Obama Orders More Drone Strikes Than Bush

Obama has ordered CIA employees to kill many more suspected terrorists using drones than Bush ever did. Bush ordered about 42 drone strikes; Obama has ordered at least 180.

Why? Because they’re “clean.” Yes, targeting a man for execution and blowing him up in front of his family is what amounts to “clean” in the war on terror.

And also because this way, there won’t be more people at Guantanamo, giving the lie to his promise to close it.

I got the information I’m presenting here from an article posted on the Daily Beast: “Inside the Predator Drone Killing Machine,” by Tara McKelvey, Daily Beast, February 16, 2011. The article was published in Newsweek in February and republished, I guess, on the Daily Beast. I found a version of the article on the Newsweek site, and the two articles seem to match; Daily Beast added a few bullet points at the beginning in boldface type.

I can barely express how wrong I think this program is.

We are blowing up suspected terrorists. We are not capturing them and bringing them in for trial to see if we can prove they are terrorists. Yes, I know that would be much more difficult and risky to American lives. But since when is convenience an argument for what is right?

A related question: Who provides the information that condemns these people? If it’s too hard to get close enough to them to capture them, then how can we truly know what they are doing? Are we basing executions on hearsay? On some guy who is mad at his neighbor or wants to get rid of his rivals?

The article doesn’t say where the CIA lawyers who order “lethal operations” get their information. It talks about the procedure. It talks a lot about John Rizzo, former acting CIA general counsel, who seems terribly impressed with the fact that he has ordered people to be killed. That is not a good trait for a person to exhibit.

This same John Rizzo was the man who asked which methods could legally be used to interrogate suspects. In response,

Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo wrote the infamous “torture memo” of August 2002 because Rizzo had asked for clarification about techniques that could be used on detainees.

As Rizzo points out somewhat bitterly, most of those detainees survived. The people he has targeted more recently are not always as lucky.

The article mentions the Church Committee of the 1970s that was convened after the CIA tried to assassinate too many foreign leaders (such as the elected leaders of Chile and Iran). Now we’re sending machines after alleged terrorists. Have we learned anything except how to kill people more efficiently?

Problems That Require Restoration: Legality

Administration officials insist that the targeted killings rest on a solid legal foundation, but many scholars disagree. Georgetown University’s Gary Solis, the author of The Law of Armed Conflict, says people at the CIA who pilot unmanned aerial vehicles are civilians directly engaged in hostilities, an act that makes them “unlawful combatants” and possibly subject to prosecution.

We need to stop fighting the terrorists this way. We need to bring people to trial in our country when there is real evidence to do so, and show the world how our justice system works. That would impress the rest of the world far more than blowing up people because some other people claim they are involved with Al Qaeda.

Please go read the article. And then check out this UK blog about drone strikes.

Problems That Require Restoration: Drones

Drones are the new toy for the military and for corporations. See this article about a request for proposals for a “nano drone” in the United Kingdom.

I recently read about a U.S. city that is considering buying drones to do aerial surveillance. I don’t want to live in a world that has tiny drones flying around. How are we supposed to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights in these circumstances?

I don’t know what suggestion to offer about drones. When nano technology was the new hot thing, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) worked with corporations with create standards for developing the technology. But who is going the limit the uses to which drones can be put?