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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam