Listen up, and get this straight. President Obama doesn’t answer to you or me or any American citizen or to the press, and if he doesn’t feel like explaining to you how he utilizes his kingly powers of executing anyone, anywhere on his immediate command, he won’t. And you just have to deal with it. Got that!?
Noah Shachtman at Danger Room points to a recent CNN interview with President Obama on his use of targeted killing by drone. Obama does two things only: (1) completely dodges the questions and (2) what he does actually say, are lies. Shachtman says it’s “baloney.”
Regarding the alleged criteria for targeted killings – the target has to be “authorized by our laws” for a threat that’s “not speculative,” etc. – Shachtman writes:
In both Yemen and Pakistan, the CIA is allowed to launch a strike based on the target’s “signature” — that is, whether he appears to look and act like a terrorist. As senior U.S. officials have repeatedly confirmed, intelligence analysts don’t even have to know the target’s name, let alone whether he’s planning to attack the U.S. In some cases, merely being a military-aged male at the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to justify your death.
“What I found most striking was his claim that legitimate targets are a ‘threat that is serious and not speculative,’ and engaged in ‘some operational plot against the United States,’ That is simply not true,” emails the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, who has tracked the drone war as closely as any outside analyst. “The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 nonbattlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years.”
Zenko later describes Obama’s supposed inability to speak on such classified matters as “total BS.” According to law, the President can declassify anything. And anyways, it could not be any clearer that Obama avoids answering these questions, not because it would harm “national security,” but because it would harm his own political career if he simply admitted that he took it upon himself to kill anyone, even Americans, on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing, without charges or trial by jury.
Not only are we not allowed to know who Obama is targeting for assassination by drone, we can’t even know who they’ve killed after the fact. As the Washington Post reported late last year, “the identities” of almost all drone victims “remain classified, as does the existence of the drone program itself.” And, “Because the names of the dead and the threat they were believed to pose are secret, it is impossible for anyone without access to U.S. intelligence to assess whether the deaths were justified.”
If Obama doesn’t have to tell us who he kills, he doesn’t have to face public scrutiny for how many were innocent. “When you have warfare with no political costs at all, it becomes much too easy to resort to violence,” as Clive Stafford Smith put it. An ignorant public is absolutely essential to the functioning of Obama’s foreign policy. The normalization of covert war, gratuitous secrecy, and tyrannical executive authority is blithely accepted by most of the public, which is the final ingredient that will prevent this president and any of his administration from ever facing legal scrutiny for their actions.