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June 2012, Week 2

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Fri, 8 Jun 2012 21:11:31 -0400
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Obama's Kill List: Silence Is Not an Option

The Nation Editors 
June 6, 2012
This article appeared in the June 25, 2012 edition of The Nation.
http://www.thenation.com/article/168271/obamas-kill-list-silence-not-option

The "war on terror" has its own corrupting logic,
leading otherwise morally responsible leaders to do
unspeakable things. Such is the case with the Obama
administration's descent into the world of kill lists
and drone assassinations.

The image of President Obama poring over baseball-card
profiles of terror suspects in Jo Becker and Scott
Shane's now famous New York Times "kill list" exposé
probably pleased the administration officials whose
cooperation made the story possible, wrapping the
president in glinting "warrior in chief" election year
packaging. For those concerned about the constitutional
protection of civil liberties and the rule of law,
however, that image, and the extraordinary practices it
represents, was profoundly disturbing. The drone policy
the president has developed not only infringes on the
sovereignty of other nations, but the assassinations
violate laws put in place in the 1970s after scandals
enveloped an earlier era of CIA criminality. The new
details about Obama's assassination program also remind
us how the 2001 Congressional Authorization of the Use
of Military Force established a disastrous policy of
"borderless and open-ended war that threatens to
indefinitely extend US military engagement around the
world," in the words of the only member of the House to
vote against it, Barbara Lee.

The kill list makes a mockery of due process by
circumventing judicial review, and turning the executive
into judge, jury and executioner. Even worse, the
"signature" strikes described in the Times article, in
which nameless individuals are assassinated based merely
on patterns of behavior, dispense with any semblance of
habeas corpus altogether. According to the Center for
Constitutional Rights, signature strikes account for
most of the attacks in Pakistan today, and they were
recently approved for use in Yemen.

One of the darkest aspects of this story involves the
administration's method of counting civilian casualties:
The CIA simply assumes that any military-age male in the
vicinity of a terror suspect must be a militant too.
Thus, counterterrorism chief John Brennan was able to
state with a straight face in August 2011 that not one
civilian had perished from US strikes outside
Afghanistan and Iraq in more than a year-a declaration
that was greeted with incredulity and outrage in
Pakistan, where witnesses have attested to hundreds of
civilian deaths.

The drone strikes are inciting even more anti-American
hatred in troubled places like Yemen as well as Pakistan
(see Jeremy Scahill, "Target: Yemen," March 5/12). It is
hard to argue that they are making us safer when, for
every suspect killed, one or more newly embittered
militants emerge to take his place. This is not a
prescription for American security but for an endless
war that will sap our moral core and put in jeopardy our
most cherished freedoms at home.

The new revelations also highlight the dangers of
official secrecy, as we now glimpse some of what the
administration was hiding through its invocation of the
state secrets privilege in court proceedings. But as
urgent as the demand for transparency remains, we know
more than enough to conclude that President Obama's
continuation and expansion of George W. Bush's "war on
terror" has further eroded legal barriers built over
decades to limit executive power. For those who believed
Obama would restore the rule of law after Bush's
imperial overreach, learning the details of these
operations has been troubling. Liberals raised a ruckus
about Bush's abuses. Silence now is not an option.

KILL THE KILL LIST:
http://codepink.salsalabs.com/o/424/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7112

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