Brennan’s Right to Kill People Called Into Question

Fordham alumnus forgets Jesuit values
by Valerie Heinmets
Arts Co-Editor

It’s been a big week for the Rams: we lost to Butler, got voted #10 for Most marry-able men by College Magazine, and one of our esteemed alums, John Brennan, was in the senate for his confirmation hearing following his nomination for the Director of the CIA. Brennan is President Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisor, a position that has put him at the center of many of the administration’s fishiest policies, the most contentious of which is the use of unmanned drone attacks in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.
That the administration is using predator drones in countries the United States is not at war with should not be surprising to anyone at this point, although by no means should it be accepted.

Brennan was the first official to speak publicly on the country’s drone policy, saying at a conference in April, “There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat.”

If this seems a little shady or unsettling to you, that’s probably a good thing. This is Brennan telling the international community that we are America. If you aren’t willing to bomb your citizens, we will do it for you. This isn’t the case in every country we bomb, as thegovernment seems convinced that the people of Yemen want us bombing their terrorists, even if some civilians get in the way.

John Brennan
John Brennan
Because of the lack of transparency surrounding drones, it ishard to estimate the number of both terrorists and civilians targeted and killed, though the New York Times has estimated multiple times that for every one terrorist killed, around 4-24 civilians are also killed.

In his address, Brennan vehemently defended the use of drones as legal, necessary, and wise as they are an expedient and direct way of taking out threats to American citizens without invading a foreign country, usually an unpopular measure with the people who live there. Also notably unpopular with people is a foreign government bombing them from above. In his State of the Union Address, though, President Obama espoused the same view that it was better to have American soldiers home and controlling drones than fighting on the ground.

All this isn’t to say that Brennan is completely unaware of the broader consequences of using drones. As he succinctly summed up, “Still, there is no more consequential a decision than deciding whether to use lethal force against another human being, even a terrorist dedicated to killing American citizens. So in order to ensure that our counterterrorism operations involving the use of lethal force are legal, ethical and wise, President Obama has demanded that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards and processes.” However, recognizing the risks involved with drones and actively making the best standards in using them are two very different things.

As the US is the first major country to employ the use of drones, we are also in the process of setting a precedent for the rest of the world as to what is deemed acceptable, whether we like it or not. Both Brennan and Obama have very recently put out statements that would seem to suggest that they are ready to do just that. Brennan has clearly expressed that the use of drones to terminate terrorists is only acceptable when capture is deemed impossible. This brings up a few questions, one specifically of scope. If it is okay to kill terrorists in Yemen and Pakistan that we deem dangerous without any sort of trial, as that is indeed what is happening, then can the same thing in the United States? Here, Brennan said no drone operations have taken place in the United States, and had no plans for them to start. The ruckus over Christopher Dorner would seem to suggest otherwise.

Even so, what gives our government the right to bomb terrorists we deem to be dangerous to us in remote locations without a trial, especially when they are also killing innocent civilians?

All this contention has caused a mass outcry from Republicans in congress for more transparency and regulation around the use of drones, especially in the accidental killing of civilians. So while his hearing has been pushed back, because Congress has a recess this week, the outcome of Brennan’s nomination will be essential for the US’s foreign policy moving forward.

This is an intriguing moment for both US foreign policy and our own University. If you truly believe in any of the Jesuit ideals we are supposed to have learned upon graduation, then Brennan should be an ideal candidate to determine in the most moral and optimal method how to hone and govern the use of these powerful weapons. If, though, you’ve paid attention to his previous policy, it would seem that he’s forgotten some of the most important lessons instilled here at FU. Here’s to hoping that Brennan remembers our Jesuit values, if he gets the nomination, and brings some morality back into warfare.

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