On Sunday, John Oliver was spot on when he ripped apart the dubious logic behind the US drone program.
Quite frankly, there’s not enough transparency surrounding the program, and most Americans know very little about it because of this.
When one takes a moment to look at the little we do know about drones and drone strikes, however, it’s pretty clear that the way in which the US uses drones is arguably immoral, ineffective and illegal.
Since President Obama’s first days in office, he has utilized drones quite frequently in counterterrorism operations. Actually, Obama conducted his first drone strike only three days after he was inaugurated.
The United States began using drones in the War on Terror back in 2002, but President Obama has been far more reliant on them than his predecessor.
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have often been used to target and kill individuals who are suspected to be involved in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks.
Initially used for purposes of surveillance, drones have evolved into elite killing machines and are often equipped with laser-guided missiles. At this point, US drones have killed over 2,000 people. Many of these individuals were civilians, sometimes even children.
Moreover, the United States has used drones quite frequently in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia despite not currently being at war with any of these countries. Therefore, by conducting drone strikes within their borders, the US is arguably violating their sovereignty.
In other words, the US drone program is illegal by international law.
Simply put, due to the fact that the US is quite indiscriminate with its drone strikes, it tends to drive people toward violence and generates animosity toward America.
Much of this has to do with the logic the US government employs when conducting drone strikes. Basically, through a practice known as signature strikes, the US targets groups of individuals that appear to be acting like militants.
Using this same logic, US government statistics surrounding collateral damage, or civilians killed by drone strikes, are much lower than those from independent observers. In essence, the US can distort the true number of civilians it kills with drone strikes by counting all military-age males as combatants.
This is basically a form of lethal profiling. The US got some particularly bad press earlier this year — rightfully so — when it bombed a wedding convoy. The strike killed 12 men in the wedding party, and there was no substantial evidence that anyone in the convoy posed an imminent threat to the US.
It’s no wonder that drone strikes are driving people toward extremism. In America, drones are used to take photos at weddings. During weddings in the Middle East, drones kill people.
Despite claims by the US government that it’s choosing targets discriminately and only conducting drone strikes as a last resort against “imminent threats,” much of the evidence points to the contrary.
It’s easy to understand why drones are attractive to the US government: They keep boots off the ground and are inexpensive. Yet, if the US continues down this path, it risks perpetuating the War on Terror rather than ending it.
America is also setting a very dangerous precedent for the use of this technology by other countries and non-state actors. You reap what you sow.
Currently, a majority of Americans support the use of drones and drone strikes.
Hopefully, this impeccable rant from John Oliver will inspire the public to take a closer look at this issue.