Pugwash: Scahill explains drone warfare

Credit: Eunice Oh/ Credit: Eunice Oh/ Last week, Pugwash invited Jeremy Scahill to speak about the ethics of war in a Q&A session. (credit: Rob Macedo) Last week, Pugwash invited Jeremy Scahill to speak about the ethics of war in a Q&A session. (credit: Rob Macedo)

This week, in lieu of our weekly meeting, Pugwash invited investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill to take part in a discussion on technology and warfare of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East. Scahill is known as one of the founding editors of The Intercept, a platform used for the distribution of Edward Snowden’s documents involving the NSA. He has written two successful non-fiction novels, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which is now a documentary film. In a discussion attended by Carnegie Mellon students, as well as members of the public, focus turned to unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as military drones.

Scahill first explained why drone warfare has become so prominent in the Middle East. He voiced that drones were introduced to the United States’ leaders as a way to “sanitize war.” The use of drones not only offers more precise attacks but also reduces the necessity for U.S. ground troops, leading to fewer deaths. Drone usage is marketed as being more strategic than conventional warfare.

There are a lot of misconceptions about drone warfare. The use of drones is far less emotionally removed than the general public believes. Scahill pointed out that although drone pilots are physically far from the battlefield, they still experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Drones are also less prominent than many other military aircrafts. Scahill noted there are only six stations in the world that participate in drone strikes. He also explained that oftentimes, the media incorrectly attributes strikes from manned aircrafts to drone attacks.

Scahill emphasized that the problem isn’t actually the drones, but how drones are interfering with United States policies. Scahill stated that Obama is now expanding foreign policy powers to give the United States military the ability to use drones more secretly and more often. Scahill asserted that the executive branch is presenting this pro-assassination policy as a way to prevent more American casualties to satisfy the public, which makes it easy to explain to the public why drones are killing terrorist-affiliated targets without due process and ignoring international laws. The solution, Scahill claimed, is not to ban drone warfare, but for policy makers to realize that conducting drone wars is wrong. Unmanned aerial vehicles are vicious and effective weapons, but the real danger is in the immoral ways to conduct warfare that they have made possible.