Obama Makes Unprecedented War Powers to Kill by Drone Permanent

John Glaser, October 24, 2012

Among those with some sense of humanity, some sense of the rule of law, some sense of the precious individual liberties terminally threatened by an ever-expanding government with ever-expanding powers to use force, today’s must-read Washington Post article by Greg Miller induces nausea and fear. The Post‘s article exposes many previously unknown details about the Obama administration’s drone war, describing the targeted killing program’s dramatic expansion, terrifying innovations in the presidential kill lists which inform the targeted program, and the unprecedented willingness to violate the law to kill people by kingly presidential decree.

The article describes how kill lists have evolved into something called a “disposition matrix” which secretly collects information on targeted individuals and the efforts to kill or capture them. “Among senior Obama administration officials,” Miller writes, “there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade” which is a “timeline [that] suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

There are many aspects of the troubling exposé, but the one that sticks out is the Obama administration’s achievement of making targeted killing by drone – that is, extra-judicial assassinations by unchecked Executive decree – utterly normal and routine. Miller talks about “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

Permanent war. Obama has institutionalized a system of permanent war in order to allow an ongoing, blatantly authoritarian ‘war power’ to kill anybody he wants, anywhere, anytime without any charges or trials ever being brought. Obama has made permanent what “were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” Miller writes, establishing what “are now fixtures of the national security apparatus.”

What was once taboo, even for an outlaw government like the United States, is now ordinary, routine.

The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.

Before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States recoiled at the idea of targeted killing. The Sept. 11 commission recounted how the Clinton administration had passed on a series of opportunities to target bin Laden in the years before the attacks — before armed drones existed. President Bill Clinton approved a set of cruise-missile strikes in 1998 after al-Qaeda bombed embassies in East Africa, but after extensive deliberation, and the group’s leader escaped harm.

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.

As Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes today, “Miller’s report underscores the cementing of the mindset and apparent group-think among national security policymakers that the routine and indefinite killing of suspected terrorists and nearby military-age males is ethical, moral, legal, and effective (for now).” He says “it demonstrates the increasing institutionalization…of executive branch power to use lethal force without any meaningful checks and balances.”

To demonstrate how careless and inhuman the approach to killing people, both suspects and innocents suspected of nothing, Zenko recalls a conversation with “a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program,” in which this official told him, “It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?”

“After following this program closely for the past half-dozen years,” Zenko writes, “I have stopped being surprised by how far and how quickly the United States has moved from the international norm against assassinations or ‘extrajudicial killings.’” But, he insists, the normalcy that the drone wars is now infected with is a sharp break with the very recent past:

Assassinations ran counter to well-established international norms, and were prohibited under both treaty and customary international law. Third, weakening the international norm against assassinations could result in retaliatory killings of American leaders, who are more vulnerable as a consequence of living in a relatively open society. Fourth, the targeted killing of suspected terrorists or political leaders was generally considered an ineffective foreign policy tool. An assassination attempt that failed could be counterproductive, in that it would create more legal and diplomatic problems than it was worth. An attempt that succeeded, meanwhile, would likely do little to diminish the long-term threat from an enemy state or group. Finally, the secretive and treacherous aspect of targeted killings was considered antithetical to the moral and ethical precepts of the United States.

The Obama administration’s vulgar authoritarian proclivities in making murder by Executive decree a permanent fixture of the national security state apparatus, has made actions that were considered a mere ten years ago to be outrageous, lawless overreach into standard operating procedure. “Having spoken with dozens of officials across both administrations,” Zenko writes, “I am convinced that those serving under President Bush were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings than those serving under Obama.”

Obama, unbeknownst to his hordes of “liberal-minded” supporters, is more radically lawless in his exercise of permanent war powers than Bush.

Glenn Greenwald boils this all down:

The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.

And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a “disposition matrix” to determine what punishment should be meted out.

“As the Founders all recognized,” Greenwald writes, “nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war.” A more apt summation of the fundamental recognition of this site could hardly be uttered by Randolph Bourne himself. War truly is the health of the state, and the Obama administration epitomizes what can happen when the power-hungry grab hold the reins of government and make war on individuals, war on civil liberties, a perpetual feature of the state.




