Despite the cloud of secrecy in which the United States’ drone program is shrouded, U.S. officials continue to maintain that drone strikes are an essential and beneficial part of U.S. counterterrorism strategy. But questions have been raised about the drone program, particularly related civilian casualties, potential blowback and the relative ease with which to deploy a drone versus a piloted aircraft.
But House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-NY), in a CNN interview on Sunday, said he’s “not concerned” about the program’s negative fallout, particularly civilian casualties, adding that the U.S. drone policy is one “righteousness and goodness“:
KING: I’m not concerned [with the casualty rate]. My belief is that when you are in a war — and we are in a war — the idea is to kill as many of the enemy as you can with minimal risk of life to your own people.
…I wish we could all live in a world where we could hold hands and love each other. The fact is, that’s not reality. We have an enemy that wants to kill us. I live in New York. I lost 150 constituents on 9/11, and if we can save the next 150 by killing al Qaeda terrorists with drones then kill them.
There’s evil people in the world. Drones aren’t evil, people are evil. We are a force of good and we are using those drones to carry out the policy of righteousness and goodness.
Raw Story has the video:
While King may not be worried about the collateral damage, or civilian deaths of drone strikes, the strikes do carry with them unintended consequences. For example, last year, two young Pakistani civilians were killed by drone strikes 200 yards from their family’s home. And as CNN’s Candy Crowley noted in her interview with King, an analysis by the New America Foundation found that, since 2004, drone strikes have had a 17 percent civilian casualty rate in northwest Pakistan alone. The study reports that there was an estimated total of 302 strikes in the area between 2004 and 2012, adding up to nearly 500 civilian deaths.
There is also evidence that the drone program could have a negative impact on U.S. security. The U.S. program in Yemen is one example in which the strikes can backfire. The Washington Post recently reported that the “escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes” in Yemen “is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesman to join a network.” The recent standstill at the NATO summit between President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and President Obama was a direct result of the U.S. use of drones.