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America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World: Empire Under Obama, Part 3

America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World: Empire Under Obama, Part 3

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

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Part 1: Political Language and the ‘Mafia Principles’ of International Relations

Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

Obama’s global terror campaign is not only dependent upon his drone assassination program, but increasingly it has come to rely upon the deployment of Special Operations forces in countries all over the world, reportedly between 70 and 120 countries at any one time. As Obama has sought to draw down the large-scale ground invasions of countries (as Bush pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq), he has escalated the world of ‘covert warfare,’ largely outside the oversight of Congress and the public. One of the most important agencies in this global “secret war” is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC for short.

JSOC was established in 1980 following the failed rescue of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran as “an obscure and secretive corner of the military’s hierarchy,” noted the Atlantic. It experienced a “rapid expansion” under the Bush administration, and since Obama came to power, “appears to be playing an increasingly prominent role in national security” and “counterterrorism,” in areas which were “traditionally covered by the CIA.”[1] One of the most important differences between these covert warfare operations being conducted by JSOC instead of the CIA is that the CIA has to report to Congress, whereas JSOC only reports its most important activities to the President’s National Security Council.[2]

During the Bush administration, JSOC “reported directly” to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (of the New Yorker), who explained that, “It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.” He added: “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”[3]

In 2005, Dick Cheney referred to U.S. Special Forces as “the silent professionals” representing “the kind of force we want to build for the future… a force that is lighter, more adaptable, more agile, and more lethal in action.” And without a hint of irony, Cheney stated: “None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror.”[4] Not unless those “fanatics” happen to be wearing U.S. military uniforms, of course, in which case “committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror” is not an issue.

The commander of JSOC during the Bush administration – when it served as Cheney’s “executive assassination ring” – was General Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama appointed as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, JSOC began to play a much larger role in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.[5] In early 2009, the new head of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H. McRaven ordered a two-week ‘halt’ to Special Operations missions inside Afghanistan, after several JSOC raids in previous months killed several women and children, adding to the growing “outrage” within Afghanistan about civilian deaths caused by US raids and airstrikes, which contributed to a surge in civilian deaths over 2008.[6]

JSOC has also been involved in running a “secret war” inside of Pakistan, beginning in 2006 but accelerating rapidly under the Obama administration. The “secret war” was waged in cooperation with the CIA and the infamous private military contractor, Blackwater, made infamous for its massacre of Iraqi civilians, after which it was banned from operating in the country.[7]

Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, was recruited as a CIA asset in 2004, and in subsequent years acquired over $1.5 billion in contracts from the Pentagon and CIA, and included among its leadership several former top-level CIA officials. Blackwater, which primarily hires former Special Forces soldiers, has largely functioned “as an overseas Praetorian guard for the CIA and State Department officials,” who were also “helping to craft, fund, and execute operations,” including “assembling hit teams,” all outside of any Congressional or public oversight (since it was technically a private corporation).[8]

The CIA hired Blackwater to aid in a secret assassination program which was hidden from Congress for seven years.[9] These operations would be overseen by the CIA or Special Forces personnel.[10] Blackwater has also been contracted to arm drones at secret bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Obama’s assassination program, overseen by the CIA.[11] The lines dividing the military, the CIA and Blackwater had become “blurred,” as one former CIA official commented, “It became a very brotherly relationship… There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually become an extension of the agency.”[12]

The “secret war” in Pakistan may have begun under Bush, but it had rapidly expanded in the following years of the Obama administration. Wikileaks cables confirmed the operation of JSOC forces inside of Pakistan, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani telling the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson (who would later be appointed as ambassador to Egypt), that, “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”[13]

Within the first five months of Obama’s presidency in 2009, he authorized “a massive expansion of clandestine military and intelligence operations worldwide,” granting the Pentagon’s regional combatant commanders “significant new authority” over such covert operations.[14] The directive came from General Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, authorizing Special Forces soldiers to be sent into “both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.” The deployment of highly trained killers into dozens of countries was to become “systemic and long term,” designed to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” enemies of the State, beyond the rule of law, no trial or pretenses of accountability. They also “prepare the environment” for larger attacks that the U.S. or NATO countries may have planned. Unlike with the CIA, these operations do not report to Congress, or even need “the President’s approval.” But for the big operations, they get the approval of the National Security Council (NSC), which includes the president, as well as most other major cabinet heads, of the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, etc.[15]

