From Obama to Trump, the Escalation of Drone Warfare – Antiwar.com
Soon after President Trump took office, his administration began to quietly dismantle the safeguards Obama had just created. His administration would subsequently expand the battlefields on which drones would be used, ease combat rules in Somalia intended to protect civilians, rescind most aspects of Obama’s executive orders, and stop publishing civilian casualty data entirely, while telling the public even less about the program. Not surprisingly, drone strikes across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa would rise and a lot more civilians would start dying from them. None of this was exactly shocking from a commander-in-chief who had once asked a CIA official why he didn’t kill a terrorist target’s family during a drone strike.
In his Nobel Prize speech, Obama claimed that the reason the United States adhered to certain rules of conduct in war like protecting civilians was because “that’s what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is the source of our strength.” In the first half of last year, US and Afghan air and drone strikes killed more civilians than the Taliban for the first time ever. Those strikes hit wedding parties, farmers, pregnant women, and small children. In Somalia, drone strikes decimated entire communities, destroying not only lives, but crops, homes, and livelihoods. And as the new decade began, President Trump not only carried out a drone strike so drastic and rare that many experts believed it was a straightforward act of (and declaration of) war, but also threatened to bomb nonmilitary targets (“cultural” sites), a move which is generally considered a war crime under international law.
In its recklessness and brutality, Trump’s escalating drone war should remind us all of just how dangerous it is when a president claims the legal authority to kill in secret and no one can stop him. Maybe this decade we’ll learn our lesson.