A little cold water to throw on Obama’s speech yesterday

From Tom Junod: The War Obama Forgot:

I am not speaking, of course, of the wars that the president spoke of yesterday, in his second inaugural speech — the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he spoke of without naming. I am speaking of the war that is currently being prosecuted in countries where we are not supposed to be at war, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. I am speaking of the perpetual war, the shadow war, the invisible war against invisible enemies, the war whose latest manifestation came just two days ago, when three men identified as militants, names unknown, were killed by an American drone. I am speaking of the war that the president did not speak about, even though his Administration has never called it anything but a war, and it has killed thousands of people.

Read every word of it.
But here is the difficulty: the technology is so good that the criteria for using it are likely to be steadily relaxed. That’s what seems to have happened with the U.S. Army or with the CIA in Pakistan and Yemen. The overuse of drones and the costs they impose upon the civilian population have been carefully and persuasively documented in the Stanford/NYU Clinics’ report, Living Under Drones. I will focus on only one striking example of how the moral criteria have been relaxed in order to justify the overuse and the costs. According to an article in the New York Times by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, President Obama has adopted “a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” that makes it much easier to call drone attacks “proportionate.” In effect, it “counts all military age males in a strike zone as combatants.” If the targeted insurgent or terrorist leader is surrounded by, or simply in the vicinity of, a group of men who are, say, between the ages of fifteen and sixty (and even drone surveillance can’t be precise about that), an attack is permitted, and everyone who is killed is counted as a legitimate target. But this isn’t targeted killing.
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