Six months of war in Iraq: Less ‘skin in the game’ mustn’t mean less scrutiny

Reaper-shellThis week marks six months since the parliamentary vote that committed Britain to a new war in Iraq. British and US air strikes continue to take place on a daily basis though now virtually unmentioned in parliament and the press.  In the past, national media poured over every detail of British military campaigns, evaluating progress, printing maps and eye-witness accounts, even having breathless reporters on the evening news counting aircraft out and counting them back in. In parliament MP’s questioned ministers and senior commanders in committee rooms while debating strategy from the back benches. By stark contrast today’s war in Iraq receives little such attention seemingly because it is being waged by strike aircraft and remote-controlled drones after politicians vowed not to deploy troops. With less ‘skin in the game’ it seems that war in Iraq is yesterday’s news. Read more

Drones aren’t just annoying toys. They’re still killing people too.

Originally published by The Guardian

arming predatorFor anyone concerned about the use of drones, or ‘remotely piloted aircraft’ as the industry insists on calling them, the nature of recent coverage has been somewhat perturbing. With the normalisation of the use of military drones, media interest has waned and reporters now seems far more interested in writing about toy drones landing on the White House lawn than the White House’s use of drones for targeted assassination. Just this week much ink has been spilt covering the arrest of an amateur pilot for thoughtlessly flying a drone near Parliament while the use of armed British drones in Syria – breaching absolute assurances by the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon against mission creep – has not received a mention. Read more

Reflecting on the recent rash of writing on morality and drones

There have been a number of articles published recently on the morality of drone wars, many of them suggesting  that those of us with grave concerns about the growing use of drones have either got it wrong, are confused, or are just plain misguided.

Writing in The Observer, Peter Beaumont posed the question ‘Are drones any more immoral than other weapons of war?‘  After suggesting that “much of what has been written on both sides of the debate on the surrounding moral and legal issues has been ill-informed and confused” he then goes on to give a rather unhelpful summary of the international law arguments surrounding the use of force against non-state actors based on the recent paper ‘The Strategic Context of Lethal Drones’ published by the American Security Project.     Read more

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.