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Obama - New Yorker

Source: https://shop.aclu.org/product/ACLU-The-Drone-Memos-Jameel-Jaffer

The Drone Memos: The troubling legacy of Obama's drone campaign (2016):
+ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/12/troubling-legacy-obama-drone-campaign-161220103555278.html

'Over just a short period in early 2016, in other words, the United States deployed remotely piloted aircraft to carry out deadly attacks in six countries across central and south Asia, north Africa, and the Middle East, and it announced that it had expanded its capacity to carry out attacks in a seventh. And yet with the possible exception of the strike in Somalia, which garnered news coverage because of the extraordinary death toll, the drone attacks did not seem to spark controversy or reflection. As the 2016 presidential primaries were getting under way, sporadic and sketchy reports of strikes in remote regions of the world provided a kind of background noise – a drone in a different sense of the word – to which Americans had become inured.

Senior officials in the administration of President Barack Obama variously described drone strikes as “precise,” “closely supervised,” “effective,” “indispensable,” and even the “only game in town” – but what they emphasized most of all is that the drone strikes they authorized were lawful.

In this context, though, “lawful” had a specialized meaning. Except at the highest level of abstraction, the law of the drone campaign had not been enacted by Congress or published in the US Code. No federal agency had issued regulations relating to drone strikes, and no federal court had adjudicated their legality. Obama administration officials insisted that drone strikes were lawful, but the “law” they invoked was their own. It was written by executive branch lawyers behind closed doors, withheld from the public and even from Congress, and shielded from judicial review.

Secret law is unsettling in any context, but it was especially so in this one. For decades the US government had condemned targeted killings, characterizing them as assassinations or extrajudicial executions. On its face, the drone campaign signified a dramatic departure from that position – a departure that demanded explanation, at the very least. It was far from obvious what distinguished American drone strikes from the targeted killings the United States had historically rejected as unlawful. Nor was it clear how these targeted killings could be reconciled with international human rights law, with a decades-old executive order that bans assassinations, with the constitutional guarantee of due process, or, for that matter, with domestic laws that criminalize murder.

The scale of the drone campaign, and the human cost of it, made government secrecy even more disquieting. The United States was carrying out lethal strikes not only on actual battlefields, but in places far removed from them as well. The first strike President Obama authorized killed at least nine people in the tribal areas of Pakistan. An early strike in Yemen, albeit one carried out with cruise missiles rather than drones, killed two families, including as many as 21 children – and, according to the New York Times, “left behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents.” By the end of President Obama’s first term, American strikes had killed several thousand people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, including many hundreds of civilian bystanders. The deaths of innocents raised sharp moral questions, and the moral questions gave urgency to the legal ones.'

+ How the US justifies drone strikes: targeted killing, secrecy and the law (2016):
+ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/15/targeted-killing-secrecy-drone-memos-excerpt

'Months prior to the release of Michelle Obama’s official portrait, we were invited to imagine her in the White House by way of caricature. The New Yorker’s Barry Blitt set the presidential candidate and his wife in a White House oval shaped room. Barack Obama’s figure was flanked by a portrait of Osama Bin Laden above, and a burning American flag below. His tunic and turban mirrored Bin Laden’s garb. The artist chided us about the suggestion that Obama was in any way allied with radical Muslim leaders.

Michelle Obama’s billowing natural or Afro that crowns her head suggests how she would bring to the White House yet another brand of radical politics — that of Angela Davis and the Black Panther Party. Controversy erupted. The New Yorker defended the cartoon as a spoof on “The Politics of Fear,” while some Obama supporters deflected any suggestion that their candidate and his wife were subversive, anti-establishment figures.

In the final analysis, Michelle Obama’s official portrait reframes the twenty-first century caricature. In her self-authored representation, a portrait of Thomas Jefferson and the south lawn replaces Bin Laden and a burning flag. A designer dress and pearls erase combat fatigues and an automatic rifle. In both cases, corporeality suggests character, with Obama’s arms telling the story. Open, gently poised hands pointedly displace the fierceness of the fist-bump of The New Yorker cover.'

+ REFRAMING THE COLOR LINE" - By Martha S. Jones (2009):
+ https://arts.umich.edu/news-features/reframing-the-color-line/

'There is something ironic, and even sad, in the fact that the expansion and normalization of the drone campaign was overseen by President Obama, a onetime professor of constitutional law who was elected after promising to end the lawless national security policies of the administration that preceded his. Perhaps it is also true, though, that only President Obama could have overseen it. When President George W Bush left office, he was unpopular and distrusted. The evidence he had cited to justify the invasion of Iraq had been exposed as a fiction. His administration’s torture policies were widely viewed as an embarrassment and an outrage. The supreme court had repeatedly rejected his policies relating to military detention and prosecution. It is doubtful that the courts or the public would have allowed him to expand the drone campaign.

But many Americans who were appalled when Bush ordered extrajudicial detention were untroubled when Obama ordered extrajudicial killing. If they appreciated the breadth of the power Obama had claimed, they assumed he would use the power wisely. Equally significant, some of the scholars and human rights lawyers who might otherwise have been expected to harshly criticize Obama’s targeted-killing policies were part of Obama’s administration and deeply involved in developing the policies...

Now the lethal bureaucracy whose growth Obama personally oversaw will be turned over to a new administration. The powers Obama claimed will be wielded by another president. Perhaps as significant is the jarring fact that the practice of targeted killing – assassination, as it would once have been called, without a second thought – no longer seems remarkable, and the fact that the United States now boasts a legal and bureaucratic infrastructure to sustain this practice. Eight years ago the targeted-killing campaign required a legal and bureaucratic infrastructure, but now that infrastructure will demand a targeted-killing campaign. The question the next president will ask is not whether the powers Obama claimed should be exploited, but where, and against whom.'

+ How the US justifies drone strikes: targeted killing, secrecy and the law (2016):
+ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/15/targeted-killing-secrecy-drone-memos-excerpt

"The Drone Memos collects for the first time the legal and policy documents underlying the U.S. government’s deeply controversial practice of “targeted killing”—the extrajudicial killing of suspected terrorists and militants, typically using remotely piloted aircraft or “drones.” The documents—including the Presidential Policy Guidance that provides the framework for drone strikes today, Justice Department white papers addressing the assassination of an American citizen, and a highly classified legal memo that was published only after a landmark legal battle involving the ACLU, the New York Times, and the CIA—together constitute a remarkable effort to legitimize a practice that most human rights experts consider to be unlawful and that the United States has historically condemned."

+ The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law (2016):
+ https://www.amazon.com/Drone-Memos-Targeted-Killing-Secrecy/dp/162097259X

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