NEWS

Military drones 'an ideal tool' against jihadist groups

09/20/2013 06:17 EDT | Updated 11/20/2013 05:12 EST
But for many Americans - not to mention many people around the world - the U.S. has itself crossed the line and broken with international norms through its use of drones.

By some counts, more than 3,000 leaders and members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other jihadist organizations have been killed by drones – many of them through the controversial practice of targeted killings.

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Drone strikes have been a deeply polarizing issue. Proponents say drone technology enables an unprecedented level of precision and that they’re the best counterterrorism tool the U.S. has. Critics, such as the journalist Jeremy Scahill, argue that drones amount to mass murder or war crimes and that they’re on very shaky ground under international law.

But according to Mark Bowden, the best-selling author of such books as Black Hawk Down and The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, the debate over drones is largely “ill-informed.” Bowden recently wrote a lengthy article on drone warfare, and the ethical issues arising from it, in The Atlantic Magazine.

“If you think the United States ought to be at war with al-Qaeda, I think you are delighted that we have a weapon that will seek out these folks that are planning acts of mass murder and will kill them.”

The power that drones have given the U.S. to kill its enemies with apparent impunity is deeply unsettling to many and has engendered a good deal of resentment globally, but Bowden also points out that the precision of drone strikes allows the U.S. to minimize civilian casualties.

“Once you’ve made the decision to go to war, the drone is an ideal tool for a variety of reasons, one being that you don’t place any of your own people at risk, which is a clear positive.

You can hear Mark Bowden’s full conversation with Michael Enright this weekend on The Sunday Edition, airing on CBC Radio One at 9:05 a.m. on Sept. 22, or in the audio link at the top of this page titled The Moral Stain Of Drones.

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