Justifying the unjustifiable: drones attacks foil “possible” terror plot

Many news outlets are covering the story that the recent mass drone strikes in Pakistan have foiled a ‘Mumbai-style’ terror attack on UK, France and Germany.  The suggestion that mass drone strikes in Pakistan are justified because of intelligence of a possible terror attack in Europe are simply ludicrous.  Let’s set aside for a moment the notorious unreliability of such ‘intellegence’, particularly the kind that is so crucial that it is leaked to the media in a style reminiscent of the now  notorious ‘Saddam WMD 45 minutes away’ threat.

More importantly Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, has repeatedly made it clear that targeted attacks on individuals outside armed combat may well be unlawful under international and humanitarian law  particularly, as in this case, if the state in which it occurs (Pakistan) objects and, as stated in many of the reports, no plot was in fact imminent.   

The idea that armed drones can be let loose to “‘pre-empt possible terror plots” by unaccountable security and intelligence agencies is extremely worrying, as is the way that much of the mainstream media seems happy to acquiesce with this fallacy.



Categories: Challenging 'pro-drone' arguments

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3 replies

  1. Absolutely right! What are they thinking about? Acting on ‘possible’ attacks? Of course it makes much more sense to listen to Philip Alston’s comments that they ‘may be’ unlawful ‘if’ Pakistan objects and ‘if’ the attacks were unlawful. I for one find these qualifications far more preferable. What do they think they are doing? Pre-empting the unlawful slaughter of ‘innocents’ on our streets by the terrorists killed by the drones is madness. We should of course have waited until they were all dead – then and only then could we be really ‘sure’

  2. Hi Chloe,

    Do you really believe that we can kill people any time because we think that maybe they might kill some of us in future?

    Are you aware that drones kill innocent civilians every day in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq? These aren’t potential victims of the future. They happen now. Or is it only “our” British civilians that you are concerned about?

    Finally has it never occurred to you that the best defense of the indefensible (killing civilians whoever they be) is to pull out the security argument “we have evidence they were going to kill us so we got them first”? We’ve heard this one before. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, so we invaded. Except they didn’t and our government and security services lied, and thousands of innocent people died. It’s happening again. We shouldn’t let it.

  3. Hi Virginia. Thanks for your response. I must say though it seems simplistic and selective (WMD in Iraq) to me.

    Do you really believe we should allow people to plot to kill our friends and family regardless of overwhelming evidence (I am sure you will be aware that we can never be ‘certain’ of anything and it is disingenuous to allude otherwise). I can almost see Chamberlin with his piece of paper.

    Drones, guns, drugs, tanks, ignorance, cigarettes and alcohol kill innocents around the world right now. Drones have an excellent success rate in this company and are expertly used to avoid casualties on both sides whilst targeting those that have been proven capable of taking western lives because they are …..western. Are you aware that Al Qaieda/Taliban deliberately deploy to maximise such deaths for their own propaganda. Are you aware that history show us that the fight for peace often has unintended casualties. This is not to underestimate the loss of ANY life. Just to accept the imperfections of our existence in the pursuit of true justice and peace. Hand wringing really is not a viable option. One can of course point out piously that ‘all killing is wrong’ it just can’t be logically sustained by any philosophical discourse. Are you aware how many innocents have died because appeasers have prevented pre-emptive action ‘in their name’ (they are not so quick to accept the deaths in their name). It has happened before and we should not let it happen again!

    Finally, have you never considered that those who would threaten us (our values and culture) rely on your logic to ensure their victory. They would read your words with unbridled hope and optimism that they would have free reign to kill more innocents. For evil to triumph all it takes is that good men and women do nothing (or make ‘easy’, detached and frankly ungrateful criticisms about those who do). We must not accept this extremely dangerous and flawed ‘motherhood and apple pie’ logic to blind us to the realities of the world in which we live.

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