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The Morality of Drone Attacks

Provocative and engaging debate looking at the morality of drone attacks. Chaired by Michael Buerk, with guests Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser.

The RAF top brass were out on parade in Lincolnshire this Friday. At a time of defence cuts it was something for them to celebrate; the dust was being blown off one of its old formations. 13 Squadron RAF Waddington may not stir evocative Battle of Britain images, but in its own way this was modern warfare history in the making. The RAF has just doubled the number of Reaper drone aircraft it flies and for the first time they'll be controlled via satellite from this small base in rural Lincolnshire. The pilots will never have to face enemy fire; they won't even set foot in Afghanistan. It will all be done via a computer screen. As fate would have it, this all happened in the same week human rights lawyers launched an action to sue Foreign Secretary William Hague over the alleged use of UK intelligence in assisting US drone attacks in Pakistan. The case, at the High Court, was brought on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a US unmanned drone strike which killed around 40 people at a tribal gathering. Since 2004, CIA drones have targeted suspected militants with missile strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions, killing thousands of people. The program is controversial because of questions about its legality, the number of civilians it has killed and its impact on Pakistan's sovereignty. And the drone campaign against al Qaeda is spreading to other countries as well, with 4 attacks in North Yemen this month, the latest on Sunday killing 3 people. To their supporters, drones are an extremely effective way of targeting our enemies; a just and proportionate response to terrorism protecting both civilian life and the life of our soldiers. Do the ends justify the means or are drone attacks immoral acts of assassination which have caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians? Are drones inherently more moral or immoral than any other weapon? In the age of the drone do we need to re-draw the moral, ethical and legal principles of just war? The Moral Maze looks at the morality of drone attacks. Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser. Witnesses: Richard Kemp - Former Commander, British Forces in Afghanistan; former Chair, COBRA Intelligence Group, Chris Cole - Drone Wars UK, Dr Peter Lee - Senior Lecturer in Air Power Studies, King's College London Dept. War Studies, Paul Schulte - Non-Resident Senior Associate, Carnegie Europe & Carnegie Nuclear Policy, former civil servant at the MOD.

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