A British serviceman, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, talks about his role as part of the US drone program, which was to use satellite imagery to identify targets on the ground. He describes how on one occasion he was about to order a hit on someone whom he thought was planting an explosive device in the ground. At the last minute, a much larger figure appeared on the scene and he realized that the first ‘terrorist’ whose death he had been about to bring about was a child playing in the sand.
He talks about how on another occasion he was observing on the screen an attack ordered by someone else on a house that was supposed to have ‘terrorists’ inside and later receiving reports of the bits of bodies of six children being brought out.
He says that drone warfare and aerial warfare against countries that have no defenses against it removes one of the most important checks and balances against war, which is the risk of real casualties to your own side. If a country’s leader can order the deaths of people remotely, with no risk at all to his or her own troops, against people who have no means of fighting back directly or of marshaling public opinion against the acts, then that leader has been pretty much been given carte blanche to go to war. He says that drones have made it “too easy to kill”.
The drone killings will be the everlasting shame of the Obama legacy. Not in the US, of course, since we have a genius for averting our eyes from the ugliest parts of our history, but (I hope) in the eyes of the rest of the world.
It still sticks in my craw that Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize.