Obama’s drone policy expands definitions of ‘enemies’

your tax dollars at work in Pakistani drone strikes. From the Bureau for Investigative Journalism.

Okay. I get why so many people pulled the lever for Obama last November. After all, we have a duopoly, and it’s either him or the other guy Willard Romney. Nobody wanted Willard to pick the next few SCOTUS members. Willard also seemed to want to double down in Afghanistan (because after all, for 2,000+ years A-Stan was the place to go if your empire wanted a quick easy conquest). There was the whole tax thing with Willard–both his own and what he’d be paying if the Ryan plan went through. And there was that loose talk about deregulating everything but the average American uterus.
And I’m lucky. I could vote third party because I live in a state that wouldn’t give up its electoral votes to Willard on a dare. Should New York state ever go red during a presidential race, it will be because someone misplaced Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. So… Good going, Jill Stein!

And now we’ve gotten over that weird second honeymoon phase with President Obama. And he has kicked a** on the debt ceiling fight and the tax increases on the 1%. But there’s this thing that just came out about Obama and drone warfare, something I’ve written about before. And per his DOJ, he now has permission to send assassin drones after American citizens abroad. This is without trial or public scrutiny of the evidence against the individual. Constitutional law specialist Jonathan Turley has written about it hereThe 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.”…In plain language, that means that the President considers the citizens to be a threat in the future. Moreover, the memo allows killings when an attempt to capture the person would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel. That undue risk is left undefined.” A nice bookend for the NDAA and FISA.

And since the determinations of who gets the Hellfire missile put into their tent is pretty much at the President’s discretion, this means that Obama has claimed a power that hasn’t been in a Chief Executive’s hands since the Church Committee hearings. Those were the salad days of US backed assassinations of leaders abroad. Diem in Vietnam (too accommodating), Allende in Chile (the Chilean army did the heavy lifting, but we provided support and intelligence), even a UN Secretary General (Dag Hammarskjold). And our assassination alumni from those times include a rogue’s gallery–Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeni, Manuel Noriega and many others have cashed a CIA check.

Of course, when Americans think about drone strikes at all, they think these are a great idea. After all, we’re not risking US lives (even though many of the civilian survivors of drone attacks are probably signing up with the nearest terrorist operation in order to avenge dead family and friends). It doesn’t help when ‘liberal’ media like PBS rent out their brand to drone manufacturers in order to put them in a positive light. But the drone assassination policy is making us no friends in the rest of the world. Even our NATO allies are now facing public opinion that is decisively against our drones taking out ‘enemies’. Only India embraces the policy. When British public support for US policy is under 50%, we’re in trouble.  It also doesn’t help that we’re apparently targeting rescue teams that arrive after attacks to provide aid.

And this returns me to the folks who are protesting the drones. Helen John in England has been organizing against the basing of ‘NATO’ drones there. Helen John was part of the leadership at Greenham Common, the women who got the US to close a nuclear weapons base. Don’t bet against Helen John. In the US, Voices for Creative Nonviolence have issued a war crimes indictment (complete with relevant United Nations documents) against the Obama administration over the drones.

If you want to support people who are protesting the drone program, you could do worse than contact these folks.

Or these folks.

You could also write a supportive letter to Brian Terrell, jailed for six months for the high crime of delivering an anti-drone petition to the commander of Whiteman AFB in Missouri.

And I hereby extend my website to those who are standing up against the drones. If you’re doing something to protest drone warfare, let me know and I’ll reblog you.

UPDATE: I had written up the war crimes indictment last October, with the pertinent information. It’s right here.

UPDATE 2/14: some have asked about the international laws being violated by the drone strikes. There was an excellent column in Counterpunch last week–an interview with Marjorie Cohn, former President of the National Lawyers Guild and Law Professor at Thomas Jefferson University. Long story short, since 1837 the principles of use of force in defending one’s country have been defined by the Caroline case–the “necessity for self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

Raining Hellfire missiles on those who are part of Al Qaeda (or associated forces) but who are not actively planning to attack the United States is therefore a violation of international law.

2 comments

  1. Nice plug with Turley. The idea of killing somebody before they commit the crime is akin to thoughtcrime in 1984. And the subsequent response by the powers-that-be is akin to Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, where precrime justifies police/military action. In other words, you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Talk about inverting bedrock Constitutional norms that are pretty basic.

    The drone program — not “policy” mind you, which is an oft euphemism used by the Drone Godfather Brennan, aka Drone Sith Brennan, in order to vest it with some sort of faux-lawfulness that’s on the books legitimately, when in fact it is extrajudicial and off the books — lies solely and weakly upon a white paper of the real memo hidden by the DOJ’s OLC. If the drones were truly legal, even when assassinating Americans, then why hide the legal opinion which justifies it? There are different theories being kicked around as to why. The most compelling? Bunk legalese which will be shot down by appeals courts. Or, covert military technology being used other than drones and cruise missile strikes. Who knows, either way to cite AUMF is quite the stretch, as it specifically deals with those connected to 9/11, not war on terror as the Executive deems it so.

    I was not aware PBS lent their name out for drone builders?! That is crazy. Like Glenn Greenwald is apt to say, when it comes to national security there is a bipartisan consensus that even the most right and most left can get behind. Drones being used by Bush was a no-no; but then Obama normalized it by using it himself, thus entering the debate into the realm of bipartisanship. And when you have bipartisanship, there is nothing more to argue, as we live in a two-party state.

  2. Thanks. In agreement with all.
    Since I first posted this, another legal scholar has come forward with an opinion that the ‘program’ is illegal. Marjorie Cohn cites international law on the subject and found that the drone program does not meet the criteria that’s been part of international law since 1837 and the Columbia incident. Here’s the link:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/08/why-targeted-assassinations-violate-us-and-international-law/

    I called out both parties last October when there was no Presidential debate on drones–because of course, Romney was just as much a proponent of their use as Obama. It’s the best argument for letting third party candidates like the Greens’ Jill Stein into the debate process.

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