J and D's Corner

From the Letters Archive

Lot of people seem to feel the whole remote warfare thing is somehow unfair, that the only way to properly kill someone is to look 'em in the eye and plunge the knife.  Personally, I go with what works best for our side.

To some degree I share his concern about the "slippery slope" aspect of sanctioned kill, but let's deal with that when it comes.


To:  AV Press
Date: 11/6/2011
Re:  Battlefield vs. Courtroom

John Paerels expressed disapproval of our use of drone aircraft to selectively kill persons deemed to be “enemy participants” without bringing them to proper trial. Citing one recent case where two of those targeted happened to be U.S. citizens, he expressed angst that use of similar ‘sanctioned kill’ techniques could spread to actions against citizens on U.S. soil.

While I certainly would agree with him that in an ideal world society would never kill or imprison without unassailable proof, the reality is that we are engaged in war, even though it is only a quasi-declared one being fought on a battleground without hard and fast borders.  In war, death comes without trial by jury.

As wars go, on our part this one has been remarkably civilized, if war can ever be characterized that way.  In past wars the killing has been vastly more indiscriminate; literally millions of individuals whose only connection to hostilities was often mere proximity to the action were slaughtered.  Drone strikes targeted through multiple intelligence inputs at least offer some level of assurance the killing is limited to direct participants in the war, even if the assurance in some cases would not meet the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard of an American courtroom trial.

Does this new and demonstrably effective precision kill capability foreshadow extralegal kills within the USA as Paerels fears?  Seems highly unlikely, yet what new 9/11 scheme is percolating in the brains of those who wish us ill, and what reaction could it trigger in an America so obsessed with the fantasy of total safety?

 John Wilson