2013-02-15 / Letters

King is wrong to back drone strikes

To the Editor:

Predator and Reaper drones are not humane. The Pentagon calls them “efficient hunter-killer platforms.”

Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearings for President Obama’s new CIA director, John Brennan, unleashed a firestorm of criticism about drones.

Sadly, the day following the Feb. 7 public hearing, I heard U.S. Sen. Angus King calling drones a “very smart artillery shell.... a more humane weapon.”

King is an intelligent man, which is likely one reason he was appointed to the Senate Intelligence Committee in charge of holding the Brennan confirmation hearings. Unfortunately, the committee appears to be more concerned with protecting the administration’s drone war than getting to the truth.

The drones, with their “Hellfire missiles” on board, have been used over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. Reports have surfaced for years that legions of civilians are being killed by the unmanned drones, which are flown by “pilots” sitting in front of computer screens back in the United States using military satellites to guide them.

Global outrage against these unforgiving weapons has grown so strong that the United Nations has begun an investigation into their casualties and legality.

A new study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes is “significantly and consistently underestimated” by the U.S. government.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA is deliberately targeting those who show up after a drone attack — rescuers and even mourners at funerals.

So far, a minimum 2,629 people appear to have died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.

Yet as Obama’s CIA designate Brennan claims that no civilians have been killed, we are making new enemies with every drone strike.

I call on King to retract his statement that drones are a “humane weapon” and believe he should apologize to the citizens of Maine and the civilian victims of U.S. strikes.

I would urge those who voted for King thinking he was a moderate alternative to join in asking him to change his thinking on drones.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network
Against Weapons & Nuclear
Power in Space

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