English: Official portrait of United States At...

Official portrait of United States Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read the letter from the US Attorney General Eric Holder to the Senate acknowledging the killing of for US citizens in drone attacks one of them targeted and three “not specifically targeted” in Yemen. The letter says that the one specifically targeted, Anwar al-Aulaqi, accused of planning the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on 2009, and a plot to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States in 2010 and was killed in 2011. The other three killed are identified as Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi (Anwar Al Aulaqi’s son), and Jude Kenan Mohammed.

In the letter Mr. Holder said that the decision to kill Anwar Al Aulaqi in Yemen with a drone attack was “just” and explains that:

“Senior officials determined that the operation would be conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles, including the cardinal principles of

(1) necessity — the requirement that the target have definite military value;

(2) distinction — the idea that only military objectives may be intentional targeted and that civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted;

(3) proportionality — the notion that the anticipated collateral damage of an action cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage; and

(4) humanity — a principle that requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering.

The operation was also undertaken consistent with Yemeni sovereignty.”

Humanity in the use of drones? humanity in a bombing? humanity in a war? They have to find another word. There is nothing close to humanity in a war. There are no weapons that can kill and “will not inflict unnecessary suffering”. The “collateral damages” in drone attacks in Pakistan that means innocent people killed, and in this case in Yemen, the death of at least three US citizens “not targeted”,  were necessary suffering?. What does mean the death of thousands in different wars and conflicts all around the world?. War itself is an unnecessary suffering.

In all wars there is no way to avoid unnecessary suffering, and civilians are the most damaged. People get killed and wounded and expelled from their homes, there are floods of refugees flying the combat zones to other countries or internal displaced people. A lot of unnecessary suffering independently of the weapons the combatants use to kill each other. It’s true some weapons are worse than others, and the killings can be more or less cruel, and maybe that is what the “law of war” have to regulate to avoid mass destructions, genocides, or gross cruelty, but don’t call that humanity, please. Call it to what it is. To regulate the rules of combat. There is nothing human in regulating how to kill better or cleaner.

In this case, Holder explained before exposing the “law of war principles” that the use of the drones or lethal force against a terrorist only when

“(1) the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is not feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles”.

He is talking of some sort of self-defense in a global “war on terror” initiated by George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The problem of this “war on terror” is that is “global” and the US thinks that can attack “targets” with its drones overseas and that is consistent with the sovereignty of the countries affected, as is said in this letter. The New York Times said that now Obama is going to “restrict” the use of unmanned drone strikes in this war they are conducting.

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About Olga Brajnović

Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.

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Americas, Ethics, Ideals, Justice, Middle East, World and Politics

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