The new orders gave regional commanders – such as Petraeus who headed CENTCOM, or General Ward of the newly-created Africa Command (AFRICOM) – authority over special operations forces in the area of their command, institutionalizing the authority to send trained killers into dozens of countries around the world to conduct secret operations with no oversight whatsoever; and this new ‘authority’ is given to multiple top military officials, who have risen to the top of an institution with absolutely no ‘democratic’ pretenses. Regardless of who is president, this “authority” remains institutionalized in the “combatant commands.”[16]

The combatant commands include: AFRICOM over Africa (est. 2007), CENTCOM over the Middle East and Central Asia (est. 1983), EUCOM over Europe (est. 1947), NORTHCOM over North America (est. 2002), PACOM over the Pacific rim and Asia (est. 1947), SOUTHCOM over Central and South America and the Caribbean (est. 1963), SOCOM as Special Operations Command (est. 1987), STRATCOM as Strategic Command over military operations to do with outer space, intelligence, and weapons (est. 1992), and TRANSCOM handling all transportation for the Department of Defense. The State Department was given “oversight” to clear the operations from each embassy,[17] just to make sure everyone was ‘in the loop,’ unlike during the Bush years when it was run out of Cheney’s office without telling anyone else.

In 2010, it was reported by the Washington Post that the U.S. has expanded the operations of its Special Forces around the world, from being deployed in roughly 60 countries under Bush to about 75 countries in 2010 under Obama, operating in notable spots such as the Philippines and Colombia, as well as Yemen, across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The global deployment of Special Forces – alongside the CIA’s global drone warfare program – were two facets of Obama’s “national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values,” in the words of the Washington Post, though the article was unclear on which aspect of waging “secret wars” in 75 countries constituted Obama’s “values.” Commanders for Special Operations forces have become “a far more regular presence at the White House” under Obama than George Bush, with one such commander commenting, “We have a lot more access… They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.” Such Special Operations forces deployments “go beyond unilateral strikes and include the training of local counterterrorism forces and joint operations with them.”[18]

So not only are U.S. forces conducting secret wars within dozens of countries around the world, but they are training the domestic military forces of many of these countries to undertake secret wars internally, and in the interests of the United States Mafia empire.

One military official even “set up a network” of private military corporations that hired former Special Forces and CIA operations to gather intelligence and conduct secret operations in foreign countries to support “lethal action”: publicly subsidized, privatized ‘accountability.’ Such a network was “generally considered illegal” and was “improperly financed.”[19] When the news of these networks emerged, the Pentagon said it shut them down and opened a “criminal investigation.” Turns out, they found nothing “criminal,” because two months later, the operations were continuing and had “become an important source of intelligence.” The networks of covert-ops corporations were being “managed” by Lockheed Martin, one of the largest military contractors in the world, while being “supervised” by the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command.[20]

Admiral Eric T. Olson had been the head of Special Operations Command from 2007 to 2011, and in that year, Olson led a successful initiative – endorsed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates – to encourage the promotion of top special operations officials to higher positions in the whole military command structure. The “trend” was to continue under the following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA from 2009 to 2011.[21] When Olson left his position as head of Special Operations Command, he was replaced with Admiral William McRaven, who served as the head of JSOC from 2008 to 2011, having followed Stanley McChrystal.

By January of 2012, Obama was continuing with seeking to move further away from large-scale ground wars such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and refocus on “a smaller, more agile force across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.” Surrounded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in full uniforms adorned with medals, along with other top Pentagon officials, President Obama delivered a rare press briefing at the Pentagon where he said that, “our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority.” The priorities in this strategy would be “financing for defense and offense in cyberspace, for Special Operations forces and for the broad area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”[22]

In February of 2012, Admiral William H. McRaven, the head of the Special Operations Command, was “pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy,” advocating a plan that “would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed,” notably with expansions in mind for Asia, Africa and Latin America. McRaven stated that, “It’s not really about Socom [Special Operations Command] running the global war on terrorism… I don’t think we’re ready to do that. What it’s about is how do I better support” the major regional military command structures.[23]

In the previous decade, roughly 80% of US Special Operations forces were deployed in the Middle East, but McRaven wanted them to spread to other regions, as well as to be able to “quickly move his units to potential hot spots without going through the standard Pentagon process governing overseas deployments.” The Special Operations Command numbered around 66,000 people, double the number since 2001, and its budget had reached $10.5 billion, from $4.2 billion in 2001.[24]

