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News Predator drone attacks

  1. Jun 6, 2010 #1
    A UN official has said that US predator drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be illegal. Can a country serve as a base for a non-state entity which is organizing attacks against another country and nevertheless be protected under international law? Can a country which is the target of these attacks (the US) be at war (under international law) with a non-state entity? If so, what about the country hosting (willingly or unwillingly) the non-state entity?

    http://www.newser.com/story/72741/un-to-us-drone-attacks-couldbe-unlawful.html
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2010
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  3. Jun 6, 2010 #2

    Office_Shredder

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    The main concern is that these attacks are being conducted at the whim of the CIA, which is a non-military organization.
     
  4. Jun 6, 2010 #3

    russ_watters

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    Both the article and the above two posts offer exceedingly thin explanation of what the issue is here. The article says:
    ...which suggests the Predator attacks are somehow intended to be executions of criminals outside the legal system, but provides no explanation of what that really means or why they would think that.

    Countries at war use airplanes to drop bombs on their enemies. This is not a new concept and certainly isn't illegal. Could someone explain what the issue is here?
     
  5. Jun 6, 2010 #4

    russ_watters

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    I assume you are talking about Pakistan hosting Al Qaeda, but in any case: violating an international law does not mean forfeiting all protection under other international laws. This should be an obvious and universal concept regarding the law.
    Certainly.
    What about them? Are you asking if we are at war with Pakistan? We aren't. We have approval for these attacks.

    Anyway, I don't see what any of this has to do with the article....
     
  6. Jun 6, 2010 #5

    Ygggdrasil

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    Perhaps this can clarify the debate:
    (source: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/u/unmanned_aerial_vehicles/index.html)

    The issue here is not the targeted killing of targets in Afghanistan and Iraq. The issue is whether these instruments of war should be allowed to be used outside of combat zones (for example, in Pakistan and Yemen). Is permission from the host government sufficient (as is the case in Pakistan)? Should targeted killings outside of combat zones be considered assassinations (prohibited by US executive order)? Against non-state entities can the entire world be considered a combat zone?

    Many of these questions have important implications for global security and military policy, so it is prudent to raise some of these questions before UAV technology becomes more widespread. This is especially important because UAV attacks have been criticized for causing excessive civilian casualties.

    (edit: Alson's report is available here: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf)
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2010
  7. Jun 6, 2010 #6
    True. But suppose Pakistan didn't give permission and made no effort to suppress Al Qaeda. In your opinion, would the US have grounds to declare war on Pakistan? (I'm not asking if we should, given the political situation, but would we have legal grounds to do so?)

    The article is only part of the topic. IMO this is not an issue of extrajudicial execution, which is how the UN adviser is looking at it, but a case of waging war against an organized enemy that attacked the US. I agree we can wage war against a non-state actor and therefore we can operate under the laws of war which would allow us to kill Al Qaeda operatives any way we can, unless they surrender. This inevitably entails "collateral' deaths and damage. We should try to minimize this (and this requires good intelligence), but this is war.
     
  8. Jun 6, 2010 #7

    russ_watters

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    Thank you, that's helpful. Some of the points:
    Ok...
    That's a misnomer. The "combat zone" is whereever combat is taking place. That some of the generals are directing the combat from locations not near where most of the other combat is taking place is irrelevant. That we can launch and/or control bombing missions from 10,000 miles away from where the bombs are dropped is a luxury that we have chosen to utilize and one that our enemy would take advantage of more often if they could.
    Yes. Otherwise, we'd be at war with Pakistan.
    No. Killing a commander in a military conflict is not ever an assassination. Caveat: the executive order prohibiting assassinations is a mistake and a silly, empty statement.
    Again, "combat zone" is whereever the bombs go off. This is ridiculously obvious and has always been true in warfare. People are screwing with the definitions of warfare concepts when they argue otherwise.
    These questions are a red herring, raised as a generic complaint against the concept of warfare, not a legitimate concern about how the combat operations are being carried out. Case in point:
    That is a completely separate issue with no business in this discussion.

    Now I will say this: a big part of the "problem" here is that the lack of war has made people in the West lose their guts when war does rear its ugly head. As a result, people are forgetting or learning incorrectly how war works. And that includes our leadership, which is currently dangerously mixing the concepts of war and justice. Allowing these concepts to be overlapped is dangerous to soldiers, dangerous to civilians and dangerous to the integrity of the judicial system. We need to stop doing it.
     
  9. Jun 6, 2010 #8

    russ_watters

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    Absolutely. Countries are responsible for what is going on in their terrirtory. We'd also have grounds to attack Al Aqeda in Pakistan without declaring war on Pakistan, essentially daring them to declare war on us.
    There is no such thing as "extradjudicial execution".
    Agreed.
     
