Drone Assassinations Are Only Making Things WorsePosted: October 23, 2009
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Published: Oct. 22, 2009 – fff.org
Jane Mayer, author of the great book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, was interviewed yesterday on NPR on the CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan. She discussed the morality and legality of those attacks as well as their adverse consequences.
Last summer CIA Director Leon Pinetta announced cancellation of an assassination program that the CIA was going to implement.
Yet, how are these drone attacks in Pakistan any different from an assassination? Suppose, for example, a CIA assassin sneaks into Pakistan, spots a suspected terrorist sunbathing on the top of a house, and blows up the home, killing the suspect and everyone in his family.
That’s the type of assassination that Pinetta presumably put a stop to.
Assume, however, that a CIA official in Northern Virginia uses his computer to direct a drone over the house, spots the suspected terrorist, and drops a bomb on the house, killing the suspect and everyone else in the house.
Apparently, that’s considered okay.
What’s the difference?
The CIA justifies these attacks on the old Bush rationale that terrorism is an act of war, not a criminal offense, and that the war on terrorism is a real war, just like World War II or Vietnam.
Yet, that’s just plain false, which is repeatedly confirmed by criminal prosecutions for the federal crime of terrorism that are regularly carried out in federal district court. Examples include the federal prosecutions of Jose Padilla, Zacharias Moussaoui, and Ali al-Marri. Would federal judges be presiding over such trials if terrorism wasn’t a federal criminal offense as defined by the U.S. Code? Of course not. They would have been dismissing the criminal indictments at the inception of the proceedings.
Thus, the notion that terrorism is an act of war is bogus, as is the notion that a “war on terrorism” is a real war.
Let’s not forget also that there is no constitutionally required congressional declaration of war against Pakistan and, yet, amazingly and virtually without objection, the U.S. government is now killing people in that country with impunity.
Even worse, the drone attacks are killing family members, friends, and relatives of the suspects who are targeted for death. As New York Times columnist David Rohde, who was held captive in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Taliban has been pointing out in a series on articles about his captivity, the drone attacks are producing enormously high levels of anger and rage against the United States.
Another justification for the drone attacks in Pakistan is that that country is serving as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan, who are opposing the 8-year occupation of that country by the U.S. government (which invaded without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war).
U.S. officials says they have to continue occupying Afghanistan for the next several years, maybe decades, in order to prevent the Taliban from regaining power. The notion is that the Taliban would provide a sanctuary for al-Qaeda.
But that’s a ludicrous rationale because it’s obvious that the occupation and, now, the expansion of killing into Pakistan are producing the very thing that the U.S. government fears most — terrorists.
Moreover, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, terrorists don’t need a Taliban sanctuary in Afghanistan to plan attacks against the United States. All they need is a hotel room or a house somewhere. So, the principal rationale for continuing to occupy Afghanistan is ridiculous, especially given that the occupation is churning out new terrorists at an ever-increasing rate.
Thus, why wouldn’t the U.S. be better off simply exiting Afghanistan and bringing the troops home? After all, they’ve had a free hand to kill terrorists to their heart’s content for more than 8 years, and the situation is worse than ever. If they exited the country and came home, at least they would no longer be serving as a permanent terrorist-producing machine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is preparing to once again raise the debt ceiling, which will permit the U.S. government to stack more debt onto the existing mountain of U.S. debt. Coincidentally, the New York Times business section carried an article yesterday showing the enormous damage that ever-increasing debt owed by the Japanese government is doing to Japan. Wouldn’t the same principles apply here?
Too bad President Obama is failing so dismally with his much-vaunted campaign promise of change. A good place to have begun would have been to bring the troops home from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only would that have made America safer but also more economically secure.