Americans love painless war – painless for them that is. The current weapons of choice are Drones. Drones are murderous console games.1 Those using them claim US intelligence is flawless and drone attacks are entirely effective. Putting it crudely, ‘Only bad guys get hurt in a drone attack’. Obama bought this nonesense ‘hook, line and sinker’. He, like all the apologists for drone warfare, claim they’re surgically precise. Drone attacks are more akin to assassination than strategic bombing, where civilian deaths were factored into the decision-making.
During the Second World War the Allies employed ,“….[saturation] bombing in which a very large number of bombs are dropped to cover an entire area instead of being aimed at a specific target.”2 These attacks knowingly slaughtered tens of thousands of German civilians. Saturation bombing is a type of war crime. War crimes are, “…intentional attacks on the civilian population…”3 In 1943 the British, “….bombing raid on Hamburg….virtually set the city on fire, killing 42,000 German civilians.”4 ‘Bomber’ Harris didn’t face a war crimes trial. He was promoted to Air Marshal in 1946.5
Obama’s war crimes don’t involve massacring thousands of civilians but they do involve knowingly killing civilians. So does small scale killing of civilians count as a war crime?6
This attack, “11 August 2009: U.S. drone strike in Ladha village, South Waziristan, kills 10.”7 but obviously the US couldn’t monitor the actaul slaughter by literally counting the dead and injured. Injuries in remote villages lack paramedic support systems, hospitals or pain alleviation. How many died from their injuries? Likewise, “30 September 2009: U.S. drones fire missiles at a Taliban compound and vehicle killing 8 in Novak, North Waziristan.”.8 Ten days later Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize: an ironic moment.
On May 2nd 2011, Obama watched Osama Bin Laden being assassinated.9 He gloried in it, as did the American media, and it also had worldwide support outside the Third World. As a lawyer, he knew that this was extra-judicial murder. Bin Laden wasn’t killed in battle. He was murdered in his house by heavily armed soldiers. On camera.
The CIA knew drone attacks were a great deal more crude than popular opinion believed. If they knew, so too did Obama. Death rates were approximations and unlike the Vietnam war, where exaggeration was the name of the game, the CIA minimised death rates and focused on dead ‘bad guys’. Some bad guys were killed three or four times but there was little appetite by the media for exposure or critical analysis.
Extra-judicial murder is alright when the USA does it. Obama was joined by 14 people to basically watch a snuff movie. They weren’t shame-faced by it. It wasn’t a guilty secret. It was choreographed as a media event. In their minds they were generals on an 18th century battlefield, surveying their triumph.
Obama is a war criminal. He knowingly ordered drone attacks on civilians whilst claiming they were accessories to terrorists: including children? He had no compunction about it and there were dozens of attacks during his presidency. He also ordered the Osama Bin Laden assassination rather than capture. He bought a narrative and suffered from terminal moral hazard.10 A murderous drone attack policy has ruined his legacy.
1 The kill chain: inside the unit that tracks targets for US drone wars | Drones (military) | The Guardian and also Plaw, Avery, et al. “Practice Makes Perfect?: The Changing Civilian Toll of CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan.” Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 5, no. 5/6, 2011, pp. 51–69. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26298539. Accessed 24 Apr. 2021.
6 Civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes – Wikipedia The table shows a large spread of casualty numbers because verification is so challenging. This source has deaths in Pakistan 2004-17 at 288 Drone strikes in Pakistan – Wikipedia
7 List of drone strikes in Pakistan – Wikipedia There are hundreds listed and this was picked at random from the years of the Obama presidency.
10 “…lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences .” moral hazard definition – Bing