Despite years of secrecy, newly released documents have revealed that the UK is working with the US to draft its notorious “kill lists”.
The US’ secret drone war has largely been shrouded in mystery since its inception. Despite its secrecy there is no denying that the US drone program represents one of Obama’s most dangerous legacies as president – essentially enshrining extrajudicial assassination as a cornerstone US foreign policy with no accountability. Obama has consistently argued publicly that the drone war is necessary as it results in less civilian casualties than conventional warfare. However, the way in which the program measures civilian casualties is disingenuous as anyone killed in the strikes is labeled as an “enemy killed in action” unless it can be proven otherwise, a nearly impossible feat for the people of the rural areas that are most frequently bombed. To make matters worse, most of these bombings take place in countries that the US is not at war with, meaning that a formal declaration of war is no longer necessary for US military operations abroad. However, new evidence suggests that the US isn’t conducting this deadly and illegal program alone as the United Kingdom is intimately involved.
According to documents obtained by the UK-based rights group Reprieve, the UK military has been working with the US to select the targets of the drone campaign. At RAF Molesworth, a UK military base leased to the US, the US employed a “MQ-9 REAPER [drone] ISR Mission Intelligence Coordinator” while a private military contractor advertised for an “All Source Analyst – Targeting” to work at the same base. For years, the UK government has refused to confirm if the base plays a role in the covert drone war though they have said that “the US does not operate RPAS [drones] from the UK.” However, they have refused to answer questions about the UK’s role in choosing targets and creating the US “kill list.”
A third job advertisement obtained by Reprieve showed contractor Leidos was looking for someone to provide “FMV [full motion video] intelligence analysis in support of USAFRICOM and Special Operations Command Africa,” also at the RAF Molesworth base. This indicates that the base is involved in supporting illegal drone strikes in countries such as Somalia and Libya, where neither the US or UK is publicly at war. These revelations follow documents recently published by the Intercept regarding another US/UK base, Menwith Hill, that was involved in identifying targets in Yemen – one of the main theaters of the drone war. These documents confirmed that the UK government was aware of the role its intelligence and bases play in the campaign. These revelation have led for calls for the UK government to “come clean” and to “answer over its own involvement in this secret war and how much responsibility it bears for those deaths.”
The death toll of the drone war is currently unknown, but a 2014 study counted as many as 1,147 deaths in Yemen and Pakistan alone as a result of failed attempts to kill 41 individuals. In 2015 alone, the US dropped at least 23,144 bombs via drone on six Muslim-majority nations, the majority of which are not involved in a war with the US. Though the US and UK governments can deny their involvement all they want due to the “covert nature” of the drone war, they aren’t fooling anybody. Allowing these reckless and criminal governments to serve as jury, judge, and executioner has set a dangerous precedent, one that could see anyone, anywhere in the world, become the target of an illegal drone strike. Is that the kind of future we want for ourselves and our children?
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