Opinion: Our drone program should bring shame to us all

Throughout 2021, Afghanistan has been a priority for the Biden administration, especially after 13 U.S. service members were killed on Aug. 26. While many people expected a calm yet active response from the Biden administration, we got something much worse. On Aug. 29, the U.S. launched a drone strike on Kabul that was intended to take out a member of the Islamic State. Instead, the U.S. killed 10 Afghan civilians including seven children. Some of the children were as young as two years old. 

For those who have followed the U.S. drone program, this is no surprise. However, for many, they weren’t aware of what was going on or didn’t care about the casualties. While there have been news articles written about this attack, it is not getting the attention that it deserves. Many U.S. citizens look at the war through the deaths of U.S. troops and don’t take into account just how many civilians have died during this conflict. According to an article written by the Associated Press, over 47,246 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 due to this conflict. This compares to the 2,448 U.S. service members killed in the war. While the soldiers who died during this war deserve our undying respect and sympathy, we need to consider the Afghan civilians as well. 

While many would like to look at our drone program as a partisan issue, it simply is not. While drone warfare has been around for a long time, it really started to pick up in the late 2000s. It is a proven fact that the reason why drones have such a huge presence in the Middle East is due to former President Obama. The program was started under the George W. Bush administration but was expanded by the Obama administration. Before you’re quick to blame Obama for everything, we need to look at President Trump’s record on drones. According to an article published by the BBC, there were 1,878 drone strikes under the eight years of the Obama administration. For the Trump administration, there were 2,243 strikes during Trump’s first two years in office. Trump also revoked a policy created by Obama that required the U.S. to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside of warzones.

Many other statistics show how devastating our drone program has been to other countries. Between January 2012 and February 2013, the U.S. killed more than 200 people in drone strikes. Only 35 of them were intended targets. Additionally, during a five-month period during Operation Haymaker, 90% of those killed in the strikes were not intended targets. It is also important to listen to those who have been affected. An eight-year-old girl was quoted, “When they fly overhead, I wonder, will I be next?” The girl’s grandmother was killed in a drone strike targeted at Pakistan. 

We need to take a long look at what we are doing in Afghanistan and across the region. We must realize that the U.S. has created significant damage and turmoil. Not only do we need to demand an end to unmanned drone strikes, but we need to elect leaders who don’t act in revenge. A question from an article in The Atlantic sums it up well, “How terrified would you be if a foreign power flew armed drones over your house day after day?”

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