Obama Will Again Thwart UN Investigations of Drone War

John Glaser, January 30, 2013

Micah Zenko is betting that the latest UN investigation into drone killings by the United States “is unlikely to compel increased transparency from the Obama administration.” Essentially, this is because similar investigations have been going on for about ten years and the Bush and Obama administrations have had the same response to them: “Screw off.”

After the first targeted assassination by drone killed six al-Qaeda suspects in November 2002 in Yemen, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, demanded some answers and indicated this probably violated international law. Jahangir wrote:

The Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned that should the information received be accurate, an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of Government. The Special Rapporteur acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens against the excesses of non-State actors or other authorities, but these actions must be taken in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. In the opinion of the Special Rapporteur, the attack in Yemen constitutes a clear case of extrajudicial killing.

The Bush administration’s response, as Zenko documents, was to have “no comment” on the validity of the reports and to say that humanitarian laws wouldn’t apply to “enemy combatants.” This was of course characteristic of the post-9/11 view that the entire world was a limitless battlefield where the US was unrestrained in what it could do because it was all in self-defense against imminent terrorist attacks. Right.

And when UN special rapporteurs made similar inquiries into Obama’s drone attacks, they were similarly stiff armed. And the Obama administration made the same argument as Bush: these attacks were in self-defense of imminent terrorist attacks and it doesn’t matter that they occurred outside of an official battlefield because the world is our battlefield.

Two things are important to point out here. First of all, the notion that every one of Obama’s 400-plus drone strikes was in self-defense of an imminent terrorist attack is asinine. We know from reporting about the administration’s use of “signature strikes,” that bombs are dropped on people that the US cannot even identify, but who have supposedly demonstrated a “pattern of behavior” that suggests they might be a member of a terrorist organization. The very use of signature strikes appears to obliterate the argument that the drones are disrupting “imminent” attacks.

Obama has twisted the meaning of “imminence” in order to claim the drone war fits within international law. As Secrecy News explained while describing a legal memo scrutinizing the rationale in support of drone strikes:

For example, [Congressional Research Service] says the Administration appears to have redefined the meaning of “imminence,” one of the required elements for justifying the use of force in self-defense on the territory of another country.  The standard definition of imminence refers to an overwhelming threat that allows “no moment for deliberation.”  But the Administration uses imminence idiosyncratically “to refer to the window of opportunity for striking rather than the perceived immediacy of the threat of an armed attack.”  This novel usage “may pose some challenge to the international law regarding the use of force,” CRS said.

The use of force in the drone war is patently illegal without the the justification of self-defense from imminent attacks. Redefining the word is a sly way of being a criminal without admitting it.

The second thing that is important when considering the Obama administration’s defense of its drone war is the issue of secrecy. If the administration is so confident that the drone war is being carried out legally, why continue to “neither confirm nor deny” the existence of specific strikes? Why has Obama kept the official legal rationale for the drone war secret, not just from the American people or the UN, but from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to provide oversight of such policies?

If one thing has been clear throughout history and certainly in Obama’s first term as President, it’s that people in government keep things secret to protect themselves from public and legal scrutiny, not for their stated reasons of “protecting national security.”

So while the ramped up investigation at the UN is a good sign, all indications are that the Obama administration will, once again, thwart any attempt to impose legal scrutiny, transparency, and accountability to his drone war.




15 Responses to “Obama Will Again Thwart UN Investigations of Drone War”

  1. On the question of how many of the victims of the drone strikes in Pakistan are civilians, the answer- absent sheer sophistry- is, all of them. All 3000 of the victims of Obama's strikes are civilians.

    That number may have included a number of militants, but as the militants are outside of any recognized war zone and are not at the time of the drone strikes involved in military activity, they are civilians.

    During a war, is it legal to pursue soldiers anywhere on the planet? In 1944, would it have been legal to locate and murder Germans in Portugal, or Spain, or Switzerland? Could Rommel have legally been assassinated on a trip to Zurich? The United States did not consider such things in those days. Should they have?

    Should the British have arranged for the murder of Benjamin Franklin, for example, in France in 1779?

    There will come a day when this illegality will catch up to it's authors.

  2. It is a global insurgency war. You may not like it, but that is what it is.

  3. Andrewp – Seriously ? or are you being sarcastic ?

    If you are serious – by that theory does the enemy have the same strategic interest ? If so we are legit targets all over the world . Correct ? Than there is by definition no "terrorism" ; just open war fare.

    We can't "have our cake and eat it too" . If we can target them at will anywhere in the world regardless of location / international law ; how are we different from them ?

  4. What on earth do you mean by that? Are you saying that the ENTIRE globe is against us? Hence, a "global" insurgency war that we must be resigned to? If in fact the entire globe is against us — aren't we doing something bad to cause the "global" insurrection against our rule? Are you saying that we the latest version of the Evil Empire?

