Obama regime surpasses Bush in deadliness of war on al-Qaeda
US RESPONSE:A spate of recent books and articles have revealed a chilling truth that many suspected
WITH ZERO transparency and minimal oversight, the Obama administration is waging a secret war against al-Qaeda far more deadly than anything undertaken by the Bush administration.
To the extent that there is public debate at all, it is not about the morality or wisdom of the assassination campaign, which has reportedly claimed more than 1,400 lives in Pakistan alone since 2009, or whether suspects should be captured and tried rather than killed. It’s about whether the administration has leaked information to journalists to boost President Obama’s image as a “tough guy” in his re-election campaign – a charge Obama vehemently denied yesterday.
The assassination campaign has its own chilling jargon, revealed in extensive articles in the New York Times and several books published in recent weeks.
At their “terror Tuesday” meetings in the White House, in a process called “nominations”, Obama and his advisers review the biographical “baseball cards” for candidates for the “kill list”.
Sometimes those who have signed off on attacks watch the military’s real-time feed of the strikes – dubbed “kill TV”.
In Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, the New York Times Washington correspondent David Sanger states that Obama ratcheted up cyber warfare on Iran’s nuclear programme.
US sponsorship of the Stuxnet and Flame computer viruses was long suspected, but Sanger cites participants in the programme.
The president insists that he personally approves of “nominations” to the “kill list”; the New York Times agrees as does Daniel Klaidman in his book Kill or Capture; The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency.
Some accounts portray the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president as a morally tormented student of St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas who believes he must take responsibility for the killings. Other evidence indicates that Obama is a detached realist, without qualms. “He . . . is quite comfortable with the use of force on behalf of the US,” national security adviser Tom Donilon said.
Obama’s terrorism adviser John Brennan – the son of Irish immigrants, who another Obama adviser describes as “a John Wayne character” – is a key figure in the war on al-Qaeda.
So is Marine Corps general James “Hoss” Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Klaidman, the three men together pick targets and accept or reject names put forward by gung-ho Pentagon and CIA officials.
Linguistically, Obama reduced George W Bush’s global “war on terror” to a more focused “war on al-Qaeda”. But Obama has surpassed his predecessor in secrecy and deadliness. Having promised transparency, Obama has undertaken six criminal prosecutions against suspected sources of leaks, twice as many as all previous administrations combined. He has adopted the CIA’s dubious method for counting civilian casualties of drone attacks in which any male of combat age is automatically counted as a “terrorist”.
Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden – From 9/11 to Abbotabad, reported in April that at least 1,400 lives have been lost in 250 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2009. Bush launched a drone strike in Pakistan every 43 days; Obama, one every four days.
Klaidman writes that this spring alone, the US has carried out more drone attacks in Yemen than in the previous nine years combined. There are still 169 detainees in Guantanamo prison, which Obama promised to shut down by January 2010.
The US is spending millions of dollars to upgrade “Gitmo”, NBC reported this week. The military has built a $750,000 soccer field and provide detainees with 21 cable TV channels, DVDs, newspapers, books and classes in painting and self-enrichment. All mod cons, but no due process. The prison costs $140 million a year to operate – $800,000 per detainee.
The Obama administration has continued renditions, the practice of abducting suspects and turning them over to a third country for interrogation. After promising civilian trials, it has returned to trial by military commissions.
And Obama has continued Bush’s practice of asking the justice department to draft secret memos justifying his decisions, in particular for the September 2011 assassination in Yemen of Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who was born in New Mexico. Obama over-rode the objections of six former CIA directors to release the Bush administration’s secret memos. Now he refuses to release his own.
The spate of articles and books merely dotted a few Is and crossed a few Ts on what was already known of Obama’s secret wars. Yet Congressmen – Democrats and Republicans alike – have responded with outrage and are threatening hearings and investigations. Senator John McCain said he believes the leaks were intended “to enhance President Obama’s image as a tough guy for the elections”.
Obama reacted with equal outrage at a White House press conference yesterday. “The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive,” he said. “It’s wrong.”