Is Washington’s chief drone warrior ready to wind up the CIA’s drone war?

Mark Perry writes: Lost amidst all the fuss over whether Obama nominee Chuck Hagel is – or isn’t – acceptable to the Israeli lobby (or whatever), is the crucial, but strangely low-profile, debate over the president’s nomination of controversial counterterrorism chief John Brennan to head up the CIA.

The 25-year agency veteran, who first tied himself to Obama when the then-Illinois Senator was launching his long-shot campaign for the Oval Office, makes Hagel look positively liberal. This early support for an Illinois back bencher paid off for Brennan, for when Obama took office he immediately turned to the CIA veteran for his expertise on the war on terrorism.

While Brennan’s official title during Obama’s first term was US Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, he was known to critics and supporters alike as “Mr Drone” – the official behind the administration’s more than 350 separate drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that have killed more than 3400 people, including an estimated 891 civilians.

“No politically appointed official in US history has played such a prominent role in killing so many people outside of a war zone as John Brennan,” Foreign Policy‘s Micah Zenka writes, adding that Brennan is the “most lethal bureaucrat” in Washington.

That may well be, but while Brennan hasn’t exactly been given “a pass” by either Democrats or Republicans (and has been dubbed the administration’s “assassination czar” by American progresssives), his most predictable critics have been less than outspoken in opposing his nomination.

One of the reasons may well be that Brennan believes the CIA should be “demilitarised” (which has gained him the support of the agency’s powerful senior analysts), and its drone war turned over to the Pentagon – which is where it belongs.

Although doing so probably won’t end the programme (should it actually happen), senior military officers are known to be sceptical of its utility, and intelligence veterans support Brennan’s position on transforming the post-Patraeus CIA back into what it was intended to be – an agency that gathers intelligence instead of running push-button wars. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email