Comment: Precisely killing innocent people – Theresa May must untangle our involvement in America’s unlawful drone programme… by Clive Lewis MP

I know what it’s like to feel the fear of battle. To be constantly looking over my shoulder and thinking every sound might be a bomb or a bullet. When I served in Afghanistan in 2009 I felt that fear, but I made a choice to serve in the army and I knew I could come home to safety at the end of my tour. For people living in the border regions of Pakistan their homes may not be a place of safety for much longer. A familiar fear could be about to return to the skies overhead.

Donald Trump is threatening to bring back the drone strikes that brought terror to Pakistan. In doing this he is gambling with the lives of innocent people as diplomatic bargaining chips to punish the Pakistan government. Our prime minister should refuse to play any part.

I am deeply concerned by our country’s tangled, and largely secret, involvement in the US drone programme. As an MP, it is my job to hold the government to account. Yet parliament has been given no role in scrutinising the UK’s role, and to date the government has refused to disclose the drone guidance that contains the UK’s policy. This must change. How else can we know what is being done in our name?

Publication of this guidance is more urgent than ever because mounting evidence suggests the UK works hand-in-glove with the expanding US drone programme. It has been reported that British bases provide crucial intelligence and operational support in target location; and British intelligence personnel on the ground in countries all around the world provide vital human intelligence helping the US identify targets for deadly drone strikes. British pilots also fly US drones from the same seats as their American counterparts who pull the trigger on strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It will take strength to untangle our involvement in America’s unlawful drone programme. But untangle ourselves we must. We are told by our governments on both sides of the Atlantic that the bombs are “targeted” only at terrorists. But all the evidence tells us that this is not true.

Analysis by Reprieve and its partner organisation, Foundation for Fundamental Rights, in Pakistan, found that on average it takes the US three attempts to kill an intended target; and in at least two-thirds of strikes, the missiles hit the wrong place and kill the wrong people. Drones may be precise, but it appears that they are precisely killing innocent people

Trump’s ramping up of rhetoric against Pakistan should concern us all. But it should worry Theresa May in Downing Street more than most. The dangers of drones returning to Pakistan are obvious not only to the innocent civilians who will once again live under constant terror, but also for our reputation as a country that proudly protects high standards in the field of battle.


A longer version of this article was published on the Guardian website, and is available here