  5. What happens when someone sends a drone to assassinate the Groid himself?

  6. Here Are All The Children Murdered By Drone Strikes At The Hands Of Obama

    Visualizing the illegal drone bombardment

    Steve Watson
    Infowars.com
    Jan 24, 2013
    The president likes children right? He surrounds himself with them constantly to help bolster his political agenda.
    When it comes to children who get in the way of his political agenda, however, it’s a different story.
    Here is a visual of the hundreds of children that have been murdered in US drone strikes on Pakistan and Yemen, ordered by the president during his first term.
    Their ages range from just 1 year old to 19 years of age:

    The information was complied by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimates that there have been approximately 399 to 500 strikes to-date. The research group has found that around three thousand individuals have been killed by these drones, many of them innocent civilians. In Pakistan alone, 891 civilians have been killed by U.S. drones since 2004.
    When a college student recently attempted to write a tweet for every drone strike the US has carried out in the last decade, he gave up after 12 hours of constant tweeting, reaching only the year 2010, when the attacks expanded exponentially.
    Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari told US ambassador Richard Olson today that drone attacks are not only violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty but are counter productive and their legality is questionable.
    Yesterday, another seven people were killed in Yemen in a drone strike. It was the fourth strike in five days, marking what senior officials have called a significant escalation in the U.S.-Yemeni campaign against “Al Qaeda affiliated militants”.
    A further strike later the same day, which went relatively unreported by the mainstream Western media, killed a further nine people. Two of those killed were children, according to witnesses.
    The CIA and Obama administration officials have declined to comment on the strikes.
    Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour this week lambasted the strategy, criticized the lack of concern over civilian deaths, and said all Yemeni citizens deserve the right to a fair trial, rather than blanket assassination.
    Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, however, praised the operations when he visited Washington in September.
    “They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” Hadi said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
    Again, those dead children are:
    Name | Age | Gender
    PAKISTAN
    Noor Aziz | 8 | male
    Abdul Wasit | 17 | male
    Noor Syed | 8 | male
    Wajid Noor | 9 | male
    Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male
    Ayeesha | 3 | female
    Qari Alamzeb | 14| male
    Shoaib | 8 | male
    Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male
    Tariq Aziz | 16 | male
    Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male
    Maezol Khan | 8 | female
    Nasir Khan | male
    Naeem Khan | male
    Naeemullah | male
    Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male
    Azizul Wahab | 15 | male
    Fazal Wahab | 16 | male
    Ziauddin | 16 | male
    Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male
    Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
    Ilyas | 13 | male
    Sohail | 7 | male
    Asadullah | 9 | male
    khalilullah | 9 | male
    Noor Mohammad | 8 | male
    Khalid | 12 | male
    Saifullah | 9 | male
    Mashooq Jan | 15 | male
    Nawab | 17 | male
    Sultanat Khan | 16 | male
    Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male
    Noor Mohammad | 15 | male
    Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male
    Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male
    Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male
    Abdullah | 18 | male
    Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male
    Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male
    Shahbuddin | 15 | male
    Yahya Khan | 16 |male
    Rahatullah |17 | male
    Mohammad Salim | 11 | male
    Shahjehan | 15 | male
    Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male
    Bakht Muneer | 14 | male
    Numair | 14 | male
    Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
    Ihsanullah | 16 | male
    Luqman | 12 | male
    Jannatullah | 13 | male
    Ismail | 12 | male
    Taseel Khan | 18 | male
    Zaheeruddin | 16 | male
    Qari Ishaq | 19 | male
    Jamshed Khan | 14 | male
    Alam Nabi | 11 | male
    Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male
    Rahmatullah | 14 | male
    Abdus Samad | 17 | male
    Siraj | 16 | male
    Saeedullah | 17 | male
    Abdul Waris | 16 | male
    Darvesh | 13 | male
    Ameer Said | 15 | male
    Shaukat | 14 | male
    Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
    Salman | 12 | male
    Fazal Wahab | 18 | male
    Baacha Rahman | 13 | male
    Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male
    Iftikhar | 17 | male
    Inayatullah | 15 | male
    Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
    Ihsanullah | 16 | male
    Luqman | 12 | male
    Jannatullah | 13 | male
    Ismail | 12 | male
    Abdul Waris | 16 | male
    Darvesh | 13 | male
    Ameer Said | 15 | male
    Shaukat | 14 | male
    Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
    Adnan | 16 | male
    Najibullah | 13 | male
    Naeemullah | 17 | male
    Hizbullah | 10 | male
    Kitab Gul | 12 | male
    Wilayat Khan | 11 | male
    Zabihullah | 16 | male
    Shehzad Gul | 11 | male
    Shabir | 15 | male
    Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male
    Shafiullah | 16 | male
    Nimatullah | 14 | male
    Shakirullah | 16 | male
    Talha | 8 | male
    YEMEN
    Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female
    Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female
    Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female
    Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female
    Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male
    Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male
    Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female
    Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female
    Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female
    Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female
    Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male
    Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female
    Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female
    Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female
    Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female
    Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male
    Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female
    Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female
    Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male
    Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male
    Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female
    AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male
    Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male
    Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male

    Every child here had a future,hopes,rights,freedoms, dreams, and you stole it from them. Your violence murdered each and everyone of these kids and you have no excuse,no reason,no justification…You and your military and your nation are nothing but serial killers, child killers and no flag can rise higher than the innocents it kills…One day i hope that you will have to face each and everyone of these children and answer their question….Why did you murder me? And you will have to answer. Maybe not here and now,but someday,one day in another life..I pray to God that you do…!!