  10. Jun 6, 2010 #9
    ...and let's not forget, this is Obama's War.:rolleyes:
     
  11. Jun 6, 2010 #10

    Office_Shredder

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    People seem to be missing the point. Even if we're allowed to conduct war against a non-state enemy anywhere in the world, the rules of war are quite strict on the necessity of uniformed military units being in combat. A civilian CIA agent conducting a drone strike is the issue here, not who he's shooting or where he's shooting the guy
     
  12. Jun 6, 2010 #11

    russ_watters

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    Just realized an obvious error:
    Our enemy is doing the same thing as we are! That's the whole point of this line of discussion! What is asymetrical is that we are capable of targeting the enemy in his faraway hiding spot and he is not* capable of doing the same to us.

    *Well, 9/11 and the half dozen or so failed attempts afterwards notwithstanding. Most of those attacks were non-specific and not targeted at the military command structure, though, so they aren't really the same.
     
  13. Jun 6, 2010 #12

    russ_watters

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    Oh, the issue is who is pulling the trigger, not who is being shot? Didn't see that....

    ....what is "a civilian CIA agent?" Is the CIA a civilan agency? I've never thought of it as one. Certainly, a cia agent infiltrating an enemy wouldn't be treated as a civilian. It says in the wiki on the CIA that it is a civilian intelligence agency, but then defines it quite specifically to not be a law enforcement agency. It is paramilitary.

    So could you please explain what laws of war exist that have something to say about the CIA conducting predator attacks.

    I remain at a loss here. I keep hearing inuendo that **something** untword might be going on, but I have yet to hear an explanation of exactly what the issue is.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2010
  14. Jun 6, 2010 #13

    russ_watters

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    Since I'm still at a loss here, I'm doing some more of my own research. Here's a wiki article on the prevous subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_tr...ties#Clandestine_intelligence.2Fcovert_action
    This goes to what I said before about that executive order being a "silly, empty statement."
    So that addresses the issue of whether members of Al Qaeda can simply be considered military targets (which is why, IMO, we need to stop arresting them).
    Interesting that we looked in to arming the Predators specifically to go after Bin Laden before 9/11.

    Unfortunately, the article doesn't really go any further into any legal issues with either the targets or the trigger-pullers. Still not seeing what the issue is, I'm forced to go back to those bringing it up to explain yourselves further.
     
  15. Jun 6, 2010 #14

    russ_watters

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  16. Jun 6, 2010 #15

    russ_watters

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    Here's a news article with more detail, as well as a link to the full report. It seems that second angle isn't in play: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/02/AR2010060201713.html
    But here are the concerns he had:
    It almost sounds like he's saying that the US government needs to be continuously briefing the UN on her activities and rules of engagement in the war on terror. I'll need to read the report to see what the justification of that is, but at face value it seems preposterous.
     
  17. Jun 7, 2010 #16
    i was under the impression that the geneva convention generally treated non-uniformed combatants as unprotected. a CIA operative is a spy, has no rights, and you can shoot him on sight (or maybe you'd prefer something a little more creative).
     
  18. Jun 7, 2010 #17

    russ_watters

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    Here's a direct link to the paper: http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/unreport060210.pdf

    It is an excellent read. It discusses the theoretical issues at great length and covers everything discussed already in this thread. However, the only beef the author really has is that his office isn't being kept informed:
    The reason no state has ever provided transparency on this issue is that transparency is an unreasonable request. Here's the request:
    The reason it is preposterous, as I said above, to require this is obvious: Disclosing such information is harmful to the war effort and puts American lives and security in danger.
     
  19. Jun 7, 2010 #18

    russ_watters

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    That's true, but unprotected does not mean illegal. Intelligence agents are in a different class altogether from normal legal uniformed and illegal unconventional combatants.
     
  20. Jun 7, 2010 #19

    BobG

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    There's two issues that are questionable under the Geneva convention.

    1) Using the CIA, or other civilian, non-uniform force, as a combat force technically violates the Geneva convention. The only affect UAVs have on this issue is that they make the identity of the operator a trivial point. The operators are nowhere near the combat area, whether the UAVs are operated by military personnel or civilian personnel.

    Personally, I think that particular article is a little out synch, both with military operations today, and the history of military operations in general. If that article actually succeeded in banning mercenaries from a war, it would probably be for the first time in history.

    2) Targeting individuals so far from the combat area does start to look like assassination. I'm not sure how you draw the line on that today, considering terrorist operations, modern warfare, etc. For example, sending a team of snipers to the US to the operating center for the UAVs and picking off operators as they drive home from work - assassination or legitimate targets?

    It's an issue that's far from cut and dried and it may depend on who is being targetted. Targetting Taliban leaders far from the combat may be assassination. Targetting al-Qaeda leaders may not. I can see why someone would raise the issue, since it's definitely becoming harder to define just where the battlefield is.
     
  21. Jun 7, 2010 #20

    Office_Shredder

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    What's the difference between a CIA agent using a predator drone to kill an enemy leader and a terrorist attacking the white house with a suicide vest? Both are non-uniformed combatants fighting off the front line.

    In WWII German submarine operators sunk civilian vessels on sight, and when their admiral was later tried for that crime hi defense was that the alllies were doing it also. He was let off

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Dönitz#Nuremberg_War_Crimes_Trials

    How do our charges against Al-Qaeda members as "unlawful combatants" hold up when we conduct the exact same type of warfare? From what I understand that's the biggest question mark
     
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