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Time to re-think U.S. use of drones

8:15 AM EDT, March 21, 2013

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Drones over Syria? Hold on! ("CIA eyes drone strikes in Syria," March 16). The whole business of drone strikes on nations with whom we are not at war gets murkier and more distasteful daily — and cries out for transparency from the Obama administration on drone practice and policy, especially abroad.

U.S. military and CIA attacks by unmanned aircraft have been going on for well over a decade now with little fanfare or even awareness by most Americans. And that's just as Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have wanted it. Sure, the news is trumpeted when some al-Qaida or Taliban leader has been a "kill" by a targeted missile strike. The matter seems clean and efficient because no airplane pilot has been put in harm's way, and no squad of infantry has had to raid an enemy compound — with a probable loss of soldiers.

All of this might seem acceptable if we don't raise the inconvenient legal and moral questions attendant upon drone strikes. What international law makes it all right to send our craft over another sovereign nation, one with whom we are not at war, especially when it's to execute an un-tried individual whom we deem a "bad guy?" (Answer: none). How do those who target drones choose the locale of the hit, whether it be a residence, market, field, or cafe? Kudos to the American Civil Liberties Union for its attempts to get documents on our government's still-secret policy on drone strikes ("Court calls CIA's denial of drone strikes 'fiction,'" March 16).

Further, where's the public outcry in America about the women, children, and men who happened to be near the bad guys and who were blown to bits or maimed by our attacks? Who speaks for them and their families? After official condemnation from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have offered only pathetic apologies for the unfortunate loss of life. What has unfolded here is another chapter in the history of the Ugly American: death by remote control, far away.

A former CIA officer with Middle East experience is quoted as saying that in future the U. S .drones might target individuals to "thin the herd of the future insurgency." Of this expert — obviously a lover of hardware over heart in winning the war on terror — I would ask: Do you realize how many angry new insurgents spring forth from each American drone strike? The arithmetic is plain. Using these weapons, we'll never prevail.

Bruce R. Knauff, Towson

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