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Moral questions and the “Reaper” drone

While morality warriors like our own JM can lengthen a comment thread to a tally of one than 150 comments I thought it would be interesting to post about this story , seeing that he is so keen to pontificate about the morality of shooting people from Apache gunship helicopters in Baghdad. You have to think that he is going to have conniptions about the way that under Obama’s administration the use of unmanned aircraft to target and kill senior members of Al Qaeda has increased by a couple of orders of magnitude compared to his predecessor.

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, NV - AUGUST 08: A pilot's heads up display in a ground control station shows a truck from the view of a camera on an MQ-9 Reaper during a training mission August 8, 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The Reaper is the Air Force's first "hunter-killer" unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and is designed to engage time-sensitive targets on the battlefield as well as provide intelligence and surveillance. The jet-fighter sized Reapers are 36 feet long with 66-foot wingspans and can fly for as long as 14 hours fully loaded with laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. They can fly twice as fast and high as the smaller MQ-1 Predators reaching speeds of 300 mph at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet. The aircraft are flown by a pilot and a sensor operator from ground control stations. The Reapers are expected to be used in combat operations by the United States military in Afghanistan and Iraq within the next year. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

CIA drones are killing terrorists — and civilians — in Pakistan almost every day. The unmanned aircraft are becoming the weapon of choice in the fight against al-Qaida and its allies. But the political, military and moral consequences are incalculable. SPIEGEL ONLINE has investigated Barack Obama’s remote-controlled campaign against terrorism.

What is the cost of rendering a terrorist harmless once and for all by killing him? During the course of 14 months, the CIA used unmanned and heavily armed small aircraft known as drones to stage 15 strikes against the presumed locations of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. On Aug. 5, 2009, on the 16th try, the drones finally managed to kill Baitullah Mehsud.

On that day, a Predator drone was hovering about three kilometers (2 miles) above the house of Mehsud’s father-in-law, somewhere in the Pakistani province of South Waziristan. The drone’s infrared camera sent remarkably sharp images in real time to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The images showed the Taliban leader sitting on the roof of his house, in the company of his wife, his uncle and a doctor.

I think it would be fair to guess that JM would characterize the use of drones as firing platforms for hellfire missiles as a “wrong” ,  personally it just looks like smart use of technological superiority  to me.

Cheers Comrades



  1. JM says:

    Perhaps morally wrong – and the issue of whether it is moral to kill people from remote locations when you are not yourself exposed to mortal danger, is a question that exercises quite a few in the US military.

    But it’s a moral question, not a legal one, unlike the Collateral Murder case. That was illegal.

    If you don’t understand the distinction I can’t help you Iain.

    And if you don’t understand that I am not a dirty hippie peacenik who is opposed to war on all counts, then you haven’t understood a single thing I’ve been trying to say.

    Here you have planned attacks against identified targets proportionate to the threat, with discrimination to reduce or avoid civilian casualties.

    That’s legal.

    (Sorry to disappoint you Iain. But it does help if you actually listen to your opponents arguments rather than setting up bogus strawmen.)

  2. Len says:

    I find your attitude switch here puzzling JM.
    Perhaps, because in the previous instance, the opposition target had faces attached ? People are still being killed, by allied weaponry regardless of how that armory is being utilised ? I find your moral compass appears to be easily swayed, and your supposed passion for a new world order “love-in”, somewhat crumbling under the weight of your own psyche ?

  3. JM says:

    Len, see my comment on the other thread

  4. Len says:

    To really get the tongues wagging on the subject of UAV’s, watch the below link I was just sent. Hubba !

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