  7. Visualizing the illegal drone bombardment

    Steve Watson
    Infowars.com
    Jan 24, 2013
    The president likes children right? He surrounds himself with them constantly to help bolster his political agenda.
    When it comes to children who get in the way of his political agenda, however, it’s a different story.
    Here is a visual of the hundreds of children that have been murdered in US drone strikes on Pakistan and Yemen, ordered by the president during his first term.
    Their ages range from just 1 year old to 19 years of age:

    The information was complied by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimates that there have been approximately 399 to 500 strikes to-date. The research group has found that around three thousand individuals have been killed by these drones, many of them innocent civilians. In Pakistan alone, 891 civilians have been killed by U.S. drones since 2004.
    When a college student recently attempted to write a tweet for every drone strike the US has carried out in the last decade, he gave up after 12 hours of constant tweeting, reaching only the year 2010, when the attacks expanded exponentially.
    Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari told US ambassador Richard Olson today that drone attacks are not only violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty but are counter productive and their legality is questionable.
    Yesterday, another seven people were killed in Yemen in a drone strike. It was the fourth strike in five days, marking what senior officials have called a significant escalation in the U.S.-Yemeni campaign against “Al Qaeda affiliated militants”.
    A further strike later the same day, which went relatively unreported by the mainstream Western media, killed a further nine people. Two of those killed were children, according to witnesses.
    The CIA and Obama administration officials have declined to comment on the strikes.
    Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour this week lambasted the strategy, criticized the lack of concern over civilian deaths, and said all Yemeni citizens deserve the right to a fair trial, rather than blanket assassination.
    Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, however, praised the operations when he visited Washington in September.
    “They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” Hadi said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

  8. Every child here had a future, hopes, rights, freedoms, dreams, and you stole it from them. Your violence murdered each and everyone of these kids and you have no excuse, no reason, no justification…You and your military and your nation are nothing but serial killers, child killers and no flag can rise higher than the innocents it kills…One day i hope that you will have to face each and everyone of these children and answer their question….Why did you murder me? And you will have to answer. Maybe not here and now, but someday, one day in another life..I pray to God that you do…!!

  9. He might not be saying that, but I am.

  10. i have been called to jury duty next month… i tried to 'excuse' myself via 'jury nullification'. i wrote that how could i attempt to try a peer for a crime when this country has obliterated rule of law,habeus corpus,our rights, our freedoms, due process? They sent me a note saying that it my reasons were insufficent..Maybe this will be my opus maximus…i will not comply. i will wear my "Humanity and the Earth comes first" Stop the Crimes of our Government' T-shirt(WorldCan'tWait.org).. one old man who is not that bright but i do know right from wrong and it seems maybe this might be my time to stand on feet and nonviolently non-cooperate with evil…

  11. united states of mordor to be specific…a most nefarious empire that has lost its principles,its values and now wallows in deception,lies,flim-flam and the most evil acts conceivable and odious….Any nation,society, that could murder children and justify it is beyond reason…america is the wayne gacey of the global neighborhood….

  12. Every child in the list i posted down below here had a future, hopes, rights, freedoms, dreams, and you stole it from them. Your violence murdered each and everyone of these kids and you have no excuse, no reason, no justification…You and your military and your nation are nothing but serial killers, child killers and no flag can rise higher than the innocents it kills…One day i hope that you will have to face each and everyone of these children and answer their question….Why did you murder me? And you will have to answer. Maybe not here and now, but someday, one day in another life..I pray to God that you do…!!

  13. You need to gain the perspective to understand why there is a "global insurgency war". Is it because "they hate us for our freedoms and values"? Or is it because the US's foreign policy has been to wreak havoc on other nations and regions for decades – actions such as bombing, occupying, propping up dictators that oppress their own people while currying favors with the US government, covert operations, etc etc? With an informed perspective, one can easily tell it is the latter – the US has been the world imperial power, sowing seeds of hatred against us. The deaths of children and civilians will sow anger against us increasing the likelihood for reprisal terror attacks against us. And the multiplication of drones attacking other lands will ensure other powers will build drones and target them against us. What goes around comes around.

  14. [...] “to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations.” But most critics view the drone war as illegal or extra-legal, given that it is secret and kills suspects in [...]

  15. Interesting that we have a huge croc tear fest when some children are killed in white middle Thanks. is bubblegum casting legitimate