Obama’s drone wars and the normalisation of extrajudicial murder

Michael Boyle was an adviser on the Obama campaign’s counterterrorism expert group from July 2007-November 2008. He writes: [President Obama] has routinized and normalized extrajudicial killing from the Oval Office, taking advantage of America’s temporary advantage in drone technology to wage a series of shadow wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Without the scrutiny of the legislature and the courts, and outside the public eye, Obama is authorizing murder on a weekly basis, with a discussion of the guilt or innocence of candidates for the “kill list” being resolved in secret on “Terror Tuesday” teleconferences with administration officials and intelligence officials.

The creation of this “kill list” – as well as the dramatic escalation in drone strikes, which have now killed at least 2,400 people in Pakistan alone, since 2004 – represents a betrayal of President Obama’s promise to make counterterrorism policies consistent with the US constitution. As Charles Pierce has noted, there is nothing in the constitution that allows the president to wage a private war on individuals outside the authorization of Congress.

The spirit of the constitution was quite the opposite: all of the founders were concerned, in varying degrees, with the risk of allowing the president to exercise too much discretion when declaring war or using force abroad. For this reason, the constitution explicitly grants the right to declare war to the Congress in order to restrain the president from chasing enemies around the world based solely on his authority as commander-in-chief. The founders would be horrified, not comforted, to know that the president has implicated himself in the killing of foreign nationals in states against which the Congress has not passed a declaration of war. [Continue reading…]

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