-By Warner Todd Huston
The Washington Think Tank New America Foundation has been reporting on drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq for quite some time and its tally of kills by U.S. drones reveals an interesting thing. It shows that drone kills under President Obama are far and away higher than those under Bush.
Reliable numbers of those killed by U.S. drones are obviously hard to come by. Strikes are deep in unfriendly territory and subject to obfuscation by both a U.S. government that isn’t too keen on reporting kills as well as its enemies that try to downplay the strikes in order to discredit their effectiveness. Because of this the NAF reports a range between which the truth may lie.
For instance, in these first few months of 2010 NAF reports that so far between 141 and 240 people have been killed by U.S. predator drones. This includes “collateral damage” as well as the deaths of actual terrorists.
That is a pretty wide span, to be sure. But if we choose some middle point between the NAF’s estimates of predator drone kills we can see that during Obama’s year in office drone kills have gone up precipitously.
Between 2009 and today a middling estimate of drone kills clocks in at 692. However, according to the NAF the kills tallied by U.S. drones during the Bush years — all of the Bush years — is about 392.
The kills during this one year of Obama’s term in office seem to have doubled compared to the number during the Bush years. I’ll say that again: in just one year Obama has doubled Bush’s drone kill rate.
This comes at the same time that the Obama administration has taken the steps to justify its use of drones by laying out its legal rationale for the world to see.
Certainly the use of predator drones has really done some major damage to the Taliban and its al Qaeda pals in Pakistan and Afghanistan so Obama deserves a lot of credit for ramping up the predator program.
But the big question I have here is where is the anti-war rabble on this? With drone kills doubling and with the number of “collateral damage” in civilian deaths increasing at a commensurate rate the anti-war crowd is mysteriously silent on Obama’s great increase in drone missions.
There was so much heat on Bush over his drone usage that in 2006 his administration declined to use them during a large Taliban funereal at which dozens of high value targets were in attendance. Obama, on the other hand, showed no such qualms by attacking a Taliban funeral in 2009 during which some 65 or so were killed, terrorist and innocents alike.
So, where is the left to excoriate Obama over his increased drone attacks? Do people killed by Obama somehow not count? Or, perhaps these targets are happy for such “change”? Or more likely, isn’t it that the anti-war left is hypocritical?