U.S military, U.S. citizen Kemal Darwish was reported to have been killed in a strike in Yemen. In 2013, the U.S. Justice Department confirmed that four U.S. citizens, including cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, had been killed by CIA drone strikes since 2009. Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim who incited attacks against the West, was killed in 2011 in a strike in Yemen.
Another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan,died in the same strike that killed Awlaki whose son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also killed in another attack the month after his father died. The 16-year-old was also a U.S. citizen. The other death announced by the Justice Department in 2013 was that of Jude Kenan Mohammad, a 23-year-old who was killed in a U.S drone strike in Pakistan in 2011.
Of all those killed, Awlaki was the only person actually targeted by U.S drones, a statistic that flies in the face of their supposed ability to be be able to surgically hit their intended targets with accuracy. Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set,”said Obama in a speech in May 2013.
I’m sure the family of Warren Weinstein and all the other American citizens inadvertently killed by U.S drones will be comforted by those words, as will the many innocent Yemeni’s killed by them.where their impacts seem to be particularly lethal.
A report published in October 2013 by Human Rights Watch – found the US has carried out 80 targeted operations in Yemen since 2009, including strikes from drones, warplanes and naval vessels stationed in the Gulf of Aden, killing at least 473 people.
Following the killing of UK citizens in Syria, we now know that sanctioning the use of drones that override due legal process is not merely an American issue but a British one too. The assumption the British government seems to be making, is that men travelling in a car in Syria were imminently able to instantly wreak havoc in the UK thereby necessitating the need for them to be executed forthwith without trial.
That presupposes a level of certainty with regards to what they were allegedly supposed to have been planning and where and when. If true, then why the vagueness from government ministers’ in the aftermath of the killings?
The argument that details like this cannot be revealed for security reasons doesn’t wash. People in power who make the decision to assassinate other people need to be accountable for their actions whether that be the alleged accuracy about so-called intelligence relating to Iraqi WMDS (which we now know was baloney), or whether its the intelligence surrounding the targeted use of drones.
Fortunately, since the Iraq debacle, people are more sceptical than ever about the continued claims made by the security services. However, that doesn’t appear to have reined in the British government’s lust for death, war and the killing of our citizens without due legal and parliamentary oversight. As with the American’s, we seem to have adopted a policy of kill first and ask questions later which is at odds with the kinds of democratic principles we claim to adhere to.
My fear is that this kind of repugnant activity will over time become normalized if we fail to stop it in its tracks. I’ll take it one step further by agreeing with Craig Murray when he stated that:
For the government to claim the right to kill British people through sci-fi execution, based on highly unreliable secret intelligence and a secret declaration of legality, is so shocking I find it difficult to believe it is happening even as I type the words. Are we so cowed as to accept this?
In the absence of proper accountability, the use of drones on people who are innocent until proven otherwise, is tantamount to authorizing murder by the state. How the government can claim its killing of British men in Syria, with no trial, is anything other than murder, is a question only those ministers’ who sanction such barbarity can answer.