Canada defended the use of military drone attacks Sunday, saying technological advances have reduced the likelihood of civilian casualties.
Unmanned systems have proved their effectiveness in the decade-long U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and also in NATO strikes in Libya last year, Canadian Defence Minister Peter Gordon MacKay said.
"The use of drones has been referenced a number of times, and it all depends on the accuracy of the system," Mr. MacKay told an Asian security summit...
"You do have to put a great deal of faith in your commanders in the field," Mr. MacKay said. "We depend heavily on the discretion being exercised in the field."
I wonder if he misspoke and meant to refer to the discretion being exercised in the offices where the casualty reports are prepared and the press releases are written.
As previously noted here, the impeccable record for precision targeting on the part of the NATO allies in Libya was achieved through the simple expedient of refusing to investigate reports of civilian casualties and admitting responsibility. I guess discretion is one word for that.
As for the campaign in Afghanistan, the use of military drones to attack targets across the border and into Pakistan is ongoing and according to a lengthy piece in the New York Times last week, the avoidance of civilian casualties there has been achieved by similar means.
... Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.
Is there a careful examination of the remains to determine that everyone killed in a strike was a military-age male? And if explicit intelligence were to surface that posthumously proved one of the dead wasn't actually a militant at all, do you think those administration officials could be counted on to bring it to our attention? Do you think Peter MacKay would?
Our government has just blessed this on our behalf. We own it. As for the discretion being exercised in the field, we own this too:
Ten more people have been killed by a US drone strike against suspected militants in Pakistan, with the aircraft firing its missiles into a gathering mourning one of two fighters killed in a similar atttack the previous day.
It would seem the definition of "up to no good" includes attending a funeral.