The need to blacken the white paper

The White Paper is a justification for eliminating US citizens if they pose an imminent threat to national security.

Sarah Eleazar June 06, 2013
Silence on an issue as critical as drone strikes suggests some level of complicity. But mouthing off about shooting drones down, about how ‘America would have never dared to use drones on our soil had the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf been in power’ is political hogwash.

These statements hope to feed sanctimonious outrage among supporters and breed a feeling of hopelessness and resentment towards the US. These tactics have never achieved anything in the past and are not likely to end drone strikes either.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice was asked to provide the Congress legal justification for drone strikes. A 16-page dossier, simply called the White Paper, was presented. This paper provides justification for eliminating US citizens, if they appear to pose an imminent threat to national security (like the strike that took out Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, in Yemen in 2011) and borrows precedence from strikes ordered by president Richard Nixon on Cambodia in 1969. The problem with Nixon’s flexible interpretation of executive powers was that these strikes were considered a war crime the world over.

The paper, while glossing over the mechanics of strikes, categorically suggests adherence to law-of-war principles for using lethal force: necessity, distinction, proportionality and humanity. One can argue that a case to carry out more than 300 strikes on a non-hostile country, based on a disputed war crime, collapses under its own weight.

One can argue that by taking out almost a thousand civilians out of 3,000 targets, the US has violated principles of the law-of-war more than once. But instead of countering America’s chillingly repulsive White Paper with their own comprehensive strategy, our leaders don halos and think of their next political punch line.

Perhaps, the novelty of the “napalm girl” died with the end of the Vietnam War, because the American public seems marked with a general apathy for the victims of this War on Terror. In that case, it is time to put away American flags to burn another day and debate the matter on international forums.

There is need to penetrate the apathy that governs the people the American government claims to represent and use reason to make a case for an end to drone strikes in Pakistan. The White Paper, subsequently, needs to be made part of the discourse on the subject and have its legal standing challenged where Congress can see it.

Read more by Sarah here 

Sarah Eleazar A sub-editor on the Lahore desk at the Express Tribune.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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