By YUUKI REAL, age 13

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or drone. PHOTO: U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt
An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or drone. PHOTO: U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt

The CIA’s use of military drones is a topic of great controversy. Military drones are aerial bombers that are unmanned, which means they are controlled by computers or by operators on the ground. They drop missiles or bombs to kill “high priority targets,” individuals that the CIA has labeled as terrorists. Most of these attacks have been carried out in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Drones are favored in CIA operations as they are remotely controlled and don’t require a pilot, and therefore can be used for high-risk missions without jeopardizing the lives of U.S. military personnel.

Operators controlling drones from the ground. PHOTO: Gerald Nino, CBP, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
Operators controlling drones from the ground. PHOTO: Gerald Nino, CBP, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security

The use of targeted assassinations is highly controversial for being extrajudicial (carried out without a trial) and because they also often kill civilians, including children and the elderly. Dropping a bomb in an area will kill everyone in the proximity, despite arguments otherwise. White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, and Official White House Spokesman, Jay Carney, even go so far as to claim that the strikes are carried out with “surgical” precision and the ability to be “exceptionally precise,” causing little to no civilian casualties. Contrary to this claim, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that in Pakistan alone, between 407 and 926 civilians have been killed by drone strikes since they began in 2004; an estimated 168 to 200 of these victims were children.

One example of a casualty from a drone strike is 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Alwaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike while sitting in a cafe in Yemen on October 14, 2011. His case became controversial because he was an underage U.S. citizen. The U.S. government’s actual target, an Egyptian man suspected to be part of terrorist operations, was not killed: the drone strike was a mistake. This killing took place just two weeks after Abdulrahman’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also an American citizen, was targeted and killed in a similar strike. Journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of the book Dirty Wars and a co-director of a film of the same name, said that Eric Holder, Head of the U.S. Justice Department, “…for the first time, admitted that the United States—well, he didn’t say “assassinated,” I call it assassination—assassinated one of its own citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki.” This killing was carried out without a trial.

Code Pink protesting U.S. drone policy, with a photo of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki on the left. PHOTO: Steve Rhodes
Code Pink protesting U.S. drone policy, with a photo of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki on the left. PHOTO: Steve Rhodes

All around the world, people are speaking out against these strikes. An eminent linguist, political philosopher and activist, Noam Chomsky, said in one interview about drone strikes, “The drone campaign is by far the biggest terrorist campaign in the world. It’s never described that way, but of course, (that is) what it is. Furthermore, it’s a terrorist-generating campaign. From the highest levels and the most respected sources, it’s recognized that the drone attacks create potential terrorists on quite a substantial scale.” This is because individuals tied to the victims and survivors of these attacks can become radicalized by seeing U.S. forces inciting terror throughout their regions. Established terrorist groups are able to use these attacks to convince others to join their ranks to fight against U.S. policy.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink. PHOTO: Thomas Good, NLN
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink. PHOTO: Thomas Good, NLN

Numerous organizations have been protesting the targeted killings abroad. Code Pink, a grassroots activist group against U.S. wars and operations led a protest at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing* after being chosen by Obama to become the new Director of the CIA. During one of President Obama’s speeches about drone policy last May, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, interrupted him with a series of questions related to U.S. foreign policy towards alleged terrorists. After pressuring him to release detainees at Guantánamo Bay, she asked, “Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.”

*Confirmation hearings are held to determine whether or not a candidate is suited for an office.