In March of 2012, a Special Forces commander, Admiral William H. McRaven, developed plans to expand special operations units, making them “the force of choice” against “emerging threats” over the following decade. McRaven’s Special Operations Command oversees more than 60,000 military personnel and civilians, saying in a draft paper circulated at the Pentagon that: “We are in a generational struggle… For the foreseeable future, the United States will have to deal with various manifestations of inflamed violent extremism. In order to conduct sustained operations around the globe, our special operations must adapt.” McRaven stated that Special Forces were operating in over 71 countries around the world.[25]

The expansion of global special forces operations was largely in reaction to the increasingly difficult challenge of positioning large military forces around the world, and carrying out large scale wars and occupations, for which there is very little public support at home or abroad. In 2013, the Special Operations Command had forces operating in 92 different countries around the world, with one Congressional critic accusing McRaven of engaging in “empire building.”[26] The expanded presence of these operations is a major factor contributing to “destabilization” around the world, especially in major war zones like Pakistan.[27]

In 2013, McRaven’s Special Operations Command gained new authorities and an expanded budget, with McRaven testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”[28] In 2012, it was reported that such forces would be operating in 120 different countries by the end of the year.[29]

In December of 2012, it was announced that the U.S. was sending 4,000 soldiers to 35 different African countries as “part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge,” operating under the Pentagon’s newest regional command, AFRICOM, established in 2007.[30]

By September of 2013, the U.S. military had been involved in various activities in Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia, among others, constructing bases, undertaking “security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network.”[31]

In short, Obama’s global ‘war of terror’ has expanded to roughly 100 countries around the world, winding down the large-scale military invasions and occupations such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and increasing the “small-scale” warfare operations of Special Forces, beyond the rule of law, outside Congressional and public oversight, conducting “snatch and grab” operations, training domestic repressive military forces in nations largely run by dictatorships to undertake their own operations on behalf of the ‘Global Godfather.’

Make no mistake: this is global warfare. Imagine for a moment the international outcry that would result from news of China or Russia conducting secret warfare operations in roughly 100 countries around the world. But when America does it, there’s barely a mention, save for the passing comments in the New York Times or the Washington Post portraying an unprecedented global campaign of terror as representative of Obama’s “values.” Well, indeed it is representative of Obama’s values, by virtue of the fact that he doesn’t have any.

Indeed, America has long been the Global Godfather applying the ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations, lock-in-step with its Western lackey organized crime ‘Capo’ states such as Great Britain and France. Yet, under Obama, the president who had won public relations industry awards for his well-managed presidential advertising campaign promising “hope” and “change,” the empire has found itself waging war in roughly one hundred nations, conducting an unprecedented global terror campaign, increasing its abuses of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity, all under the aegis of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama.

Whether the president is Clinton, Bush, or Obama, the Empire of Terror wages on its global campaign of domination and subjugation, to the detriment of all humanity, save those interests that sit atop the constructed global hierarchy. It is in the interests of the ruling elite that America protects and projects its global imperial designs. It is in the interests of all humanity, then, that the Empire be opposed – and ultimately, deconstructed – no matter who sits in office, no matter who holds the title of the ‘high priest of hypocrisy’ (aka: President of the United States). It is the Empire that rules, and the Empire that destroys, and the Empire that must, in turn, be demolished.

The world at large – across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America – suffers the greatest hardships of the Western Mafia imperial system: entrenched poverty, exploitation, environmental degradation, war and destruction. The struggle against the Empire cannot we waged and won from the outside alone. The rest of the world has been struggling to survive against the Western Empire for decades, and, in truth, hundreds of years. For the struggle to succeed (and it can succeed), a strong anti-Empire movement must develop within the imperial powers themselves, and most especially within the United States. The future of humanity depends upon it.

