Why Conflating Torture With Drone Strikes Is Just Plain Wrong

Why Conflating Torture With Drone Strikes Is Just Plain Wrong

With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogation tactics of terror suspects in December, a discussion has begun around America’s use of torture. Principals, the media, and citizens have tried to discredit the report, legitimize the techniques, or find some sort of reckoning in the 500 pages released by Dianne Feinstein’s committee. One argument in defense of the Bush administration that has been seized upon and thrust into the forefront by several of the perpetrators of the U.S. torture policy is that the current administration has embraced the use of drone strikes rather than seize and torture our perceived enemies.

This seems like as good a time as any to confess that my vote for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election was anything but assured thanks to the fervor with which he employed the use of drone strikes against those who, it was determined, were hell-bent on causing harm to the United States. The most egregious example of the drone program in action was the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen living in Yemen who happened to be a propagandist in the employ of al-Qaeda. I was personally distressed by the fact that a sitting U.S. President could determine that a U.S. citizen was no longer endowed with the rights of arrest and trial before a jury of their peers. The administration cited the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) as their green light for killing a U.S. citizen.

We believe that the AUMF’s authority to use lethal force abroad also may apply in appropriate circumstances to a United States citizen who is part of the forces of an enemy authorization within the scope of the force authorization. Justice Department Memo Written for Attorney General Eric Holder, July 16, 2010

The danger with setting precedent on the murder of an American citizen based on national security is chilling. Today’s al-Qaida terrorist is tomorrow’s chat room agitator. Celebrating the antiseptic use of drone missions over overt torture is not right. However, conflating the two very different policies is an exercise in abject ignorance.

With his appearance on “Meet The Press,” political adviser and chief spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Dan Senor, proved himself to be either among the most ignorant or the most misleading in the debate which seized headlines this week. His assertion that the policy on direct torture of those apprehended in the “War on Terror” should somehow be diminished by the fact that Barack Obama has sent silent drones in to kill those we suspect of being actively opposed to the United States is, at its core, wrongheaded.

These are two different discussions that need not occur at the same time. While I personally feel the use of drone strikes is abhorrent, leaving hundreds of innocent people injured and killed in its wake, the direct torture of individuals, many of whom were determined to be innocent after the fact, is the discussion we are currently engaged in. Conflating these two policies is only an attempt to muddy the waters and somehow lend legitimacy to them both.

Currently the architects of the program are blanketed in legal protection. However, many involved in the drone strike program – started under the last administration, but injected with steroids by President Obama – are concerned that they may, one day, face prosecution. The blow back this week from CIA chiefs and Bush-era figures and acolytes has been a full-throated defense of the use of torture for both its efficacy and legal legitimacy. Our responsibility, as citizens of the United States, is to sift through the media fodder and determine if torture done in our name is something we are comfortable with.

The practice of torture and the use of military drone aircraft for the meting out of American justice are two distinct policies that need to be addressed and discussed. Trying to support the use of torture by pointing out another distinct wrong is not helpful in determining if we, as U.S. citizens, want either to be carried out as a foreign policy.


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Alan hails from the great state of Texas by way of Florida and New York. He began his news/OpEd writing career serving as the Community Editor of the Times-Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas while completing his Political Science/Spanish degrees. He later took his talents to a handful of online outlets where his writing focus was on Science, Health, and Technology. Addressing Politics, Foreign Policy, and Social Justice returns Alan to where his passions lie. Proud to be part of the inaugural team for Reverb Press, Alan looks forward to any and all feedback that results from his articles and features.