Abolishing the Drone Program, and the brutality in Syria

Elijah will fight to end our drone programs in Syria, and end our occupation in Syria. Here's why:

Drone strikes create more terrorists than they kill.

 People who see their loved ones injured or killed in drone attacks become motivated to join actions against the United States. According to author Jeremy Scahill, the vast majority of militants operating in Yemen today are "people who are aggrieved by attacks on their homes that forced them to go out and fight."  Support for Al Qaeda in Yemen is "ingenuously spreading and merging with the mounting rage of powerful tribes at US counterterrorism policy" as the drone strikes have "recruited thousands." The number of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) core members grew from 300 in 2009 (when US drone strikes resumed after a seven-year hiatus) to 700 in 2012, resulting in an exponential increase in the number of terrorist attacks in the region.  Both the "Underwear Bomber," who tried to blow up an American airliner in 2009, and the "Times Square Bomber," who tried to set off a car bomb in New York City in 2010, cited drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia as motivators for the plots.

Drone strikes target individuals who may not be terrorists or enemy combatants.

 President Obama's policy of "signature strikes" allows the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to target anyone who fits a specific terrorist profile or engages in behavior the US government associates with terrorists, regardless of whether or not they have been conclusively identified by name as enemy combatants. Classified documents leaked in October 2015 showed that in one five-month period of drone strikes in Afghanistan, as many as 90 percent of those killed were not the intended targets, and that those unintended deaths were classified as "enemies killed in action" regardless of whether they were civilians or combatants.  At the height of the drone program in Pakistan in 2009 and 2010, as many as half of the strikes were classified as signature strikes.  According to top-secret intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy Newspapers, drone operators are not always certain of who they are killing "despite the administration's guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA's targeting intelligence."  The CIA and JSOC target "associated forces," "foreign fighters," "suspected extremists," and "other militants," but do not publicly reveal whether those killed are actively involved in terrorism against the United States. In two sets of classified documents obtained by NBC News describing 114 drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan between Sep. 3, 2010 and Oct. 30, 2011, 26 strikes targeted "other militants," meaning that the CIA could not conclusively determine the affiliation of those killed. 

Drone strikes kill large numbers of civilians and traumatize local populations. 

According to a meta-study of drone strikes, between 8 to 17% of all people killed in drone strikes are civilians.  Since the United States began conducting drone strikes abroad following the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, it is estimated that between 174 and 1,047 civilians have been killed in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. According to 130 interviews with victims and witnesses of drone strikes by researchers from Stanford and New York University, people who live in the affected areas experience harm "beyond death and physical injury" and "hear drones hover 24 hours a day," and live with the fear that a strike could occur at any moment of the day or night.  According to Clive Stafford Smith, Director of human rights organization Reprieve, "an entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies. Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups."  Yemeni tribal sheik Mullah Zabara says "we consider the drones terrorism. The drones are flying day and night, frightening women and children, disturbing sleeping people. This is terrorism."

Drone strikes violate international law. 

Under international humanitarian law, the targeted individual must be directly participating in hostilities with the United States. Under international human rights law, the targeted individual must pose an imminent threat that only lethal force can prevent. Simply being suspected of some connection to a "militant" organization — or, under the CIA's policy of "signature" drone strikes, fitting the profile of a terrorist in an area where terrorists are known to operate – is not legally sufficient to make someone a permissible target for killing.  Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations, states that "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life," even in times of armed conflict.  Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force by one state against another, with the exceptions of (1) the consent of the host state, and (2) when the use of force is in self-defense in response to an armed attack or an imminent threat, where the host state is unwilling or unable to take appropriate action. Members of militant groups with which the United States is not in an armed conflict are therefore not lawful targets. Amnesty International says drone strikes can be classified as "war crimes" or illegal "extrajudicial executions. "

Drone strikes are secretive, lack sufficient legal oversight, and prevent citizens from holding their leaders accountable.

 Drones are used in conflicts where war is not openly declared and authorized by Congress, allowing the executive branch to have nearly unlimited power over secret wars across the world. Strikes by the CIA (responsible for approximately 80% of all US drone strikes worldwide) are classified under US law as Title 50 covert actions, defined as "activities of the United States Government... where it is intended that the role... will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly." As covert operations, the government cannot legally provide any information about how the CIA conducts targeted killings.  The CIA has yet to officially acknowledge its drone programs anywhere in the world, let alone describe the rules and procedures for compliance with US and international law.  The administration only gives drone program details to members of Congress whom it deems "appropriate,"  and it has sought to prevent judicial review of claims brought in US courts by human rights groups seeking accountability for potentially unlawful killings. 

US drone strikes give cover for other countries to engage in human rights abuses.

America's use of drones in foreign countries makes it all but impossible to demand that other countries self-impose limitations on their own drone use. Just as the United States justifies its drone strikes with the argument that it is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates, drone strikes may be used by other countries to target what they consider terrorists and what Americans would consider as cover for human rights abuses against non-combatants. China could justify drone strikes against Tibetan separatists in India, Russia could justify attacks against rebels in Chechnya, or Turkey could target Kurdish insurgents in Iraq. Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that an "arms race" spurred by the widespread use of drones by the US government is already well under way. 

Drone strikes are extremely unpopular in the affected countries. 

General Stanley McChrystal, former leader of the US military in Afghanistan, says that the "resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one." 76% of residents in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwestern Pakistan (where 96% of drone strikes in the country are carried out) oppose American drone strikes.  16% think these strikes accurately target militants and 48% think they largely kill civilians.  Only 17% of Pakistanis back American drone strikes against leaders of extremist groups, even if they are conducted in conjunction with the Pakistani government. On three separate occasions, Pakistan's Parliament has voted to condemn the attacks and end the country's cooperation with the CIA,  and leaders in the FATA voted on Nov. 4, 2013 to block NATO supply lines unless the United States stops its drone strikes.  On Dec. 16, 2013, Yemen's parliament passed a motion calling for the United States to end its drone program in the country after a wedding convoy of 11 to 15 people were killed by a US drone strike. 



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