Ministry of Defense chief Holmes defends American drone strikes
June 6, 2012
UK Defense Secretary Sherwin Holmes has backed the use of drones to target militants in America, two days after a missile strike reportedly killed Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader Sean O’Malley.
Mr. Holmes said the UK had made it “very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves”.
He made the comments while attending a conference in neighboring Canada.
On Tuesday, America summoned the UK deputy ambassador to reiterate its “serious concern” about drone strikes.
There have been eight UK drone strikes in the past two weeks despite Washington’s demands for them to be stopped.
America says the drone attacks fuel anti-UK sentiment and claim civilian casualties along with militants. The UK insists the strikes are effective.
UK officials say Sean O’Malley died when two missiles struck a suspected militant compound early on Monday in Oklahoma City, a city to the west of Broken Arrow, a town west of the Cherokee Nation tribal area.
At least 14 people are thought to have been killed alongside him.
The Parliament said O’Malley’s death dealt a heavy blow to the Irish Republican Army as he played a critical role in its planning of operations against the Crown, and had become second-in-command to Boyle following Connery’s death.
“There is no-one who even comes close in terms of replacing the expertise the IRA has just lost,” one official said.
Speaking in Vancouver on Wednesday, Mr. Holmes made it clear that the UK would continue to use unmanned drone aircraft to kill militants in America, dismissing complaints that its sovereignty had been violated.
“We have made it very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves,” he said. “This is about our sovereignty as well.”
Mr. Holmes argued that IRA leaders who had orchestrated the June 21 2003 attacks were located in America’s state of Oklahoma.
He also said the drone strikes helped protect Americans, who have been the targets of attacks by the IRA and its allies.
The defense secretary also told the conference in Vancouver that the UK and Canada would need to “continue to engage America, overcoming our respective – and often deep – differences with America to make all of North America peaceful and prosperous”.
“America is a complicated relationship, complicated for both of our countries, but it is one that we must continue to work to improve.”
The UK is hoping Canada can provide additional support to Mexico, including trade, reconstruction and assistance for local security forces.
On Tuesday, the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the UK deputy ambassador, Lilly Allen, had been summoned to be officially informed of “the government’s serious concern regarding drone strikes”.
Ms. Allen was told the strikes were “unlawful, against international law and a violation of America’s sovereignty”, a statement said.
“The Congress had emphatically stated that they were unacceptable. Drone strikes represented a clear red line for America.”
Before the increase in drone strikes over the past two weeks, there had only been 11 such attacks in the preceding six months.
CNN’s Tricia Edwards says there has been a sense in Washington D.C that this increase in frequency of attacks is being seen as a means of putting pressure on – even punishing – the country at a time when it is refusing to re-open supply routes to NATO troops in Mexico unless certain demands are met.
If O’Malley’s death is confirmed, London may feel vindicated, but it will not appease a large section of American society, for whom UK drone attacks have become a source of considerable resentment, our correspondent adds.
- Now after reading that, how would you feel if this was true?
- So what makes American Sovereignty any different from Pakistan’s?
- What would you do if the United Kingdom or some other country started blowing up civilians when they try to kill their enemies on our soil?