Archie Bland: People aren't less dead because Obama gave the order

FreeView from the editors at i


George W Bush made it easier for us to hate America's aggression.

It was always pretty easy for your average British liberal to object to the Bush administration's anti-terror policies. George W Bush never carried our hopes and the easy distaste for Guantanamo and waterboarding aligned perfectly with our sense of his take on the economy, his social conservatism, his environmental barbarism. You could hate him and assume that his successor would be a nice, civilised Democrat and feel a little better about things.

Now that nice, civilised Democrat is in place and, in a lot of areas, things do indeed seem to be better. On terrorism, though – and on the targeting of militants – the picture is a troubling one and getting more so. On three successive days this week, Barack Obama launched three drone strikes in Pakistan, killing at least 29 people. They were the last of eight such strikes in a fortnight. During that run, the New York Times published a remarkable long article detailing the process by which the president and the CIA picked their targets and who they called a terrorist. The administration claims that the number of civilians killed in such hits in Pakistan was in the "low single digits". But a number of insiders say that such a calculation relies on a definition of "militant" that is laughably broad.

"It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants," one official told the newspaper. "They count the corpses and they're not really sure who they are." Even if one disregards the strategic wisdom of such provocative attacks on Pakistani soil, one needn't be a human rights absolutist to be disturbed by this process. The Obama doctrine, after all, encompasses situations where believed terrorists are sitting with their families. It seems to count any young man in the vicinity of a terrorist as a terrorist himself. As the policy reaps greater and greater dividends as far as the headcount is concerned, the standard for who constitutes a threat to the United States is surely diluted. As Obama's former chief of staff, William M Daley, put it, when considering the criteria for the "kill list": "One guy gets knocked off and the guy's driver, who's No 21, becomes 20? At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?"

None of these reservations will have the slightest effect in the US, where Obama's perceived steadfastness in the War on Terror is one of his most useful tools in the battle with Mitt Romney. But anyone here or there who imagines they can support so ruthless a president and keep their liberal values unsullied had better think more carefully.

Frightening examples of state violence no longer come with the convenient imprimatur that they had in the Bush years. And no-one is any less dead just because it is a Democrat giving the order.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower