Democrats are hypocritically silent about Obama’s policy of targeted assassinations.
There are lots of hypocrisies surrounding the recently released executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. But they pale in comparison to the current Democratic silence about President Barack Obama’s policy of targeted drone assassinations.
Since 2004, drones have killed an estimated 2,400 to 3,888 individuals in Pakistan alone, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. An estimated 345 to 553 individuals in Yemen have been killed in drone strikes over the same period. The BIJ reports that the Obama administration has “markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan — his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years.”
On some occasions, drones blew up women and children in the target area. According to the BIJ, casualties of the drone strikes include 480 to 1,042 civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
How is assassinating a suspected terrorist — and anyone unfortunate enough to be in his general vicinity — with a drone missile morally or legally different from waterboarding a confessed terrorist at Guantanamo Bay? At least the waterboarded suspect survives the ordeal.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report failed to disprove the CIA’s contention that only three detainees were waterboarded. A small number of detainees were subject to sleep disturbance or excessive temperatures. In contrast, drone strikes ordered by Obama may have assassinated thousands.
Were those who were waterboarded more or less likely to be plotting terror than those blown to smithereens? We do not know that answer. Yet the former were in detention — one of whom confessed to plotting the 9/11 attacks, and another suspected of masterminding the USS Cole attack — while the latter were never caught, much less questioned, and their status as terrorists was far less assured.
Those killed by drones were not in uniform. They did not serve a nation-state and therefore were not classified as military targets in the traditional sense. Obama had assumed persuasively that they were terrorists and therefore without the protection of the Geneva Conventions that govern the rules of war.
But were the detainees at Guantanamo any different? They did not surrender on the battlefield in uniform or in the service of a nation that adheres to the Geneva Conventions. Blowing up suspects or waterboarding high-level terror suspects may or may not be moral, but the two acts seem to be analogous.
Is one act more heinous than the other? Most people would prefer to be waterboarded than vaporized. Drones blow up everybody nearby. Waterboarding does not affect other nearby prisoners who are not being interrogated.
If the wrong suspect is waterboarded, he can be exempt from further such interrogation. If the wrong target is blown up, he has no second chance.
Did saving American lives distinguish between the two practices? We do not know. But the suspects incinerated by drones never had any opportunity to be interrogated. Their knowledge of terrorist networks went up in smoke with them. However, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the waterboarded mastermind of 9/11, may have offered information about several supposed copy-cat operations to follow.
Was President George W. Bush more nonchalant about enhanced interrogation techniques than was President Obama about drone killings? Not really. The charge against Bush is one of laxity. Supposedly, CIA interrogators freelanced without proper executive-branch supervision. In contrast, Obama is said to go over the drone hit list himself.
In 2010, Obama publicly joked about sending predator drones after any would-be suitors of his two daughters: “But boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.” He also reportedly bragged to aides of his stepped-up drone program, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people.”
What, then, are the major ethical and legal distinctions between drone assassinations and enhanced interrogation techniques that might explain the radically different media and political responses?
I can think of at least three in the present political landscape.
One, Americans rarely hear much about the killing of suspects in distant countries. But they can obtain firsthand accounts of treatment of those in U.S. detention facilities. The cliché “out of sight, out of mind” explains some of the present selective outrage.
Two, Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a one-time vocally anti-war senator and an iconic liberal hero. He is assumed not to have wanted to blow up thousands of suspects, yet it is all too easy for many to believe that Bush, the Texas conservative, must have wanted to harshly interrogate confessed terrorists.
Three, the committee members who compiled the newly released report are all Democrats. Their investigation targeted a CIA program launched by a Republican administration. In the pursuit of their seemingly predetermined findings, they relied solely on documents and chose to not interview CIA personnel.
When President Obama leaves office, what will the next Senate Intelligence Committee do? Will a Republican-controlled Congress take a harder look at the rationale, ethics, and legality of the former president’s drone assassinations? Will it blame Obama for vastly expanding the body count of such a lethal program?
Will it charge that in the topsy-turvy morality of the Obama presidency, his administration preferred to bypass Guantanamo by choosing to kill suspected terrorists rather than capture them?
© 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
24 thoughts on “Are Drone Strikes More Defensible than Torture?”
