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Obama's Impersonal War

Obama's Impersonal War

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Published by Robert Crawford
We Americans were understandably horrified by the Newtown shooting last December that left 26 dead. But few of us have hardly raised a whisper of protest over the dozens of Newtowns our extralegal drone strike program has visited on countries around the world.
We Americans were understandably horrified by the Newtown shooting last December that left 26 dead. But few of us have hardly raised a whisper of protest over the dozens of Newtowns our extralegal drone strike program has visited on countries around the world.

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Published by: Robert Crawford on Feb 27, 2013
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06/08/2013

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President Barack Obama welcomed George W Bush back to the White House on Thursday for the
unveiling of his predecessor’s official portrait. Bush joked that in a crisis Obama could look at the painting and ask, “What would George do?” 
 
 –
Christina Lamb
S
ince the Newtown, CT shooting that had claimed the lives of 20 children aged six and
seven and six innocent adult faculty members, it’s been more than fair enough to ask ourselves if 
we value the lives of American children moreso than those of other countries. For instance, if 
we’d learned that
a CIA drone strike ordered by the Obama administration had killed 20 childrenand six of the faculty after bombing a school in Pakistan, would that spark a national debateabout the legality and humanity, not to mention the efficacy, of our drone strike program?Sadly, I think we all know what the answer to that question is.Yet, it was fair enough of  Christian Rice to ask that question two months ago
, one that’ll
have to remain a rhetorical one for now.As with most anything else, sometimes we cannot appreciate the carnage of, at best, aquestionable program that continues killing civilians as our unmanned drones have done since2004 unless we look at the numbers. It may seem a heartless rubric, not to mention a possiblyfutile one, to break down real human loss and devastation to numbers but in lieu of actuallywalking among the rubble and touring what passes for hospitals in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistanand where ever our drones have run roughshod, numbers will have to suffice.
To those who’d followed the lawless Bush administration, Obama’s legal team
 persuading him that the unilateral use of drone strikes that routinely occur without prior noticebeing given to the sovereign nations involved sound disturbingly similar to John Yoo, Alberto
Gonzales and Dick Cheney whispering assurances in Bush’s ear li
ke so many snakes in theGarden of Eden about the legality of torture and of the Unitary Executive. The Obamaadministration seems to solely exist to prove correct former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia
when he warned us, “If you give the government power,
 
it’ll use it.” And the current
administration is recycling the now-tattered fig leaf used by the Bush gang: Terrorism andmilitant activity, whether or not they threaten US interests, justifies the end, even if the end is thetermination of countless innocent lives.It came out last year that the Obama administration, knowing of the evil it was doing,decided to move not the goalposts but the hashmarks. In posthumously describing all males 15
and up as “suspected militants”, the administration and CIA was able to simultaneously pump up
terrorist kills while downplaying civilian casualties, essentially calling the grieving families andlocal authorities liars to their faces. Such a haggling over the actual civilian body counts (nottallied by the Obama administration and Gates/Panetta any more than we did under Bush andRumsfeld) seems unforgivably heartless but no major government these days can or will cling topower for long while being humane.But the numbers that come out of central Asia and the Middle East do not lie:
 reported back in August of 2011 that 168 children had been killed bydrone strikes in Pakistan alone, which is a horrendous enough statistic.
That’s eight Newtowns
and then some. But the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism that
does
keep track of civilian body counts came to the conclusion last November that 176 children had been killed by drone strikes in Afghanistan.
That’s almost
nine
Newtowns.
And if those numbers doesn’t shock you out of complacence, consider an 
 article that quoted a United Nations study that discovered on average, 4.8 children die
 per day
inAfghanistan of which drone strikes are but one cause of death. We were shocked and appalled
 
when 20 students died at the hands of Adam Lanza and for good reason. But when an Americansergeant was found last March to have murdered 16 civilians in Afghanistan, nine of them children, it was literally a case of here today, gone tomorrow.Small wonder the UN decided to launch their own investigation into our drone program.
It’s impossible to consider 
carnage on that large a scale. At the time of those studies of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, 344 children had been killed over the years often by 5 foot-longHellfire missiles that are much taller than they are and screaming toward them at 1000 mph. Thesheer fact alone the Obama administration is willing to smear the names and reputations of dead
children by marking them as “suspected militants” or terrorists shows just how
criminally bereftof compassion this administration truly is.
Yet it’s no surpri
se we keep electing to power one sociopathic administration afteranother considering that we, too, have blinders on when it comes to non-American casualties.The fact that we can stomach state-sponsored murder of others better than we can the unofficialkind is a constant of American society. We screamed bloody murder about the Manson Familymurders but hardly a whisper was raised over My Lai even after Seymour Hersh broke the storythat same year. We condemned Mayor Richard Daley, the Democratic Party in general andChicago machine politics over the violent 1968 Democratic convention while largely turning,aside from a few antiwar factions, our eyes from the immolation of Vietnamese villages (thatwere also excused away under the guise of terminating any suspected Viet Cong with extremeprejudice, military-
ese for “Murder everyone in sight.”).
 
Yet it’s safe to say no Viet Cong were killed at My Lai in 1968. So it comes as no
surprise by those still vaguely and abstractly distressed by the news that the Brookings Institutefound that only one in ten fatalities of drone strikes turns out to be a high value target. And even that could be overly optimistic: Some human rights organizations have put the figures as low as2%. 
Yet, as troubling as these horrific numbers are, what’s even more shocking is that the
Obama administration, reportedly on personal orders from the president and his trusted advisors,
are using terrorist tactics. These include “
, a deceptively soft term describing the
terrorist tactic(according to the FBI)of bombing a target then quickly circling back and bombing it again, sometimes repeatedly. Terrorists do this to be thorough and to terrorize thecivilian population. But when we do so, we also take out the first responders whether they bemilitary, police or medical personnel such as paramedics.As proof that the Obama administration was fully prepared to make use of the hypermilitaristic infrastructure left behind by the last gang of war criminals (that the Obamaadministration has gone to great lengths to shield, including arm-twisting the Spanish courts  when they moved to try Bush, Cheney and others for war crimes such as torture even as theadministration was patting itself on the back for eschewing torture), the first drone strike in theObaman age of hope and change began three days after the inauguration. On January 23, 2009, adrone attack in Karez Kot, Pakistan left 19 civilians dead, including four children.  To use just Pakistan as a reference point, this Wikipedia page 
that’s devoted to drone
attacks in that country (strangely, none exists for Afghanistan or Yemen) shows how
dramatically drone activity has been ramped up under Obama’s reign. 2004
-7 merits all of 13lines while 2008, the final year of Bush, showed an increasing reliance on unmanned drones.
Still, 35 drone strikes were ordered for Pakistan in the last year of Bush’s occupancy of the
White House. When we get to the Obama years, dozens of drone strikes are listed with the timeframes consisting not of entire years but two months.

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