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.
Earlier this week, Just Foreign Policy’s Policy Director, Robert Naiman, returned from Pakistan, where he was participating in a peace delegation against US drone strikes. While there, Robert and other members of the delegation had two meetings with the acting US ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Hoagland. During these meetings, the ambassador acknowledged the existence of an official, classified civilian death count, denied recent reports that the US has targeted rescuers via “secondary” or “follow-up” strikes, and also denied a New York Times report that the US was counting every “military-aged male” killed by a US drone strike as a “militant.” US officials in Washington have never engaged in this kind of public dialogue on the drone strike policy. It’s time for that to change.
The American people deserve to know what the next administration has planned for US drone strike policy. Yet, the media has not been aggressive enough in challenging the administration’s assertions on drones, as the public editor at the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, recently acknowledged. Nor has Romney been asked a substantive question on how drones would be used in his administration in any of the numerous debates he’s participated in.
According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors all the presidential debates, the topics for Monday’s debate will include “America’s Role in the World”, “The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism”, and “Our Longest War—Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Considering the fact that drones have become a serious source of tension between the US and Pakistani governments, the candidates ought to be pressed on the issue of drones.
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Megan Iorio, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
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