Or… we could all just keep shopping and watching TV, blissfully blind to the global campaign of terror and war being waged in our names around the world. Certainly, such an option may be appealing, but ultimately, wars abroad come home to roost. As George Orwell once wrote: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

References

[1] Max Fisher, “The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA,” The Atlantic, 1 December 2009:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/12/the-special-ops-command-thats-displacing-the-cia/31038/

[2] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” The New York Times, 24 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html?hp

[3] Eric Black, “Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes ‘executive assassination ring’,” Minnesota Post, 11 March 2009:

http://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2009/03/investigative-reporter-seymour-hersh-describes-executive-assassination-ring

[4] John D. Danusiewicz, “Cheney Praises ‘Silent Professionals’ of Special Operations,” American Forces Press Service, 11 June 2005:

http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=16430

[5] Max Fisher, “The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA,” The Atlantic, 1 December 2009:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/12/the-special-ops-command-thats-displacing-the-cia/31038/

[6] Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, 9 March 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/world/asia/10terror.html?hp

[7] Jeremy Scahill, The Secret US War in Pakistan. The Nation: November 23, 2009: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091207/scahill

[8] Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy,” Vanity Fair, January 2010:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/01/blackwater-201001

[9] Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists,” The New York Times, 19 August 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=0

[10] R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, “Blackwater tied to clandestine CIA raids,” The Washington Post, 11 December 2009:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-12-11/news/36873053_1_clandestine-cia-raids-cia-assassination-program-blackwater-personnel

[11] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones,” The New York Times, 20 August 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/us/21intel.html

[12] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret C.I.A. Raids,” The New York Times, 10 December 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/11/us/politics/11blackwater.html

[13] Jeremy Scahill, “The (Not So) Secret (Anymore) US War in Pakistan,” The Nation, 1 December 2010:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/156765/not-so-secret-anymore-us-war-pakistan#

[14] March Ambinder, “Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare,” The Atlantic, 25 May 2010:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/obama-gives-commanders-wide-berth-for-secret-warfare/57202/

[15] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” The New York Times, 24 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html?hp

[16] Marc Ambinder, “Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare,” 25 May 2010:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/obama-gives-commanders-wide-berth-for-secret-warfare/57202/

[17] Max Fisher, “The End of Dick Cheney’s Kill Squads,” The Atlantic, 4 June 2010:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/06/the-end-of-dick-cheneys-kill-squads/57707/

[18] Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role,” The Washington Post, 4 June 2010:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html

[19] Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, “Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants,” The New York Times, 14 March 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/world/asia/15contractors.html?pagewanted=1

[20] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts,” The New York Times, 15 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/world/16contractors.html?pagewanted=all

[21] Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, “Special Operations Veterans Rise in Hierarchy,” The New York Times, 8 August 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/us/09commanders.html?pagewanted=all

[22] Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, “Obama Puts His Stamp on Strategy for a Leaner Military,” The New York Times, 5 January 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/us/obama-at-pentagon-to-outline-cuts-and-strategic-shifts.html

[23] Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, “Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces,” The New York Times, 12 February 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/us/admiral-pushes-for-freer-hand-in-special-forces.html?pagewanted=all

[24] Ibid.

[25] David S. Cloud, “U.S. special forces commander seeks to expand operations,” Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2012:

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/04/world/la-fg-special-forces-20120505

[26] Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, “A Commander Seeks to Chart a New Path for Special Operations,” The New York Times, 1 May 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/us/politics/admiral-mcraven-charts-a-new-path-for-special-operations-command.html?pagewanted=all

[27] Nick Turse, “How Obama’s destabilizing the world,” Salon, 19 September 2011:

http://www.salon.com/2011/09/19/obama_global_destablization/

[28] Walter Pincus, “Special Operations wins in 2014 budget,” The Washington Post, 11 April 2013:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-04-11/world/38448541_1_mcraven-socom-special-forces

[29] David Isenberg, “The Globalisation of U.S. Special Operations Forces,” IPS News, 24 May 2012:

http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/05/the-globalisation-of-u-s-special-operations-forces/

[30] Tom Bowman, “U.S. Military Builds Up Its Presence In Africa,” NPR, 25 December 2012:

http://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/168008525/u-s-military-builds-up-its-presence-in-africa ;

Lolita C. Baldor, “Army teams going to Africa as terror threat grows,” Yahoo! News, 24 December 2012:

http://news.yahoo.com/army-teams-going-africa-terror-threat-grows-082214765.html

[31] Nick Turse, “The Startling Size of US Military Operations in Africa,” Mother Jones, 6 September 2013:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/us-military-bases-africa

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Empire Under Obama, Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

Empire Under Obama, Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

Part 1: Political Language and the ‘Mafia Principles’ of International Relations

Pakistan

Under the administration of Barack Obama, America is waging a global terror campaign through the use of drones, killing thousands of people, committing endless war crimes, creating fear and terror in a program expected to last several more decades. Welcome to Obama’s War OF Terror.

