Image source: The White House / Flickr

 

BY CHRISTINA HARTMAN, HARUM HELMY, AND MADISON MACK

With contributions from Janessa Ewing and Lora Vlaeva


In 2001, U.S. Ambassador said:
 

“The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”
            - U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, Israeli TV, 2001


In 2012, former President Jimmy Carter said:
“...but the practice continues... We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed...
            - Frmr. President Jimmy Carter, The New York Times, 2012

Indyk was talking about Israel. But 11 years later, Carter was talking about the United States which now carries out drone operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where there’s been no U.S. declaration of war. It’s a practice not technically acknowledged...
(militarynewsnetwork)


OBAMA: “…have never been confirmed by me and I don’t talk about our national security decisions in that way.”
(WXIX)

Never confirmed -- but has “tight and strict” criteria...

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a case in which we can’t capture the individual...”

Despite known drone activities in Pakistan since 2004, the first time a U.S. official ever confirmed that the drone program even exists was White House Counter Terrorism adviser John Brennan in April 2012. He called it “force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense.”

According to The New America Foundation the Bush administration carried out 52 such strikes.
The Obama administration… 292.

President Obama is believed to have ordered drone strikes that killed “somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618” people. In this Slate graphic — the blue circles represent Obama’s ordered drone strikes in Pakistan alone. The red ones, by the way, represent President George W. Bush’s.

In fact, The Washington Post’s Greg Miller says “...no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”

Among the believed targets of the covert strikes, in just the past year…

1) Saudi national Saeed al-Shihri — al Qaeda in Yemen’s number 2 (September 2012)

2) Abu Yahya al-Libi — al Qaeda second-in-command (DATE June 2012)

3) Badr Mansoor — an al Qaeda commander (February 2012)

4) Anwar al-Awlaki — called a key member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — a U.S. citizen. More on that shortly. (September 2011)

5) Abu Hafs, al-Qaeda chief of operations in Pakistan (September 2011)

6) Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (August 2011)

7) and Ilyas Kashmiri (June 2011)

And that’s just top al-Qaeda leaders -- CNN analyst Peter Bergen says under Obama, the drone program has shifted its focus to killing Taliban foot soldiers. Those targets amount to just more than 50 percent of all drone targets.

Putting aside the fact many of the targets may have been operational, and even putting aside complaints about classified U.S. action in violation of another country’s sovereignty, these strikes have killed civilians.

In July of 2011 a native of Waziristan told The Guardian newspaper, “For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant...”

How many civilians? Hard to say. Especially considering, according to The New York Times, the administration’s method of counting casualties:

“It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants... Counterterrorism officials insist ... people in an area of known terrorist activity … are probably up to no good.”

Citing dozens of current and former Obama White House aides, The New York Times reported President Obama learned his first strike in Pakistan killed civilians. Changes were reportedly made afterward:

- Munitions were downsized for more pinpoint strikes
- President Obama would make the final call in cases where the CIA did NOT have “near certainty” there would be no civilian deaths as a result of a strike.

In defense of the program, supporters cite the lack of a viable alternative.

With air strikes deemed not precise enough.

And on the ground its extremely difficult to actually capture targets and commando operations deemed too dangerous, too costly and too difficult.

And considering the continued threat of attacks, counterterrorism officials have appeared to determine extra-judicial secrecy as the best bet. It’s become less about justifying these killings on moral or legal grounds.

In fact there’s hardly any attempt to justify them at all — despite numerous FOIA requests by rights and news organizations.


And in June, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Press Secretary Jay Carney the elephant-in-the-room question -- and Carney couldn’t really answer.

Tapper: “It’s not difficult to foresee a world in which the United States is not the only country with this kind of technology … Just wondering -- where the moral foundation comes from it the United States objects in the future to an action being taken by China or Russia along these same lines?”
Carney: “I reject the comparison, but I would simply say that, uh, as I said just now, that... the President of this administration takes very seriously the decisions that are involved in the efforts to disrupt and dismantle al-Qaeda...”

Lots about this is squishy though. For example, how many times have we heard “Al Qaeda’s number two has been killed? More than once — which means — if we take out number 2, number 3 or number 4, there’ll always be more. And at what cost? Moral authority and civilian lives. Is it worth it?

