Drone strikes came up only once in the US presidential debates. “It is absolutely the right thing to do,” Romney agreed with Obama in the final encounter in Boca Raton, Florida.
The following day, the Washington Post reported that, “Targetted killing is now routine” and that Obama has drawn up a “disposition matrix” setting out the names of individuals to be disposed of and “designed to go beyond existing kill lists.”
France, Israel and now the UK also have drone programmes. British drones have so far flown 39,628 hours over Afghanistan and fired 334 Hellfire missiles. There has been no parliamentary debate about this and little media coverage.
Figures compiled by the Guardian suggest that between 2,562 and 3,325 Afghan people have been killed by drones, including between 474 and 881 children.
The Obama administration, says the New York Times, “counts all military age men as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Kill first, ask questions later.
US drones have also been used in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and are now threatened against targets in Mali.
The British Ministry of Defence says that it has “no idea” of the kill count, because of the “immense difficulty and risks of verifying” the figures.
The Treasury, at a time of devastating cuts for ordinary people, has so far coughed up £4 billion for the drone campaign, again without debate, much less the approval of parliament or people. The deployment of drones did not figure in any party manifesto in the 2010 election.
Russia, China, Israel and possibly Turkey either already have drones or are developing drone systems. Chechens, Uyghurs, Palestinians and Kurds can expect to be added to peoples at risk.
All this should give us pause for thought about the moral integrity of the regimes involved, especially the Obama regime for whose re-election most Irish people appear fervently to hope. Style, eloquence and personality apart, what difference will the outcome of the US election make?