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Codifying Murder

Obama’s Endless Kill List

by BEN SCHREINER

Of the three presidential debates, Monday’s saw the only mention of U.S. drone warfare.  But after the challenger Romney quickly affirmed his support of President Obama’s drone program, stating that it is “absolutely the right thing to do,” the issue was summarily dropped by moderator Bob Schieffer.  The president thus skirted having to account for the most controversial facet of his foreign policy.

Of course, the clear bipartisan support for the administration’s ongoing campaign of assassinations can only portend a future of expanded drone warfare and U.S. administered terror the world over—no matter the outcome of the presidential election.

Indeed, a Tuesday report in the Washington Post laid bare the Obama administration’s plans to ensure that any future administration seamlessly continues its drone program.  As the Post reports, “Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.”

The process of streamlining the administration’s program of “targeted” killings has reportedly led to the creation of a “disposition matrix,” comprised of both the names of suspected terrorists and the resources expended on their targeting.  This matrix, the Post reports, “is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”

Such efforts to expedite the worldwide campaign of terror have reportedly left the administration buoyant on the prospects of the program’s indefinite continuation.  Officials, the Post reports, “seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”

“The United States’ conventional wars are winding down,” the Post thus concludes, “but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.”

Sure enough, as the Post revealed in a separate report published last week, the C.I.A. has sent a formal request to the White House appealing for an additional ten drones to supplement its current fleet of over 30.  If approved, the paper reported, the request would “extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force.”

Yet, as the Obama administration works to extent the reach of its aerial assassins into every last crevice of the world, its claims regarding to the drone program’s effectiveness and “targeted” nature remain in doubt.

According to a September report on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, conducted by researchers at the N.Y.U. School of Law and Stanford University Law School, evidence that the program has made the U.S. safer is “ambiguous at best.”  Moreover, despite administration claims of that there have been “no” civilian causalities, the report marshals substantial evidence to the contrary.

Assessments from U.S. officials regarding the “collateral damage” from drones, though, are heavily skewed by the administration’s definition of combatants.

Remarkably, as the New York Times piece first revealing the existence of an administration “kill list” noted, the U.S. “counts all military age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

Kill first, we see, then ask questions.

Needless to say, all such reports ought to serve—at the very minimum—as an impetus for an independent review of the the drone program.  But as the Post reports: “Internal doubts about the effectiveness of the drone campaign are almost nonexistent.”

The callous absence of doubt is evidently just as prevalent amongst the elite U.S. media.  For instance, in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday, Time columnist Joe Klein chillingly sought to justify the gravest horrors of the Obama drone program.

In a debate over drones with right-wing host Joe Scarborough, Klein went on to aver, “The bottom line, in the end, is: Whose four-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that four-year-olds here are going to get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”

The very fact that rationalizing the killing of children can freely emanate from amongst “respectable” circles in Washington is indicative of the severe moral deterioration from which the Obama administration’s drone program was born.

Of course, the very fact that the defining program of Obama’s foreign policy was discussed in far greater detail on a cable talk show sponsored by Starbucks than it was in all three presidential debates is quite revealing of the decay afflicting the nation’s political system.  It’s such a rotted system, though, that perpetuates our present class of amoral and unaccountable elites who so readily wage a global campaign of terror.

The twilight of the American Empire, it thus appears, will be remembered for its endless kill lists and its codification of murder.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his website.