We can debate the long-term policies on individual military targets and associated killings but let’s not allow emotions to dictate the focus. It appears, once again, drones by virtue of their name are being lumped into a broad, longheld set of policies set to deal with targeting individuals or groups who pose significant threat to the US or civilians around the world.
Stop Calling It The Drone Memo
The United States uses a whole arsenal of tools to carry out the targeted killing policy detailed in a recent DOJ memo. Why is everyone focusing on drones?
Last Monday NBC published a white paper from the Department of Justice about the United States’s targeted killing program. Soon media outlets from PBS to Huffington Post to the Wall Street Journal to NBC itself started calling it the “drone memo.”
Here’s the thing: The paper hardly mentions drones. It just sets out rules for a targeted killing policy and lists “pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs” as possible tools for carrying out those killings. The policy itself is not technology-specific. Yet somehow drones have become shorthand for targeted killing. Why?
While it’s true that drones are the best-known tool for carrying out targeted strikes, they are only one of many methods by which the United States attacks individual terrorists from afar. Here are some others:
AC-130 The AC-130 is a type of gunship built on the body of a troop transport that has been in service since Vietnam. In Vietnam, AC-130s were used to attack truck convoys that could not shoot down aircraft. They carry sophisticated sensor equipment and can linger over a target for a long time, making them an ideal tool for attacking an enemy base.
In 2009, an AC-130 was used in Somalia as a targeted strike against Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania–an attack that killed 225 people. AC-130s have been part of the U.S. mission in Somalia ever since.