Episode 47 – Death From Above: The (Twisted) Morality of Drone Strikes

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The bedrock of a justice system in a democratic nation is that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In a society adhering to this principle, the burden of proof lies with the individual or institution that declares, not denies, wrongdoing or illegality. This burden of proof requires an accuser to collect and present enough evidence to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the accused is guilty. This is more than a theoretical concept, rather, it is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11, which states that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defense.”

Until the early 18th Century, in both Europe and the New World, it was common for subjects to be tortured in order to extract confessions from them, a practice that became disallowed over time, and is rarely defended, aside from perhaps the fascists and Soviet governments of the 20th Century, and George W. Bush, who cited that valuable intelligence could be obtained as a result of such methods.

In addition to torture of prisoners, another practice that appears to be diametrically opposed to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ guideline is the idea of preemptive strikes, or preemptive war. The debate as to what entitles a state or peoples to attack proactively has been contentious for hundreds of years; and in the post 9-11 era, the waters have become murkier still.

In this episode of the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast, Guy Evans takes a close look at the morality of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, in the so-called ‘War on Terror’. Enjoy, and spread the word!

BONUS: Guy Evans’ recent interview with ‘Radio Free Kansas’ is also included at the end of this episode!


The Law of Drones. The Baltimore Sun. February 11 2013.

Debating Drones, In The Open. The New York Times. February 10 2013.

The Cost of Obama’s Secret Drone War. BBC News. 8 February 2013.

The American Public Loves Drones. The Washington Post. February 6 2013.

Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing U.S. Citizens in Al Qaeda. The New York Times. February 5 2013.

Justice Department Memo Reveals Legal Case for Drone Strikes on Americans. NBC News. February 4 2013.

Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan. Stanford Law School. September 2012.

U.S. Policy on Assassinations. CNN. November 4 2002.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations. December 10 1948.

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