Thursday, April 26, 2012

Obama escalates War on Terror in Yemen (without knowing who he’s killing)

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U.S. President Barack Obama
Pres. Barack Obama

I don’t think there’s ever been a Nobel laureate who so quickly and thoroughly undermined the significance of their award than Peace Prize-holder President Obama. As if launching multiple (and for more than one, extra-judicial) simultaneous wars, continuing (and even worsening) the Bush administration’s desecration of civil liberties and continually expanding the Security and Surveillance States weren’t enough, he’s now gone ahead and okayed the targeted assassination of anyone in Yemen who is secretly declared to be a terrorist – even if they don’t know who the targets even are:

The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said. . . .


So here’s yet another war that Obama is escalating, now ordering people’s death with greater degrees of recklessness, now without even bothering to know who is being targeted. Although Miller doesn’t bother to mention the likelihood of more deaths of innocent Yemenis, this is the same policy that has caused large numbers of civilian deaths in Pakistan (just read this heart-wrenching and amazing account of a 16-year-old Pakistani boy, Tariq Aziz, oh-so-coincidentally killed by an American drone, along with his 12-year-old cousin, just days after he attended a meeting to protest civilian deaths by drones).

One has to wonder how very threatening these alleged TerroristsTM must be in order to justify being designated as such by a secret cabal (that never needs to reveal its evidence or reasoning to the outside world) and having the Most TransparentTM and peace-loving Leader of the Free WorldTM send drones after them to level the area and leave behind any number of dead civilians (including children), all in a not-at-all-futile effort to wage war on terrorism itself.

Meanwhile, Steven Rosenfeld at Salon details the President and his inner circle’s continuation of those same policies he so vehemently decried only four years ago [links removed]:

President Obama now has power that Bush never had. Foremost is he can (and has) ordered the killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are deemed terrorists. Like Bush, he has asked the Justice Department to draft secret memos authorizing his actions without going before a federal court or disclosing them. Obama has continued indefinite detentions at Gitmo, but also brought the policy ashore by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of assisting terrorists, even citizens. That policy, codifying how the Bush administration treated Jose Padilla, a citizen who was arrested in a bomb plot after landing at a Chicago airport in 2002 and was transferred from civil to military custody, upends the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878’s ban on domestic military deployment.

Meanwhile, more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, Washington’s wartime posture has trickled down into many areas of domestic activity — even as some foreign policy experts say the world is a much safer place than it was 20 years ago, as measured by the growth in free-market economies and democratic governments. Domestic law enforcement has been militarized — as is most visibly seen by the tactics used against the Occupy protests and also against suspected illegal immigrants, who are treated with brute force and have limited access to judicial review before being deported.

One of Bush’s biggest civil liberties breaches, spying on virtually all Americans via their telecommunications starting in 2003, also has been expanded. Congress authorized the effort in 2006. Two years later, it granted legal immunity to the telecom firms helping Bush — a bill Obama voted for. The National Security Agency is now building its largest data processing center ever, which’s James Bamforth reports will go beyond the public Internet to grab data but also reach password-protected networks. The federal government continues to require that computer makers and big websites provide access for domestic surveillance purposes. More crucially, the NSA is increasingly relying on private firms to mine data, because, unlike the government, it does not need a search warrant. The Constitution only limits the government searches and seizures.

The government’s endless wartime footing is also seen in its war on whistle-blowers. Obama has continued cases brought by Bush, such as going after the “leaker” in the warrantless wiretapping story broken by the New York Times in 2005, as well as the WikiLeaks case, prosecution of Bradley Manning, and others for allegedly mishandling classified materials related to the war on terrorism. Its suppression of war-related information given to journalists extends overseas, where the State Department this month has blocked a visa for a Pakistani critic from speaking in the U.S. The White House also recently pressured Yemen’s leader to jail the reporter who exposed U.S. drone strikes. Meanwhile, the administration has stonewalled Freedom of Information Act requests, particularly the Justice Department, which has issued the secret wartime memos.

How bad is it? Anthony Romero, the ACLU executive director, exclaimed in June 2010 that Obama “disgusted” him. Meanwhile, the most hawkish Bush administration officials have defended and praised Obama.

Be sure to read the whole thing. You know it’s bad when your supposed nemeses are the ones who’ve become your biggest cheerleaders.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)