Drone Warfare

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fred Kaplan, national-security columnist for and the author of 1959: The Year Everything Changed (Wiley, 2009), and George Packer, New Yorker staff writer and the author of Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), talk about the use of drones and unmanned aircraft in combat.


Fred Kaplan and George Packer

Comments [39]


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Apr. 11 2010 05:52 PM
salvatore principato from manhattan

Your journalist guests seem to subscribe to that old Vietnam era saying "kill 'em all & let god sort them out" according to their warped morality & misplaced logic
even if there's a modicum of a chance that a person is an insurgent it's okay for them to be slaughtered in the most brutal and antiseptic way.
I was deeply offended that these so-called respectable journalists would be apologists for what clearly is an example of the immorality of war and how desensitized we've become towards the killing of innocents.

Apr. 10 2010 01:57 PM

there are rules. we are not thugs. we are the good guys and we should act like it!

Apr. 09 2010 12:49 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

War is war. It is not a game and there are no rules. All rules will be broken if your side is losing. Or in the case of WWII, even winning, as was the case with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The onus for deaths in wars must be placed WHOLLY on those who start them. Who started WWII? Who started the 1948 Arab-Israel conflict? Who started the wars between Iraq and Kuwait, and previously with Iran?
He who starts wars is the criminal. He who defends himself is blameless. Societies must not allow their leaders to start wars in the first place.

Apr. 09 2010 12:00 PM
Walter from Marlboro, N.J.

Should we use drones outside a warzone?

Afghanistan is at war and many parts of the country are divided into warzones. Using drones in those areas is appropriate and something the civilian population can accept. However, from a civilian perspective, if your not in a warzone and suddenly the building next to you or the one you are in blows up then I would think would be very wrong. Pakistan has no official war going on and using drones in that country is totally wrong. What's to prevent us from doing the same in any other country like Italy, Germany or even Canada?

Apr. 09 2010 10:53 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Does the video show how clear it was to the (virtual) "pilot" whether the people who were fired on had weapons or other kinds of equipment? The audio requesting permission to fire specified that they had AK-47s--if you can't even tell that they weren't guns, how could you tell what *kind* of guns they were(n't)? It makes me wonder if the person describing them was mistaken or lying.

Apr. 09 2010 10:50 AM
Carl from New Jersey

The BIGGEST danger of the drone warfare is the 'video game' aspect. It dehumanizes the whole idea of war and removes the cost (casualties) from the side that has the drone. It makes it too easy for leadership to use force and for each of us to ignore the consequences. The only possible result from the people in the area being fired-upon is disgust & anger at the unseen attackers.

Apr. 09 2010 10:45 AM
Linda from Brooklyn

Like Bush before him, Obama is feeding terrorism - just think, how would you feel about the occupying country flying constant drones over you 24/7? It gets me furious and I'm thousands of miles away.

The video confirms that in order to fight a war, the soldiers must dehumanize the enemy - and very often the enemy becomes every man, woman and child.

Apr. 09 2010 10:45 AM
Charlie from Bronx

All this talk about tactics and rules of engagement - and virtually nothing about human lives. Brian, you have children. Can you possibly believe that its anything but horribly horribly evil to have people shooting from the sky at them?

The magnitude of the horror of our invasion of Iraq cannot be overstated!

Apr. 09 2010 10:44 AM
John from office

Brian, Israel has intentionally shot Journalist for years, a way to keep them off the frontlines. Is that ok, are they heroic or is it murder.

I say it is war, people die.

We cannot fight a war with upper west side liberal values and we should be judged fairly, under the Israeli standard, and I support Israel.

Apr. 09 2010 10:43 AM
kay from brooklyn

the video/cover-up is another point of confirmation that -- if ever there is a just war -- this is not it. it is an illegal war where US military, with government and citizen support, are murdering innocent people. this is also why we cannot support the troops while condemning the war. they are intricately related.

