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“NOT JUST UNLAWFUL, BUT DANGEROUS” May 2, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History, US Politics.
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White House counter terrorism adviser John Brennan claims the use of drones is ethical, necessary, and permitted by international law.

Here we are using relative ethics and the selective and partial application of international law on operations that hereto have not been admitted and have been conducted in secrecy by the CIA. Can killing human beings ever be ethical, let alone justifiable? What entitles the US to apply its interpretation of law into territory over which it has no jurisdiction, let applying a proper process of justice. Truth, ethics and justice do not rely on assertion but on evidence and process. No other country is flying these instruments of murder, perhaps with the exception of Israel. If they are so legal then that claim should be tested in an international court of law. After the invasion of Iraq with “shock and awe”, perhaps their claims need to be treated with scepticism.

Much of John Brennan’s speech  was delivered at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars  Stephanie Kennedy reported for ABC News:

“There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield,” he said.

“Targeted strikes are ethical.”

Mr Brennan acknowledged there had been civilian deaths caused by drone strikes but insisted casualties were exceedingly rare.

“It is hard to imagine a tool that can better minimise the risk to civilians than remotely piloted aircraft,” he said.

By contrast Al Jazeera identifies some problems:

The protester man handled out of the speech was Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK.  David Swanson provides some background:

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and of CodePink: Women for Peace. She is the author of the new book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control” and was an organizer of the Drone Summit held this past weekend in Washington, D.C.

Andrea Stone,The Huffinton Post reported:

Brennan’s speech was interrupted when a young woman stood up to “speak out on behalf of those innocent victims” killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia,” she said. “They deserve an apology from you, Mr. Brennan? How many people are you willing to sacrifice? Why are you lying to the American people and not saying how may innocents have been killed?” A burly guard lifted the protester and carried her away as she named alleged drone victims and declared she was speaking out “on behalf of the Constitution — on behalf of the rule of law.”

At ABC RN Drive Walleed Aly spoke to Dr Greg Barton of Monash University on this subject. He seemed to think this problem was too difficult for the average citizen to grapple with, although a future in which others might be flying drones was envisaged, at which point there will be a widespread call for international laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union was more sceptical in their statement. They acknowledge:

“This is an important statement – first because it includes an unambiguous acknowledgement of the targeted killing program and second because it includes the administration’s clearest explanation thus far of the program’s
purported legal basis.” Jaffer said.

“But Mr. Brennan supplies legal conclusions, not legal analysis. We continue to believe that the administration should release the Justice Department memos underlying the program – particularly the memo that authorizes the extrajudicial killing of American terrorism suspects. And the administration should release the evidence it relied on to conclude that an American citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, could be killed without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

And conclude:

“We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous. This statement makes clear that the administration is treating legal restrictions on the use of force as questions of preference. Moreover, it is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield,” Shamsi said.

“It is dangerous to give the President the authority to order the extrajudicial killing of any person – including any American – he believes to be a terrorist. The administration insists that the program is closely supervised, but to propose that a secret deliberation that takes place entirely within the executive branch constitutes ‘due process’ is to strip the Fifth Amendment of its essential meaning.”

Press TV presents contrary opinion to the official line. I was puzzled by some of this commentary, but on reflection it might be expected that “conservatives” might want to maintain the Constitution, even if the explanation can run to the weird. Nonetheless, who are the real conservatives? A strange inversion seems to happen.

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