From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed — through secretive processes, without indictment or trial — worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.
The cutting edge journalistic team at The Intercept expose the shocking dystopian powers the United States and President Obama in particular have so roundly abused. The Democratic president, they say, has gotten away with crimes and repressive policies that liberals never would have let a Republican carry out.
“The most significant aspect of what President Obama has done, regarding drones and regarding the so-called targeted killing program around the world, is that Obama has codified assassination as a central official component of American foreign policy,” Scahill said. Obama “has implemented policies that a Republican probably would not have been able to implement, certainly not with the support that Obama has received from so many self-identified liberals.”
In 2015 alone, the U.S. dropped at least 23,144 bombs on six Muslim-majority countries, many in which it has not officially declared war.
The online magazine The Intercept exploded this secrecy when it obtained a cache of secret slides that provide a window into the inner workings of the US military’s kill/capture operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Whether through the use of drones, night raids, or new platforms yet to be employed, these documents show assassination to be central to US counterterrorism policy.
The classified documents reveal that Washington’s fourteen-year targeted killing campaign suffers from an overreliance on flawed signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been deliberately obscured from the public and insulated from democratic debate. The Assassination Complex allows us to understand at last the circumstances under which the US government grants itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.
The book will include original contributions from Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden.
Among the many revelations in the book is that during a five-month period in a U.S. program in northeastern Afghanistan called Operation Haymaker, almost 90 percent of people killed in drone strikes were not the intended targets.
As renowned investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill writes: “Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination. While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word “assassination.” This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, “targeted killings.”
When the Obama administration has discussed drone strikes publicly, it has offered assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to boots on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be eliminated. Those terms, however, appear to have been bluntly redefined to bear almost no resemblance to their commonly understood meanings.
Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.