The US government has been dispatching people in Pakistan for years now, both in JSOC raids—as in May 2011, when Osama bin Laden was killed—and in drone strikes. Now the Pakistan government has decided to form its own “Kill Committee” and execute suspects without trial, following its role model, the US government.
Is it war? That’s supposed to be the pretext for drone strikes. “This is war.” It starts to look much closer to extrajudicial execution when citizens are “taken out” by their very own government, as were Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (and Al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, two weeks later) on Yemeni soil during the fall of 2011. The claim by government officials is that killing becomes permissible when capture is not possible.
When a home government such as Pakistan opts to eliminate people on sovereign soil using drones, what can the rationalization be? How can it be the case that capture is impossible? The security forces, the army, the police, all a part of the Pakistan government, are there, ready and willing to be deployed. Under such circumstances, to call a drone strike “necessary” on domestic soil becomes even less plausible than when the US government opted to kill rather than capture citizens located abroad.
And so the ugly legacy of Barack Obama continues to unfold. Not long ago, the Nigerian government was reported to be using lethal drones in Nigeria to take out whoever their “Kill Committee” deemed fair game. Now the Pakistan government is doing the same. All of this was entirely predictable to anyone with a modicum of an understanding of history and, in particular, the precedent set by the United States in matters military. The peace and security of the people of more and more countries are being undermined by weaponized drones flying over their heads and threatening death from above.
What’s more, in the Drone Age, the people in the corners of the world in most need of political change will be the least likely ever to achieve it. How can democratic reform of a country possibly succeed, when the reigning regime possesses the power and the blessing of the US government to follow in its stead by summarily executing anyone it deems to have stepped out of line?
For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can, Chapter 4: Lethal Creep; Chapter 6: The New Banality of Killing; Chapter 12: Tyrants are as Tyrants Do