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Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Law, War | 15 comments

Armed Drones Now Patrol Iraq


The U. S. military has confirmed that some surveillance drones in Iraq have been armed with air to surface missiles. The purpose of arming the drones is to provide protection for U. S. military who are in the country. Confirmation came from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. He noted that some U. S. personnel were venturing outside the embassy to assist Iraqi military, exposing the U. S. personnel to increased risk.

We can learn from this. Take note of the differences between this use of armed drones and the assassination-by-drone program that has been used to kill individuals in places like Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen. In Iraq, we are present by invitation of the government. That government also specifically suggested that they were open to armed drone activity in their country as they battle ISIS in what some describe as a Shiite/Sunni civil war. Using drones to protect American personnel from real time ground attacks is very different from using drones to complete assassinations of persons selected from a CIA “kill list.”

Though still taking a cautious approach to see how this deployment of armed drones evolves, my tentative first reaction is that this is a legitimate use of these weapons. Let this be an opportunity to show and educate how new weapons can be used within the bounds of international law for legitimate defensive purposes…and hopefully with minimal, or no, civilian casualties.

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  • dduck

    Yes, Virginia, we are now allied with Iran.
    We have now committed ourselves to the Shiite side, I hope it works out.
    With it is estimated that there are a couple of thousand Westerners now associated with various Islamic groups and a hundred or so of them being Americans, can one foresee an accidental droning, not to mention some innocent civilians being zapped?

  • sheknows

    So the screaming right got their way.

    So if we employ drones on their behalf ( or show them how to do it), and supply them with weaponry, and show them how to fight against the insurgents ( again), and give them money and aid…are we technically at war?

    “War is an organized and often prolonged conflict that is carried out by states or non-state actors. It is generally characterised by extreme violence, social disruption and economic destruction. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities…”

    Sure sounds like we are at war.

  • The_Ohioan

    I’m sure there is a difference between targeting Sunni soldiers that threaten American soldiers and multi-national terrorists that threaten American citizens, but it’s one that is difficult for some of us to nail down.

    Pakistan and Yemen both approved of our use of drones in their countries against al Qaeda members, no matter what public outrage they were compelled to engage in afterward.

    The United Nations has asked us to use drones to target troops (of any denomination) that are threatening UN peacekeepers in the Sudan.

    It’s doesn’t seem that we are uninvited to these assassination parties, including this one, no matter what they are called.

  • The_Ohioan

    Good questions, dd. Are Americans on the battlefield that kill U. S. troops different from those that kill and plan to kill many countries citizens? We’re gettin’ into the weeds here.

  • Pakistan and Yemen both approved of our use of drones in their countries against al Qaeda members, no matter what public outrage they were compelled to engage in afterward.

    Kindly provide a link to your source for this allegation.

    The United Nations has asked us to use drones to target troops (of any denomination) that are threatening UN peacekeepers in the Sudan.

    Kindly provide a link to your source for this allegation.

    The reason I ask for sources is that your allegations seem in conflict with most reports. The below is from a non-partisan panel of military experts, as quoted in an article by Eugene Robinson and posted on TMV earlier today. I repeat it here because the panel of military experts that wrote this likely would not have done so if they were aware of what you allege and had credible sources to prove it true.

    “From the perspective of many around the world, the United States currently appears to claim, in effect, the legal right to kill any person it determines is a member of al-Qaeda or its associated forces, in any state on Earth, at any time, based on secret criteria and secret evidence, evaluated in a secret process by unknown and largely anonymous individuals.”

  • dduck

    But wait, there’s more: “Mr. Obama’s request calls for the Pentagon to “train and equip vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition to help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.”

    -Ok, you guys with the white head gear are vetted, but you guys with the black headgear, sorry.- 🙂

  • The_Ohioan
  • The_Ohioan

    The links are in a comment awaiting moderation. Since we don’t have edit, I can’t moderate it. Probably put too many links in one comment.

  • Thank you.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I see them in the “pending” column, T.O.

    You are probably right, too many links. You may want to break them up and add some text.

