The Pentagon says it is creating the Distinguished Warfare Medal that can be awarded to those US troops who launch assassination drone strikes and direct cyber attacks.
The outgoing US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, said on Wednesday that the US drone operators and those who direct cyber attacks would be eligible to receive the medal for their direct impact on a US military operation from afar.
“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said.
The United States uses its assassination drones in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia, claiming that they target ‘terrorists.’ The attacks, however, have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.
According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization, the US administration has used 363 of its assassination drones to hit targets in Pakistan since 2004.
In September 2012, a report by the Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law gave an alarming account of the effect that assassination drone strikes have on ordinary people in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The US drone strikes were initiated under former US President George W. Bush, but have escalated under President Barack Obama.
The United Nations says the airstrikes are targeted killings that flout international law.