So I saw this headline on Google News today: "Rights groups: Some US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen may be war crimes". Really? Are you serious?
Okay, I have mixed feelings about drones. Let's be up front about that. I have issues with a weapons system being remote-controlled from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away being used to kill people and blow things up. But that's not what I'm going to rant about.
This particular rant is due to this story over at Fox (and other places, like CNN).
Amnesty International may be a swell bunch of folks whose only wish is to protect us from evil. Then again they may just be a bunch of meddling liberal do-gooders who only rant and rave about the wrong-doings of the United States and her allies. My jury is still out on that. But here's a bit from Wikipedia:
Amnesty reports disproportionately on relatively more democratic and open countries, arguing that its intention is not to produce a range of reports which statistically represents the world's human rights abuses, but rather to apply the pressure of public opinion to encourage improvements. The demonstration effect of the behavior of both key Western governments and major non-Western states is an important factor: as one former Amnesty Secretary-General pointed out, "for many countries and a large number of people, the United States is a model," and according to one Amnesty manager, "large countries inﬂuence small countries." In addition, with the end of the Cold War, Amnesty felt that a greater emphasis on human rights in the North was needed to improve its credibility with its Southern critics by demonstrating its willingness to report on human rights issues in a truly global manner.Well of course they report "disproportionately" on what most of us would consider to be "the good guys". Those countries they don't report on have the worst human rights abuses and they generally don't give a flying fire truck what some international organization thinks.
But I'm not really here to rant about AI as I am here to rant about the concept that war can somehow be regulated or controlled once war breaks out.
All you can really do is lay down some ground rules which pretty much state: "these are the things you shouldn't do, and if you lose the war, you'll be punished for it by the folks who won the war". Truthfully, those sorts of ground rules only work if everyone agrees with them and abides by them.
If every nation did that there would be no war.
The majority of the planet's population would no doubt agree that 1) war is bad and 2) starting a war should be illegal. Of course, people only agree to this if everything is hunky-dory in their country and they have no claims to any territory which may (or may not) have been held by their country in antiquity.
I'm sure any Argentine would immediately point out that Las Islas Malvinas used to belong to Argentina, Britain should give them back. Unfortunately (for Argentina I suppose) the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands are quite content to be subjects of the British Crown and have no wish to be ruled from Buenas Aires.
One could view the current state of the world as a game of musical chairs which has ended. The people who managed to get chairs have made rules indicating under what conditions the people who didn't manage to grab a chair when the music stopped can get one now. It's all very convoluted and complicated but the bottom line is that the territories now controlled by the big powers will tend to stay controlled by the big powers. Those territories not controlled by the big powers will be controlled by whomsoever the big powers decide should control those territories. Whether the people who live there like it or not.
I'm quite sure the Narragansetts, Niantics, Pequots, and Wampanoags would love to have Rhode Island back. The Europeans took it away from them, basically by killing those who objected or otherwise overpowering those who didn't really care to lose their ancestral homelands. But that was a long time ago. No one would seriously want to give the original inhabitants their land back. Though I, for one, would be ecstatic if we put them back in charge of Rhode Island. The current bunch of ee-jits in Providence aren't doing such a great job of running the place.
So back to this drone thing (as I see I've gotten way off track).
We are fighting a war. Many in the U.S. and around the world seem to have forgotten this little piece of information. It seems that there are a group of people who don't like us and wish to kill us given the opportunity to do so.
So we kill them first, given the opportunity to do so. Sometimes we use drones. Sometimes the wrong people get killed. And yes, that's a bad thing.
I'm pretty sure the Pakistani grandmother mentioned in the Fox news article had nothing to do with 9-11 or the bombing of the USS Cole. I'm sure she was a very nice lady who was just minding her own business. I think it's terrible that she was killed.
Now I'm not going to say that all of those folks killed on 9-11 were minding their own business and had nothing to do with infidels sullying the Holy Lands or the alleged suppression of the "Palestinian" people. But they died anyway. (But I did mention it, and though "two wrongs don't make a right", it's also true that "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander". Insert your own favorite platitude here.)
People die in wars. It sucks but it happens. Modern generals (and admirals) like to call this "collateral damage". I suppose if you have to have a handy phrase for that sort of thing, that one will do.
Most of those who died in Dresden in 1945 were not uniformed members of the German Wehrmacht or Waffen SS. They were civilians, trying, no doubt, to mind their own business and praying that the war wouldn't touch them. But it did. Thousands died. In World War II millions of civilians died. Yes, millions. They were "collateral damage" in modern parlance.
What they really were was "in the way". Somebody decided to have a war where they lived. Bullets start flying, bombs start dropping and people die. Sometimes not the ones who are actually fighting in the war, sometimes they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It sucks. It's terrible. But it's not a war crime.
Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. Killing them accidentally is a tragedy. At least the United States and her allies try to avoid killing civilians. Sometimes at the cost of the lives of our men and women in uniform. And you know what? Many of us who served and are serving now have no problem with that concept. You protect the weak and the innocent as best you can. Sometimes dying instead of putting innocents in harm's way. Think of the pilot of a crippled aircraft who will sacrifice his/her own life to guide the aircraft away from buildings on the ground. They could eject and live but that bird may hit a school or a hospital, so they ride it in. And die.
But sometimes it happens. Especially if you have no one there, on the ground. A drone can't really be relied upon to protect the innocent. It's a machine. And the folks controlling that machine are far, far away.
But I'd rather have the drone there to take out the terrorist leader. Putting troops on the ground would be a mess. Because it would take a lot of them. And pretty soon those local "innocents" aren't going to be happy about these armed foreigners running around killing people and breaking things. They may turn to less than innocent activities. My point of view is that if you support the enemy, you ARE the enemy.
So Amnesty International should S.T.F.U. on this one. As much as I can't stand the current administration, they are NOT guilty of war crimes because of these drone attacks in Pakistan.
One could argue that they are guilty of many things, but war crimes is not one of them.
And that's my two cents.
What do you think?