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Did Obama Already Break the New 'Rules' on Drones? | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Did Obama Already Break the New 'Rules' on Drones?


President Barack Obama continues to speak about national security, Thursday May 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A new US drone strike has killed at least four in Pakistan near the Afghan border, with the alleged (now deceased) target a top Taliban leader, just days after President Obama announced new, seemingly restraining, “rules.”

Did this strike break them already? Critics had already warned there was little change behind the rhetoric, while others (most notably, an instant New York Times editorial) hailed it as a sea change.

So how are media commentators responding today? I’ll present a range of view as the day goes on. it should also be noted: reports of such high-value kills often prove false.

First up, a tweet from Glenn Greenwald:  "Elapsed time between Obama's terrorism speech and the next drone strike: 6 whole days."  Then Wired’s excellent Spencer Ackerman explores it here. He raises serious questions and concludes: “The Obama administration has yet to officially acknowledge the strike, let alone detail what if any ‘continuing, imminent threat’ Rehman posed. (If it does, that really will be a departure from past practice.) However, Obama’s team defines those terms so broadly that a whole lot fits under their banner.”

You can debate whether the 2009 attack on the CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman qualifies Rehman as an al-Qaida co-belligerent. But at the very least, Obama has chalk on his cleats for edging up to the lines of his ostensible restrictions on drone strikes. The more that happens, the more it calls into question whether Obama has actually imposed any restrictions on his deadly flying robots at all.

But the Times news story frames it as a terribly positive strike, citing “a potentially serious blow to an insurgency that has killed thousands of people in Pakistan and encouraged Islamist attacks in the United States.” Other sources mention seven dead and it’s not known who died, beyond the target. The Washington Post dryly reports: “Three children were reportedly hurt in Wednesday’s attack, which was the first known targeted strike on Pakistani soil in six weeks.”

The Post also observes:

Former cricket star Imran Khan, whose party won a large number of seats in the Khyber Pakhtunwha Provincial Assembly and will lead a coalition government in that province, campaigned against US drones and suggested that Pakistan’s military should shoot them down to prevent civilian casualties.

Indeed, Khan has already taken to Twitter to blast today’s strike.

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Before the latest, a look at Pakistani views of continuing stirkes, from The Guardian.

For one of the most profound probes of what the dangers of drone warfare means today and for the future, see my interview with Robert Jay Lifton.

 

 

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