Today in North Waziristan, Pakistan, a United States Predator Drone killed 23 people, at least nine of whom (five children and four women) were civilians simply going about their daily lives. The rest, the U.S. military assures us, were “militants.” But, how does the United States know that the 14 people whom they annihilated from the face of the earth were “militants?” There was no trial, was there? They were not caught in the act of planning a devastating attack on U.S. civilians, were they?
In fact, as reported recently by the LATimes, the United States does not know “for sure” that the people they bomb are “militants” (even less had we had a national discussion about the exact definition of a “militant” and whether even people who actually are “militants” deserve the punishment of death by aerial attack); instead, in 2008:
The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region, according to current and former counter-terrorism officials.
The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the Bush administration and continued by President Obama, permits the agency to rely on what officials describe as “pattern of life” analysis, using evidence collected by surveillance cameras on the unmanned aircraft and from other sources about individuals and locations.
The information then is used to target suspected militants, even when their full identities are not known, the officials said. Previously, the CIA was restricted in most cases to killing only individuals whose names were on an approved list.
Not only does the United States not receive or even seek out actual evidence of intent and capability to kill people living in the United States before deciding to bomb a given human being into oblivion, but they do not even bother to find out these people’s names. Basically, the United States is using a type of profiling, and, as people of color living in the United States know all too well, the substitution of profiling for police-work is an inherently unjust and inefficient way to deal with crime and creates as many victims as it protects.
Given that we are supposedly seeking to remove Qaddafi from power because of his own indiscriminate killing of Libyan civilians, the way the Obama administration has carried out the drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan seems to be the epitome of hypocrisy. Moreover, given the hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians that the Predator Drone program has killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we should consider the Obama administration’s recent decision to begin conducting Predator Drone strikes in Libya to be very bad news for the people of Libya.
Equally troubling is the Obama administration’s complete disregard for democracy–either here or abroad. The fact that the government and people of Pakistan have not consented to these drone missions and express increasing anger over their existence does not seem to bother President Obama one bit. He is similarly undisturbed by the fact that only 39% of Americans approve of our presence in Libya.