(Los Angeles Times)
Mary Ellen O’Connell is a Notre Dame law professor, who has criticized U.S. drone attacks outside of war zones and insists that the U.S. is violating international law. O’Connell argues that we would not stand by while another country acted in a similar manner, and yet we are taking such action based on evidence that is being kept from the public. President Obama explained that drone strikes are only ordered upon a serious threat, where we are unable to capture certain individuals before they move forward on a plot against the United States. Under President Obama, the U.S. has launched 284 drone strikes in Pakistan, with others in Yemen and Somalia. Under President Bush, only 46 drone strikes were ordered.
Former State Department lawyer Sean Murphy claims that O’Connell’s minority views (among legal scholars) are taken very seriously, and that “she’s on the leading edge of this argument.” O’Connell’s views stem from several reports of ‘double tap’ drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas. Such strikes are when a second missile is fired at people coming to aid those injured by the first missile, and UN representatives have claimed that such action could constitute a war crime.
O’Connell is not a pacifist. Her husband is a former Army interrogator who served in the first Gulf War, who she met while she was working for the Defense Department. She supports the U.S. war in Afghanistan and also praises the Navy SEAL mission that caused the death of Osama Bin Laden. She even supports drone strikes, as long as they are aimed at enemy combatants in Afghanistan. “I do think drones can be a more accurate weapon, and I’m all in favor of saving our troops’ lives.”
Professor O’Connell compares her position on drone strikes to abortion. She feels abortion is immoral, but does not label those who have abortions as murderers. She does not consider President Obama a murderer either, but her opinion is that targeted killings outside of war zones need to stop.
Is Professor O’Connell’s interpretation of modern international law too naïve? While she accepts drone strikes in Afghanistan, she lobbies against such strikes elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa. What about the stateless terrorist organizations that exist across the Middle East? Do you agree or disagree with Professor O’Connell? Is the U.S. simply violating international law, to the point where these attacks should stop completely, or should we trust that our government is making these difficult decisions to launch attacks only when absolutely necessary? Is Professor O’Connell being naïve, or is she being rational?