The drone attacks are reprehensible. The enhanced interrogation techniques are reprehensible. One does not make the other any more moral or defensible. Apparently history shows that the US did not do anything when government agents used torture against the Filipino people when the Philippines were under US “administration”. The government investigated. There was outrage. No one was tried or convicted and that part of the history of American occupation was swept under the carpet. Unless citizens speak out (and probably even if they do) the same thing will happen again.
If I become a conservative, I don’t want to become a conservative who defends torture by trying excuse one crime by pointing at another and saying this crime is just as bad as that one and no one says anything about that one. I wish the uproar about the drone program and the torture program and Guantanamo do change things for the better. An American for a Better America.
I’d agree with that last bit. It would be just as hypocritical of a future Republican to get all hot and bothered over drone use as it is for the Obama Admin to use tools of state that were protested loud and long when it was a Republican in charge.
TThe difference is one was ordered by a Republican and the other by a Democrat. You can enable mass murder (all commie dictators) rape (Isil and Bill Clinton) underage human trafficking (Obama and DHS ) I could go on and on with various criminal and thuggish behavior, as long as
your a Democrat it’s ok. A Republican holding a door open for a women is a hater. It’s just the way it is.
This is so true. If Bush were killing so many innocent people in the course of these strikes, the media would be all over it. What you hear now is silence.
Having to spend time locked up behind bars is torture to most people. I bet it is for you. I think your tortured logic is reprehensible.
So all those petty criminals in stir are being tortured? Really?
But there is plenty more hypocrisy in play here: to wit:
Barry-boy criticising the use of targeted assassination by ISRAEL!
Also the Muhammad video was to blame for Benghazi, but
Sony should show “The interview”
Also, how much would fine upstanding Liberals pay to see
Dick Cheney waterboarded?
What about losing? What about the Japanese “administration” of the Philippines? What about weakening a good country by demanding superhuman standards?
Heaven on earth is not an option, hell on earth is. The West can easily be defeated if it lacks the will to survive by any means necessary. If it comes to either dying or killing it is not moral to succumb to evil, to roll over and die as a great example for humanity. Stefan Zweig did not free Europe from National Socialism, American Ships, Goods, Airplanes and Soldiers did.
I am for drones and for waterboarding. I even would support real torture of terrorists if needed. Non profiling and all the other modern high standards are simply idiotic and not angelic. Fighting with one arm behind your back or better forcing others to risk their live for you while having to fight with one arm tied behind their back is what is reprehensible in my eyes. Better men and women than you and me die unnecessarily that way. I am afraid that a lot of cowardice and moral idiocy is hiding behind the attitude of being better than anybody else. I first and foremost want to win and not be a slave of braindead mullahs. I’m not sure if we can afford that many additional goals. We will be hated by our evil enemies and the opportunistic bystanders in any event.
We have an enemy that gleefully blows themselves up, beheads, crucifies, traffics in sex slavery, and wantonly murders schoolchildren after burning their teachers alive before their eyes. Compared to that, waterboarding and rectal rehydration is kindergarten stuff. These people chose the tone of battle, and brutality should be met with brutality until the aggressor lays down their arms. This is human nature 101. You cannot treat unreasonable enemies as if they were reasonable people and ever hope to command their respect, let alone defeat them. Any leader who doesn’t steamroll these barbarians will have even more blood on their hands by pursuing half-measures that allow them to live and keep perpetuating their hate and violence. They have set the rules of the game so that we cannot win without getting our hands bloody, and the longer this conflict is protracted, the longer the whole world will suffer. They have no respect for innocent life and will not suffer anyone who does not share their beliefs to live, so I say to let them bear the full weight of the circumstances they have chosen for themselves. Innocents will die either way, but if we dilly dally many more will die. This is not unlike the choice Truman had to make regarding the use of the atomic bomb versus a full scale invasion of Japan, except that nuclear weapons are not yet necessary to defeat the Islamists. If we wait, we may be forced into a nuclear conflict by these madmen, which would be far worse. Fear of bad publicity is tying our hands and will ultimately enable much greater horrors in the long run if we let ourselves fail to make a difficult choice that we HAVE to make…
…ARE drone strikes more defensible than torture?
Of course not. That’s obvious.
However, in the herd mind of an apathetic nation’s migratory wanderings
The choice THAT IS defensible is the one made by
The complicit media
This is very simple to explain. The attitude of the LSM and hence the liberals that read, believe and adore their tripe is Bush/Cheney bad, Obama good. Bush/Cheney must be defeated and destroyed at every turn, Obama can do no wrong.
