How Obama learned to kill

This is an enlightening piece, and of course it’s good to know that Obama agonizes over the risk to civilians, I guess. My deep disgust isn’t even specifically with him (because after all, all presidents have done this kind of thing) but with the entire nature of this “war on terror” apparatus: Namely, if we’re attacking groups of people because of their “characteristics” and as a deterrent effect to keep possible terrorists from gathering, well, doesn’t that make us terrorists? Going after broad targets to make the rest of them afraid seems to be the very definition:

Obama settled into his high-backed, black-leather chair. Hayden was seated at the other end of the table. The conversation quickly devolved into a tense back-and-forth over the CIA’s vetting procedures for drone attacks. The president was learning for the first time about a controversial practice known as “signature strikes,” the targeting of groups of men who bear certain signatures, or defining characteristics associated with terrorist activity, but whose identities aren’t known. They differed from “personality” or “high-value individual” strikes, in which a terrorist leader is positively identified before the missile is launched.

Sometimes called “crowd killing,” signature strikes are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Obama struggled to understand the concept. Steve Kappes, the CIA’s deputy director, offered a blunt explanation. “Mr. President, we can see that there are a lot of military-age males down there, men associated with terrorist activity, but we don’t always know who they are.” Obama reacted sharply. “That’s not good enough for me,” he said. But he was still listening. Hayden forcefully defended the signature approach. You could take out a lot more bad guys when you targeted groups instead of individuals, he said. And there was another benefit: the more afraid militants were to congregate, the harder it would be for them to plot, plan, or train for attacks against America and its interests.

Obama remained unsettled. “The president’s view was ‘OK, but what assurances do I have that there aren’t women and children there?’?” according to a source familiar with his thinking. “?‘How do I know that this is working? Who makes these decisions? Where do they make them, and where’s my opportunity to intervene?’?”

In the end, Obama relented—for the time being. The White House did tighten up some procedures: the CIA director would no longer be allowed to delegate the decision to carry out a drone strike down the chain. Only the director would have that authority, or his deputy if he was not available. And the White House reserved the right to pull back the CIA’s signature authority in the future. According to one of his advisers, Obama remained uneasy. “He would squirm,” recalled the source. “He didn’t like the idea of ‘kill ’em and sort it out later.’”

UPDATE: Charlie Pierce has more, God bless ‘im.

2 thoughts on “How Obama learned to kill

  1. This isn’t even news. Except to those who haven’t been paying attention. (See: VP Joe Biden and the drone program.) This is the NYT assisting Obama in pushing back against the neo-cons (Zionists) like Romney, McCain, Graham and Lieberman who want him to invade Syria. Here’s the Hobson’s choice that Obama faced. 1)Keep the war in Iraq going, expand the war in Afghanistan, and invade Yemen and Pakistan. That is how the neo-cons (Zionists) wanted the game played. 2) End the war in Iraq, expand the war to a degree in Afghanistan, use drones in Yemen and Pakistan. Obama chose the second option so he could end the war in Iraq. Obama didn’t want to put another 70,000 troops into Afghanistan. Hillary and her neo-cons insisted that he do that as their price for keeping silent as Obama ended the war in Iraq. Nor did he want to expand the drone program. Biden insisted on that to keep his mouth shut. Politics sucks and so do the politicians you have to work with.

  2. The war on terra is actually the globalized version of Vietnam, where the mission was search and destroy and was quantified in numbers killed (body counts). The United Snakes is just out there killing folks who disagree with whatever. Brand the revolutionaries as terraists and let fly the drones of war. Many of them are probably dangerous and better off dead, but it’s the deciding who to kill that’s problematic. The criteria for going after them seems to be the same as what would get a US citizen targeted by the government: plotting or executing violence or taking up arms against the United Snakes. We are Rome.

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