[News] Obama to approve drone assassination manual
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 21 11:22:21 EST 2013
Obama to approve drone assassination manual
By Patrick Martin
21 January 2013
President Obama is about to sign off on a manual that will
institutionalize the process by which the White House orders and
approves killings by remote-controlled drones, according to a report Sunday.
The so-called counterterrorism "playbook" will define the circumstances
under which the CIA and the military's Special Forces Command, the two
agencies that operate drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia
and other parts of the Middle East and Africa, may use lethal force.
The front-page article in the /Washington Post/ amounts to a
semi-official announcement by the White House and is based on statements
by unnamed government officials. Its publication, on the same day that
Obama officially took the oath of office for his second term as
president, demonstrates the role of his administration as an instrument
of the military-intelligence apparatus.
The US government is so deeply engaged in assassinations all over the
world that top officials believe a manual is required to regularize the
process. According to the /Post/ account, the drafting of the drone
warfare manual has been delayed by infighting between the CIA and other
agencies, with the CIA seeking greater latitude to conduct missile
strikes. These include "signature" strikes, in which the target is not
an identified member of Al Qaeda or some other alleged terrorist group,
but individuals who appear to be engaged in activity that bears the
"signature" of terrorism, such as congregating with weapons, or loading
vehicles with what appear to be explosives.
This means, in practice, targeting for murder people who appear to be
engaged in resistance against US occupations or military actions in the
Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Moreover, since most drone strikes
target rural areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries
where tribal gatherings are common and weapons are omnipresent, the
demand for "signature" strikes amounts to a license for the CIA to
murder anyone in the population of these territories.
The newspaper reported that the dispute was settled by the CIA gaining
an exemption for wider attacks in Pakistan for a period of at least one
year, more likely two years, and with a possible extension of even
greater duration. The mountainous areas of northwest Pakistan, along the
border with Afghanistan, have been the most frequent target of drone
missile strikes, killing thousands, including hundreds of women and
The /Post/ reports that the drone missile "playbook" will be submitted
to Obama within weeks. The newspaper observes that it "marks the
culmination of a year-long effort by the White House to codify its
counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations
through Obama's second term."
In other words, throughout Obama's reelection campaign, top White House
officials have been negotiating and concretizing the details of a secret
document that takes as its point of departure the principle that the
president is above the law and can order the death of any individual on
the planet, including American citizens, without any legal recourse or
According to the report, "Among the subjects covered in the playbook are
the process for adding names to kill lists, the legal principles that
govern when US citizens can be targeted overseas and the sequence of
approvals required when the CIA or US military conducts drone strikes
outside war zones."
The Obama administration has refused to disclose what "legal principles"
supposedly give the president the power of life and death over all
humanity. Legal memoranda drafted by the Department of Justice have been
kept secret from the American people, with the administration prevailing
in a series of court hearings where judges have bowed to its assertion
of an absolute right to maintain "state secrets," regardless of the
provisions of the Bill of Rights.
Even the legal requirements drawn up by the Obama administration,
however, will not actually impose any limits on the CIA and military.
One former official told the /Post/ that the CIA exemption for Pakistan
would be in effect for "less than two years but more than one," but
added that any final decision "will undoubtedly be predicated on facts
on the ground."
One purpose of the planted account in the /Post/ is to bolster the image
of White House counterterrorism coordinator John Brennan, nominated by
Obama to head the CIA. Brennan was Obama's first choice as CIA director
in 2009, but the newly elected president dared not nominate him because
of his role as an advocate of rendition and torture while a top CIA
official during the Bush administration.
The article published Sunday conforms to recent efforts by the White
House to present Brennan as the advocate of moderation and restraint in
the waging of drone warfare. He is described as the driving force of the
"playbook," his aim being "to impose more consistent and rigorous
controls on counterterrorism programs that were largely ad-hoc in the
aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks."
Insofar as this is anything more than puffery before Brennan's
nomination hearing next month, the account suggests that Brennan's role
is like that of the Nazi bureaucrats who wanted order and system in the
operation of the Final Solution, rather than uncontrolled, spasmodic and
therefore inefficient violence.
Meanwhile, the US killing machine continues its grisly operations. Over
the weekend, US drone strikes killed at least six, and perhaps as many
as sixteen, in several attacks in southern Yemen. Drone-fired missiles
killed three people Saturday in Maarab province and three more in a car
in the same province Sunday. Another ten were killed in an explosion at
a house in al-Bayda province, said to be an accidental detonation during
bomb-making, but possibly the result of another US strike, since the US
government never comments publicly on drone operations.
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