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El Pais, Spain

Obama and the Drones



By Editorial

If [Washington] wants to avoid the growing perception in the international community that its massive and opaque use of drones is, in many cases, equivalent to execution without trial, it urgently needs to adopt a set of rules that are open, transparent and precise.

Translated By Natalia Barnhart

10 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard


Spain - El Pais - Original Article (Spanish)

This week’s Senate hearings for the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director have provided a rare opportunity to shine a light on the United States’ use of unmanned aircraft. These weapons have been crucial in recent years in the elimination of al-Qaida leaders and their allies, from Pakistan to Somalia to Afghanistan to Yemen. The selective and secretive war — we have just learned of the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia — was expanded exponentially by Barack Obama and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Its primary architect is the one and only Brennan, the chief counterterrorism adviser to the president and assembler of the drone “kill list” used by the CIA and the Pentagon.

A leaked government memorandum about the legal basis for unmanned aircraft attacks on Islamist terrorist suspects cannot withstand even a superficial ethical analysis. Its deliberately ambiguous and imprecise language gives the White House full authority over the lives of those on the blacklist, including U.S. citizens. The executive branch is not required to explain its decisions, or even to admit the attack, to Congress or the courts.

The Obama administration’s stance on this issue is unacceptable, although most of his countrymen support it. It will continue to be this way if an idea floated by certain congressmen goes through. They have called for a secret federal tribunal to approve secret assassinations by remote-controlled bombs and missiles. During his first campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama promised to end the terrorist excesses (Guantanamo included) that his predecessor Bush had elevated to the category of politics. His actions say otherwise.

Many democracies look to Washington, which pretends that its acts of war adhere, by definition, to the highest moral and legal standards. If it wants to avoid the growing perception in the international community that its massive and opaque use of drones is, in many cases, equivalent to execution without trial, it urgently needs to adopt a set of rules that are open, transparent and precise. Rules that, given the expanding distribution of these technologies (Russia and China already have them), other governments could adopt unblushingly should the need arise.



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