When Obama became President in 2009, he faced a monumental challenge for the extension of American and Western imperial interests. The effects of eight years under the overt ruthless and reckless behaviour of the Bush administration had taken a toll on the world. With two massive ground wars and occupations under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western military forces were stretched thin, while the world’s populations had grown increasingly wary and critical of the use of military force, both at home and abroad. Just as Brzezinski had articulated: “while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low.”[1]

When it came to the ‘War on Terror,’ Obama implemented his electoral visions of “hope” and “change” in the only way he knows: change the rhetoric, not the substance, and hope to hell that the Empire can continue extending its influence around the world. As such, Obama quickly implemented a policy change, dropping the term “war on terror” and replacing it with the equally – if not more – meaningless term, “overseas contingency operations.”[2]

A major facet of Obama’s foreign policy strategy has been the implementation of an unprecedented global terror war with flying killer robots (“drones”) operated by remote control. By 2011, the Washington Post reported that no president in U.S. history “has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”[3]

Every Tuesday, a counterterrorism meeting takes place in the White House Situation Room among two dozen security officials where they decide who – around the world – they are going to illegally bomb and kill that week, drawing up the weekly “kill list” (as it is called).[4]

By October of 2012, Obama’s “kill list” had evolved into a “next-generation targeting list” now officially referred to as the “disposition matrix,” in yet another effort to demean the English language.[5] The “disposition matrix”/kill list establishes the names of “terror suspects” who the Obama administration wants to ‘dispose’ of, without trial, beyond the rule of law, in contravention of all established international law, and in blatant war crimes that kill innocent civilians.

Obama administration officials believe that the use of global drone terror warfare and “kill lists” are likely to last at least another decade, with one top official commenting, “We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us… It’s a necessary part of what we do… We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America’.”[6] Indeed, quite true. That’s one of the actual repercussions – believe it or not – of waging a massive global assassination program against people around the world: they tend to not “love” the country bombing them.

But the Obama administration warned the world that as of 2012, the U.S. had only reached the “mid-point” in the global war on [read: of] terror, with Obama’s assassination program having already killed more than 3,000 people around the world, more than the number of people killed on 9/11.[7] As Glenn Greenwald noted, this represented “concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.”[8]

But in case you had any moral ‘qualms’ about bombing and murdering hundreds of innocent children in multiple countries around the world with flying robots, don’t worry: as Joe Klein of Time Magazine noted, “the bottom line in the end is – whose 4-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”[9]

Quite right. After all, “indiscriminate acts of terror” are only okay when the United States – or the “international community” – does it. But when the U.S. spreads terror, death and destruction around the world, this is referred to as a “war on terror,” instead of the more accurate “war of terror.” It could be argued that as a rule of thumb, whenever the United States declares a “war” ON something, simply remove the word ‘on’ and replace it with ‘of’, and suddenly, everything starts to make more sense. After all, whenever the U.S. declares a war “on” something (drugs, poverty, terror), the result is that there is a great deal more of whatever it is being ‘targeted’, and that U.S. policies themselves facilitate the exponential growth of these so-called ‘targets.’ Hence, the “war on terror” is truly more accurately described as a “war of terror,” since that is the result of the actual policies undertaken in the name of such a war.

A major NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School research report was published in September of 2012 documenting the civilian terror inflicted by Obama’s global assassination-terror campaign. While the Obama administration has claimed that drones are “surgically precise” and “makes the US safer,” the report countered that this was completely “false.” The report noted that Obama’s drone war often uses the strategy of hitting the same target multiple times, thus killing rescuers and humanitarian workers who go to help the injured.[10]

This is referred to as a “double-tap” strategy, and according to the FBI and Homeland Security, this is a tactic which is regularly used in “terrorist attacks” to target “first responders as well as the general population.” Obama’s drones not only target rescuers, but also frequently bomb the funerals of previous drone victims. According to the United Nations, such tactics “are a war crime.”[11] Even the NYU/Stanford Law School report identified the drone program as a terror campaign when it noted that the effects of the drone program are that it “terrorizes men, women, and children.”[12]

John O. Brennan, who served as Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser (and is now the director of the CIA), was the main advocate of the drone program inside the Obama administration. In 2011, he reassured the American people that, “in the last year, there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, [and] precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop,” and added that, “if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger.”[13] That sounds pretty impressive, though unfortunately, it’s an absurd lie.

