There’s been a lot of hubbub today about separate reports released today from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch covering the use of armed U.S. drones to target extremist militants.
The reports contain some rather harrowing witness accounts of innocent victims blown to pieces in American drone strikes.
Along with the reports comes the question of whether or not these sorts of strikes can be classified and possibly prosecuted as war crimes.
Simon Tisdall of the Guardian, who states unequivocally that he believes they are war crimes, nonetheless spells out why drone strikes cannot be prosecuted.
If the U.S. were to state that it is a party to an armed conflict in Yemen or Pakistan between the governments of those countries and terrorists, principally al Qaeda or al Qaeda — affiliated groups, its actions would be subject to international humanitarian law — the laws of war. But as Human Rights Watch points out, the U.S., denying the obvious, has not said it is a party to a war in either place, but is instead carrying out ad hoc operations to protect U.S. interests.
In short, the U.S. is not officially at war with either of these countries.
Despite “publicly condemning them and whipping public opinion into a frenzy,” the Pakistani government “quietly condones” Washington’s drone program, former Defence Intelligence Analyst and freelance reporter Joshua Foust told Time.
It doesn’t get much better for the Yemeni government: far from merely supporting the U.S. drone program, it goes out of its way to take the blame for every strike gone awry.
Government support goes across the board for every country sporting an American drone base and an American-run drone program.
Entertaining the idea of drone strikes prosecuted as war crimes is an exercise in futility. The path to curtailing Washington’s policy begins not so much in the courts, according to Time’s Nate Rawlings, but in the eyes of America’s citizens.
Polls show Americans have few qualms with the U.S. deploying drones overseas. Until that changes, Foust says, “none of the other calls for redress or openness will come to pass.”