Secrets & Smoke Signals: Let’s Talk About Drones

Evenlyn Crunden ’13
Features Editor

The night that Barack Obama won re-election in November of 2012, something much quieter and less noted was occurring across the globe. Drone attacks have been by far the Obama administration’s weapon of choice, to such an extent that more than four times the number of individuals killed by drones under George W. Bush have been ordered dead by Obama.

The bulk of the most recent casualties have been focused in Pakistan and, despite communication between the two countries regarding target lists, there has still been significant international outcry and friction between the involved governments, a dynamic which has only helped to worsen an already tense relationship. Now, however, the stakes have been raised, and citizens on American soil have also been felled by the secretive weapons. So, as village idiot and Senator Rand Paul filibusters in the Senate and Attorney General Eric Holder issues sly responses, those who are neither impressed by Paul nor mollified by Obama have begun to ask – what exactly is going on with the drones?

Drones, unmanned planes that focus in on targets and promptly kill them, have been used for quite some time now by the United States government as a means of effectively and quietly dealing with enemies of the state. They have never before been used at such an astronomically high rate or with such reckless abandon. Reported in greater and greater numbers, public opinion about drones has gone increasingly haywire as information slowly trickles out.

Still, the lack of dialogue regarding the issue is not only noticeable but suspect. Indeed, perhaps the most important piece of information needed about the drones is the reason behind the lack of information with which the American people have faced. The vast majority of the drone attacks have been carried out with little to no discussion and minimal transparency to such an extent that many are beginning to question the motivations behind the targeting of many on the list, as well as the rationale behind the secrecy.

Even more concerning is the legal aspect; many have argued that the attacks themselves are illegal – both according to national and international law – and responses all over the world have been cold toward the escalating strikes. It has been suggested by a Georgetown professor that the CIA could be subject to persecution for their involvement in the attacks, and many others have seconded the calls for information and accountability.

So, why is no one doing anything? Noise has been made on both sides of the aisle regarding the issue – Dennis Kucinich pointed out the implications regarding the violation of international law while the aforementioned Rand Paul staged a 13-hour filibuster in order to obtain information – but little seems to be making headway with the administration. Moreover, the American people remain for the most part in the dark about the escalation of killings, with only the targeting of American citizens finally earning a healthy level of public outrage. This is disconcerting, as the several hundred civilians who have reportedly become collateral damage during the process of conducting drone attacks in Pakistan have gone for the most part unconsidered and unaccounted for, despite the question of human rights violations being raised by more than a few organizations.

While we have yet to be informed of the scope of the drone problem and can, at this date, make relatively few truly informed opinions about the situation, a few things are clear. The Obama administration needs to conduct its processes with transparency and openness so that the American people are informed and able to discuss the topic. Moreover, international sovereignty and opinion must be considered, as well as dissent from organizations like the United Nations. While we cannot speak further until more is known, in the interests of keeping our government honest and respecting our neighbors across the globe, it is essential that we demand more from our representatives and our president, as well as from ourselves.

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