The New York Times noted that Obama’s method for counting civilian deaths caused by drone strikes was “disputed” (to say the least), because it “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,” thus radically underreporting the level of civilian deaths. The “logic” of this view that that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.” This “counting method,” noted the NYT, “may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths.” Some administration officials outside the CIA have complained about this method, referring to it as “guilty by association” which results in “deceptive” estimates. One official commented, “It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants… They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”[14]

In 2011, it was reported that drone strikes in Pakistan had killed 168 children, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.[15] In Afghanistan, officials note that civilians are killed not only by Taliban attacks but also increasingly by drone attacks, with Afghan president Hamid Karzai condemning the attacks which kill women and children as being “against all international norms.”[16] Afghanistan was in fact the epicenter of the U.S. drone war, even more so than Pakistan, with the CIA having launched upwards of 333 drone strikes in the country over the course of 2012, the highest total ever.[17] The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has evolved into “a new and as yet only partially understood doctrine of secret, unaccountable and illegal warfare,” which is “destroying the West’s reputation,” noted the Telegraph in 2012.[18] And considering the already-existing “reputation” of the West in the rest of the world, that’s quite an impressive feat.

From 2004 to 2012, between 2,400 and 3,100 people were reported to have been killed by U.S. drone strikes, including at least 800 innocent civilians (as a low estimate). As Seumas Milne reported in the Guardian, the drone strikes “are, in reality, summary executions and widely regarded as potential war crimes by international lawyers.”[19]

The UN warned in June of 2012 that drone strikes may constitute “war crimes,” and that the use of drone strikes and “targeted killings” has been found to be “immensely attractive” to other states in the world, and thus, such practices “weaken the rule of law,” as they “fall outside the scope of accountability.” A Pakistani Ambassador declared that, “We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.” Ian Seiderman, the director of the International Commission of Jurists noted that as a result of the global drone war, “immense damage was being done to the fabric of international law.”[20]

Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center from 2004 to 2006, commented that the United States was “creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield,” adding that, “If you strike them indiscriminately you are running the risk of creating a terrific amount of popular anger,” and that the strikes could even create “terrorist safe havens.”[21]

In testimony before the U.S. Congress in April of 2013, a Yemeni man who had studied in the United States explained that his community in Yemen – a small village – knew about the United States primarily through stories of his own experiences living there (which were positive), but their positive association with America changed following U.S. drone strikes, commenting: “Now… when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What the violent militants had failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.”[22]

U.S. drone bases operate out of multiple countries, including Afghanistan, Djibouti, Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Seychelles, and Saudi Arabia. Drones have conducted “surveillance missions” in Libya, Iran, Turkey, Mexico, Colombia, Haiti, and North Korea. Drone strikes have taken place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia,[23] and there have even been reports of drone strikes taking place in the Philippines.[24] The U.S. has also considered undertaking drone strikes in the African country of Mali.[25]

In February of 2013, the United States sent 100 U.S. troops to Mali to set up a drone base for operations in Western Africa.[26] The U.S. began operating drones out of Mali right away, as “north and west Africa [were] rapidly emerging as yet another front in the long-running US war against terrorist networks,” giving the Pentagon “a strategic foothold in West Africa,” with Niger bordering Mali, Nigeria and Libya, which was already the target of a French-British-American war in 2011.[27]

In September of 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American “suspected terrorist” in Yemen had his name added to Obama’s “kill list” and was murdered in a drone bombing, with Obama reportedly saying that making the decision to kill him was “an easy one.”[28] Two weeks later, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar, also born in America but at the time living in Yemen, was then killed with a drone strike. Obama’s former White House Press Secretary and then-reelection campaign adviser Robert Gibbs was asked how the U.S. justified killing the 16-year-old boy, with the journalist commenting, “It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.” Gibbs replied that the boy “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” Gibbs also noted, “When there are people who are trying to harm us, and have pledged to bring terror to these shores, we’ve taken that fight to them.”[29] Pretty simple: America has decided to take the “terror” to “them.”

