Obama’s drone attacks are war crimes. Every innocent murdered by Obama’s drones is another Trayvon Martin.
Ever since he took office 3 years ago, President Obama has been waging the War on Terror by directing the Central Intelligence Agency to use unmanned drone warplanes to attack and brutally murder villagers living in a remote and poverty-stricken part of Pakistan.
Death does not come gently to the victims of Obama’s continuing drone war. Without warning of any kind, missiles launched by his CIA drones incinerate them as they go about their daily business, attend weddings or other festivities, or gather for the funerals of those who have been previously slaughtered by what has become a relentless barrage of remotely-controlled and seemingly indiscriminate mass murder that many legal experts have called blatantly illegal.
Until very recently, the Obama administration has insisted that it will “neither confirm nor deny” the existence of this program and has refused to discuss how many civilians have been killed in the strikes. But despite its secret status, a senior U.S. official familiar with the program, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post [December 20, 2011] that: “Everybody knows we’re using drones.”
If everyone knows, then certainly almost none of them care about the toll that Obama’s drone strikes may be taking in innocent human lives. President Obama’s dramatic escalation of drone attack violence, beginning just days after he was inaugurated, has been greeted with scarcely a whimper of protest from the anti-war and human rights activists who were outraged by his predecessor’s policies of pre-emptive shock-and-awe warfare and routine torture of prisoners.
Indeed, Obama himself has been so indifferent to these atrocities that, during his speech at the May 1 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner, he seemed to delight in finding some humor in them. After warning the Jonas Brothers not to get fresh with his daughters, he added: “Two words for you: predator drones. You’ll never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”
On January 30, while speaking at a virtual town hall meeting, called “Hangout”, on Google’s social media site, Google+, President Obama finally set the jokes and the official secrecy aside and admitted to using drones piloted by civilians from the CIA to kill people in Pakistan.
Obama insisted that his drone strikes are not sent in “willy-nilly”, but that they constitute “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” The president assured his audience that “For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and we have been very careful about how it's been applied."
Obama, like Santa, may very well have a list of who’s naughty and who’s nice in Pakistan, but some of those who are being incinerated by his drone strikes are not even on it. According to the New York Times [February 6, 2012]:
“American officials familiar with the rules governing the strikes and who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that many missiles had been fired at groups of suspected militants who are not on any list. These so- called signature strikes are based on assessments that men carrying weapons or in a militant compound are legitimate targets.”
Unfortunately, guys travelling down the road in their own country while carrying their rifles are not the only unlisted “suspected militants” who have been attacked by Obama’s missiles.
In a report released on its website on February 4 and published the next day in the Sunday Times [February 5, 2012], the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that: “The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.”
The report goes on to reveal that:
“A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow- up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”
This tactic of killing people by follow-up strikes was not invented by the CIA. Rather, according to a 2007 Department of Homeland Security report, it has long been: “a favorite tactic of Hamas, the “double tap;” a device is set off, and when police and other first responders arrive, a second, larger device is set off to inflict more casualties and spread panic.” Hamas has been listed by the US State Department as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization". Perhaps it should be reassuring to know that, under the direction of President Obama, the CIA has been taking its lessons from one of the great masters of its craft.
During his interview on Google + “Hangout”, President Obama insisted that his “drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”
But in view of the disturbing evidence that his drones are routinely deployed to destroy targets whose selection is, if not “willy-nilly”, then at the very least spur-of-the- moment, who, if anyone at all, is really a “civilian” by Obama’s rules of engagement?
And, for that matter, how many of those carefully- defined civilians can be killed before their number becomes “huge” by Obama’s methods of mortality enumeration? Here’s how Joseph Stalin calculated the numerical significance of unjustified mortality in time of war: "When one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it's statistics." So, what statistics has Obama used to justify his not-huge-number of drone-caused civilian tragedies? Stalin never won the Nobel Peace Prize. Does President Obama still deserve his?
In a victory speech delivered on election night in 2008, President-Elect Obama promised us all: “I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.” President Obama needs to keep that promise now and be fully honest with us about the death toll from his drone wars. Demanding that he do so is really a matter of life and death for every one of us because, as Dr. King put it,
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
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Photo: Joëlle Pénochet