As the United States media continues to feed its obsession with President Donald Trump, some of his worst policies remain disturbingly underreported. One such policy is his increased use of drone strikes in war zones both declared and undeclared.
Former President Barack Obama was known as the drone president and for good reason. The U.S. drone assassination program began under President George W. Bush, but Obama accelerated the pace of drone strikes dramatically, eventually authorizing almost 10 times the number of strikes Bush did.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning, liberal darling Obama fundamentally changed the nature of warfare with his drone policy, making it more covert and geographically unrestrained. Obama’s policy included the practice of so-called “signature strikes" — bombings of groups of apparent military-age men whose identities are unknown to the U.S., simply because their general patterns of behavior are associated with militants.
As much as Trump likes to highlight his differences from Obama, he is similar to Obama insofar as he increased the pace of drone strikes after taking office. The main difference between the two leaders’ approaches to warfare is not the level of brutality but how they describe it rhetorically. Obama hid his brutality behind Orwellian language and claims of restraint, while Trump prefers to brag about his capacity for violating basic human rights.
It’s likely that no matter how much Trump uses drone strikes as part of his national security strategy and/or tough-guy persona, Obama will remain the president most associated with the practice. But it’s crucial that we pay attention to Trump’s drone policy. This is a topic that needs to be brought into the national conversation.
The world caught a glimpse of Trump’s attitude about drones early in his presidency, when the CIA showed him a video of a drone strike in which a suspected militant was bombed as soon as he left the vicinity of his family's home. The Washington Post reported that Trump responded by asking, "Why did you wait?".
As of November 2018, Trump had launched 238 total drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, most of them in 2017. That surpasses Obama's number of 186 in those three countries during his first two years.
Keep in mind, these numbers only encapsulate countries where the United States is not officially at war. It is unknown exactly how many drone strikes have occurred in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, although Trump’s taking office did correlate with a spike in overall civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
In a sane world, an expansion of the planet's most wide-ranging covert bombing campaign would make headline news, but the media have been curiously uninterested in covering Trump’s drone policies. Evidently, reporting on Stormy Daniels and Russiagate is a more profitable venture.
Even more consequentially, Trump’s drone strikes have been met with virtually zero opposition in Congress. Our elected lawmakers evidently see nothing wrong with a racist lunatic. Trump has openly stated intent to commit war crimes with the unchecked power to kill people in six countries simply because they fit a profile associated with militants.
We should be taking this inhumane power away from Trump and all future U.S. presidents. The first step in doing so is paying attention.