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Politics

The Reality of Drone Warfare by the U.S. Military

Drone“I’m going to repeat one more time,” said President Barack Obama in a lengthy 2013 speech at the National Defense University in Washington D.C.

“As a matter of policy, the preference of the United States is to capture terrorist suspects. When we do detain a suspect, we interrogate them. And if the suspect can be prosecuted, we decide whether to try him in a civilian court or a military commission,” said the President.

According to the Monmouth University Polling Institute, 76 percent of American say law enforcement agencies should be required to obtain a warrant from a judge before using drones.

New documents leaked to The Intercept reveal that the President’s claims were at best intentionally misleading and at worst patently false.

The Intercept is an online start-up news site launched in Feb. 2014 by First Look Media— the news organization created and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. The magazine serves as a platform for the documents leaked by former NSA cyber security contractor, Edward Snowden, and employs journalist Glenn Greenwald, filmmaker Laura Poitras, and author Jeremy Scahill as editors.

The response to the latest leak of classified military documents has been largely restrained but has provoked some outspoken critics, such as the Qataristate-funded media network, Al Jazeera, which said, “the U.S. drone program is imprecise and arbitrary and a grave risk to civilians everywhere. It is also a program over which the president exercises little control.”

The American-based Foreign Policy Magazine published that The Intercept’s reporting “is less one big ‘bombshell’ and more of a synthesis of over a decade’s worth of reporting and analysis, bolstered by troubling new revelations about what has become routine.”

The Intercept’s reporting, chronicled as “The Drone Papers,” is in fact just another piece to a larger puzzle. For instance, in Feb. 2013, NBC’s Michael Isikoff published a Department of Justice Memo that provided the legal basis for targeting U.S. citizens. The Intercept series however, is far more robust and insightful than previous leaks of classified information regarding America’s controversial drone program.

Coupled with these supplementary documents, a narrative starts to take shape. The first strike from a remotely piloted drone took place in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, and since then, drone warfare has been greatly expanded. To date, there have been more than 400 U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria.

During a particularly deadly operation in Afghanistan, portentously dubbed “Operation Haymaker,” 56 American drone strikes killed 35 targets and more than 200 individuals not specifically targeted, but labeled “enemies killed in action” nonetheless.

Under U.S. policy, any additional loss of life corresponding with the killing of a target, or “jackpot,” is presumptively labeled as “enemies killed in action,” because they were “military-age males” associated with a target. Furthermore, they remained “enemies killed in action” until it could be proved that they were neither terrorists nor unlawful enemy combatants, a near impossible burden to prove posthumously.

The President’s assertion that capture and interrogation of suspected terrorists is preferable to termination is more directly challenged by the story of Bilal el-Berjawi, a British citizen who traveled between the U.K. and East Africa under surveillance by American and British intelligence agents. Ultimately, “Objective Peckman,” as Berjawi is referred to throughout, was killed using signal data from a cell phone planted in his vehicle by an informant.

The problem with employing the various assets the U.S. relies on for ground-level information is complicated. In some instances, the information is unreliable, as signal data admittedly is and in many cases, could lead to the U.S. and its allies targeting irrelevant or superfluous targets who pose little or no credible threat to our national security.

Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko claims the Obama administration “strongly prefers killing suspected terrorists rather than capturing them, despite claiming the opposite.”

An anonymous source told The Intercept, the military sees drone strikes as “a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The documents reveal that top U.S. intelligence officials see drone strikes as futile however, and instead prefer a “find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze and disseminate” approach, which calls for the apprehension and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

The President seems to be torn between the satisfaction of the swift retribution that the drone program offers and upholding the vision that America be the world’s moral compass. His message: descimate our enemies using any means necessary until we unintentionally tarnish our reputation for having removed the white gloves.

“America is at a crossroads,” surveyed President Obama during that speech over two years ago. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.  We have to be mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’”

Reconciling the questionable tactics the U.S. is currently engaged in around the world with the message to spread Democracy and the freedom to every possible individual is a stiff test indeed.

“This war, like all wars, must end.  That’s what history advises.  That’s what our democracy demands.” IMAGE TAKEN from af.thetodaypost.com

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