I originally posted this article in 2013. It was then published in Oregon State University Syllabus for Media 2.0 Critical Studies in Digital Media.
HERE IS THE ORIGINAL POST
The war on terror is not being fought amongst “officers and gentlemen.” There are no rules of engagement that demand that innocent lives not be put into jeopardy by using civilians as human shields or suicide bombers. The terrorism must be stopped. Drones are the West’s best ethical defense against terrorism. They save the lives of our soldiers and reduce the killing of innocents.
Brandon Bryant a former U.S. drone operator recently wrote about his response to years of directing missiles/drones and observing the results. He says watching the horror of death in real-time has left him a broken man. He now has PTSD as do many drone pilots.
The intent of these pilots is to cause the least amount of harm while destroying terrorist cells from the top down and taking out munitions sites. They track high-value targets from thousands of miles away, often for long periods of time, becoming familiar with their daily lives. Like warriors of the not-too-distant past, they wait until they see the whites of their eyes, looking at the human being they are about to kill, so different from the more dehumanizing dropping of bombs or delivering an artillery barrage.
As odd as this sounds at first blush, it’s a good thing they feel shaken and sick. It speaks to their humanity, our humanity; to our culture in the West that reveres life. That holds life sacred. Their response to killing others by remote control, no different than the response from thousands of regular soldiers dealing with combat fatigue and shell shock, speaks to the morals, values and ethics we hold dear. These pilots have earned our deepest respect, praise and gratitude.
Amnesty International reported “unlawful killings in Pakistan through drone attacks, some of which could even amount to war crimes,” on October 22, 2013.
If these are “war crimes” what do we call the damage caused by suicide/homicide bombs and bombers in countries all over the world? Their targets are civilians on beaches, in theatres, hotels, synagogues, churches, trains, planes, cars, buses, subways, skyscrapers, embassies, malls, airports, and ships. All the injured are collateral damage because these soldiers of terror, soldiers of Allah, from the Party of God, aim for “collateral damage.” They honour God through death. They pray for our defeat at their hands.
We are fighting a defensive war against people like Hassan Nazrallah, leader of Hezbollah who declared, “We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.” And Osama bin Laden after 9/11 said “We loved death. The US loves life. That is the big difference between us.”
There’s no equivocating here. Death to our culture is their purpose. This war is no different from the one fought by the West against the Nazi hope to rule the world. And they almost succeeded because Chamberlain tried to appease them. We seem to be doing that, today. Appeasement via Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. We are told that drones, “targeted killings might strengthen the sense of legitimacy of terrorist operations, which are sometimes viewed as the only viable option for the weak to fight against a powerful empire.”
Only in the West would anyone think that suicide bombs are a viable response to drones. I can only attribute our negative attitude towards drones to naivité, some kind of wishful thinking or intentional ignorance of facts on the ground. Bradley J. Strawser, a former Air Force officer and an assistant professor of philosophy at the Naval Postgraduate School concluded using drones to go after terrorists was not only ethically permissible but possibly ethically obligatory, because of their advantages in identifying targets and striking with precision.
For extremists who are plotting violence against innocents, he said, “all the evidence we have so far suggests that drones do better at both identifying the terrorist and avoiding collateral damage than anything else we have.”
Other than the fact that this enemy belongs to no particular country and wears no inform, this is a war about values: freedom versus tyranny. It’s pure arrogance to think we can convince Islamist soldiers of terror, their families and communities to give up their beliefs, their values any more than we would. If someone tried to convince you to put a bomb on your child and walk into a café filled with young people and explode himself, you’d never agree. We’ve been raised in a society that values life, every life. In religious language: “You cannot honour God from the grave.”
These people are just as adamant in their beliefs: it’s right to stone and flog homosexuals, oppress women by denying them basic human rights, cut off limbs for stealing, enforce honour killings and listen to Imams preach hate of and the obligations to kill the infidel. Their governments pay a martyr premium to families.
Jordan 1948, women like the mother of Ma’an Abu Nowar called out as he was leaving “Don’t come back. Martyrdom my son.” Umm Nidal Farahat known as “Khansa of Palestine,” because of her “great sacrifices” and considered one of the prominent feminist leaders in Gaza in 2006, prepared all ten of her sons for martyrdom. In this day and age, can you imagine the damage that can be done to our lifestyle if all ten blew themselves up in ten different cities perhaps at the same time?
In Australia Sheik Feiz Mohammed, leader of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Sydney said:
“We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam. Teach them this. There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid.”
And this applied to boys and girls.
In 2001 Iranian leader Hashemi Rafsanjani “speculated that in a nuclear exchange with Israel his country might lose 15 million people which would amount to a small sacrifice from the one billion Muslims worldwide in exchange for the lives of five millions Israeli Jews.”
“Victims” of drones are coming to America to complain. We are being played, made to feel guilty so that we question our methods of defence. “Outside of the context of armed conflict, the use of drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.”
But if it weren’t drones, history tells us it would be something else. Terrorism in the name of Allah has been a military tactic for at least 250 years. Americans, Jefferson and Adams dealt with Muslim terrorism in 1786-the Barbary pirates. They were told the right to kill non-Muslims “was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in the Koran…and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Haj Amin al Husseini, regarded by many as “the George Washington” of the Palestinian people, called a hero by Yassar Arafat in 2002, directed a terrorist attack in 1929 against the Jewish residents of Hebron who’d lived there for generations. Then he spent years learning from and collaborating with the Nazis. Hired by Goebbels to broadcast anti-Semitic propaganda from Berlin where he spent the war in the company of Hitler, a man he admired, he proclaimed:
“Arise o sons of Arabia. Fight for your sacred rights. Slaughter Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honour.”
We have been involved in a war on terror for more than decade. We are up against people who have no qualms about calling for the death of millions in the name of their god. There is no perfect weapon against terrorists especially when they plant munitions and high-value targets in civilian areas. As long as we have pilots like Brandon Bryant who believe in the sanctity of life, then the drone is the best weapon to fight terrorism. These pilots and the drones are our best ethical response to unethical warfare.