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America’s Right to Ongoing Drone Use

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The United States claims exceptionalism among the nations of the world. It maintains that our burning cause of world freedom is supported by our religious and moral convictions, and therefore we have a right and a duty to support freedom fighters wherever they may be. I wonder, does our exceptionalism give us free rein to violate international law?

This plea seems to be spreading rapidly, as we see in the extensive use of drone aircraft over nations in situations where our jurisdiction is unestablished, or nonexistent. We may soon pay the price for our continued excursion into the affairs of others.

Iran in recent days captured a U.S. stealth drone spying in the skies over that sovereign nation. Iranian ministry made the response that,  “The move is in violation of all international conventions and runs counter to regional and international peace and security. Surely the responsibility for the illegal move lies with the U.S. authorities.” Iran has denounced the growing U.S. “provocative and secret moves” against the country. Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Kossari says the Iranian response will be “terrifying.” In the event of further provocation, Iran will “[t]arget all U.S. military bases around the world.” The Iranian ambassador said, “In the continuation of such trend, [‘provocative and covert operations against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the United States’] an American RQ-170 unmanned spy plane, bearing a specific serial number, violated Iran’s air space. This plane [flew] 250 kilometers deep into Iranian territory up to the northern region of the city of Tabas, where it faced prompt and forceful action by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The ambassador said the “blatant and unprovoked air violation” is tantamount to an act of hostility against Iran in clear contravention of international law; particularly the basic tenets of the UN Charter.

Similar drone surveillance and air attacks have caused Pakistan to consider deployment of air defense weapons to the Afghan border. Pakistan, growing daily more hostile to the United States, refers to NATO airstrikes such as the ones last month that the Pakistani military claims were pre-planned and that killed 24 of that country’s soldiers. The U.S. denies that the deaths were intentional, and is still struggling to maintain a working relationship with Pakistan.

The University of Pittsburg School of Law has deemed the air strikes over Pakistan as being in violation of international law. Their report refers to the intense anger in Pakistan:

The recent killings of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO air strikes at the Salala check point in Mohmand has caused intense anger in Pakistan, leading to the government boycotting the Bonn talks. As part of its protest, Pakistan has demanded that the US vacate the Shamsi Air Base within 15 days. It is widely believed that the Shamsi base has been regularly used by the US for drone and associated surveillance flights.

US drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are deeply resented by the Pakistani population. Officially, the government has vociferously condemned these operations as illegal under international law and a violation of its territorial sovereignty. In the absence of certain extenuating circumstances, the overwhelming majority of international law experts would find the drone strikes in FATA to be illegal under international law. They do not qualify as acts of self-defense as definition under Article 51 of the UN Charter and thus violate Article 2(4), which upholds the territorial integrity of a state.

The drone attacks also fail to meet the self-defense standard of customary international law, which requires immediacy, necessity and proportionality for using force in self-defense. Firstly, there is no instant or overwhelming danger posed to the US if it does not conduct drone attacks in Pakistan.

Who can deny that the world is polarizing? The nations of the world as we speak are reaffirming old alliances, forming new ones, even as close as Venezuela and Cuba, and forming sides for what may erupt into a global firestorm. In spite of the good intentions of the United States, Egypt is doomed to fall to the Muslim Brotherhood, a violent Islamic force. Muslim fundamentalists are taking control of more parts of the world, and are developing weapons of mass destruction. We set up free elections, and our sworn enemies take power.

We have to wonder what went wrong in Pakistan. We have been lied to as to the death of Osama bin Laden, and the disposition of his body. Common sense would mandate the terrorist’s body to have been taken to a US military hospital for identification and autopsy. Instead it was “buried at sea.” Details of the death of bin Laden changed with each passing day.

Many would think that if a firestorm develops, it will develop in Israel or in Great Britain. America has been fortunate; our wars are often fought in distant parts of the world. Americans may have developed a false sense of security.

