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UVA Professor / Former CIA IG Calls Drone War "Astonishing Success"


By Brett McCully

After a helpless, innocent drone was shot at by nefarious Iranians in the Persian Gulf on November 1st, drone strategy was in need of some comforting.  Enter Frederick Hitz, a professor at the University of Virginia’s School of Law and at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, who called drone warfare an "astonishing success." He teaches, among other things, a class on anti-terrorism, though it would appear that the terrorism inherent in bombing funerals and killing rescuers is conspicuously absent from the reading list (that is, when the U.S. is the perpetrator).

Tuesday night I attended a seminar on the future of the drone moderated by Professor Hitz, who was wondering what rules we needed to put in place regarding drone use now that Russia and China could have them; of course the rules are only necessary for such evil actors as they, and not for such a benevolent force as the United States.

However, the U.S. is not even following its own laws; the killing of U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son made that much clear. Hitz offered that al-Awlaki was clearly a terrorist, and that by relying on the post-9/11 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) it is permissible to kill him far from any battlefield. Remember: the U.S. has essentially decreed the whole world as a battlefield, via the aforementioned AUMF and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

Furthermore, any attempt to obtain information on the secret kill list, official figures on drone strikes, or any information related to the program is denied, as it is a matter of national security and thus obscured from democratic decision making. When I noted to Hitz that Anwar al-Awlaki’s father had attempted to petition the U.S. government to remove his son from the kill list, and that the Department of Justice responded by refusing to even address the case, citing state secrets, Hitz showed little interest in this grievous breach of due process.

Finally, I posed a hypothetical: suppose some Pakistanis acquire intelligence that the U.S. military is very likely to bomb a Pakistani funeral. Then aren’t the Pakistanis entitled to preventively assassinate the potential killers, wherever they may be? Say, drone operators in Las Vegas? Of course not; that is outrageous. (Though little outrage was expressed when the U.S. deliberately did exactly that: bomb a funeral). Yet this is typically the reason given for drone strikes; these militants represent an imminent threat to the U.S., thus they must be eliminated. If it is ok for us, why not for them? Instead we ought to apply the same moral standard to both Americans and Pakistanis: it is not right, regardless of who does the killing.

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