Obama's Drone War: Newsy In-Depth

by Christina Hartman
0
Transcript
Feb 7, 2013

Obama's Drone War: Newsy In-Depth

Image source: The White House / Flickr

 

BY CHRISTINA HARTMAN, HARUM HELMY, AND MADISON MACK

With contributions from Janessa Ewing and Lora Vlaeva


In 2001, U.S. Ambassador said:
 

“The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”
            - U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, Israeli TV, 2001


In 2012, former President Jimmy Carter said:
“...but the practice continues... We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed...
            - Frmr. President Jimmy Carter, The New York Times, 2012

Indyk was talking about Israel. But 11 years later, Carter was talking about the United States which now carries out drone operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where there’s been no U.S. declaration of war. It’s a practice not technically acknowledged...
(militarynewsnetwork)


OBAMA: “…have never been confirmed by me and I don’t talk about our national security decisions in that way.”
(WXIX)

Never confirmed -- but has “tight and strict” criteria...

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a case in which we can’t capture the individual...”

Despite known drone activities in Pakistan since 2004, the first time a U.S. official ever confirmed that the drone program even exists was White House Counter Terrorism adviser John Brennan in April 2012. He called it “force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense.”

According to The New America Foundation the Bush administration carried out 52 such strikes.
The Obama administration… 292.

President Obama is believed to have ordered drone strikes that killed “somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618” people. In this Slate graphic — the blue circles represent Obama’s ordered drone strikes in Pakistan alone. The red ones, by the way, represent President George W. Bush’s.

In fact, The Washington Post’s Greg Miller says “...no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”

Among the believed targets of the covert strikes, in just the past year…

1) Saudi national Saeed al-Shihri — al Qaeda in Yemen’s number 2 (September 2012)

2) Abu Yahya al-Libi — al Qaeda second-in-command (DATE June 2012)

3) Badr Mansoor — an al Qaeda commander (February 2012)

4) Anwar al-Awlaki — called a key member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — a U.S. citizen. More on that shortly. (September 2011)

5) Abu Hafs, al-Qaeda chief of operations in Pakistan (September 2011)

6) Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (August 2011)

7) and Ilyas Kashmiri (June 2011)

And that’s just top al-Qaeda leaders -- CNN analyst Peter Bergen says under Obama, the drone program has shifted its focus to killing Taliban foot soldiers. Those targets amount to just more than 50 percent of all drone targets.

Putting aside the fact many of the targets may have been operational, and even putting aside complaints about classified U.S. action in violation of another country’s sovereignty, these strikes have killed civilians.

In July of 2011 a native of Waziristan told The Guardian newspaper, “For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant...”

How many civilians? Hard to say. Especially considering, according to The New York Times, the administration’s method of counting casualties:

“It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants... Counterterrorism officials insist ... people in an area of known terrorist activity … are probably up to no good.”

Citing dozens of current and former Obama White House aides, The New York Times reported President Obama learned his first strike in Pakistan killed civilians. Changes were reportedly made afterward:

- Munitions were downsized for more pinpoint strikes
- President Obama would make the final call in cases where the CIA did NOT have “near certainty” there would be no civilian deaths as a result of a strike.

In defense of the program, supporters cite the lack of a viable alternative.

With air strikes deemed not precise enough.

And on the ground its extremely difficult to actually capture targets and commando operations deemed too dangerous, too costly and too difficult.

And considering the continued threat of attacks, counterterrorism officials have appeared to determine extra-judicial secrecy as the best bet. It’s become less about justifying these killings on moral or legal grounds.

In fact there’s hardly any attempt to justify them at all — despite numerous FOIA requests by rights and news organizations.


And in June, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Press Secretary Jay Carney the elephant-in-the-room question -- and Carney couldn’t really answer.

Tapper: “It’s not difficult to foresee a world in which the United States is not the only country with this kind of technology … Just wondering -- where the moral foundation comes from it the United States objects in the future to an action being taken by China or Russia along these same lines?”
Carney: “I reject the comparison, but I would simply say that, uh, as I said just now, that... the President of this administration takes very seriously the decisions that are involved in the efforts to disrupt and dismantle al-Qaeda...”

Lots about this is squishy though. For example, how many times have we heard “Al Qaeda’s number two has been killed? More than once — which means — if we take out number 2, number 3 or number 4, there’ll always be more. And at what cost? Moral authority and civilian lives. Is it worth it?

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