One of the important points from Shane’s piece was that the drone war is in fact not addressing imminent threats to the US. That is not how targets are chosen, contrary to administration claims. As Micah Zenko, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a consistent critic of the drone wars, told Shane, “We don’t say that we’re the counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but we are.”
This undermines the Obama administration’s entire legal case for the drone war. If the use of force is not in self-defense and not addressing an imminent threat to the US, but is instead a murderous policing technology for the benefit of our puppet dictatorships, then it is in violation of both domestic and international law.
Justin Elliot at ProPublica interviewed Zenko to follow up on this point:
You were quoted over the weekend arguing that the U.S., with the campaign of drone strikes, is acting as the “counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” How did you come to this conclusion?
Under the Obama administration, officials have argued that the drone strikes are only hitting operational Al Qaeda leaders or people who posed significant and imminent threats to the U.S. homeland. If you actually look at the vast majority of people who have been targeted by the United States, that’s not who they are.
There are a couple pieces of data showing this. Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation has done estimates on who among those killed could be considered “militant leaders” — either of the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, or Al Qaeda. Under the Bush administration, about 30 percent of those killed could be considered militant leaders. Under Obama, that figure is only 13 percent.
Most of the people who are killed don’t have as their objective to strike the U.S. homeland. Most of the people who are killed by drones want to impose some degree of sharia law where they live, they want to fight a defensive jihad against security service and the central government, or they want to unseat what they perceive as an apostate regime that rules their country.
Why does this distinction matter so much?
This is a huge outstanding dilemma. Is the primary purpose of the drone attacks counter-terrorism, or is it counter-insurgency? If it’s counter-insurgency, that is a very different mission, and you have to rethink the justifications and rethink what the ultimate goal is of using lethal force.
Read the whole piece: The Mundanity of a Criminal President « Antiwar.com Blog.