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Hankins: Drones are crucial for protecting U.S.

Mar. 08, 2013 @ 06:39 AM

I will be the first to admit that I know little about drones, in spite of the fact that they have been much in the news lately. From what I’ve gleaned from newspapers, general comments and “talking heads,” I have some thoughts about their use. With this in mind, I want to share some thoughts.

It was only a matter of time before technology would come up with a remote-controlled weapon. 

Originally conceived as an “unmanned aerial aircraft,” it is called a “drone.”

A report out of Kabul, Afghanistan, states that the use of drones has accelerated sharply since 2011, according to United Nations sources. Why this would not be the case, considering the danger to American troops in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan plus the obvious complexity of destroying al-Qaida strongholds in such rugged terrain, is beyond me.

According to the same report, drones have proven to be so effective that most nations friendly to the United States have “given Washington at least tacit agreement to carry out” attacks using drones.

The arguable issue seems to have evolved from certain terrorists in Yemen (in 2011) who were discovered to be American citizens. Anwar al-Awlaki, a U. S.-born cleric, and his 16-year-old son were targeted and dispatched with drones.

The question is: Does the president of the United States have the right to deliberately target an American citizen for execution without a proper hearing and/or trial? I realize this is an important concern for those persons who want to criticize by postulating that the president will soon be authorizing the killing of “John Doe” in St. Louis, Mo., for some vague reason without a hearing or a trial. In the world of conspiracy theorists, perhaps because “John Doe” owns a gun?

Reasonable folks believe the president has every right to order the assassination of an American citizen living in another country when international intelligence has substantiated for us that said individual is plotting an imminent attack against the United States of America.

Let’s bring this down to your neighborhood. Let’s suppose a person who doesn’t like you, and who intends to do you harm, is standing out in the street in front of your home with an AK-47 assault rifle pointed at your front door. This individual has threatened you before and has avowed to kill you and perhaps take out a few neighbors who are sympathetic to you. Do you not have a right to have that individual removed from the street by the safest means available to you?

Back to the question at hand. I can conceive that al-Awlaki and his son were, indeed, plotting against the United States and that they posed more of a danger to the United States than an obscure al-Qaida cell.

Let’s suppose President Obama did nothing and a terrorist attack had occurred. Can you not already hear the chorus of disapproval against the president for not having taken action to destroy the perpetrators of this terrorist attack? Many of us can!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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