An extraordinary article appeared in the New York Times on May 29, which details how President Obama personally approves extrajudicial assassinations, including of US citizens, by CIA and US military drone aircraft in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries.
Like a scene out of the Godfather, the president and his national security advisors gather in the White House situation room for weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings where they review a “kill list” of potential targets. According to the Times, Obama “signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on the more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan—about a third of the total.”
Since the publication of the article, the president has added at least 30 more notches to his belt—30 more people to the list of those whose killing he has approved. In the latest incident, a drone fired a missile in Pakistan, killing at least 12, including mourners and rescuers who had rushed to the scene of a first missile strike that killed three. This was the eighth US drone attack over the past two weeks, despite nominal demands from Pakistan that they be stopped.
The Times article also noted that the administration deliberately concealed the number of civilians killed in drone strikes by asserting that any male victims of “combat age” are terrorists. Pakistani estimates put the real figure of civilian deaths at a minimum of 830, including 175 children, since 2004, with the majority murdered under Obama’s term.
The article in America’s “newspaper of record” was not meant as an exposé of these war crimes or the president’s assertion of unchecked power to kill anyone he chooses. On the contrary, it was a sympathetic portrait written in close collaboration with administration officials. For the administration and the ruling class that it serves, such a demonstration of illegality is considered to be a political strength.