(MintPress) – American voters were enlightened by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on a few key points Monday evening. For the first time, he made known his support for U.S. drone strikes, claiming that he not only supported the campaign, but also that he would continue the efforts if given the opportunity to as Commander […]
(MintPress) – American voters were enlightened by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on a few key points Monday evening. For the first time, he made known his support for U.S. drone strikes, claiming that he not only supported the campaign, but also that he would continue the efforts if given the opportunity to as Commander In Chief.
In the midst of remarks that made him look like a peacenik devoted first to issues relating to human rights and the liberation of global citizens, Romney answered the question many Americans have been asking of him for quite some time — where exactly he stands on the drone strike campaigns carried out in Pakistan. He supports them “entirely.”
This followed other, perhaps not surprising, but new assertions on his foreign policy morales, including his claim that Iran was responsible for genocide, apparently referencing allegations that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would wipe Israel off the map.
A question only for Romney?
The question regarding drones did not come up through back-and-forth debate conversation. Rather, it was posed by moderator Bob Schieffer, who seemed to let President Barack Obama off the hook, insinuating that Americans already know where Obama stands on the issue.
“Well I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world,” Romney said in response to Schieffer’s comment. “And it’s widely being reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe we should continue to use it and continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation.”
Nowhere in the debate were Romney and Obama questioned, nor did they touch, on issues relating to civilian casualties. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has reported that drone strikes have killed up to 884 civilians in Pakistan since 2004, 176 of which were children. Reports conducted by researchers through New York and Stanford University law schools indicate that 49 civilians fall victim for every one terrorist killed.
It seems voters have yet to hear where the candidates stand on that issue — and that has some Americans upset with two candidates who don’t seem to differ on an issue that is gaining ground as controversial.
In that sense, the debate was a success and less-than-success all at the same time, at least for those who have tuned into the debate series in anticipation of the drone issue. Americans know more than they did Monday morning on Romney’s stance, but the full picture is yet to be illustrated.
“This has been such a covert program that even asking the question is positive,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of peace activist organization Code Pink, said in an interview with MintPress following the debates. “The fact that Romney was put on the spot to speak about drones is a good thing. It’s better than not having it mentioned at all in the debate.”
Romney’s debate remarks came on the heels of a trip Benjamin and fellow Code Pink activists took to Pakistan, where they met with non-combatants who live in the country’s tribal areas — the same areas where drone strikes have been carried out.
Benjamin has long spoken out against the U.S. drone program, referencing the civilian casualties that go along with it — and the lack of coverage and concern such individuals receive from the world outside of Pakistan.
So while she saw a silver lining in the issue being discussed, the fact that it missed the mark in terms of civilian casualty discussion was disappointing.
“It was pathetic that Obama was not asked about it,” Benjamin said. “There was no follow-up question, and nothing was asked about civilian casualties, nothing was asked about it being counterproductive, nothing was asked about signature strikes …”
And nothing was mentioned about the fact that strikes are not always 100 percent accurate at only getting the “bad guys,” she claims. And with more than 60 million people tuned in to watch the debates, it could have been a moment for education.
“I think the debates reinforce the mistake in notion that only the bad guys are killed with these drones and that they are now making us safer,” she said. “Where, in Pakistan, they’re willing people into the hands of extremists.”
The G word?
Romney also caused some Americans to raise an eyebrow when he uttered the word, genocide. Not only was the word genocide controversial, but the accusations seemed to stem from actions that have not yet occurred. He was arguably referring to statements made by Ahmadinejad relating to the Jewish population in Israel.
When a world leader proclaims and recognizes genocide, there are a set of international laws that come into play. Any signatory to the genocide convention, of which the U.S. is a party, is then obligated to stop the atrocities.
This stems from the atrocious incidents of Nazi Germany in the 1940s. In order to ensure that the ethnic cleansing of a population was never committed again, the world made a commitment to never again stand to the wayside while innocent people were brutally murdered in mass.
So when Romney declared Iran guilty of genocide, it was more than just another slam on the notorious Middle Eastern foe of the U.S.
It’s not as if the U.S. hasn’t seen its fair share of genocides come and go since the 1940s. There was the Rwandan genocide of the mid-1990s, in which President Bill Clinton and his administration are still accused of ignoring.
And, most recently within this decade, Sudan was embroiled in what many worldwide also referred to as genocide. Yet, these were not conflicts in which the U.S. used humanitarian obligations as the impetus to act militarily. Instead, the U.S. recognizes the atrocities, but was careful not to proclaim genocide.
In the same debate, Romney went on to criticize Obama for what the Republican challenger refers to as the “apology tour” around the Middle East.
“Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And then in some of those nations and on Arabic TV, you said that America has been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America has dictated to other nations,” Romney said, delivering next what was a powerful debate soundbite. “Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations, we have freed other nations from dictators.”
That statement generated a response from Obama, who said he did not apologize for America. That’s a notion that’s backed up by many fact checkers, including FactCheck.org, but it is still contested by conservatives.
And while it’s no surprise that Romney took that stance, given the fact that he penned a book titled, “No Apologies,” it’s clear that Romney, if elected president, would rule with an authority that doesn’t acknowledge mistakes if they were to happen in the global sphere.
It looks as though America and the world won’t discover what exactly what Romney’s foreign policy would look like until it unfolds.