Monday, November 4, 2013

Jeremy Scahill: "How Does A War Like This Ever End?"

Guernica Magazine has posted "Perpetual War," the epilogue to Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield.” Scahill considers the global counterterrorism policies initiated by Bush and expanded under Obama: redefining “imminent threat” in order to justify killing U.S. citizens abroad and employing “guilt by association” in order to select drone targets. Scahill also considers the consequences of these actions: whether future presidents will expand the use of drone strikes and kill lists; whether the U.S. is creating more enemies than it is killing; and whether we are encouraging an new arms race for drones. Ultimately, he asks how we will ever end this perpetual war:

In early 2013, a Department of Justice “white paper” surfaced that laid out the “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen.” The government lawyers who wrote the 16-page document asserted that the government need not possess specific intelligence indicating that an American citizen is actively engaged in a particular or active terror plot in order to be cleared for targeted killing. Instead, the paper argued that a determination from a “well-informed high level administration official” that a target represents an “imminent threat” to the United States is a sufficient basis to order the killing of an American citizen. But the Justice Department’s lawyers sought to alter the definition of “imminent,” advocating what they called a “broader concept of imminence.”

...Michael Boyle, a former adviser in the Obama campaign’s counterterrorism experts group and a professor at LaSalle University, said that one of the reasons the administration was “so successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties” was the use of signature strikes and other systems for categorizing military-aged males as legitimate targets, even if their specific identities were unknown. “The result of the ‘guilt by association’ approach has been a gradual loosening of the standards by which the U.S. selects targets for drone strikes,” Boyle charged. “The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur.” No one, he added, “really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands.”

...It is not just the precedents set during the Obama era that will reverberate into the future, but also the lethal operations themselves. No one can scientifically predict the future consequences of drone strikes, cruise missile attacks, and night raids. But from my experience in several undeclared war zones across the globe, it seems clear that the United States is helping to breed a new generation of enemies in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and throughout the Muslim world.

...The question all Americans must ask themselves lingers painfully: How does a war like this ever end?

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