US drone warfare left out of counterrorism manual
In reading Natasha Lennard’s article in Salon, several points stand out:
a. The policies governing drone warfare are in dispute:
The decision to exempt CIA drone strikes in Pakistan from the manual (an exemption expected to last over a year) was, officials said, “a compromise that allowed officials to move forward with other parts of the playbook” after “disagreements among the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon on the criteria for lethal strikes and other issues.
b. The death toll of our deliberate decision to target drone strikes at targets that will involve civilian casualties (that is, the deliberate decision to kill civilians, not in the heat of battle, but as a simple trade-off in killing some (suspected) militants) is mounting and will eventually, if we continue, go past the number of US civilians killed in the 9/11 attacks—attacks that we thought were horrible because so many innocent civilians were killed. This may (or may not) be a factor in the disagreements cited above, but in any event makes me uneasy: why is so wrong for our civilians to be killed but okay for us to kill their civilians?
John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser who has been nominated CIA director, spearheaded the counterterror manual and led the meetings that decided to exempt the CIA’s Pakistan drone program. As the Guardian noted, “the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that there have been 362 drone strikes in the country since 2004 – 310 of them launched on Obama’s watch. The strikes have killed up to 3,461 people, 891 of them civilians.”
John Brennan was also a major proponent of the program of torturing our prisoners for information. I can’t think of a worse choice for CIA director, but Obama seems to have a soft spot for programs of torture and those who run them. Certainly he’s done everything in his power, even if it breaks the law, to protect them, and now his proposed promotion of Brennan shows clearly where his sentiments lie.
Not mentioned are our drone strikes in Yemen and other countries. I don’t know why those were omitted. The US citizens killed by executive order (including the 16-year-old boy, born in Colorado) were in Yemen as I recall.