Drone Strikes and the Legalization of Murder

            The very serious people who (inexplicably) make a living by talking about American politics (Note: I said, talking about, not providing analysis) seem quite pleased with President Obama’s selection of John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  The pundits are gushing over Brennan’s qualifications, stern demeanor, and a few have even commented on how he just looks like a CIA agent.  Talk about setting the bar low.  Few mention the irony that if David Petraeus had not been caught having an affair, he would still be the Director of the CIA and John Brennan would still be quietly developing kill lists and drone targets for President Obama.  Yes, in America it is unacceptable to have an affair, but it is very acceptable to develop secret assassination lists for the U.S. Government.

            John Brennan spent 25 years in the CIA and is a fluent Arabic linguist.  During his 25 year career in the CIA he worked in several Middle Eastern countries and gained increasing positions of responsibility.  Indeed, he was the CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia when 19 Americans were killed in the Khobar Tower bombing.  I’m quite certain that Mr. Brennan is imminently qualified to discuss the culture, politics and current affairs of most Middle Eastern countries.  His qualifications as an expert on the Middle East are not troubling, what is troubling is his endorsement of torture, extraordinary rendition and drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists.  All of these tactics are justified as necessary conduct in America’s “Global War on Terror”. 

            What is extraordinary rendition?  Extraordinary rendition is the kidnapping of a person in one country and the delivery of that person to a country in which they will be ‘interrogated’.  Simply put, it’s taking someone from a country that is not an American ally and transporting that person to a country that is an American ally, so that the person can be imprisoned, interrogated, tortured, or even killed. In a 2005 interview John Brennan specifically defended the use of extraordinary rendition by saying, “it’s an absolutely vital tool”.  Wait a second, Mr. Brennan.  Are you suggesting that the American legal system is not able to prosecute suspected terrorists?  Yes, that is exactly what he is saying.  He is saying that other countries can do things during an interrogation that are illegal in America. Why, interrogation can be a way to bring a family together in some countries.  Mr. Brennan explains some of the virtues of extraordinary rendition, “…..let’s say an individual goes to Egypt because they’re an Egyptian citizen and the Egyptians then have a longer history in terms of dealing with them, and they have family members and others that they can bring in, in fact, to be part of the whole interrogation process.”  Bringing in the spouse, parent or child to witness their loved one being tortured sure can get results, right Mr. Brennan? 

            Within the Obama Administration, Mr. Brennan’s views on the practice of rendition are as acceptable as his love affair with drone strikes.  The U.S. Government does not release figures on either the drone strikes it conducts or the casualties of those drone strikes.  Therefore, it is impossible to definitively state how many people have been killed as a result of American drone attacks.  What is clear, however, is that the Obama Administration has embraced the use of drone strikes.  With John Brennan as the Director of the CIA drone strikes will continue unabated and most likely will increase.  John Brennan has the responsibility of developing and maintaining a list of suspected terrorists, known as a kill list, which he then presents to President Obama.  Based on a the location of the suspected terrorist, Obama will then decide if a drone strike can be used to kill the suspect with an acceptable amount of collateral damage.  Collateral damage is a military euphemism for innocent bystanders.  Does it need to be stated that these suspected terrorists are never given a chance to face their accusers and defend themselves against the crimes they are accused of having committed?  Does it need to be stated that the U.S. Government is executing a person who has not been given a trial?  Well, surely that person has to be guilty, right? There is no possibility that a mistake could be made in something as important as a ‘kill list’, right?  Keep in mind that hundreds of people were imprisoned for years in Guantanamo before the U.S. Government finally concluded that they were innocent.  It is absurd to believe that no mistakes have occurred in the administration of the kill list.  It is established fact that innocent bystanders have been killed during the drone strikes.

            Obama’s appointment of John Brennan is disgusting, but not surprising.  This administration, as with the previous administration, has decided that it is simply more convenient to conduct war without the constraints of our legal system.  If innocent people are killed it is justified by the ‘fog of war’.  It’s unfortunate, but understandable and acceptable in order to keep America safe.  Anything can be justified during a war.  Assassination, torture and lifetime imprisonment without trial can be excused in the name of National Security.  The loss of our centuries old legal system is just necessary collateral damage to keep us safe.  I would prefer to take my chances and keep my rights.  By selecting John Brennan, Obama has loudly, clearly and unequivocally turned his back on the American judicial system.  Why don’t I feel any safer?




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these days I use "aristocracy"

Shahryar's picture

Imagine a government where only the rich were allowed to be in charge, where being anything else was an automatic disqualifier. "It isn't hard to do", as a famous man once said.

If we had a monarchy we might rail against the king but we wouldn't expect much different. This aristocratic oligarchy is just like that except the figureheads change every once in awhile.

We need to stop thinking this is a democracy. That fantasy allows us to believe things can change for the better within this system.

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speaking of the Soviets

sartoris's picture

ever read anything about the Chechen wars?  the policies of the Russians resulted in serious 'blowback' in the form of terrorist attacks.  why we think there will be no blowback from our drone warfare is foolish.  at least in my opinion.

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We know there will be blowback

traveler's picture

If perpetual war is the objective this is one appropriate tactic. We must keep on creating new enemies to justify the continued erosion of civil liberties at home, "keeping America safe" is how they sell it to an easily duped public.

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A stunning fact in the Rightwing Noise Machine

geomoo's picture

(if I remember the name of that book correctly) was that in the last 70's and after, at the beginning of the unholy rise of the anti-American right, they were consciously copying communist tactics from both the Soviets and the Chinese, including especially tactics of manipulation of public opinion.  And btw, we got some of our torture ideas (yes, virginia, there is a home-grown and uniquely american brand of torture and has been for decades) from the communists those guys pretended to loathe.

So amazing that some very powerful people are devoted to creating fucked up societies so they can realize some selfish, short-term, shallow goals.  So foolish.  In the end, blowback could go so far as the extinction of the race--that's how idiotic it is.

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aw, man.........you missed the snark tag

sartoris's picture

yeah, I knew that would generate exactly that response, hence, the inclusion of the 'snark' tag.


snark is a funny word.  wonder where it came from? 


he described himself as a moderate republican, he behaves as a moderate republican, he just needs to make the switch.  why would he though?  I think he will make a fortune on the lecture/book writing circuit once he is out of office.  switching parties would just not be a good idea from a financial point of view...........course, from a financial point of view, his policies are not a good idea for America. 

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The British tactics against the IRA, Russians in Chechnya

sartoris's picture

It is a very long list of countries that did exactly what we are doing in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and so many other places.  Our tactics will lead to retaliation.  This is not some theoretical exercise.  These actions do not exist in a vacuum.  Remember the school and hosptial massacres that the Chechens committed inside Moscow?  They were 'paying back' the Russians for the massacres that they committed during the Chechen war.  9-11 did not happen because the Islamists hate our freedoms.  They were pissed off we had troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia.  Guess what?  We don't have troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia anymore.  Actions have reactions.  Remember the IRA Christmas bombings in London during the 90s?  People died because of the policies that the 'hawks' implemented.  People will die again because our 'hawks' are too stupid to learn from their own failures and the failures of others.

Drone warfare is not making America safer. 

Americans will die because of what we are doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  John Brennan has been an architect of the very polices that are justifying the murder of suspected criminals and that will put American lives in danger.  He is as clueless now about the situation as he was when he was the CIA Station Chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when either, al-Qaeda or Hezbollah, blew up the Khobar Towers.  Brennan missed the signs then and he is missing them now.  Did the British war in Ireland make the British citizens safer? 


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