Truth and transparency are the enemies of Donald Trump, the charlatan who hides behind a fake tan and delusions of grandeur. On Wednesday, our president took the opportunity to once again chip away at the government’s accountability, this time in relation to drone warfare, as per Business Insider. Trump signed an executive order revoking a requirement from the Obama administration days stipulating that civilian deaths from U.S. drones in non-combat areas must be reported. The government is still required to report the number of civilian deaths in “areas of active hostilities.” In short, we will not know how many civilian are killed by drones in non-combat countries, including Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen.
Between 2009 and 2015, the director of intelligence reported 64 to 116 civilian deaths in non-combat zones. Of course, that’s if that inexact number can be trusted, notes Daphne Eviatar, a director with Amnesty International USA. In a 2018 email to the New York Times, Eviatar wrote, “The Defense Department has deemed that the vast majority of claims of civilian casualties are not credible without ever investigating them. Its numbers therefore likely severely undercount the actual civilian death toll.”
Further, drone warfare has spiked since Trump assumed office. In the first two years of Trump’s presidency (which have felt like a lifetime), 2,243 drone strikes were carried out, compared to 1,878 during Obama’s eight years in office. In fact, 2017 civilian death figures in non-combat areas were not released last year in May, when the report usually goes out, despite the previous executive order still being in place.
The civilian death toll of strikes by the CIA and other such agencies will especially be cloaked in secrecy after this revocation of the Obama-era requirement.
“Strikes by other government entities like the CIA were included under this requirement,” Rita Siemion, international legal counsel for the group Human Rights First, explained to Politico. “That was the intention of the wording.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who served as chair for the House Intelligence Committee, told the BBC that “there is simply no justification” for revoking the requirement, which he describes as “an important measure of transparency.”
Can you imagine if other countries tried to do this to the U.S.? Can you imagine the international outcry if they were killing our citizens in non-war zones and not even being transparent about the human price of their automated warfare? Just because no one is in the cockpit of a drone, that doesn’t leave us blameless. Warfare’s automation is intended to distance us from the very real human toll of conflict, and Trump’s latest order simply furthers our ability to bury our heads in the sand.