Obama drone policy is indefensible

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Drones and assassinations are on the national agenda. The White House has, under pressure, released to Congress classified documents on its secretive drone program. And the Senate held confirmation hearings last week for CIA director nominee John Brennan who, as the president's chief counter-terrorism adviser, was reportedly the architect of the Obama administration's drone policy.

The administration argues that assassinations - whether of U.S. or foreign suspected terrorists - are the last option, used only when the target cannot be reached any other way.

As of now, some 89 percent of Americans, according to polls, support drone strikes. That is probably because these strikes are seen as "surgical" and "clean," distinct from the costly, hellish business of war.

But a deeper look tells a different story.

Here's a description of a "clean" hit: A young Yemeni cleric who had bravely denounced al Qaeda was "incinerated" last year when "a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky." His crime? He was standing next to al Qaeda operatives, arguing with them, after they visited his mosque.

What exactly was the imminent threat to the United States in that scenario?

The first drone strike in Yemen "killed dozens of civilians, including many women and children." And one six months later "killed a popular deputy governor, inciting angry demonstrations and an attack that shut down a critical oil pipeline."
War by any other name is still hellish.

Three U.S. citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan, were killed in drone strikes in 2011 and last year. Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit challenging the government's "targeted killing" of the three Americans. The groups say the government "violated the Constitution's fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law."

Shrouded in secrecy, the administration's "kill list" effectively makes the president judge, jury and executioner.

This is unacceptable. The United Nations has opened an investigation into the U.S. drone program.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. declared a war on terror, which started in Afghanistan. After 12 years, two wars, trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost the war rages on.

Military actions, whether in the form of "advisers," bombing raids or drone killings, are being extended to new places: Pakistan, Libya, Mali, Yemen. Osama bin Laden is dead, yet terrorist networks have sprung up in new places.
According to The Long War Journal, in Pakistan alone there have been 334 airstrikes total since the program began under the Bush administration in 2004; 289 of those strikes have taken place since January 2009 - 86.5 percent of the total. The journal estimates hundreds of civilian casualties.

Will our children's children still be fighting the terror war 20 years from now? Terrorism cannot be defeated with war. It has to be isolated and defeated politically. Assassination by drones does the exact opposite. Even former top Obama officials have said so.

To his credit, President Obama officially ended the Iraq war and promises to wind down combat in Afghanistan. But the "war on terror" rages on with no end in sight.

Critics of the drone program said it was a small step in the right direction for transparency when President Obama ordered the release of classified documents to congressional committees.

However, to really go in the right direction, not only for transparency, but for the cause of peace and national security, U.S. foreign policy needs a drastic revamp. It can start by winding down the "war on terror" and ending its assassination policy.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr.: The drones targeting terrorists are exploding in Mississippi, Montana and Maine, destroying the hope for a decent America, draining investment in education, health care and housing.

They are exploding in Mali, Mogadishu, and Madrid as the world becomes a global village, interdependent and interconnected. This never-ending war destroys development and continues a cycle of deeper poverty and misery for millions.

Unless the American people demand a new foreign policy direction, the prospects of improving lives grow dimmer. An aroused public demanded an end to CIA assassinations abroad during the Cold War and its aftermath. Now the president needs the American people to speak up. Today's challenges demand no less.

Photo: Antiwar activists and CodePink members protest the use of drones in front of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's home in San Francisco, Nov. 11, 2012. (Steve Rhodes/CC)

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  • I would like this editorial, slightly shortened, in the form of a leaflet to hand out.

    Bea Lumpkin

    Posted by Beatrice Lumpkin, 02/13/2013 9:04pm (2 years ago)

  • Ideological change is utterly necessary for U.S. policies, both foreign and domestic. Using and abusing technology for the imperial "art" of killing says a lot about both Democrats and Republicans.

    But no matter what is done to strengthen it, I really don't think the U.S. military arsenal is/will be invincible. Here, we have a case of quantity, not quality; imperialism, not self-defense.

    Posted by revolution123, 02/13/2013 2:40pm (2 years ago)

  • C I A policy of mass murder and terrorism cannot dominate a civilized United States of America.
    Now, these policies, as in this case, do dominate.
    This is the ultimate repression of human freedom by the policies of the United States of America.
    From W. E. B. Du Bois-"The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression."
    OUR prices are incalculable as we destroy with war, the ultimate mark of barbarity.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 02/13/2013 10:55am (2 years ago)

  • FINALLY something I agree with you on! And every point, too!
    In addition:
    The Constitution gives us the right to due process. This exempts the 'object' from that right. If that is taken away from someone who is deemed 'dangerous' (by whose definition??), then what American on American soil will be safe simply because they may disagree with governmental policies? This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Our fore-fathers understood the dangers of the power of the government and that is why they went to great lengths to make sure we have a system of checks and balance, to make sure there isn't another King George in the future of this country.
    When one person has this much power, as stated by this author, we are surely headed in that direction!

    Posted by GeneP, 02/12/2013 9:26pm (2 years ago)

  • War is hell. It's meant to break things. But if it's a choice of dropping bombs indiscriminately from 30,000 feet or strategically taking out enemies, I don't have a problem with drones. The victims of bombing at 30,000 are called "collateral damage" and we don't seem to have a problem with that. If one innocent is killed along side a terrorist, we cry bloody murder.

    As far as American citizens being killed, I feel as long as they have declared their intentions, they kind of gave up their rights to courts or rule of law. Do we expect our government to show probable cause before we strike? I don't believe we've ever done that in ANY war. This is no different.

    Posted by Shelly Peck, 02/12/2013 4:26pm (2 years ago)

  • Just imagine the terror the sound of drones must cause for the people who live in the frequently targeted areas. If there is to be a "war on terror," it should focus squarely on the U.S. and its brutal assaults on resource-rich countries and the people who live in them. The American people are allowing this--for now--but we can also stop it--forever.

    Posted by John Lombardo, 02/12/2013 2:35pm (2 years ago)

  • This is an excellent, powerful and sobering editorial.
    This is a big challenge for the President which he must meet if his presidency is to be remembered as successful.
    US foreign policy has to change, and one place to start is ending the use of drones. It threatens to undermine so much of what the President is trying to do in foreign and domestic policy.

    Posted by Ben, 02/12/2013 10:24am (2 years ago)

  • Fine editorial.

    Drones are another step in the empire's efforts to exert maximum control over people abroad - and soon in the U.S. - with minimum outrage at home. First they droned Afghanis and we didn't stop them. Then they droned Pakistanis and we didn't stop them. Next they droned Yemenis and we didn't stop them. When we ourselves inevitably get droned, who will stop them?

    Posted by HenryCT, 02/12/2013 9:46am (2 years ago)

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