aNewDomain — U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, if elected, would still use drones to assassinate people overseas. He just wouldn’t do it as much, Sanders told me in an interview for my next book, a biography of the Vermont senator in a graphic comics format.
Sanders, whose surging poll numbers increasingly pose a real threat to Hillary Clinton in the race to nab the Democratic presidential nomination, added:
I think I would limit [President Obama’s drone killing program] and be a little more selective about how it is used.”
The U.S.’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones) to carry out extrajudicial assassinations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries is a hot topic this week. Yesterday’s bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Afghanistan, in which 19 people were killed, only highlighted this ongoing hot button issue.
The main problem with drones in war, reports show, is accuracy. The majority of victims in American drone attacks are, after all, just innocent bystanders. Another problem: The U.S. mainly targets guerrilla fighters, not the governments they’re fighting for. Such fighters aren’t real threats to the United States itself.
Drones and their effects are no different than other weapons from a moral point of view, Sanders told me. He mused:
I think drones … I don’t think you can, you know, how do I come down on medium-size bombs? How do I come down on strafing of villages?”
But what does he think about using drones to execute extrajudicial assassinations?
“Okay, you can kill people, as we have done and other governments have done, with a gun,” Sanders said. “Right? Or you can kill them with a drone.”
“But drones make it easier,” I pointed out.
“Yes. They do. Do I think that the use of a drone to kill somebody in the same way that you would use a gun to kill them is necessarily worse? I don’t. I think a drone is a weapon. It has to be used very carefully, and it has to be used in a way that does not cause damage to people who should not be hurt.”
Just over half of Democrats, and a higher portion of Republicans, tell pollsters they support drone strikes. Some are concerned about “collateral damage” (as in Kunduz yesterday) and the possibility that drone strikes could prompt retaliatory terrorist attacks against the United States.
Sanders told me, “My main concern about drones other than my fear that they’re not regulated now and could be flying all over the place, is they have been used ineffectively and when you read in Afghanistan or someplace else that a drone has killed a dozen people at a wedding party, that is a horrible thing.”
I asked Sanders if he would continue President Obama’s drone program as it is now.
Sanders said no.
“I don’t think I would,” Sanders said. “I think I would limit it and be a little more selective about how it is used. But I want to get back to this point. I know there is a lot of attention in the liberal community about drones.”
What happens if somebody today in the CIA is blowing somebody’s head off with a gun? From a moral point of view, how is that different from a drone killing that person?