The U.S. military is diverting unmanned aerial Predator and Reaper drones from the Afghan battlefront in a significant expansion of the CIA’s campaign against ‘militants’ in Pakistan.
1,800 Pakistanis have been killed by unmanned drone attacks since the beginning of the War in Afganistan. The press refers to these people as militants, but according to a report entitled “The Year of the Drone,” by the Washington-based New America Foundation released earlier this year, 32% of deaths in drone attacks are civilians.
According to Pakistan’s Dawn News the figure is much higher: “For each Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.”
“Drones are currently killing people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It should be noted that the United States is not at war with any of those countries, which should mean that in a sane world the killing is illegal under both international law and the U.S. Constitution,” states Philip Girald, a former CIA officer and fellow of the American Conservative Defense Alliance.
The U.S. government doesn’t seem bothered: “Lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV or drones), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war,” said U.S. Sectretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, in a research paper titled “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones,” writes:
“The CIA’s intention in using drones is to target and kill individual leaders of al-Qaida or Taliban militant groups. Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been about 20 leaders killed for 750 to 1,000 unintended victims – meaning innocent civilians.
“Targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law. They are increasingly used in circumstances which violate the relevant rules of international law. The international community needs to be more forceful in demanding accountability,” said Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions
“This expansive and open-ended interpretation of the right to self-defense goes a long way towards destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the U.N. Charter,” Mr. Alston said. “If invoked by other states, in pursuit of those they deem to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos.”
Alston continued, “Some have argued that CIA personnel who conduct targeted drone killings are committing war crimes because they, unlike the military, are “unlawful combatants”, and unable to participate in hostilities.”