One benefit that has come from the simple asking of any drone question during last night's debate is that, today, people in the media are talking about drones, and in a far more substantial way than the candidates did last night.
One example is MSNBC'S Morning Joe. In the course of the commentator's discussion of last night's debate, Bob Schieffer's drone question came up. It was then that host Joe Scarborough, the former Republican Congressman, revealed himself to be a closet Code Pinker when it comes to drones. Scarborough confessed that he found US drone policy incredibly troubling, and presented a penetrating critique of US drone strikes. Joe Klein, on the other hand, defended Obama's policies, justifying the murder of four year-old Pakistani children with a "them or us" argument. In the end, three commentators, including Scarborough, said that they wished the debate last night had spent more time on the drones question.
Glenn Greenwald published an excellent critique of Klein's remarks over at the Guardian. A video clip of the discussion is below, as well as a transcript.
We got a question on drones last night at the third and final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The mere asking of a direct question on the candidates' drone policies is an advance over the near complete void of talk on the subject so far this election season. The moderator, Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer, deserves some thanks for that. We learned that Romney supports Obama's escalation of the drone program and that he would continue the program. But that's it, because Schieffer only asked Romney his position on drones—and asked nothing of Obama. Here's the transcript:
SCHIEFFER: Let — let me ask you, Governor because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of drones?
ROMNEY: Well I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that and entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology, and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.
During the last two presidential debates, the foreign policy discussion—what little there has been—has largely centered around the murder of four members of the US embassy staff in Benghazi. But while these four deaths were certainly grievous, the killing of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan from US drone strikes has so far been ignored—and that's outrageous.
But we may be able to change that. Next Monday, October 22, President Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in the final debate before election day—and the entire debate will be dedicated to foreign policy issues. Drones deserve a place in the discussion.
In the last four years, the use of unmanned drones to engage in so-called “targeted killing” has escalated dramatically. In Pakistan alone, US drone strikes have increased five fold during the Obama administration. Drone campaigns have also expanded in other countries, such as Yemen and Somalia, and recent reports suggest that the administration is considering further expanding the CIA drone fleet and using drones to hunt down the terrorists involved in last month's Benghazi attack.
Yet, the Obama administration has failed to engage substantively on the morality, efficacy, and accuracy of US drone strikes.
Video: Robert Naiman delivers your petition to US embassy, challenges charge d'affaires on drone strike policy
The petition against US drone strikes in Pakistan has been delivered! On Wednesday, a delegation of peace activists organized by CodePink, including our Policy Director, Robert Naiman, met with the charge d'affaires of the US embassy in Pakistan, Richard Hoagland. During the meeting, Robert presented Hoagland with the 3,000 signature petition, as well as a letter signed by twenty-six prominent Americans, including Alice Walker, Naomi Wolf, and Noam Chomsky. The letter and petition delivery earned reports by The Independent, The Express Tribune, Asian News International (ANI), and others.
But that's not all. When Hoagland took questions from the delegation, Robert challenged him to respond to reports that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have targeted civilian rescuers, an action which international law experts say constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law. Hoagland disputed the allegations. When pressed to follow-up on recent reports indicating that civilian rescuers have been targeted, Hoagland agreed that that would be a good idea, though he did not commit the Embassy to any specific action. You can read more about the exchange in Robert's article at the Huffington Post.