Apr. 09 2010 10:43 AM
Amy from Manhattan

James seems to be stuck in the either/or mindset that Brian often challenges (& I think he was trying to here). It doesn't have to be every single person carrying a weapon, it's a question of where you draw the line & what other factors you take into account.

Apr. 09 2010 10:43 AM
Dana from Clinton Hill

I believe it was G Packer that mentioned we should keep our ears open for ways that the US military tries to manipulate the story around video with false statements: yesterday on FOX (yeah, I know) Megyn Kelly had Medea Benjamin and CHuck Nash, a military analyst for FOX News, and basically he just told a whole back story about this video being taken completely out of context and an entire battle waging in the area all morning but giving no evidence to support these statements. He is a "military analyst" therefore we (or FOX news watchers) are fed a whole backstory that may or may not be true but totally undermines the point and the story told in the video.

Here's the link

Apr. 09 2010 10:42 AM

Not so for police officers...check the side of your protect and serve!!

Apr. 09 2010 10:40 AM
Foster from Rahway nj

While the pilots get the glory, one should remember the men in the Air Force on the ground keeping them flying.

Apr. 09 2010 10:40 AM

james the caller convinced me, but what about the van with the kids?

Apr. 09 2010 10:40 AM

Harsh reality of war..kill or be killed!

Apr. 09 2010 10:39 AM

Interesting segment. James seems to be arguing that it's worth unlimited civilian casualties in order to save a single American soldier's life.

I guess it's a point of view thing.

Apr. 09 2010 10:39 AM
andrew from nyc

Reporters who travel with the enemy who are armed and making their way to fight Americans 100 yards away are not completely innocent bystanders.

How are soldiers supposed to know that the guy next to the guy with the RPG is a journalist?

Apr. 09 2010 10:39 AM
Perry E. Metzger from New York

One last comment. The tape was improperly classified. The rules are that only documents, video, etc. that protects actual secrets can be classified -- that is, things that, if they were revealed, would hurt future operations by revealing operational capabilities, or plans, or the names of covert operatives, etc.

The tape had none of that. It was clearly classified purely and solely to avoid revealing that the military report on the incident does not correspond with the actual facts of what happened. That sort of classification is specifically prohibited by law.

Apr. 09 2010 10:38 AM

Brian Israel has been blasting bad guys out of the sky, on the ground and in their homes for years. With all manner of weapons, when was the last time you ran a show about that???

Oh, I forgot they are heroic, we are murderers.

Apr. 09 2010 10:37 AM

Provoking a firefight? Is this not a common police mentality? I am an attorney and too many criminal decisions, I think, hinge upon police being a little too anxious. Too much testosterone and I am a male.

Apr. 09 2010 10:31 AM

This is a bad way to conduct a war! Are American lives more important than civilians?

Apr. 09 2010 10:29 AM
keith from Washington Heights

The use of drones and accuracy of intelligence used to send them on missions is well detailed in Steven Coll's Ghost Wars. Bush seems to have been more adverse to using the drones and risk killing someone who was not 100% confirmed as being Osama.

Apr. 09 2010 10:29 AM

Let's be clear...none of the civilians had weapons on them, just cameras. When this type of behavior becomes common-place, it should make people freak out! The morality of this issue can not be overstated. This is a videogame mentality, and we need to hear the facts! No one had weapons on them, and they opened up fire. And what about the firefight a couple miles away? I didn't hear any gun fire? So sad, so depressing.

Apr. 09 2010 10:28 AM
john from office

What a shock, Brian we are killing people in a war. Did you do this analysis on the Isreali invasion of Gaza. no

Apr. 09 2010 10:24 AM
Perry E. Metzger from New York

Just to repeat: the cover up is the real story, and the Wikileaks team has been saying as much. Never the less, the press has been focusing only on the incident, and not on the cover up.

Apr. 09 2010 10:23 AM
Perry E. Metzger from New York

The guests characterized the government report on the incident depicted in the Wikileaks tape as inaccurate. It is, in fact, a tissue of lies.

