A good article in Rolling Stone this month about drone strikes and the Obama administration’s use (abuse) of them.
In his first three years, Obama has unleashed 268 covert drone strikes, five times the total George W. Bush ordered during his eight years in office. All told, drones have been used to kill more than 3,000 people designated as terrorists, including at least four U.S. citizens. In the process, according to human rights groups, they have also claimed the lives of more than 800 civilians. Obama’s drone program, in fact, amounts to the largest unmanned aerial offensive ever conducted in military history; never have so few killed so many by remote control.
Many of the civilians, including at least one of the U.S. Citizens killed, have been children. But what is SOO frustrating to me is that all those people who were so fired up and angry about George W. Bush, could give a shit that Obama does the exact same things, if not worse. Where did the anti-war movement go?
Here is the end of the article which pretty much sums up the Obama Presidency for me.
Many who oversee the drone program, in fact, seem to have little but contempt for those who worry about the potential dangers presented by drones. At a human rights seminar at Columbia University last summer, John Radsan, a former attorney for the CIA, admitted that the agency has no interest in debating the legal niceties of drone strikes. “The CIA is laughing at you guys,” he told the assembled human rights lawyers. “You’re worried about international law, and the CIA is laughing.” A White House official I spoke with is even more dismissive. “If Anwar al-Awlaki is your poster boy for why we shouldn’t do drone strikes,” the official tells me, “good fucking luck.”
If the targeted killing of al-Awlaki doesn’t inspire sympathy, given his alleged connections to Al Qaeda, then consider the case of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old boy from Pakistan. In April 2010, one of Tariq’s cousins was killed in a drone strike. Believing that his cousin was innocent, and not involved in any insurgent activities, Tariq joined a group of tribal elders last October at a meeting in Islamabad organized by Reprieve, the human rights group. Neil Williams, a volunteer for Reprieve, spent an hour speaking with Tariq at the meeting.
“We started talking about soccer,” Williams recalls. “He told me he played for New Zealand. The teams they played with from the village had all taken names from football clubs, like Brazil or Manchester United.”
Tariq and other teenagers at the meeting told Williams how they lived in fear of drones. They could hear them at night over their homes in Waziristan, buzzing for hours like aerial lawn mowers. An explosion could strike at any moment, anywhere, without warning. “Tariq really didn’t want to be going back home,” Williams says. “He’d hear the drones three or four times a day.”
Three days after the conference, Williams received an e-mail. Tariq had been killed in a drone strike while he was on his way to pick up his aunt. It appears that he wasn’t the intended target of the strike: Those who met Tariq suspect he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially since his 12-year-old cousin was also killed in the blast.
The Obama administration has no comment on the killing of Tariq Aziz, even though his death raises the most significant question of all. Drones offer the government an advanced and precise technology in its War on Terror – yet many of those killed by drones don’t appear to be terrorists at all. In fact, according to a detailed study of drone victims compiled by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, at least 174 of those executed by drones were under the age of 18 – in other words, children. Estimates by human rights groups that include adults who were likely civilians put the toll of innocent victims at more than 800. U.S. officials hotly dismiss such figures – “bullshit,” one senior administration official told me. Brennan, one of Obama’s top counterterrorism advisers, absurdly insisted last June that there hadn’t been “a single civilian” killed by drones in the previous year.
For Nasser al-Awlaki, who lost his teenage grandson to a predator drone, such denials are almost as shocking as the administration’s deliberate decision to wage a remote-control war that would inevitably result in the deaths of innocent civilians. “I could not believe America could do this – especially President Obama, who I liked very much,” he says. “When he was elected, I thought he would solve all the problems of the world.”
You’re not alone. Most American’s refuse to believe it as well.