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Ed Webb

The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama, by Tom Junod - Esquire - 0 views

  • "President Bush would never have been able to scale this up the way President Obama has because he wouldn't have had the trust of the public and the Congress and the international community," says the former administration official familiar with the targeting process. "That trust has been enabling."
  • It is only human to have faith in the "human intelligence" generated by the agents, operatives, and assets of the CIA. But that's the point: What's human is always only human, and often wrong. America invaded Iraq on the pretext of intelligence that was fallacious if not dishonest. It confidently asserted that the detainees in Guantánamo were the "worst of the worst" and left them to the devices of CIA interrogators before admitting that hundreds were hapless victims of circumstance and letting them go. You, Mr. President, do not have a Guantánamo. But you are making the same characterization of those you target that the Bush administration made of those it detained, based on the same sources. The difference is that all your sentences are final, and you will never let anybody go. To put it as simply as possible: Six hundred men have been released uncharged from Guantánamo since its inception, which amounts to an admission of a terrible mistake. What if they had never even been detained? What if, under the precepts of the Lethal Presidency, they had simply been killed?
  • Collateral damage used to be anyone killed who was not targeted. Now the term "collateral damage" applies only to women and children. "My understanding is that able-bodied males of military age are considered fair game," says the former administration official, "if they're in the proximity of a known militant."
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  • This is what Senator Carl Levin, who receives regular briefings on "clandestine activities" as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki: "My understanding is that there was adequate justification." How? "It was justified by the presence of a high-value target."

    This is what his aunt says about his death in an e-mail: "We were all afraid that Abdulrahman would get caught up in the turmoil in Yemen. However, none of us thought that Abdulrahman will face a danger from the sky. We thought that the American administration, the world leader and superpower will be far and wide from such cruelty. Some may say Abdulrahman was collateral damage; some said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We say that Abdulrahman was in his father's land and was dining under the moon light, it looked to him, us and the rest of the world to be the right time and place. He was not in a cave in Waziristan or Tora Bora, he was simply a kid enjoying his time in the country side. The ones that were in the wrong place and time were the American drones, nothing else."

  • You have been free to keep the American people safe by expanding the Lethal Presidency — by approving the expanded use of signature strikes in Yemen and by defying an edict of the Pakistani parliament and continuing drone strikes in Pakistan. You have even begun thinking of using the Lethal Presidency as an example for other countries that want Lethal Presidencies of their own.
  • the danger of the Lethal Presidency is that the precedent you establish is hardly ever the precedent you think you are establishing, and whenever you seem to be describing a program that is limited and temporary, you are really describing a program that is expansive and permanent. You are a very controlled man, and as Lethal President, it's natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidency. It's even natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidencies of other countries, simply by the power of your example. But the Lethal Presidency incorporates not just drone technology but a way of thinking about drone technology, and this way of thinking will be your ultimate export. You have anticipated the problem of proliferation. But an arms race involving drones would be very different from an arms race involving nuclear arms, because the message that spread with nuclear arms was that these weapons must never be used. The message that you are spreading with drones is that they must be — that using them amounts to nothing less than our moral duty.
Ed Webb

Analysis: Al Qaeda down, but not out in Pakistan - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • the strike that killed Libyan cleric Libi in North Waziristan, and other similar attacks on militant hideouts, have not made the region any safer. Several other armed groups infest the area, and are not noticeably weaker
  • the Pakistani Taliban remains a highly potent force despite a series of Pakistan army offensives against its strongholds in the northwest. Seen as the biggest security threat to the U.S.-backed government, the Taliban is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across Pakistan, and a number of high profile attacks on military and police facilities.
  • The Haqqani network, which is strongly allied to the Taliban in Afghanistan, also has bases in Pakistan's northwestern badlands, according to U.S. officials. The group and Pakistani officials however deny they operate from there
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  • Libi was one of the few al Qaeda leaders who kept up personal contacts with commanders from other major militant groups like the Pakistani Taliban.

    He used his charisma, and credentials as a theologian, to try and keep al Qaeda's network intact in the face of growing pressure from the remotely-piloted drones

  • Conditions that breed militancy are still ripe in nuclear-armed Pakistan, and they won't go away until the government implements bold reforms that strengthen the struggling economy.

    More jobless young men could turn to militancy, which gives them a sense of power through the AK-47 assault rifle. Suicide bomber vests offer a path to paradise, they are told.

    That message is especially alluring in unruly areas like North Waziristan, where more than 60 percent of the population is between the ages of 15-25, job opportunities are virtually non-existent, and the state has little control.

Ed Webb

BBC News - Is Obama's drone doctrine counter-productive? - 0 views

  • "Look at Yemen on Christmas Day 2009, the day the so-called underwear bomber attempted to bring down a flight over Detroit.

    "On that day al-Qaeda numbered about 200 to 300 individuals and they controlled no territory. Now today, two-and-a-half years later, despite all the drone strikes al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has tripled in size, it's now around 1,000 members and it controls significant territory.