76 Responses to “Obama Makes Unprecedented War Powers to Kill by Drone Permanent”

  1. Excellent piece – thanks for tying the ideas and facts together and highlighting the outrage.

  2. You know – it's funny to me that so many hard-line Christians support this stuff. I mean when you imagine what kind of system/framework that the Anti-Christ represents; does your mind think of barely-literate rabbles with adhoc and aging weapons or does it conjure up an all-pervasive system that can see everywhere with a global eye, rain hell upon people that go counter to it and kills efficiently, without thought with the use of algorithms and matrices…

    Wake up guys – you must have missed that note…

  3. Excellent piece. Part of the ongoing shredding of the constitution.
    These are interesting –
    Why Is Perpetual War So Important to Today´s Pharisees? I http://euro-med.dk/?p=28103
    Why Is Perpetual War So Important to Today´s Pharisees? II http://euro-med.dk/?p=28257

  4. Constitution never stopped it because it's powerless to do so. Otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.

  5. Correction: reins of government. (A king reigns by controlling the reins of power.)

  6. Thank you. It's been fixed.

  7. DISPOSITION MATRIX! Doesn't matter if you eat the Propagandal red pill, doesn't matter if you eat the Propagandal blue pill, you are trapped inside the 'disposition matrix' and the only way out is death.
    The Obamney rules all. That last great act of defiance is about to unfold.

  8. God help us when a power hungry madman takes this power and turns it loose on the American people…. Americans will have only themselves to blame.

    Shot clock is almost out on the good ole US of A

  9. The time is coming where no one (black or white) will be able to depend on the government of the united states. We are all ready in a deep-recession, and we are in a police state all over the country.

    Joe X

  10. Anybody else seen this video about the Mormon religion http://youtu.be/3HSlbuli7HM
    If this is what Romney believe I am not voting for him or Obama!

    I am a true blue republican for 20 years…BUT I just found out
    what this Mormon religion is all about and it is WEIRD STUFF
    The official Mormon site scriptures say the Mormon religion was started by some
    guy name Joe Smith in Vermont in 1831 after an angel told him to dig up some buried gold
    plates… and ALSO that they dont belive in the virgin Mary. Please tell me this aint true.
    If it is… I ain't voting for Romney

  11. [...] Obama Makes Unprecedented War Powers to Kill by Drone Permanent (antiwar.com) [...]

  12. A society that believes assassination is an acceptable and legal method of war should not feign surprise and outrage when it's used by the growing list of enemies on the "homeland" to show displeasure. It's only a matter of time before US experiences the horror we've been using on other nations.

  13. So what was basically said is that the U.S. is breaking international laws, is a lawless country not just in terms of it's own Constitution but internationally as well. Nice.

    As far as the killing a fly comment goes, haven't we heard many times that in order to commit genocide you need to DE-HUMANIZE people, ok then, right on time, human beings are flys.

    "weakening the international norm against assassinations could result in retaliatory killings of American leaders, who are more vulnerable as a consequence of living in a relatively open society"

    Welcome to a lawless world. While I hardly feel the least bit sympathy for most American leaders, how this will actually boomerrang if it happens is: 1) U.S. governement is breaking international law and assisinating 2) other countries follow the example and target an American leader 3) Further police state measures at home are need in order to protect our homeland leaders or some such against terrorism. It's the never ending cycle: terrorism -> more police state -> more terrorism -> yet more police state, on a human face forever.

  14. [...] http://antiwar.com/blog/2012/10/24/obama-makes-unprecedented-war-powers-to-kill-by-drone-permanent/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Uncategorized by resistestablishment. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  15. Mama mia, you sure have crazy Emperors over there!

  16. jrs' comment on thinking of people as flies is spot on but, notice the paragraph that compared drones to a lawnmower, if you don't us it the grass and weeds will take over. Some seem to think of those that oppose the mighty US empire as mere vegetation! To be "mowed". Just when you think the "leadership" of this country can't get any lower they go underground.

    May God have mercy on our souls.

  17. [...] Miller’s piece which revealed the “disposition matrix,” and which I discussed here. But this article, written by Karen DeYoung, descends into a character piece on John Brennan, [...]

  18. This article is very nice, I have found several things in this site. This is quite different and interesting. It becomes popular to the young generation day by day.

  19. Exactly. I try to talk to friends about armed drones being weapons of terror. They say they don't care. What happens when the rest of the World gets tired of our act? There is 7.2 Billion of them and 330 million of us. There is no place to hide. Both China and Russia have told the US not to mess with Syria or Iran. I've never known China to bluff. An EMP attack, grid goes down, over 100 reactor melt down and we as a nation cease to exist. No boots on the ground. No shots fired. We die and the rest of the World says Thank You, Now maybe we all can live in peace.

