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Tue Jun 12, 2012, 12:30 PM

Obama’s ‘kill list’ is unchecked presidential power [View all]


Washington Post
by Katrina vanden Heuvel

A stunning report in the New York Times depicted President Obama poring over the equivalent of terrorist baseball cards, deciding who on a “kill list” would be targeted for elimination by drone attack. The revelations — as well as those in Daniel Klaidman’s recent book — sparked public outrage and calls for congressional inquiry.

* * *

It is a policy driven largely by the new technological capacity of pilotless aircraft. Drone strikes have rapidly expanded, becoming a centerpiece of the Obama strategy. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush.

* * *

Drones are also alarming. As a recent congressional letter of inquiry notes, “They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths . . . They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.” The drone attacks may generate as many terrorists as they dispatch. They seduce the U.S. into literally policing the world, an intrusive presence that surely will generate hostility and retribution.

* * *
Over twenty legislators led by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have written formally to the president asking that he explain openly “the process by which signature strikes are authorized and executed; the mechanisms used to “ensure such killings are legal;” and the mechanisms to track civilian casualties. The Congress should also insist that the Justice Department memo detailing the legal arguments relied on by the president be made public. And then Congress needs to hold a grand inquest on presidential war powers and the rights of both the Congress and American citizens.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-kill-list-is-unchecked-presidential-power/2012/06/11/gJQAHw05WV_story.html




FRONTLINE

"It's drones, baby, drones."

- (former) United States Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, March 2011.

Unmanned U.S. aircraft now routinely fly over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Their cameras record the presence of men in motion. A commander sitting in a base thousands of kilometres away gives the kill order. The U.S. President had previously been over lists of alleged terrorists and marked off those who can be killed. This is the “kill list”. If only one person is to be killed, the execution is called a “personality strike”. If the drone kills more than one person, it is called a “signature strike”.

* * *

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) estimates that between 2001 and 2012, the U.S. launched about a hundred drone strikes in Yemen, killing between 317 and 826 people. The civilian casualty is estimated to be anywhere between 58 and 138, of them 24 being children. These are all very poor numbers, as the Bureau acknowledges. The U.S. has not released any firm data; indeed the U.S. continues to have an ambiguous attitude regarding its assassination policy. It takes credit for the killings, but does not take responsibility for the programme itself.

In a stinging 29-page report in 2010, former United Nations special representative on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston asked the major powers to lay out the legal limits to extrajudicial assassinations. In a statement that accompanied the report, Alston described the political problem for the U.S.: “I'm particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe. But this strongly asserted but ill-defined licence to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.” In the quiet rooms of the U.N., such language is rare: it asserted that the continual U.S. use of drones was not only a violation of current norms but a threat to the architecture of conflict resolution and the rules of war.

The BIJ collected data not only from Yemen but also from Pakistan and Somalia. In Pakistan, U.S. drones have killed between 2,462 and 3,145 people, among whom 482 to 830 were civilians (including 175 children). The numbers of those injured are upwards of 3,000. After the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Chicago, the U.S. struck in Waziristan about seven times (by June 3). In Somalia, the U.S. conducted a handful of drone strikes, with deaths reported in the hundreds (among them three children). The BIJ's method is eclectic; it uses news reports and speeches. These are, therefore, not exact numbers, only indications of a trend. With no information forthcoming from the U.S., there is no way to have better figures.

http://www.frontline.in/stories/20120629291205100.htm


Both of these are very good articles that lay out the errors of Obama's Drone Doctrine. Each are well worth the read. We are trending into dangerous areas that will bring consequences for decades.

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