Much of our attention lately has been focused on the use of drone strikes against US citizens on US soil. The Administration recently affirmed that it does not have the right to kill Americans on US soil by drone…unless it deems them “combatants” first. This should not make us feel any better – that was the same technique used to send so many to Guantanamo even though it was known they had not committed a crime against the US. Call someone “combatant” and they lose all right to life and liberty without trial. It seems like a bad dream.
Unfortunately, less attention has been paid to another very disturbing and dangerous aspect of the US use of drones to kill. As the UK Guardian newspaper reported yesterday, the United States has been using its military to attack the sovereign territory of Pakistan without the consent of the government of Pakistan. Over continued objections of the government of Pakistan, including regularly delivered strong notes of protest, the US government continues to use its drones to attack Pakistani citizens on Pakistani soil.
Much of those attacks are what is called “signature strikes,” which means the US targets individuals exhibiting certain kinds of behaviors or wearing certain types of clothing rather than any evidence of actual wrongdoing or violent acts in progress. Former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter had this to say last year about these strikes, when asked to define who can be targeted: “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40.”
According to the Guardian article, the UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson returned from a three day trip to Pakistan and concluded:
“The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“As a matter of international law the US drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
To date, Pakistan estimates that 2,200 deaths had been caused by drone strikes and a further 600 people had suffered serious injuries. Hundreds of the dead are non-combatants, including scores of women and children.
The US claims its attacks on Pakistan are authorized by the initial Authorization for the Use of Force granted to the president to retaliate against those who attacked or assisted in the attack on the US on 9/11. The targets in Pakistan are neither of those. The operation is therefore an attack on a sovereign nation in total absence of any legal Congressional authority. In other words, the US is illegally at war with Pakistan. Is this reckless droning of sovereign nations making us all more vulnerable to retaliation? After all, wars are often two-way streets.
The US government touts the rule of law as it lectures the rest of the world on how it should be governed. When it comes to actually observing the rule of law, it seems the US view is “do what we say, not what we do.” How much longer can we have any credibility with the rest of the world with this kind of arrogant imperialism?