April 11, 2013
For drone war advocates, the legitimacy of the targeted killing program rests on the notion that those targets pose a threat to America and US troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The AUMF and the principle of “imminence” supposedly form the legal basis of the drone war.
As the Obama administration has said, drone strikes are authorized only against “specific senior operational leaders of al-Qaeda and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001. “It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” Obama said on CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”
There are basically three categories of people who still believe drone strikes adhere to these standards: (1) right-wing hawks, (2) Obama/Democratic Party sycophants, and (3) the general public, which refuses to read the newspaper.
The rest of us – those paying attention – have known for years that the execution of the drone war has exceeded its already broad legal limits and that the vast majority of those killed in such bombings have not been “specific senior operational leaders in al-Qaeda.”
According to classified documents that Landay obtained, the US has deliberately targeted for death by drone “groups other than al Qaida, including the Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as ‘foreign fighters’ and ‘other militants.’”
“At other times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups.”
John Hudson at Foreign Policy estimates from the numbers in Landay’s reporting that less than 2 percent of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan were described by the government’s own classified documents as senior members of al-Qaeda.
Consider also the New York Times piece by Mark Mazzetti, which confirmed that the very first drone strike in Pakistan, in 2004, targeted an individual that posed no threat to the US, but was instead a local rabble-rouser that the Pakistani government wanted gone. So the CIA did them a favor: The bombing killed the target “and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16.”
Add to this newest string of evidence the finding last year that the Obama administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”