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The fiery and pervasive debate about war and nuclear weapons has been helpful in bringing global attention to its dangers. But there is one debate which has been conspicuous by its absence and is long overdue: the dangers of drones. This week US President Barack Obama appointed two drone ‘enthusiasts’ as his new defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, and his new CIA chief, Hohn Brennan. Obama himself is a great lover and great proponent of drones and has been employing this lethal weapon with supreme efficiency and scant regard for human lives, though not without criticism.
There is a dire need for a global debate on drones and the dangers it poses to global peace. According to latest reports, drones are now sweeping the world arms market. Around 10,000 drones are said to be in service, of which a thousand are armed and mostly American. The fact is these deadly flying machines have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in September 11.
The drone wars in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and the horn of Africa have caused killed children, women and thousands of other innocent people, but still there is no accountability, no questions asked about the legality and ethics, no justice to the victims, no remorse on the part of perpetrators of these crimes and what is more galling, there is no plan to either tone down or rethink the results of these operations. There reports in sections of Western media that Obama, who was emotional while talking about the Connecticut elementary school shooting last month in which 20 children were killed by a lone gunman, was hypocritical and insensitive, because far more innocent children have been killed in drone attacks. While the Connecticut shooting was carried out by a mentally deranged person, the drone attacks are perpetrated by American forces under the orders of Obama.
The drones have been especially causing devastation in Pakistan, where the entire population is seething with rage at the US insensitivity and cruelty. It must be clear by now that the war against terror cannot be won through drone attacks. Since the drone war began in 2008, there has been no decline in Taleban or Al Qaeda performance in the region. For each innocent person killed on the ground by the flying missile, scores would rise to take revenge.
Each week Obama apparently sits down and goes through a “kill list” of people he intends to eliminate, especially in Pakistan, with no judicial process and no more identification than the word of their agent on the ground. The president must change his policies on drones. It’s unlikely that he would do that on his own. We need a global campaign to make him see reason.