One year ago this weekend (on 21 Aug) an RAF pilot sitting in a Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington pushed a button and Hellfire missiles flashed away from a British Reaper drone loitering a few miles from Raqqa in Northern Syria. The missiles slammed into an SUV killing all three occupants. What was said in the Ground Control Station at the time is not publicly known but, as a senior British military officer put it a few months later, a Rubicon had been crossed. Read more
The Joint Human Rights Committee have today released their report into the use of armed drones for targeted killing. While the drone strike that targeted and killed 21-year-old British citizen Reyaad Khan last August was in many ways the trigger for the inquiry, the Committee chose to focus on the wider legal issues around the policy of targeted killing itself, rather than that specific operation.
In an initial assessment of the report there are three points to be made:
1. Important recommendations
While Drone Wars UK would not agree with some of the general conclusions reached, the Committee makes strong and important calls on the Government to clarify its often confusing and apparently contradictory position on legal issues related to the use of armed drones outside conventional armed conflicts. In particular it urges the government to clarify: Read more
In December 2015 the US announced plans to vastly expand its drone programme including increasing the number of drones to be purchased, doubling the number of drone operators and opening new drone bases.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will face questions from the Human Rights Select Committee on Wednesday (16 Dec) over the targeted killing of two British men in a UK drone strike. 21-year old Reyaad Khan from Cardiff was killed in the strike in Syria on 21 August 2015 alongside 26-year old Ruhul Amin from Aberdeen and an unknown third man.
- We kill because we can: From soldiering to assassination in the drone age, Laurie Calhoun, Zed Books, 2015.
- Kill Chain: Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins, Andrew Cockburn, Verso, 2015.
- Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare, William M. Arkin, Little, Brown and Co., 2015.
We Kill Because We Can is a 300-page tirade on drones from cultural critic Laurie Calhoun. Focusing on the use of drones for targeted killing, each chapter is more or less a self-contained polemical essay, with titles such as ‘Strike First, Suppress Questions Later’ and ‘The New Banality of Killing’. I can’t disagree at all with Calhoun’s overall argument that “both the practise of and propensity towards institutional killing has been transformed by this new technology.” However the tone of seething rage did begin to grate after a while. Perhaps best kept as a resource to be dipped into if your anger about drone warfare needs re-kindling. Read more
Amidst its reporting of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, The Telegraph published an essay on Saturday by Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British army. In ‘Drone attacks are a vital part of modern warfare’ Dannatt addresses those who feel, as he put it, “a nagging sense of unease” about the drone targeted killing of Mohammed Emwazi aka ‘Jihadi John’.
The essay, using the drone strike on Emwazi as an example, attempts to justify in a broad way the use of armed drones in general as well as their use for targeted killing beyond the battlefield. Read more