Helen Thomas felt that a world war may be avoidable. She suggested in all pragmatism that the Jews in Israel might simply relocate from the sacred areas of religious history. She was condemned for that thought. The Jews’ movement into Palestine was consistent with the movement of the human race to all parts of the world. Scientists believe the first humans, in Africa, migrated, eventually to cover the globe, even to Australia and New Zealand. This was over thousands of years. The Hebrew flight from Egypt to the Mediterranian region was of a similar sort. But some still see the Palestinians as the indigenous people of the region, and the Jews as trespassers. The ancient Palestinians agreed to let the Egyptians stay, provided they assimilated into the ancient religions and traditions. This was anathema to the Jews, and to a large extent remains so.

America feels her good intentions justify extremism, and her strength gives her entitlement to ignore established law. We need hope for wise leaders in the coming years, or a worldwide confrontation seems unavoidable.

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • roger nowosielski

    Are you possible turning away, John, from the doctrine of American exceptionalism? If so, good for you.

    Why, however, would you end your article with reference to America’s presumably “good intentions”? That would be like taking a step forward and then one back.

    I don’t see any good intentions either in the sphere of our foreign relations or at home. While we talk a good game about “nation-building,” democracy and freedom abroad — which is a pretext — at the same time we clamp down with our militarized police force at the OWS protesters, again under the pretext of concern for their safety, hygiene or, some other obscure municipal ordinance.

    I see duplicity and double standard wherever I look. Don’t you?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    John –

    What proof do you have that we were lied to about bin Laden being buried at sea? We had no need to keep his body. We had every reason not to bury it on land. And this retired sailor can assure you that when something like that is on board a ship (especially a carrier with 4K+ sailors on board), word travels fast..and so would word of “no actual burial at sea” or of “fake burial”.

    The mistake that so many on BC make is that “the government always lies, especially when it’s people we don’t like who are in charge”. No, the government does NOT always lie. In fact, much of the time the government is truthful – sometimes the government lies, of course! But it’s every bit as logically erroneous (and as dangerous) to assume the government always lies as it is to assume the government always tells the truth.

  • Igor

    We’ve always followed a policy of infringing other country’s sovereignty when we could get away with it. Doesn’t everyone? Spies abound. Sometimes there’s a blunder and an embarrassment, but no one stops spying. Maybe spying is even good: maybe it promotes international understanding. Maybe all the spying that spies do on daily life in an enemy’s country seeps back through the system to soften a killer policy.

    Drone attacks are another matter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are forbidden. They’re just higher on the risk scale. Maybe wars of the future (if there are such things as widespread war) will be fought by drones, in which case we are just early adaptors.

    IMO “American Exceptionalism” was only effective as long as we had a shared experience and shared goals, but the incessant redistribution of wealth to the Lords of our society is creating a society divided on class lines as surely as any feudal state.

  • roger nowosielski

    Nice take on American Exceptionalism, Igor. You might add, however, that the idea is far from dead yet, not insofar as those who still believe in the American Dream are concerned,

  • Imani

    Hey but slap!

  • John Lake

    Glen seems to have some concerns that the Pakistani Navy (Do they even HAVE a navy?) might have swarmed aboard our naval vessel and forcefully removed the body of the master terrorist. Might be a good idea for a short story. But as we discussed, the entire matter was cloaked in contradiction and lies. As I recall a helicopter full of Naval Seals was later shot down, but that was more or less unrelated. As much as I like Barack Obama, there are some unresolved issues.
    On the matter of our exceptionalism: I see history from a thoroughly objective viewpoint. Most would agree that freedom and opportunity are preferable to enslavement and suffering, but from a purely philosophical perspective, there is no way to be sure. Perhaps in 10,000 years scholars will agree that suffering is better. Purely philosophical. But we can’t force ourselves on others although we really really believe we are right and therefore justified.
    Pragmatically I know America is far and away the best, but as we all have stated at one time or another, she is far short of perfect.
    But I do support American exceptionalism.
    Yes I support drone use, no I don’t support breaking the law, although such breakage is an American tradition.
    The point is, the Muslims aren’t playing, and wars can be fought over matters non-economic. Matters such as unbearable hatred.
    Finally, Obama has made great strides in assuaging such hatred.
    But if some superhawk flexing Republican comes in, all economy, all the time, we are going to be in deep and dire straits.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    John –

    You really didn’t understand what I wrote, did you? If it was a fake burial – or no burial at all – most of the sailors on board would have known it…and all sailors have internet access these days. Do you really think all 4000 or so would have kept secret something like that?