It seems that if one isn’t going to personally kill or capture terrorists up close and personal there remain two choices: either do nothing while the terrorists do whatever they desire or use interrogation and drones to do what the lack of will to use up close and personal would have done. This isn’t about civil law niceties, it’s about being blown to bits in an ice cream parlor, grocery store, mall or in a conveyance with your wives, husbands,babies, children, other family members, friends, and innocent bystanders accompanying you in the blast.
Torture is a relative term. I was tortured by public school teachers from about 8th thru 12th grade. Maybe I should sue the county I grew up in as well as the unions etc. Rush hour traffic is torture. So is going to the dentist.
I wonder how many Yemeni children are living with a permanent wound from a drone strike authorized by Obama?
Public school methods have been deemed acceptable by low security prison standards.
“In contrast, Obama is said to go over the drone hit list himself.” Yes, like Stalin he savours his kills. Barack Obama would make a good James Bond villain – the Man with the Golden Drone.
“In 2010, Obama publicly joked about sending predator drones after any would-be suitors of his two daughters: “But boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.” He also reportedly bragged to aides of his stepped-up drone program, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people.” ”
I am confused by this question of joking remarks. Its a bit like fixing your leaking taps or clearing the snow from outside your house: if nobody else is doing it, if everybody else is being stupid, what’s the point in me being reasonable?
In an ideal world, we would be able to tolerate the joking remarks of Obama, just like we do in normal discourse with our friends. Then, when some Leftard gripes about a joking remark of Bush, for example, we would say
“You guys need to go out more. Do you want to live in a world where nobody can make a casual joke? What about all Obama’s bad jokes that we let pass?”
But we know it would never be like that. The have-it-both-ways ‘progressives’ are hyper critical of any casual remarks from Republicans, whilst demanding a free pass for all of their people, and all of their despicable remarks. I remember some idiot on here complaining that VDH was still going on about Benghazi. Yeah, right, we are too picky. We should just let it go, from Benghazi, to Secret Service, to VA, etc, etc.
Anyway, back to topic, I do find this confusing. If Obama is a useless wimp, completely clueless about military matters and combat, which he is, then when he makes that comment “Turns out I’m really good at killing people” its actually pretty funny, as funny as if my grandma said it. But then if you put that in the context of villagers in Afghanistan or Yemen, then it seems like a very callous remark, and the humour of Obama’s gentrification is lost on them.
So maybe the issue is about being statesmanlike? Maybe statesmen should generally speaking not make jokes, and if they do, only very safe ones? Then we wouldn’t have to address the question of tolerating our opponents throw-away remarks.
As with any regime dedicated to Kafkaesque outcomes for Kafkaesque shock and awe’s sake, the reason-smiting law or action or effect of leadership, is to torture the reason section of the populace’s brain, so the leaders can keep their stranglehold on life’s breath.
When has Obama ever been statesmanlike?
I enjoyed reading this. Obama’s latest action with Cuba shows a President who is a lame duck and so very weak in defending freedom. The Presidents of America’s antiquity would have laughed him out of office. Obama’s Manifest Destiny of destroying American might have touched single handily placed Missiles of Communism in Americans thinking. The period before the outbreak of the Civil War was one most intense in American History. Obama’s as I call it so called humanitarian movement with Cuba is missing. In effect please continue to write on Obama’s ethics of un American Insurrections and wake Americans up to the electrifying stupidity of President who supports Communist Nations. Next are we to see Barack Obama, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner in Communist Cuba as Grand Marshall’s of Castro’s Parade. Cuban cigars are overrated and so is Obama, as you have proven time and time again. The title of “The Savior General of Americanism is forthcoming.”
Americans do not like to think about how their liberties re obtained. That’s why.
Probably the last word on the subject was written by Gen. W. T. Sherman: “war is cruelty and you cannot refine it.”
Every day brings a new outrage. When is it appropriate to stop talking and start doing?
If enhanced interrogation techniques are not allowed, there will be a huge increase in battlefield executions. Terrorists are “irregulars” and not protected by the Geneva Conventions.
I hope the life of anyone under arms, captured on the battlefield, is ended.
It is our only legal option.
Sherman gives the sort form. The long form was given by “Bomber” Harris, in several places, but for instance: “… the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.
… the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.”
Drone strikes should be seen in that context.
I wonder what Lord Acton would have said about someone capable of targeting and killing anyone on the face of the earth without leaving the comfort of his oval shaped office.