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

FreeView from the editors at i

Share

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage