By Tyler Bauer
It should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of former-President Obama. In my opinion, he’s one of the worst presidents in our country’s history. (To be exact, he’s #5 on my list of the worst presidents, only outdone by Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Abe Lincoln, and George W. Bush. I’ll give a comprehensive list sometime in the future, probably.) Despite his faults (of which there are many), President Obama did at least one objectively good thing. When President Obama killed civilians in a drone strike outside of war zones, U.S. intelligence officials would publish the number of civilians killed in said drone strikes. This is a very low bar to clear, as I’d prefer that our military doesn’t kill any civilians. However, if we absolutely must kill civilians (which our military indicates is a necessity), I’d like to know exactly how many civilians we are killing indiscriminately.
So, why am I writing about an old policy? I’m writing about this Obama-era policy because President Trump is doing away with it. This policy only went into effect three years ago when then-President Obama signed an executive order requiring the CIA to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes overseas. With this policy being instituted via executive order, President Trump has the ability to do away with it if he so pleases. Believing that this policy is “superfluous and distracting,” the Trump administration has decided to no longer publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes. An official further said that the old policy’s requirements “do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission.”
The rationale for eliminating the policy of reporting the number of civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes is troubling. To claim that knowing who we kill is “superfluous” odd. I’ve never served in the military, but I think knowing your target would be important or, at the very least, not “superfluous.”
Additionally, reporting the number of civilians killed in drone strikes most definitely improves government transparency. By publishing how many civilians are being killed, the government is objectively being more transparent. By withholding this information, the government is being less transparent. Regardless of how you feel about drone strikes, there is no denying that publishing the number of civilians killed improves government transparency.
Lastly, I don’t believe that knowing the target and being aware of who we’re killing “distracts our intelligence professionals from their primary mission.” If knowing the target and assessing the damage we cause isn’t our primary mission, then what is?
Sadly, I think there is an ulterior motive to the Trump Administration’s decision to no longer publish the number of civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been 2,243 drone strikes since President Trump took office (as of March 7, 2019). In the eight years under President Obama, the U.S. conducted 1,878 drone strikes. Assuming a similar amount of drone strikes, if President Trump served as president for eight years, the U.S. would have conducted nearly 10,000 drone strikes under President Trump. In other words, President Trump is on pace to conduct more than five times the amount of drone strikes President Obama conducted.
No wonder President Trump wants to cover up how many innocent civilians he’s killing.