    I wish I could “release” your comment, but I don’t think I have the “tools” for that.

    Perhaps Dr. E. or someone with more “authority” will see it and release it.

  • The_Ohioan

    Just re-read the commenting rules, and they only allow 3 links – I had 10.

    Here are three.


  • Ohioan,

    I thank you again for the effort. The third link did not open, so I do not know the information it contained on Sudan.

    The second link contained information of which I was not aware and I was grateful to gain more information. It looks to me that the U.S., with the help of Saudi Arabia “installed” its chosen leader (in a one person election). Under those circumstances I am not surprised that there is now approval, but I accept that there is, at least now.

    The information on Pakistan is not new to me. There have always been some interesting goings-on there. Even allegations of Pakistani intelligence providing false information to get Americans to assassinate those that the Pakistani intelligence wanted killed but who were not a threat to us. But, reading into the link, the official Pakistani position has been and remains that this is a violation of their sovereignty. Pakistani intelligence gaming the system is not official approval to me.

    I understand that there are nuances and that not everything is clear cut. However, a policy of assassination as a stalwart of American foreign policy will likely never meet my test of ethical behavior on the part of our country…even for a CIA program. I don’t expect to convince you, but my take is different than yours. From where I live intellectually and ethically, installing compliant leadership in Yemen and allowing Pakistani intelligence to game the system are not reassuring.

    I know you feel differently, and I am sure Dorian does as well. It was very difficult for me to take the step to admit that the Iraqi situation might constitute a legitimate use of armed drones, but as a matter of intellectual honesty I had to go there. The situations in Pakistan and Yemen remain…I’m sorry…unconvincing. Since I could not open the third link, I cannot comment on that.

    Pardon me for disagreeing with your position. Perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps I am too hard to convince. Perhaps I am simply hard headed. Or…perhaps I am right. One day, maybe in our lifetimes, we will know…or maybe not. God help us if this policy of assassination (with consequent collateral damage) ever comes back to bite us in the ass. Just my view.

  • Ohioan,

    I was able through some creative manipulation to access Using search words: Sudan Armed Drones, the only article that came up was a “recommendation” by a UN envoy that they employ surveillance drones (not armed drones) in South Sudan.

    If the UN ever requested the U. S. to use armed CIA or military drones as part of the peace keeping effort, it does not pop up on this site when using those search words.

    Bottom line is that all I’m seeing is a possibility of requesting surveillance drones – nothing about armed drones.

  • The_Ohioan


    You are correct. The UN wants to use surveillance drones to target bad guys so the UN peacekeeping troops will be able to deflect them. With helicopter gunships or other weapons. So the drones aren’t armed killing machines, but unarmed eyes for the killing machines. I’m sure there’s a moral difference there somewhere.

    I am also distressed that we choose to use this type of warfare and agree with your estimation that it causes further radicalization of some Muslim people. Most of those links report that. As an alternative to ground troops, however, it seems to me to be the most effective deterrent to future attacks in the U.S. Perhaps not. Nothing will stop another attack(s), of course, but the number of them, hopefully, will be lessened. Perhaps not – there is no way to know unless we simply stop using armed drones and see what happens and even then I doubt we would be certain.

    I appreciate your opinion that killing armed Americans on the battlefield is different from killing armed Americans plotting attacks on American and European soil, but (you will/do) appreciate the fact that I don’t share it. We can disagree on this and agree that it would be better to not use, or have to use, either tactic.

    I’m also concerned that we’ve gone from 250 to 500 “advisors” in Iraq, not least because of the phony argument that we are helping Shiites against Sunnis. The ISIS represents Sunnis like Louie Gohmert represents a sensible congressman. Like Ron, I’m very uneasy about that.

    And “vetting” and helping fighters in Syria seems to me to be a hopeless effort. The only possible reason is to stop the spread to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the other “allies” (those who bragged about getting Americans to fight their battles in Gulf I) and how effective both the vetting and the containment will be is doubtful.

  • ShannonLeee

    am i the only one thinking that we have always had armed drones patrolling Iraq?

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