Is Obama’s Drone Policy Really Morally Superior to Torture?

 

 

” Here is the worst-kept secret in Washington: Instead of capturing and grilling suspected terrorists, as agents did during the 2000s, the United States now kills them from above. Yet where the morality of President Bush’s tactics chewed up years of public debate, Congress and the press seem less interested in the legitimacy of drone strikes than in the process (and secrecy) that surrounds them. Members questioned John Brennan, the CIA nominee who helped build the administration’s drone strategy, along exactly these lines. “[The debate] has really all been about the legality of targeting American citizens, not the overall moral issues raised by the drone program, or collateral casualties, or classifying any young men between a certain age-group default as terrorists,” says Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. In a CBS Newspoll last week, 71 percent of Americans said they support the strikes.

Compare that with the PR crisis unleashed by the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse photos in 2004. Congressional, military, and independent investigations sprang to life. The phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” entered the lexicon. Bush first argued that these were legal, but a Reed College analysis of polls shows that the public broadly opposed torture during his presidency. So why are drone strikes—which have reportedly killed 2,500 in Pakistan alone—different? Why do people impute more legitimacy to killing from afar (which sometimes ensnares innocent bystanders) than interrogating up close?”