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The Dishonest Polls on Obama's Drone Killings

April 15, 2013

"O Man, who will discern in this work of mine the wonderful works of Nature, if you think it would be a criminal thing to destroy it, reflect how much more criminal it is to take the life of a man; and if this, his external form, appears to thee marvelously constructed, remember that it is nothing as compared with the soul that dwells in that structure; for that indeed, be it what it may, is a thing divine. Leave it then to dwell in His work at His good will and pleasure, and let not your rage or malice destroy a life – for indeed, he who does not value it, does not himself deserve it."
– Leonardo da Vinci, April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519, Notebook XIX


Barack Obama's use of C.I.A. drones to carry out targeted killings is unethical and illegal.


The Obama administration uses C.I.A. and military drones to kill people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. Many of those killed by drones are completely innocent civilians.


THE 16-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN CITIZEN Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki was killed while eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Yemen. He was killed by a missile fired by a C.I.A. drone on October 14, 2011. No one has been charged in connection with his murder.


READY, AIM, FIRE - James "Jay" Carney, spokesman for the Obama administration, lies when he tells the public that the murderous drone attacks are legal, ethical, and wise. They are not. Carney is supporting the commission of war crimes, which is in fact criminal conduct on his part.

"These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise."
- White House spokesman Jay Carney on U.S. drone strikes like those that killed two American citizens in Yemen, February 2012

Recent polls suggest that a majority of Americans support using remote-controlled aircraft to kill, without any indictment or due process, people in other nations who are “suspected terrorists.”  A Gallup poll, for example, conducted on March 20-21, 2013, indicated that 65 percent of those polled agreed with the Obama administration’s policy of using drone missile strikes to kill “suspected terrorists” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and wherever else they might be.

A Fox News poll conducted in February 2013 found that “74 percent of voters approve of using drones to kill a suspected terrorist overseas.”  The Fox News poll showed that a majority of 60 percent supported killing a U.S. citizen by drone if he were a “suspected terrorist” in a foreign country.  The same poll found that 45 percent, nearly one in two, supported using drones to kill Americans in the United States – if they are identified as “suspected terrorists.” Are these polls believable?


President Obama frequently uses drone missiles to kill people in Pakistan.


The people of Pakistan see the U.S. drone attacks as terrorism.

WHO IS A "SUSPECTED TERRORIST?"

While these polls are obviously meant to show that American public opinion supports the Obama administration’s morally unacceptable policy of using weaponized drones to carry out targeted killings, they have achieved these results in a fraudulent way:  by using the emotionally laden term “suspected terrorist” without even defining what it means. Because “suspected terrorist” is clearly the phrase that elicited the positive response in these polls we should understand exactly what that means. 

The images of the terror attacks of 9-11 are what come to mind when most Americans are asked about terrorism, and most people would probably support killing the culprits behind those attacks. The pollsters who phrased the questions knew very well that most Americans would respond positively to a question about killing a “suspected terrorist.” But this loaded term does not even come close to describing the people who are being targeted and killed by U.S. drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

The Israelis have long used the word “terrorist” to describe and delegitimize the actions of any Palestinian who resists the brutal Zionist occupation of Palestine. The U.S. has done the exact same thing since it began the “War on Terror” in the aftermath of 9-11. The United States is after all a foreign occupying power in Afghanistan and the Afghans do have the natural and legal right to use arms to resist that occupation. For its purposes the Pentagon considers “a terrorist” to be any person who engages in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.  Using such a broad definition almost anyone in Afghanistan could be called “a suspected terrorist.”

The U.S. military and media, however, seldom use the word “terrorist” to describe the victims of U.S. drone strikes.  As a recent Columbia Law School report entitled “Counting Drone Strike Deaths” said:

Reporting on drone strike casualties, and the tracking of those reports, typically divide the dead in two categories:  “militants” and “civilians.” The hidden bias of this categorization stems from the ambiguity of the terms: they are not defined by the U.S. government, though U.S. officials use them;

RULE OF LAW OR LAW OF THE JUNGLE?

The polling results are disconnected from reality because many, if not most, of the people who have been killed by U.S. drone strikes are completely innocent civilians. The phrasing of the poll questions, however, suggests that the people being targeted by drones are all “suspected terrorists.”

A more accurate and realistic question for the poll would be:   Do you support the Obama administration's use of drones to kill people who may or may not be involved in hostilities against the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan? The drone killing question phrased in more neutral and honest language would, however, not have provided the pro-Obama results the pollsters were looking for.

 
Most of those killed in drone strikes are people who have committed no crime against the United States. If they are suspected of having committed a crime they should be arrested and tried in a court of law.

While some of those killed by drones may indeed be armed men this certainly does not mean they deserve to be killed. Killing people by drones is cold-blooded murder in which the victim’s life is taken with absolutely no due process or finding of guilt. Drone killings violate the most fundamental values of Western justice:  the presumption of innocence and the writ of habeas corpus. The state, or in this case the president, has no right to take the life of any person who is not engaged in hostilities without due process and it is utterly unethical and morally repugnant to do so.


LAW OF THE JUNGLE - The U.S. president does not have the legal right to carry out targeted killings in the United States or abroad. Obama's murderous use of drones is state terrorism and criminal.

Sources and Recommended Reading: 

"Counting Drone Strike Deaths," Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, October 2012
http://web.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/human-rights-institute/files/COLUMBIACountingDronesFinal.pdf

“Fox News Poll: Majority supports use of drones,” FoxNews.com, March 4, 2013
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/04/fox-news-poll-majority-supports-use-drones/

“In U.S., 65% Support Drone Attacks on Terrorists Abroad,” Gallup.com, March 25, 2013
www.gallup.com/poll/161474/support-drone-attacks-terrorists-abroad.aspx 

“New Evidence That Team Obama Misled Us About the Drone War,” by Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, April 10, 2013
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/new-evidence-that-team-obama-misled-us-about-the-drone-war/274839/ 

“Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders” by Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers, April 9, 2013
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/04/09/188062/obamas-drone-war-kills-others.html  


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