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The Ithaca Journal

Why We Are Walking to Hancock Air Force Base

Drone operators in Nevada mistakenly attacked, using an unmanned predator drone, a convoy of Afghan civilians. "No way to know — no way to tell from here" said the "pilot" and camera operator as they surveyed the carnage, 7,000 miles away, on the screen.

Up to 23 people were killed and more wounded including women and children, according to an April 10 article in the Los Angeles Times. The tragedy highlights the legal, moral and practical problems with the use of drones.

Because it is our responsibility to actively call our country to follow domestic and international human rights laws, we are walking to Hancock Base, where drones are maintained, to demand an end to the use of unmanned predator drones.

Targeted killings by the use of unmanned aircraft drones by the United States are intentional, premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force in violation of U.S. and international human rights law.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said the use of drones creates "a highly problematic blurring and expansion of the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks — human rights law, the laws of war and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force. ... The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum. ... In terms of the legal framework, many of these practices violate straightforward applicable legal rules."

Despite their reputation for being precise and effective, drones kill 50 people for each intended target, according to a New York Times article from May 2009. In congressional testimony in March 2009, counterterrorism consultant David Kilcullen said drone attacks give "rise to a feeling of anger that coalesces the population around the extremists and leads to spikes of extremism well outside the parts of the country where we are mounting those attacks."

Most of us can relate: If someone we love or even Americans living in another state were killed by a drone, most of us would be angry and some would seek revenge. Thus, drones not only kill innocent civilians and violate human rights laws — they also increase the likelihood of terror attacks, the very problem they are supposed to solve. Law enforcement and economic development offer more effective moral and ethical solutions to the problems of extremism and terrorism.

Maybe this troubles you, but with the economic worries you think it has to take a backburner to local economic concerns. Think again! The war in Afghanistan will cost U.S. taxpayers $107.3 billion this year just in direct costs. Most of us are paying $1,000-$3,000 a year in direct costs alone.

Just think, we could stop killing civilians and rebuild our country. It is possible.

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Jessica Stewart and Daniel Burns

Jessica Stewart and Daniel Burns are Ithaca residents.

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