It appears, in Orwellian fashion, that the war on terror does not have an end in sight. As a result, Barack Obama’s ‘kill list’ will continue to grow and both look as if they will become permanent in the American psyche and on the world stage.
Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”
The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.
Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.
“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”
Just the number of deaths by drone attacks alone are about to surpass the number of Americans killed on September 11, 2001. That does not count enemy combatants that have been killed without drone strikes. While many have been enemies, there have been quite a number that have been innocent teenagers, including an American citizen.
But it’s more than the “kill list,” which should cause every American to perk up their ears and open their eyes. The fact, that Americans are losing basic rights under oppressive legislation, including unconstitutioinal legislation such as the Patriot Act (nothing patriotic about it) and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and ever growing spying on the population, warrantless wiretaps, gps devices on cars and a host of other rights violations by the federal government should be enough to wake us from our slumber and demand an end to it all and a restoration of the Constitution, but it hasn’t. It’s just resulted in a cry to change the names of those in leadership, but to keep these things in place.
Glen Greenwald at the Guardian points out the the war on terror looks to be permanent in its scope. In other words, there will never be a time when victory can be claimed. He writes,
Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States’ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”
In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “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.”
He also points out a “must-read analysis” documented by the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese. He writes, “Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which “meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans” – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC “to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years”.”
Greg Miller points out just how common place it is in the Obama administration to engage in targeted killing, even of innocent civilians. He writes,
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.
While it is certainly one thing to target a known enemy who you are at war with, it is quite another to be targeting innocent people. Many of these have been documented, including three Afghan children that were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Additionally, CNN reported, “missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman” and added: “the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.” Even former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made light of the assassination of a 16-year-old American citizen saying the killing was legitimate because he “should have a far more responsible father.”
Perhaps we need to step back and look at the road we are taking in all of this and see if it is the right one. I’m thinking our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves, especially George Washington!