At his first inaugural address as President in 2009, Barack Obama said: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Less than two-and-a-half years later, favourable views of the United States in the Middle East had “plummeted… to levels lower than they were during the last year of the Bush administration.” A 2013 Gallup poll found that 92% of Pakistanis disapproved of U.S. leadership, with only 4% approving, “the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given.” While there was “substantial affection” for American culture and people in the Muslim world, according to the poll, the problem was U.S. policies. Even a Pentagon study undertaken during the Bush administration noted: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies,” specifically, “American direct intervention in the Muslim world,” which, the Pentagon noted, “paradoxically elevate[s] stature of and support for Islamic radicals.”[30]

A June 2012 poll of public opinion sought to gauge the level of support for U.S. drone strikes among 20 countries: the U.S., Britain, Germany, Poland, France, India, Italy, Czech Republic, China, Lebanon, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Greece. The poll found that 17 of the countries had a “clear majority” opposed to drone strikes, while only the U.S. had a “clear majority” (62%) in support.[31]

In May of 2013, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee where he was asked how long the ‘war on terrorism’ will last, to which he replied: “At least 10 to 20 years,” with a Pentagon spokesperson later clarifying that he meant that, “the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted.”[32] In other words, according to the Pentagon, the world has at least one-to-two more decades of America’s global terror war to look forward to.

So, if America was actually waging a war on terror which sought to reduce the threat of terror, then why would it be undertaking policies that actively – and knowingly – increase the threat and levels of terrorism? Well the answer is perhaps shockingly simple: America is not attempting to reduce terror. Quite the contrary, America is not only increasing the threat of terror, but is doing so by waging terror against much of the world. So this begs the question: what is the actual purpose of Obama’s drone terror campaign?

Akbar Ahmed, the Islamic Studies chair at American University and former Pakistani high commissioner to Britain, explained in a May 2013 op-ed in the New York Times that the drone war in Pakistan was producing “chaos and rage” as it was “destroying already weak tribal structures and throwing communities into disarray,” threatening the Pakistani government and fueling hatred of America, and that this was also occurring in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, other major target nations of Obama’s terror campaign.[33]

Many of these tribal societies had struggled for autonomy under colonial governments (usually run by the British), and then struggled against the central governments left by the British and other colonial powers. These tribal societies have subsequently come under attack by the Taliban and al-Qaeda (whose growth was developed by the US in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani state), and then they continued to suffer under foreign occupations led by the United States, Britain and other NATO powers in Afghanistan and Iraq, destabilizing the entire Middle East and Central Asia.[34]

Now, these tribal societies are being subjected to Obama’s drone campaign of terror, “causing ferocious backlashes against central governments while destroying any positive image of the United States that may have once existed,” noted Ahmed. In his op-ed, he concluded: “Those at the receiving end of the strikes see them as unjust, immoral and dishonorable – killing innocent people who have never themselves harmed Americans while the drone operators sit safely halfway across the world, terrorizing and killing by remote control.”[35]

So why would the United States knowingly do this, and why target these specific groups? The answer may be that the U.S. is simply targeting so-called “lawless” and “stateless” regions and peoples. In a world where states, corporations, and international organizations rule the day, with the United States perched atop the global hierarchy, the imperial concept of “order” reigns supreme, where the word ‘order’ is defined as control. In a world experiencing increased unrest, protests, rebellions, revolutions and uprisings, “order” is under threat across the globe.

For the American ‘Mafia Godfather’ Empire, control must be established, through whatever means necessary. For, as the ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations dictate: if one state, region, or people are able to “successfully defy” the Godfather/Empire, then other states and people might try to do the same. This could potentially set off a “domino effect” in which the U.S. and its Mafia capo Western allies rapidly lose control of the world. Thus, we have witnessed the United States and the West intimately involved in attempting to manage the ‘transitions’ taking place as a result of the Arab Spring, desperately seeking to not lose control of the incredibly important strategic region of the Arab world.

Meanwhile, the technological capacity of American military force has reached new heights, with the global drone warfare as a major example. It allows the U.S. to reduce its use of large military forces being sent into combat, and thus reduces the domestic political pressure against foreign aggression and warfare. The drone program fits perfectly into Zbigniew Brzezinski’s description in 2009 of how the major state powers of the world are at a stage where “the lethality of their military might is greater than ever.” Yet, as Brzezinski elaborated, and as is evident in the case of the Arab Spring, the monumental political changes in Latin America over the past decade and a half, and the increased unrest of people around the world, the “capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people”[36]

Thus, we attempt a logical reasoning as to why the U.S. is targeting stateless tribal societies with its global terror campaign: if you can’t control them, kill them. Such a strategy obviously could not be publicly articulated to the population of a self-declared “democratic” society which congratulates itself on being a beacon for “freedom and liberty.” Thus, political language is applied. As George Orwell wrote, political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

When it comes to Obama’s drone terror campaign against stateless tribal societies, the political language is firmly rooted in the “war on terror.” These people are deemed to be “terror suspects,” and so they are bombed and killed, their families and communities terrorized, and as a result, they become increasingly resentful and hateful toward the United States, thus leading to increased recruitment into terrorist organizations and an increased terror threat to the United States itself. Thus, the policy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: in terrorizing and bombing impoverished, stateless, tribal societies in the name of “fighting terror,” the U.S. creates the terror threat that it uses to justify continued bombing. And thus, the war of terror wages on.