I feel bad about saying that, but there is no other reasonable characterization. It says there was active fire on the helicopter. There was not. It says that the investigators could not determine how the children in the van were injured. The knew full well since they had the tapes. It does not reveal how the Reuters reporters were injured. It claims the children received the best possible medical care when the decision was made to let the Iraqi police take them to a local hospital instead of taking them to a US military facility. The claim was made that the van driver was an insurgent, which has turned out not to be true. These are only a few of the misrepresentations, no, lies, in the report.

The coverup is far more important than the incident itself. Bad things happen in wars, but bad things happen everywhere. The problem is that if the machinery to make sure that justice is done is subverted -- if it engages in coverups -- then we have no means to make sure that bad things are minimized.

Apr. 09 2010 10:21 AM
bernie from bklyn

mr.kaplan's should write an honest book called "1948: the year everything changed"

Apr. 09 2010 10:21 AM

The first incident in the video is a toss up. The second part where they shoot the vehicle picking up the wounded is inexcusable.

Apr. 09 2010 10:16 AM
john from office

Brian, mention the journalist again please, that is the reason this is on.

Apr. 09 2010 10:16 AM
Trish from Queens

In addition to those concerns already expressed here and elsewhere, I don't understand why we don't have higher resolution on these cameras in the first place. The technology exists, we spend billions on the military, and it could save lives and help our military personnel do their jobs with less confusion.

While we fight for higher care in confirming who's a threat or not, can't we also get better cameras installed?

Apr. 09 2010 10:13 AM
Bill from New York

Brian, you played the wrong audio and you're not analyzing the video at all. Did you watch the video? Sloppy.

Apr. 09 2010 10:13 AM
Michael Azerrad from Manhattan

What about the Obama administration's dubious policy of summarily targeting American citizens for assassination, thereby denying them something called "due process"? I think I remember from high school that due process an important thing but maybe that's old-fashioned thinking now.

Apr. 09 2010 10:12 AM

Folks people die in war, we fire bombed whole cities in europe. Oh I forgot that was the war against Nazi's they can die painful deaths.

Soldiers, kill people, they have to not let it affect them, do you wantt them to sit in the shrinks office before each kill.. It is not the upper westside, it is bagdad.

Apr. 09 2010 10:11 AM
Robert Sloman from Valley Stream

Brian, please address the issue about the cover up surrounding the video. Accidents happen in war. I do not blame the soldiers who committed those acts. They can be excused.

What I can not excuse is the systematic cover up and spread of misinformation by the US military. This is a point that the mainstream media has been completely missing. It's not necessarily the video that's the worst (there have been hundreds of similar incidents that we have committed over there), it is the cover up. Please discuss this and how the government tried to lie about the deaths of the Reuters journalists.

Apr. 09 2010 10:11 AM
bernie from bklyn

it's inappropriate to criticize these kids who are over there trying to do this impossible, nonsensical job. of course they'll celebrate killing because that's what we've trained them to do.
the main point is that we shouldn't be there in the first place. it's time to cease all support for israel and start an aggressive isolationism plan. we are wasting precious lives and treasure for NO REASON.

Apr. 09 2010 10:11 AM
John from office

I have been expecting Brian to deal with this issue.

The only reason that this is an issue is because the press is involved and two Journalist were killed.

That is why the press is adament about this. Mean while daily, americans die in the defense of this nation, their scarfice is taken for granted. Brian have a show about American heros who have died, so you can do yoiur show in peace. Instead your about to monday morning quarterback their actions.

Did you ever serve Brian. No you would have gone to the IDF, not the US Army.

Why are people shocked that people die in war, what do you think happens.

Apr. 09 2010 10:07 AM

What exactly is the big difference between random terrorism (such as recently on the Moscow subway) and the killing of "collateral civilians" by these drone attacks? This is a very cowardly way to conduct our military campaign - if we don't want casualties, maybe we should rethink our policies. I'm also surprised that some of these Taliban and other groups haven't used Stinger-type anti-aircraft to bring these things down - it's only a matter of time until they do, if they haven't been doing it already (how would we know?).

Apr. 09 2010 10:07 AM

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