• The us elections: drones the elephant in the room

Many a thing has been said about drones, in the UK especially, which is to be expected since it is such a controversial topic. Which is why, whilst watching the various presidential debates and interviews of the respective leaders of the mainstream parties in the USA, I was baffled as to why it was not one of the main talking points. In fact, the surface of the argument was barely even scratched by either of the candidates or interviewers.

With the US having spent $4.8 billion on drones last year alone, and with at least 678 drones currently in service, and with drones at the forefront of their ‘war on terror’, it would be fair to say that it should be one of the main talking points. This then makes you ask the question why wasn’t it?

A logical reason would be that Obama in his first term, was the man who brought drone attacks to the table in terms of the US’ ‘defence’ strategy and it is known that Romney, his Republican opponent was likely if he won, to continue the drone strategy, although it was a trying task to know what any of his policies were going to be. If this were to be one, he is then hardly likely to turn around to Obama in mid-debate and congratulate him on one of his policies, which in a political sense explains why Romney and the Republicans did not bring the topic up.

However, what it does not explain is why there was so little media coverage on the topic. Admittedly, there were a few articles floating around but nowhere near to the scale that you would expect there to be. Was it simply a case of populist printing, in that the media just wanted to write on what the public was interested in, which at the time appeared to be on how various Republican candidates made fools of themselves whilst talking about abortion and how this election was the most expensive one yet? Of course, all forms of media want to write on what the public is interested in. It may be a sad indictment on our society, but the subject of drones is one which sells, so in that respect, there is no reason for the media not to cover it. Which means we are still left with the burning question of why was it not talked about?

Another possibility could be to do with the attitudes held and a strange feeling of awkwardness, because over the past couple of years, it has been well documented that there is a great deal of ‘collateral damage’ which comes with the use of drones and thousands of innocent people have been killed because of them. The media, before the election, generally had been quite good at talking about that side of things, but all we have really heard from the side in favour of the use of drones is a deathly silence. This is where the awkwardness of the whole situation really comes into play. Nobody wants to put their neck out, despite their beliefs and say imply it is alright that thousands of innocent people are killed in a senseless and detached manner because they really don’t matter, and what does matter is our national security. If it that means that for every hundred innocent lives that are lost from some country which is insignificant in our eyes, one ‘terrorist threat’ is eliminated, then so be it.

This awkwardness may also have been a reason for Obama’s silence on the issue. Whilst Obama did play his ‘I got Bin Laden’ card a fair amount throughout the election, he sells himself as a humanitarian and because of this he wins a lot of voters who Romney and the Republicans manage to alienate. Really though, Obama’s drone strategy totally undermines his political image, making one come to the logical conclusion that it must been political tact and a bout of selective amnesia that led to his not mentioning the matter.

The sheer fact that Obama barely mentioned this issue is a total disgrace. If, as a politician and a President, you make such a controversial policy, you must explain to the people in a frank and honest way, why you implemented such a policy. Unfortunately, in politics we cannot rely on ‘idealistic’ things like honour and integrity and that is where the media fits in. It is their job to scrutinise the policy and draw the public’s attention to the fact that their politicians are deliberately hiding things from them. The media should not be influenced by having a political agenda, like various papers endorsing a political party. This is probably the main reason for their not mentioning it, in that most of the US newspapers either supported the Republicans or the Democrats and since neither party talked about it, none of the papers did either. We can only hope now that the electorate are more aware and politically savvy so they can pick up on these morally suspect political tactics and force the people, whose job it is to represent them, to be open because in the end, they are the ones who hold the power.

By Mike Fane www.currentaffairsdiscussions.com @FANEMW

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