For quite some time the Obama administration has stonewalled the likes of Amnesty International and the ACLU in their efforts to have the legal justification for the CIA drone campaigns made public, repeatedly invoking ‘state secrets privilege’ to prevent details of such a sensitive program getting out. In doing so, the administration once again demonstrates its determination to use secrecy in order to Keep Americans Safe™.
Barack Obama abruptly abandoned this official stance during a recent encounter with ‘Evan’ from Brooklyn in a webchat, when he frankly admitted the existence of the drone program…and much more:
Evan: “Mr. President, since you took office you've ordered more drone attacks in your first year than your predecessor did in his entire term. These drone attacks cause a lot of civilian casualties. I'm curious to know how you feel they help the nation and whether you think they're worth it."
Obama: "First of all, drones have not caused a great number of civilian casualties. For the most part they have been very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates. We have been very careful in how it's been applied."
He went on to say that the drone program is "kept on a very tight leash" and that it's not "just a bunch of folks in a room somewhere making decisions."
Obama also confirmed that “a lot of these strikes have been in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas."
Amnesty International and the ACLU need to track down Evan from New York right now and offer him a job. These casual admissions demonstrate that not only does the administration actively condone these attacks, which may be illegal under international law according to Philip Alston (the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions until July 2010), but also that Obama has no qualms whatsoever about them.
They also demonstrate that in stark contrast to his predecessor, Obama has the knack of making people believe what he says; according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 83% of Americans support the current drone policy. If this were not shocking enough with regard to a program that the government refused even to discuss until Evan arrived on the scene, 77% of liberal Democrats also support the policy, the same liberals who screamed blue murder almost daily when Cheney et al were committing atrocities with civil liberties and human rights both at home and abroad.
And yet Obama’s ability to cast a spell on critical faculty is not the only factor here. Recall, for instance, that 70% of Americans believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 attacks fully two years after the attacks occurred, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that even GW Bush himself unequivocally rejected such a claim.
While the phenomenon of lazy thinking is plainly at work, as well as the inevitable tribalism resulting from the tired Republican versus Democrat narrative, much of the blame can be laid at the feet of a lax, compliant and indeed negligent establishment media, which showed its true colors in spectacular fashion in the run-up to the Iraq War. After that particular debacle, The New York Times, a so-called ‘newspaper of record’, was forced to revise its confidential news sources policy after its shamefully uncritical ‘reporting’ at that time, when the likes of Judith Miller regularly had fear mongering WMD articles on the front pages.
For those with recent feelings of déjà vu: don’t worry - we’re all having them. The fear mongering is now back with a vengeance throughout the establishment media, this time with regard to Iran. The US public is subjected to daily scares on an industrial scale on cable news channels and in major newspapers about how WMDs could be used to attack the US homeland via ICBMs and so on. Quite clearly, Americans (and people around the world) are being mentally prepared for the coming attacks on Iran.
One consequence of this 24/7 beating of the war drums in the media is desensitization to the realities of war among a public who have never personally experienced it, their only sources of information being carefully worded government talking points reported uncritically by the media along with sanitized imagery - sanitized, that is, unless a villain du jour receives his comeuppance. War, behind its Hollywood sheen, is something that happens far away to bad people who probably deserve it.
This desensitization applies also with regard to the drone program. The 83% of Americans who support it hear words like ‘suspected terrorist’ or ‘militant’ when they see or read reports of strikes. Civilian casualties, when mentioned, are tacked on like an afterthought, and normalization quickly sets in due to endless, mechanical repetition.
In 2011, the not for profit, London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported (warning: report contains some upsetting pictures of dead children) that it had ‘identified credible reports of 168 children killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas’. One wonders how many of the 83% would change their mind if their media did their jobs as diligently as the Bureau.
The legal concept of due process is being fatally eroded. Suspected ‘terrorists’ are now tried, convicted and executed by an administration working with neither transparency nor accountability. Not only is this an outrage from the point of view of law, it sets a chilling precedent for anyone with the temerity to challenge or criticize those in power. After all, future definitions of ‘terrorist’ could so easily be expanded to include ‘opponent of the administration’ – you’re either with us or against us.
Whatever it is called, however it is justified, anyone orchestrating or supporting (actively or tacitly) the CIA drone program has the blood of children on their hands. Enablers in the establishment media, instrumental in softening the realities of this abominable campaign, are also culpable. This sociopathic program leads directly to the deaths of children, and nothing in the realm of existence can justify that level of evil.
‘The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter and Facebook or at his blog.