There is a thunderous silence by some of the very same people who railed against President Bush, signaling that partisanship has indeed won over principles.
On May 23rd President Obama gave a speech on his drone policy — i.e., his targeted assassination policy – stating that “simply put, these strikes have saved lives. Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law and international law, the United States is at war with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their associated forces.”
If one would simply close their eyes and ignore the superficial differences in the sound of their voices, the Obama administration is saying the exact same thing about drones that the Bush administration said about torture. And both administrations had or have very little in the way of actual facts to support their claims.
Included in the number of confirmed kills by drones are 4 Americans; four Americans killed without being able to hear the evidence against them; four Americans killed without the benefit of judicial review.
And yet, there is a thunderous silence by the very same people who railed against President Bush’s execution of the “war against terror” that can only be called hypocritical. It is a quiet that signals partisanship has indeed won over principles.
A terrorist is what I say a terrorist is
In a secret Justice Department memo obtained earlier this year, the Obama administration claimed it had legal authority to assassinate U.S. citizens overseas even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the United States. The memo outlines the power that the government has to carry out the targeted killing of American citizens not even in the vicinity of any battlefield — without being charged with a crime, and without presenting any imminent threat by any reasonable definition of the words “imminent” or “threat.”
The document goes on to give the most broad and expansive definitions of “self defense” and “imminent threat” ever seen by a presidential administration, stating that “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
So what we have with that rationale is a plot straight out of the Minority Report where the Bureau of Pre-Crime arrests citizens, essentially, before engaging in any criminal activity. But instead of a tribune of individuals with pre-cognitive abilities, we have a Justice Department and president that essentially tells us “just take our word for it: they’re guilty.”
And once again, a policy that would have undoubtedly been questioned by liberals, progressives and the professional left — had Bush forwarded it — is met with a tacit wink and a nod. How can any future protestations by the left ever appear to be justified, in regard to foreign policy and national security, when their outrage appears to be so selective?
Misfiring on drone strikes
It would seem, according to a survey by Pew Research, that Democrats have looked at Obama’s drone policy and concluded that it is executed with a great degree of accuracy and that it’s the least bad option available for eliminating terrorists before they strike against Americans. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats support drone strikes – 68 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents do as well.
What this shows is that the Obama administration has been extremely effective in making the dirty drone war appear far more clean and ‘surgical’ than it actually is. Despite claims from the administration that drone strikes have killed more terrorists than civilians, a new study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes are “significantly and consistently underestimated” by tracking organizations which are trying to take the place of government estimates on casualties.
The website, Out Of Sight, details and highlights the drone war beginning in 2004 to the present. Using information gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), they show that of 3115 drone strike fatalities only 1.5% have killed high profile terrorists operatives – the actual number killed is 47. So that’s 47 out of 3,115.
Another joint study by Stanford Law School and the New York University’s School of Law stated that the Washington pro-drone advocates were “misrepresenting drone strikes as “a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer,” saying that in reality, “there is significant evidence that U.S. drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.”
Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report also accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.
To be clear, there are real terrorist threats to U.S. safety abroad and that has to be dealt with. Nevertheless, the drone program has become an instrument of terrorism itself. It has radicalized far more individuals than terrorists killed and is defining America as an international bully.
The arguments posed here are not new. These are the same arguments used against the Bush administration, in regard to their creation of the “war on terror,” by the very liberal and progressive groups who now stand mute in the face of Obama’s intensification of those Bush-era policies. If torture is deemed inhumane and illegal enough to elicit protest, what should assassinations garner in the way of dissent?
This is the question that the left seems either unwilling or unable to answer.
While you were sleeping
The U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, called the use of drones “profoundly” disturbing. Addressing a UN Convention on Human Rights in Switzerland, Pillay said:
“I also continue to be profoundly disturbed at the human rights implications of the use of armed drones in the context of counterterrorism and military operations, with an increasing number of states seeking to acquire such weapons. I urge all states to be completely transparent regarding criteria for deploying drone strikes, and to ensure that their use complies fully with relevant international law. Where violations do occur, states should conduct independent, impartial, prompt and effective investigations, and provide victims with an effective remedy.”
Pillay’s call seems to be in direct contradiction to what we are doing. Yes, Obama has made pronouncements about shifting the drone program for the CIA to the Department of Defense; and yes, he has stated that he was open to congressional oversight of the program — although that cannot be accepted in good faith. In this case, seeing is believing.
Yet while those details and points are being deconstructed, it appears that during his speech, President Obama may have actually outlined an expansion of the drone war.
According to McClatchy newspapers, Obama’s speech appeared to expand those who could be targeted in drone strikes and other undisclosed “lethal actions.” Up until his drone policy speech, Obama and his top aides had said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed “senior operational leaders of al-Qaeda and associated forces” plotting imminent – keep in mind Obama’s definition of ‘imminent’ – violent attacks against the United States. Obama, however, dropped that wording from his speech and made no reference, at all, to senior operational leaders.
So does that mean a cab driver who drove a suspected mid or low-level al-Qaeda operative to a home is now a target for a drone strike? Or does it mean the paperboy who delivered a paper to the residence of a suspected terrorist or the waiter that served a loosely connected individual a meal in a restaurant, can be placed on the targeted kill list?
These assertions, to some, may strain belief and appear incredulous, but in light of what we have been told and not been told about the rationale for drone strikes, it is the Obama administration’s lack of clarity and shaky-at-best legal arguments that are highly questionable.
DS Wright of FireDogLake.org recently wrote:
“To drone or not to drone? President Barack Obama recently demonstrated his most valuable political talent – fooling liberals into supporting Bush policies under another name. Obama’s latest soliloquy on his personal struggles in justifying his actions as president hit just the right tone for every establishment apologist liberal. Yes, Obama was carrying on Bush Administration policies and in some cases introducing even worse violations of civil rights, but he is really struggling with it. He is really giving it a lot of thought. And really, isn’t that what matters?”
If we gauge the left’s acceptability of policy by the level, or lack thereof, of opposition, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that while Bush-era torture was unsatisfactory, the indiscriminate killing by drones is tolerable?
Let’s face it, if this were Bush and not Obama, you can be sure the left would be an active and critical voice against the brutality and devastation that the drone war has caused; if this were Bush and not Obama, the vast majority of progressives and liberals would have called the present administration’s drone policy the misguided and illegal mess that it is; and if this were Bush and not Obama, the left would not have let Bush gloss over and minimize the loss of civilian life – especially the lives innocent children.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.