The NY Times’ recent article on Obama’s “kill list” of American citizens and others suspected–not convicted–of terrorism includes much disturbing information on what our government is doing in our names. The entire “kill list” process and Obama’s central role in it has seldom been presented in such detail in a mainstream publication. It is necessary if ugly reading, even if it is written in something approaching a triumphalist tone.
The “kill list” involves U.S. targeting of Americans and others for drone death worldwide. This is being done without “due process of law.” Previously, due process of law has meant that an impartial decision maker hears evidence presented by the executive branch, before an American is convicted of — let alone executed for— a crime. For the “kill list,” due process of law does not exist. If the Executive branch, the CIA, or other “intelligence” agencies, suspect you or another American of being a terrorist, your right to due process of law evaporates. All you receive is review by officials of the same agencies who fingered you in the first place and will okay your killing, ultimately Obama himself.
Right to defend yourself? Forget about it. Right to trial? No way? Worry about blowback? Not a care, for instance, about reaction to the Yemeni family of 8 obliterated by drone days ago.
To me, one of the most unsettling points in the article was the “explanation” for why drone attacks are asserted, by government officials, to kill so few civilians. It’s simple really: just redefine the word “combatant.” Thanks to the Obama administration, it has now been defined down to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone . . . unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
And of course, Obama is now personally authorizing the assassination of individuals, whether Americans or foreigners, based merely on their behavior—and without their identities being known. So-called “signature” strikes, make the situation even worse than it first appears.
All of this reminded me of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. Serb military forces under Ratko Mladic rounded up “all military-age males” in the town, accusing them of support for or participation in attacks on the Serbs. They then systematically slaughtered about 6,000, with no process of law. Srebrenica, of course, was roundly and rightly condemned by the world community, not least Obama’s “atrocities czar” and one-time human rights champion, Samantha Power.
With Obama’s drone warfare, we appear to be doing the same thing, albeit over longer periods of time, in smaller batches of butchery, and using remote control weaponry. As imperial hegemon, it seems, the U.S. is “permitted” to do this, even by those who profess to believe in human rights.