Drone Rage: A Day Late and a Sequester’d Dollar Short?

The brilliant Glenn Greenwald tweeted today:

Must-read from ProPublica: The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About (via @robertgreenwald)

Must reading indeed. Here’s what I don’t get about the drone debate. Why the @#$% did it take so long to start? Admittedly, I’ve grown somewhat numb to the fact that so-called conservatives are attacking the current POTUS about issues that seemed somehow obscure to them when Shrub was manning the con. Still, one would hope that basic human decency would, maybe, cause some kind of reaction to senseless killing of men, women, and children even in the far-away Middle East. Yet, there has been an alarming lack of concern about the drone program before now. Given CIA director nominee John Brennan’s recent cageyness about plans to use drones domestically, everyone is up in arms. The British are coming! One drone if by land! Two drones if by sea!

ProPublica sums it up nicely:

Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.

Four American citizens killed–over the past decade–added to the pending plan to deploy drones domestically, signals the apocalypse. Several thousand non-Americans, is, well, another day at the office. One suspects that there are more than a few Americans who think such action is warranted, particularly since we’re “at war” with Al Qaeda or some such.  Really? Well then, how to reconcile this little tidbit?

“What about the people who [are killed and] aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t on a [known terrorist] list?” asks Naureen Shah , a human rights and counterterrorism expert at Columbia Law School. Of the few thousand people killed, Shah notes, “it’s hard to believe all of these people are senior operational leaders of Al Qaeda.

Indeed. Are there really several thousand Al Qaeda “senior operational leaders” in Yemen and/or Pakistan? No. Furthermore, the standard for deciding to deploy a deadly drone strike is, shall we say, remarkably, embarrassingly  disgustingly, low.  U.S. officials are using what is termed a “‘reasonable man’ standard.” Let us again return to ProPublica, because I cannot say it better.

Asked what the standard is for who could be hit, former Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter recently told an interviewer: “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40. My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s – well, a chump who went to a meeting.

So, there you have it. Certainly, this author won’t be confused with a military strategist any time soon, but one feels pretty safe in saying that is not a defensible standard for deciding who dies. We can certainly be excited that people like Rachel Maddow are asking hard questions about drone deployment given Brennan’s pending confirmation. However, just like the Tea Party’s tardy recognition of fascism under the previous statist Czar, it just strikes me as a little late, now that we’re all enjoying the audacity of hope.

Better late than never I guess!

…cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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