Saturday, 1 December 2012

Why "Drone Attacks" is not a helpful term

BFTF has spent quite a bit of time over the last six months challenging the local Conservative Party and local MP on the civilian killings and "double tap" airstrikes that are taking place in Afghanistan/Pakistan area. You can read about this, including the rather disappointing response from government, at the link below:

During this dialogue, BFTF used the phrase "drone attacks", not least because this was a label that was widely used in the media.

But this label is not helpful because it confuses two, very separate, issues

Issue 1 : The use of drones, per se.
BFTF understands the concerns regarding autonomously firing drones (which are not a reality at the time of writing) and of drone "pilots" behaving as though they were playing a video game, But it has also to be recongnised that, from a military point of view, drones are far, far cheaper, and can fly much for much longer than piloted aircraft - and do not put a human pilot in harms way. If BFTF was the head of an Air Force, using them would be the mother of all no-brainer decisions.

Issue 2 : What the drones are doing.
For BFTF it is the people who are dying in the missile strikes launched from the drones that are the real issue, and they would still be the issue if those missiles had come from piloted planes, or had been long range artillery.

BFTF's feels that concern should perhaps be focussed on the issues of target selection, confidence that the target is legitimate, elimination of injury, mutilation or death of innocent bystanders(1), and the damaging effects of "double tap" strikes.

Using terms such as "drone attacks" when challenging government or other institutions on what is being done in our name allows them to focus on Issue 1 rather than Issue 2 - and this is what happened, to a degree, in the response from the Government to BFTF's challenge.

So, from here on, BFTF will use simply use the term "missile strike", in the hope that this will help focus the attention where it should be - on what got hit.

(1) : Otherwise known as "collateral damage"

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