In the run up to the House of Commons vote on air strikes against ISIS in Syria, there has been much hype in the media about ‘precision strikes’. In particular a new British missile, the Brimstone, has been lauded by the press and politicians with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon going so far as to suggest that it “eliminates civilian casualties.”
The perception of ‘precision’ also underlies much of the support for drones targeted killing, with the phrase ‘pinpoint accuracy’ being deployed by the media almost as often as the weapons themselves. However the details and claims of such ‘precision’ deserve scrutiny. It is important to ask whether we are not in fact being misguided about ‘precision’. Not only in terms of the actual impact on the ground, but also in the permissiveness it engenders for further war. Read more →
While we continue to get no details of US and UK drone strikes in Afghanistan beyond bald figures, this week Congress was notified of a $95 million sale of 500 Hellfire missiles to the UK of the ‘P’ and ‘N’ variant. The ‘P’ variant is specifically designed for use by drones while the ‘N’ variant has a thermobaric warhead and it may be, as we have previously reported that this variant too may be being use on British drones.
While the drone wars plod on, opposition continues to grow. Ten days ago a coalition of US human rights groups including ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch wrote to President Obama questioning the legal basis for targeted killing and calling for an end to the secrecy surrounding the use of drones. (full letter here) A coalition of US faith group also wrote to the President challenging the growing use of targeted killing and highlighting the danger of remote warfare. On this the letter states:
“Military trainers know that human nature itself serves as a check on lethal violence. Coming face to face with someone described as an enemy requires a deliberate choice to override a deep human instinct against killing. Remote, technical warfare removes that very human check. As a society we have not adequately considered where this development leads us as a species. The remote nature of this type of deadly violence has the potential to encourage overuse and extension of the policy to more countries and more perceived threats.”