Drone Warfare: Time to Stop Reversing the Benefit of Doubt

A new report from Human Rights Watch asserts that a recent US drone strike in Yemen “may have” violated the laws of war.

I find the implied uncertainty puzzling: There is no doubt whatsoever that this strike, and the US drone war program in general, violate Protocol I, Articles 48 and 52(3) of the Geneva Conventions. Article 48:

In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.

Article 52(3):

In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.

This isn’t a complicated matter: It is the affirmative responsibility of combatants to know who and what they are attacking BEFORE they attack.

US drone operations don’t meet that obligation, either at the tactical end where it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that drones and their operators can’t distinguish between — for example — a group of civilian vehicles going to a wedding versus an armed, combatant al Qaeda convoy — or at the strategic end where US President Barack Obama sits in the White House and pretends that the drones and operators have that capability when he orders a “targeted killing.”

There is always plenty of doubt involved, and under the laws of war the benefit of that doubt goes to the civilians and non-combatants, not to the belligerents. QED, US drone operations are war crimes from top to bottom and beginning to end.

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One Response to Drone Warfare: Time to Stop Reversing the Benefit of Doubt

  1. ohchaz says:

    The USA has done almost anything to save lives and reduce collateral damage. Drones are far more accurate the “carpet Bombing ” used by so many in WWII. The drone attack is not as precision as our pin point bombing, but what do these people expect. The best way to save your civilian population is to suit-up and stand in front of them instead of behind them.
    Guerilla warfare is always hard on the families. I don’t believe that we should meddle in the Middle East Muddle, but if we do I want every advantage we can get to save soldiers lives. These confused guerilla fighters cause more casualties to their people than we do. When you plant your booby traps where children and noncombatants can hurt by them or hide in their midst and start a fire fight it’s bound to kill civilians.
    The drone is a tool / weapon in our arsenal that saves lives on both sides. Many Americans can’t stand to violence on people that are not prepared or able to defend themselves. They need only look at Africa to see genocide, demented torture and dismemberment. apparently where there is no political or financial gain the people are not important. The unrest and religious turmoil will have to be worked out Muslim to Muslim.
    The whole tragic situation over there is theirs situation to handle. Once are military got settled over there they dug I like a Georgia tick. Just think of the money and manpower we’ve sunk into
    9/11 payback. Instead of NATO enforcing anti terrorism they let us dispense whatever justice that “Jolly George ” saw fit. The only difference between Viet Nam and the Middle East is sand in place jungle. Both ventures were doomed from the beginning. Massive money pits, death and destruction. There will be no winning side in the end. Count the bodies and tally the cost. The devil wins the day!

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