Excellent Historical Overview of the US Government’s Drone Assassination Program, November 23, 2016
This is one of three books on drone assassination that I am reviewing, the other two are Drones and the Future of Armed Conflict: Ethical, Legal, and Strategic Implications and We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age. I was limited in my choices to the books offered by a professional journal for whom I am writing an integrated review, if I had had unlimited choice I would have included Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins and The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.
All three books — and I suspect the others focused on this topic as well — agree on three things:
01 Drone assassination is against both international law and the US Constitution;
02 We are murdering thousands of innocents and creating more enemies than we kill;
03 Drones are expensive, technically deficient tools (they cannot distinguish between a rifle and a shovel), that cannot be supported by our existing intelligence capabilities — nor can we process the terabytes of data they create.
This particular book, the best of the three in terms of informing the general public, is the one with the most historical detail, inclusive of the early opposition from both the CIA (which did not want to arm useful surveillance platforms) and the USAF (which did not want anything not requiring a live pilot).
Among the most important points documented by the useful investigative journalism product are these:
01 We are murdering people without due process based on their “pattern of life,” doing what is called signature kills. I am reminded of how we have been killing truck drivers taking a dump by the side of the road in Afghanistan, because that was a “signature” for someone planting an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
02 Under Bush-Cheney the original mandate — that no kill shot would be taken unless it had a 90% probability of success — was lowered to 50%. Thousands of peoples lives are being taken, illegally, because the White House decided that a flip of a coin could decide their fate.
03 It was Obama that first authorized the use of drones to assassinate US citizens,, and then Westerns including Germans, with impunity.
04 The government lies over 80% of the time — from every aspect of the drone program to the actual casualty rates (that I know to be 98% innocents from varied other sources) — the government is simply out of control to the point of impeachable treason against the public interest.
05 Iranian Press TV has successfully fabricated over 50 alleged drone strikes as a means of angering the global Muslim population and casting aspersions on the integrity of the US Government — I like this point, because it makes it clear just how stupid we are to be engaged in an activity that is so actively against all laws, against all common sense, and so easily magnified and turned against us.
06 The human toll on the operators of these killing machines is considerable. “Prolonged Virtual Combat Stress” or PVCS, is a real mental illness that our global drone assassination program has imposed on these individuals, at least one of whom, upon retirement, was awarded a certificate of merit for killing over 1,300 people by actual count, never mind that over 1,270 of them were outright innocents, “collateral damage.”
There is a wealth of contextual information in this book. It loses one star for failing to address the actual financial costs of the program, for not understanding that Syria and Yemen are wars funded by Saudi Arabia in which Hillary Clinton was “bought and paid for” by Saudi Arabian donations to the Clinton Foundation, and for being seriously in error in relation to its evaluation of 9/11 and when Bin Laden — who had nothing to do with 9/11 — died (2001, not 2011).
None of the three books adequately examine how drones are merely the latest tool in an ever growing array of very expensive very toxic military-industrial complex offerings that further Empire for the 1% at the expense of both the tax-paying US public and the victimized foreign publics. For such insights I would point readers to, among many others books, these four:
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II – Updated Edition
The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates And Infuriates The World
Why the Rest Hates the West: Understanding the Roots of Global Rage
Donald Trump, our “accidental president,” has recently annoounced that he is taking General Jim Mattis, USMC (Ret) at his word, and forbidding the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture as counterproductive. I was one of the first CIA officers assigned terrorism as a full-time target in the 1980’s, and have published strong opinions on the criminal insanity of water-boarding. Assassination by drone is a form of rendition and torture that in my view should make every person from the President on down subject to trial for crimes against humanity. I dare to hope that Donald Trump will listen to those of use who are — for moral, legal, practical, and professional reasons — totally opposed to this program.
Robert David Steele
Donald Trump, The Accidental President — Under Siege!: A Soft Coup Rages within a Closed Rigged System…. (Trump Revolution Book 5)