War Crimes and Misdemeanors

Drone, Oleg Yarko / Shutterstock.com

HEY PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Nobel Peace Prize committee is calling. They want their medal back.

The coveted award, which many felt was premature, at best, when bestowed during the president’s first year in office, was seriously tarnished in the eyes of many by his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and other military endeavors.

But Obama’s role in waging drone warfare—particularly in Pakistan and Yemen—has made a mockery of the prize that Alfred Nobel said should go to the person “who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.”

Obama’s drone attacks—according to a May investigation by The New York Times, Daniel Klaidman’s new book Kill or Capture, and other sources—are arguably in direct violation of U.S. and international law, and immoral to boot.

The drone attacks started out with clear rules: Only target those who represent a direct threat to the United States. Those rules soon went out the door—a senior U.S. official called it a “little liberalization that went on in the kill lists,” according to The Washington Post, while a former counterterrorism official said that “the elasticity of that has grown over time.”

This “elastic” interpretation of rules also led to a change of targeting strategy by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, the two agencies that carry out most of the drone attacks. No longer aiming only at specific “high-value individuals”—those considered a real threat to launch terrorist attacks—U.S forces began targeting groups of men who bear certain “signatures” of behavior, even if the identity of those targeted is unknown. According to Klaidman, CIA Director Michael Hayden saw advantages to this “crowd killing” approach: “You could take out a lot more bad guys when you targeted groups instead of individuals, he said.”

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Subscribe