Drone Ethics Are Getting Worse Under Trump

Two years ago, under the Obama administration, a U.S. drone report leaked, revealing some highly troubling details about the drone program. Alas, under President Donald Trump, it looks like our drone problem is about to get even worse.

After speaking to many White House insiders on the condition of anonymity, the New York Times reports that Trump is preparing to loosen two important rules when it comes to drones:

  1. Getting rid of high-level vetting before conducting drone strikes.
  2. Allowing the military to now target low-level soldiers rather than just people in positions of power within terrorist groups.

At least one high-ranking official referred to plan #1 as a way of eliminating “bureaucracy.” Another way to put it, however, is eliminating accountability. Allowing lower-level military officials to sign off on strikes with less intelligence at their disposal seems like a recipe for mistakes.

As for the second rule, that just seems to make the argument for conducting these airstrikes even weaker. The military has defended drone strikes as necessary to take out terrorist group leaders who pose an immediate and serious threat to the lives of American citizens. Foot soldiers who carry out menial tasks thousands of miles away from the United States do not threaten the lives of Americans and should not be subject to swift execution just by association.

Both of these rule adjustments appear to be a way of gearing up for more drone strikes, which is not an accident. Per NBC News, Trump has given the CIA his blessing to more freely use drone power without having to check in with him on particular attacks.

Although administration officials say they will maintain a policy of actively trying to avoid civilian casualties, that’s much easier to say than put in practice. At the start of Trump’s term, the U.S. conducted dozens of drone strikes in Yemen; subsequently, officials acknowledged that these attacks killed not only the intended targets, but also civilians including children.

Maybe it’s because Trump has so many political controversies that it distracts from this particular subject, or maybe it’s because drone attacks have already become “normalized” in the eyes of Americans, but the media certainly isn’t reporting on American drone strikes as much as it did during the previous administration.

Whatever the reason, it’s not because drone warfare has decreased in frequency. On the contrary, the Trump White House has called for more drone attacks. According to Al Jazeera, whereas the Barack Obama administration used lethal drone force every 5.4 days, Trump’s average is every 1.25 days.

That’s one big reason why the White House’s desire to loosen drone policy further is so disconcerting. Human rights organizations are understandably worried about the consequences of these rule changes.

“The Trump administration needs to ensure that its guidance for operations outside armed conflict comply with human rights law,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International. “The administration cannot write itself a blank check to kill with impunity.”

While some liberals were hesitant to criticize President Obama for his use of drones, choosing to believe it was a necessary evil, others argued that by allowing a program like this to exist, the next president could abuse that power to an even greater extreme. Unfortunately, that frightening possibility seems to have transpired within a matter of months.

At this point, both presidents are to blame for the out-of-control drone situation with drones. It’s absolutely a step in the wrong direction for Trump to strip back the rules rather than make them stricter.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

75 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y3 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y3 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J3 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J3 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie9 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie9 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie9 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I9 months ago

Given Trump's blatant lack of "ethics," this certainly comes as no surprise. Thanks for sharing.

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Lesa D
Lesa D9 months ago

unfortunately, ALL ethics are in danger under Trump...

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