Death by drone good; enhanced interrogation bad
From the New York Times regarding John Brennan’s upcoming confirmation hearing as the President’s nominee to lead the CIA. Brennan is currently the President’s drone master and some, it would seem, are concerned about the policy efficacy of death via drone-delivered Hellfire missiles:
Several former top military and intelligence officials — including Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired general who led the Joint Special Operations Command, which has responsibility for the military’s drone strikes, and Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director — have raised concerns that the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen are increasingly targeting low-level militants who do not pose a direct threat to the United States.
Perhaps “low-level militants” are in the eye of the beholder. You know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s low-level militant and all that?
So what does the President’s drone master, do? At minimum, it would seem he manages the President’s kill-list:
From his basement office in the White House, Mr. Brennan has served as the principal coordinator of a “kill list” of Qaeda operatives marked for death, overseeing drone strikes by the military and the C.I.A., and advising Mr. Obama on which strikes he should approve.
How have things gone in this arrangement? Well, as for what follows in the trailing block quote… let’s just say it doesn’t appear to have entailed a drone—cruise missiles aren’t drone-delivered—but it’s still something Obama’s predecessor would be literally (in Biden-speak) lynched for:
The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster. American cruise missiles carrying cluster munitions killed dozens of civilians, including many women and children. Another strike, six months later, killed a popular deputy governor, inciting angry demonstrations and an attack that shut down a critical oil pipeline.
Hmm. By December 2009, the Administration wasn’t new to things. They would have been in place almost a year. Yes, it would seem mistakes were made, shoulda, coulda, woulda, and all that.
But what about more recent history? That is, how about the President’s death by drone program—let’s say in Yemen only—in 2013?
There have been at least five drone strikes in Yemen since the start of the year, killing at least 24 people. That continues a remarkable acceleration over the past two years in a program that has carried out at least 63 airstrikes since 2009, according to The Long War Journal, a Web site that collects public data on the strikes, with an estimated death toll in the hundreds. Many of the militants reported killed recently were very young and do not appear to have had any important role with Al Qaeda.
Well. That sounds like a lot of Presidentially-directed death for those who don’t appear to have an important role with Al Qaeda. But what does the Time’s article segue into?
… some Yemenis wonder why there is not more reliance on their country’s elite counterterrorism unit, which was trained in the United States as part of the close cooperation between the two countries that Mr. Brennan has engineered. One member of the unit, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed great frustration that his unit had not been deployed on such missions, and had in fact been posted to traffic duty in the capital in recent weeks, even as the drone strikes intensified.
Since the future of warfare is largely unmanned, death by drone is with us to stay. But it’s curious, isn’t it, that the Obama standard of death by drone—including plenty of collateral damage—creates no outrage and very little discussion. Consider how that can be versus the Bush standard of behavior, where highly limited ‘enhanced interrogation’ creates massive outrage and dominates news cycles for months on end? Strange, ain’t it?
The good news, since Brennan is now owned by Obama, is that Brennan says enhanced interrogation is a thing of the past. And as it regards Brennan’s detailed knowledge of the Bush-era enhanced interrogation? That can be waived off… he’s on the right team now.