    "The more the US bombs, the more they grow."

  • "They are a constant presence, you hear them circling over head the whole time.

    "It's terrifying for everyone on the ground because they can hear it, like a small plane. What is so unsettling is you have no idea when this missile is going to come and kill you. There's a sense that your sovereignty is being violated.

    "… It's a serious military action. It is not this light precise pin prick that many Americans believe."

  • "What needs to happen is that the US has to do the very hard policy of diplomacy, or intelligence on the ground. The United States has a huge tool box at its disposal in Yemen and it is only using one of these tools."
Ed Webb

White House Report Faults Pakistan's Antimilitant Campaign - WSJ.com - 0 views

  • Pakistani officials have said they don't lack the will and that they have generally stepped up their efforts in response to U.S. requests, getting too little credit for it. But they say their army is already stretched thin—a problem exacerbated when soldiers were diverted to respond this summer to the worst flooding in the country's history.

    "The Pakistan military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan," the White House concludes, referring to the Pakistani tribal region that U.S. officials say is being used as a staging ground for attacks on troops in Afghanistan, as well as to plot attacks on targets in Europe.

    U.S. officials say they are increasingly frustrated by Pakistan's decision not to send large numbers of ground forces into North Waziristan. "This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritizing its targets," the unclassified, 27-page report finds.

  • Questions about aid to Pakistan have been growing in Congress in recent months, and congressional aides said the downbeat assessment could fuel lawmakers' qualms and calls for putting more conditions on U.S. funding.

    U.S.-Pakistan tensions are already high. The limited U.S. military presence in Pakistan, restricted to training and advising the country's security forces, is particularly sensitive.

    A series of cross-border raids by North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopter gunships from Afghanistan, including one that killed several Pakistani border guards who fired their weapons to wave off a coalition helicopter, have inflamed anti-American sentiment and prompted Islamabad to shut a key crossing used to deliver supplies to the U.S.-led coalition.

Ed Webb

Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

    For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

    And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

  • “For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us,” Mr. Smith said, referring to Al Qaeda. “And we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war.”

    Some security experts draw parallels to the cold war, when the United States drew heavily on covert operations as it fought a series of proxy battles with the Soviet Union.

    And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

  • A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.
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  • for all Mr. Saleh’s power — his portraits hang everywhere in the Yemeni capital — his government is deeply unpopular in the remote provinces where the militants have sought sanctuary. The tribes there tend to regularly switch sides, making it difficult to depend on them for information about Al Qaeda
  • he spotty record of the Yemen airstrikes may derive from another unavoidable risk of the new shadow war: the need to depend on local proxies who may be unreliable or corrupt, or whose agendas differ from that of the United States.
  • By law, covert action programs require presidential authorization and formal notification to the Congressional intelligence committees. No such requirements apply to the military’s so-called Special Access Programs, like the Yemen strikes.
  • Do the selective hits make the United States safer by eliminating terrorists? Or do they help the terrorist network frame its violence as a heroic religious struggle against American aggression, recruiting new operatives for the enemy?
  • Most Yemenis have little sympathy for Al Qaeda and have observed the American strikes with “passive indignation,” Mr. Eryani said. But, he added, “I think the strikes over all have been counterproductive.”
  • “I think it’s both understandable and defensible for the Obama administration to pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations,” Mr. Hull said. But he added: “I’m concerned that counterterrorism is defined as an intelligence and military program. To be successful in the long run, we have to take a far broader approach that emphasizes political, social and economic forces.”
  • ver the years, military force had proved to be a seductive tool that tended to dominate “all the discussions and planning” and push more subtle solutions to the side
  • When terrorists threaten Americans, Mr. Zenko said, “there is tremendous pressure from the National Security Council and the Congressional committees to, quote, ‘do something.’ ”

    That is apparent to visitors at the American Embassy in Sana, who have noticed that it is increasingly crowded with military personnel and intelligence operatives. For now, the shadow warriors are taking the lead.

Julianne Greco

Pakistan's Army Said to Be Linked to Many Killings - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • The army has acknowledged that bodies have turned up, but its spokesmen assert that the killings are the result of civilians settling scores.
    • Julianne Greco
       
      Clearly, there is major discrepancy on just who is behind these killings and who is more reasonable to listen to--just another example of extensive corruption and finger-pointing
  • Now, concerns over the army’s methods in the area threaten to further taint Washington’s association with the military, cooperation that has been questioned in Congress and has been politically unpopular in Pakistan.
    • Julianne Greco
       
      U.S. public pressure is powerful and reaches this far out. How Washington has chosen to associate itself in the past, carries weight, but now falls into opposition with popular opinion and the opinions of many other sources.
  • The Human Rights Commission, a nongovernmental organization, disputed that all the victims had been killed by civilians, saying last month that there were credible reports of retaliatory killings by the military. It said that witnesses had seen mass graves and that in some cases, the bodies appeared to be those of militants.
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