    No, they would not. There’s always, always a group of disgruntled sailors on board any ship. And soon all the world would have known.

    So unless you have proof that the government lied, you need to realize that some conspiracy theories are ONLY that – theories.

  • John Lake

    For a long and what appears to be objective history of Palestine, Israel, going back to several hundred BC and with the information about the Ottoman Turks, see this link:

    Israel and Palestine: A Brief History

  • Les Slater

    The most serious flaw in using the ‘American Exceptoinalism’ is that folk think people living in U.S. are excepted from U.S. murderous policies.

  • roger nowosielski

    What’s up, Les? Good to know you’re still around

  • Les Slater

    Working with Chicago Occupy these days. Things are slowing down a little for the holidays.

  • Costello

    Les, is there a concern the elements might have an adverse effect on sustaining the protests? Chicago winters can be bad

  • roger nowosielski

    U thought you might be involved these days. So has Mark.

  • Les Slater

    The outdoor part of Occupy is becoming less important at the moment. Two of the more important recent occupies were of the Chicago Transit Authority budget hearing and Chicago Board of Education. They were both indoors and we took over the meetings.

  • Les Slater

    The most important aspect of those occupies is that they were done in conjunction with the workers concerned. The Chicago Transit Authority meeting takeover had many workers and leadership of the transit unions.

    At the Chicago Board of Education, not only were there many teachers and parents but support from the transit workers.

    Occupy has been playing the role of leading in showing new tactics and pulling in forces directly concerned.

  • John Lake

    Keep up the good work, Les! As to Chicago, they can’t afford to return service to where it was for many years. They took out the free rides for seniors program. But now they can afford to straighten the red line rails (again!) and replace the cameras they just purchased. It doesn’t speak well of Emanuel. And who thought up the catch phrase, “Dread Red”? To my knowledge, most commuters don’t converse much, and I haven’t heard any discussion of the “Dread Red.”

  • roger nowosielski

    Indeed, good show, Les. And keep warm.

  • roger nowosielski

    And Les, do call your internet friend from NJ if you got the number.

  • Les Slater


    The budgets are totally fake. They can afford whatever they really want. The problem is that those that use the services, not just the CTA and the schools, but health care, retirement etc. do not have political power. I’m working with Occupy in an attempt to change that.

  • Les Slater

    Roger, on the phone to NJ at the moment.

  • Igor

    “The budgets are totally fake. They can afford whatever they really want”

    Boy, that’s for sure!

    Jerry Brown just pointed out that regardless of all the poor-mouthing going on, the town of Santa Clara, wanting to steal the 49ers footballers, has found it amazingly easy to scrape up $1billion for a new stadium for just 10 games a year!

    Too bad that Santa Clara can’t scrape together a couple million for it’s freezing and hungry homeless people. In fact, Santa Clara can’t even scrape up a couple thousand to keep it’s animal shelter going for the poor unfortunate animal wretches abandoned by homeowners evicted from their homes by predatory banks.

  • El Bicho

    They likely see a football stadium as an investment in the community they will get a return on since it will create revenue and jobs in construction and working the events. Plus, it’s a safe bet the stadium will hold more than 10 games in a year. It’s not going to be vacant the rest of the time.

  • Les Slater


    I don’t begrudge people having a nice stadium to go to but there is much that these resource suckers spend on that is totally parasitic, like boards of trade etc.


  • Igor

    Everyone I know in Santa Clara is struggling against the stadium because historically they have been a loss for the community. That crap about creating jobs is just crap.

    If it was a good economic deal then SF would be fighting to hold onto the team, and they’re not.

    This deal is being forced on us by a cabal that is looking to make short-term profits and dump the problems on the community when they duck out.

  • Les Slater


    I don’t wish to get into too deep a discussion on the merits of a particular stadium but stadiums can have a positive social value.

    Society needs to set priorities. Right now priorities are set by markets. We need to set priorities based on human needs. Many manifestations of the market need to be suppressed.