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The Endless Drone Killing Program | The Nation

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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

The Endless Drone Killing Program

Drop what you’re doing and read Greg Miller’s blockbuster piece in The Washington Post today on the American killing machine in what continues, sadly, to be a “Global War on Terrorism.”

According to the story, US officials say that the worldwide killer-drone program is open-ended and unending, planned to last at least another ten years:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. “We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do…. We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.

So is that the idea? That we’ll kill everyone until everyone surrenders and says, “We love America”?

Miller’s piece is full of chilling details about how the killing program is put together. Among its scariest points is that the drone program is now institutionalized, in a way that ensures that future presidents can utilize it at will. Says the article: “the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.”

Are there really that many targets? No. A telling exchange in the article involves a trip by Leon Panetta, then CIA director, to Pakistan. The Pakistanis ask Panetta, How long can you keep killing bad guys? Are they infinite in number? Here’s then Post account:

In one instance, [Admiral Mike] Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, returned from Pakistan and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Mullen told White House and counterterrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a “top 20” list? … Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.

But of course, the Top 20 list is never-ending. Like pop radio, there’s always another Top 40. One US official gave the Post this comment, which sounds like an Onion satire, but it’s real:

“Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not. But it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”

So, let’s kill the guy.

Did you know that the White House has “Terror Tuesdays,” to decide who to blow to pieces? Did you know that there have been thirty-six drone strikes in Yemen, though the list of targeted individuals is only ten to fifteen people? As the Post says:

In Yemen, the number of militants on the list has ranged from 10 to 15, officials said, and is not likely to slip into the single digits anytime soon, even though there have been 36 U.S. airstrikes this year.

Is that creating more terrorists than we kill? Yes.

The article points out that President Obama and Mitt Romney both strongly support the drone program, and of course they said so in Monday’s debate. Says the Post:

Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.

This is truly a frightening story.

For more on the US drone program, check out Jeremy Scahill’s seminal coverage of America’s secret wars.

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