Summary Execution 2012 – 1968.. long distance versus close range killing on the spot without any trial… are we as shocked by the killing drones of today as back in time during the Vietnam War, with the Chief of the South Vietnam Police General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a handcuffed Vietcong prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem in the street in Saigon in front of an NBC camera man and an Associated Press photographer?
Is high tech killing of a whole area, building or car with “precise” rockets experienced as somewhat more acceptable than a close range shot in the head?
Tableau made after reading in The Guardian yet another story of the use of drones to kill adversaries without any form of trial: “William Hague questioned over British role in drone strikes” (Lawyers for Noor Khan, whose father died in Pakistan strike, want clarification of British intelligence’s role in CIA campaign).
There has been much debate in its time about the picture – I know – Eddie Adams (the photographer in 1968) later wrote in Time:
“ The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths … What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?
… such discussions we still have today, think about the execution of Bin Laden without trial, or do we believe he felt in combat?
(See my article “NATO’s collateral tyrannicide” 7 May 2011 in OpenDemocracy.)
Human Right Watch has a recent report and statement on drones dated December 19th. 2011.