  20. Yeah, it's true – I mean, it's like "Jesus II: Jesus in America". But – so what. Islam is "Jesus II: Jesus in Arabia". This is not a scientific endeavour, people can make stuff up as they go along.

    The question is – what do you think will happen with Romney as prez?

    Then take a look at the candidates not in the Repubocrat duopoly for refreshments.

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  22. All "ideologies" turn totalitarian.

  23. 2. They believed in multiple wives until USA laws shut them down , many still practice polygamy in Utah.

  24. The author of this article really is hyperventilating.

    "…..Third, weakening the international norm against assassinations could result in retaliatory killings of American leaders, who are more vulnerable as a consequence of living in a relatively open society. Fourth, the targeted killing of suspected terrorists or political leaders was generally considered an ineffective foreign policy tool. ….."

    First of all, global terrorist organizations have never had any qualms about killing US political leaders, so why should we be restrained in killing them? Second, assassination may be ineffective in a war against established countries or states, but we are fighting insurgents here. Third, there is nothing unprecedented in US history about this kind of war. In fact, there is ample and longstanding precedent – the Indian wars that ran from colonial times to about 150 years ago. That was a protracted and seemingly permanent war against a barbarian insurgency. It was fought with the same kind of ruthless methods that today's terror war is, even more so in fact. The main differences between the Indian wars and the Terror War are (1) The Indian Wars were on our own territory, the Terror War is global (2) The Indians had little or no foreign backing. Islamic terrorists are covertly or overtly backed by a number of established states and have the popular support of over a billion people. (3) The technological tools of war are far more potent today.

    There is also ample precedent for the US fighting Islamic terrorists. About 100 years ago we fought them over control of the Philippines.

  25. [...] Obama Makes Unprecedented War Powers to Kill by Drone Permanent: The Obama administration "has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war." [...]

  26. [...] Obama Makes Unprecedented War Powers to Kill by Drone Permanent « Antiwar.com Blog. Share this:ImprimirCorreo electrónicoTwitterFacebookMe gusta:Me gustaSe el primero en decir que [...]

  27. The time is coming where no one (black or white) will be able to depend on the government of the united states. We are all ready in a deep-recession, and we are in a police state all over the country.

  28. The time is coming where no one (black or white) will be able to depend on the government of the united states. We are all ready in a deep-recession, and we are in a police state all over the country.

  29. As Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes today, “Miller’s report underscores the cementing of the mindset and apparent group-think among national security policymakers that the routine and indefinite killing of suspected terrorists and nearby military-age males is ethical, moral, legal, and effective (for now).Australian Blog

  30. uthless methods that today's terror war is, even more so in fact. The main differences between the Indian wars and the Terror War are (1) The Indian Wars were on our own territory, the Terror War is global (2) The Indians had little or no foreign backing. Islamic terrorists are covertly or overtly bahalloween limousine

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  33. As Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes today, “Miller’s report underscores the cementing of the mindset and apparent group-think among national security policymakers that the routine and indefinite killing of suspected terrorists and nearby military-age males is ethical, moral, legal, and effective (for now).Australian Blog

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  71. I am a Christian & find it absolutely despicable.

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    I am actually shocked that these American patriots the militias haven't already began developing their own domestic target lists to go after those who work in these programs & put the fear of God into them for what they do.

    Its nothing more than institutionalized cod blooded murder on its face & by definition.

    The very fact there is not 300 million Americans down at the WH right now demanding his impeachment is testimony of that spiritual death of America Martin Luther King talked about when we spent $320,000 dollars to kill every north Vietnamese soldier while spending $50 desperado person who are poor.

    We have become a nation of animal who operate on the reptilian brain of an imperial consciousness & not the neocortical brain of the spiritually enlightened. We know that much from cutting edge neuro-science..

  72. The shot-cock already ran out on November 22 1963 when the military industrial complex & national security state Eisenhower warned us of took JFK out when he wanted to dismantle it seeing where it would lead to where we are now.

    No President since or before had more beach-balls the size of Jupiter to oppose them.
    Not even real Americans.

    Go read your Declaration of Independence and tell me if we haven't already far exceeded the same criteria Jefferson enumerated as justification to abolish this outlaw terrorists nation state.

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