Two recent words on drones, a subject that I’m highly skeptical will make it into the “everybody is talking about” category.
First, at The Telegraph, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R) is quoted. (emphasis added)
US senator says drones death toll is 4700 …
It was the first time a politician or any government representative had referred to a total number of fatalities in the drone strikes, which have been condemned by rights groups as extrajudicial assassinations.
The toll from hundreds of drone-launched missile strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere has remained a mystery, as US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert campaign.
But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of the drone raids, openly cited a number that exceeds some independent estimates of the death toll.
‘We’ve killed 4,700,’ Mr. Graham was quoted as saying by the Easley Patch, a local website covering the small town of Easley in South Carolina.
‘Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda,’ Mr. Graham told the Easley Rotary Club.
I hear: The end justifies the means. Collateral damage is an unfortunate reality of war. You hate it, but gosh darn it all, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Etc.
Also note: “US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert campaign.” Which leads to the second bit of drone news, at MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Up. (emphasis added)
Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed in an interview on Up w/ Chris Hayes Sunday that, when he became the Obama administration’s top spokesman, he was told not to discuss the government’s secret drone program or even acknowledge its existence.
‘When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. …,’ said Gibbs, now an MSNBC contributor. …
The Obama administration has continued to withhold information about the program, including the secret memo prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to justify the program’s legality. But in April 2012, Obama counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan formally acknowledged the program’s existence for the first time, in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
Of course Gibbs is far from alone in being put in such a position by a presidential administration, as Obama is far from alone in laying down such rules. That doesn’t make the hiding and denying any better. It certainly doesn’t make the deaths of “innocent people” any better. Nor make the “I hate that, but we’re at war” line any better.
Gibbs said of Brennan’s 2012 acknowledgement that it
… may have helped boost public confidence in the drone program.
‘In order to bolster that confidence and bolster the belief that we’re making those correct decisions on this policy, you do have to lift the veil some,’ Gibbs said, ‘to both acknowledge that it exists, as he’s done, but also to do it in a way that provides better understanding.’
My confidence didn’t feel at all bolstered by Brennan’s acknowledgement. Nor does learning the estimated number of drone targets “taken out,” as Sen. Graham put it, is at (by his accounting, at least) 4700. And the fact that he says, as any other DC Elected who comments publicly will likely say, “I hate that” — no, I’m still not feeling “bolstered.”