Some may find my use of the term “terror campaign” to refer to Obama’s drone program as hyperbolic or emotive. But what else are we supposed to call a program that produces “chaos and rage” around the world, creating “more enemies than we are removing” as it “terrorizes men, women and children,” so that when people think of America, “they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads”? What do you call this when it has been launched against at least seven different countries in the past four years, killing thousands of people – including hundreds of innocent children – and targeting first responders, humanitarian workers, and funerals?

By definition, this is terrorism. Obama’s global flying-killer-robot-campaign is the implementation of the most technologically advanced terror campaign in history. The fact that Obama’s terror war can continue holding any public support – let alone a majority of public support – is simply evidence of a public with little knowledge of the reality of the campaign, or the terror being inflicted upon people all over the world in their name.

If the objective of U.S. policies were to counter or reduce the threat of terror, one would think that the U.S. would then stop participating in terror. Obviously, that is not the case. Therefore, the objective is different from that which is articulated. As Orwell noted, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” and that committing such horrific atrocities – such as dropping atomic bombs on cities, supporting genocide, civil wars or, in this case, waging a global campaign of terror – “can indeed be defended,” added Orwell, “but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face.” Thus, “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

As Obama sought to justify his global terror campaign, he claimed that it has “saved lives” (except, presumably, for the thousands of lives it has claimed), that “America’s actions are legal,” and that, “this is a just war – a war wage proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” Perhaps the most poignant statement Obama made during his May 2013 speech was thus: “the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.”[37]

So the question for Americans then, should be this: do you want to live in a nation – and world – which is defined by the decision to wage a global campaign of terror upon multiple nations and regions, and tens of thousands of people around the world? Obama clearly has no problem with it, nor does the American foreign policy establishment, nor the media talking heads. But… do you?

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54.

[2] Scott Wilson and Al Kamen, “‘Global War On Terror’ Is Given New Name,” The Washington Post, 25 March 2009:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/24/AR2009032402818.html

[3] Greg Miller, “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing,” The Washington Post, 27 December 2011:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-12-27/national/35285416_1_drone-program-drone-campaign-lethal-operations

[4] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

[5] Greg Miller, “Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists,” The Washington Post, 23 October 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/plan-for-hunting-terrorists-signals-us-intends-to-keep-adding-names-to-kill-lists/2012/10/23/4789b2ae-18b3-11e2-a55c-39408fbe6a4b_story.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Glenn Greenwald, “Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent,” The Guardian, 24 October 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/24/obama-terrorism-kill-list

[9] Glenn Greenwald, “Joe Klein’s sociopathic defense of drone killings of children,” The Guardian, 23 October 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

[10] Glenn Greenwald, “New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones,” The Guardian, 25 September 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/25/study-obama-drone-deaths

[11] Glenn Greenwald, “US drone strikes target rescuers in Pakistan – and the west stays silent,” The Guardian, 20 August 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/20/us-drones-strikes-target-rescuers-pakistan?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

[12] Glenn Greenwald, “New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones,” The Guardian, 25 September 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/25/study-obama-drone-deaths

[13] Glenn Greenwald, “New study proves falsity of John Brennan’s drone claims,” Salon, 19 July 2011:

http://www.salon.com/2011/07/19/drones/

[14] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

[15] Rob Crilly, “168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign,” The Telegraph, 11 August 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8695679/168-children-killed-in-drone-strikes-in-Pakistan-since-start-of-campaign.html

[16] Azam Ahmed, “Drone and Taliban Attacks Hit Civilians, Afghans Say,” 8 September 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/world/asia/two-deadly-attacks-in-afghanistan.html

[17] Noah Shachtman, “Military Stats Reveal Epicenter of U.S. Drone War,” Wired, 9 November 2012:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/11/drones-afghan-air-war/

[18] Peter Osborne, “It may seem painless, but drone war in Afghanistan is destroying the West’s reputation,” The Telegraph, 30 May 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9300187/It-may-seem-painless-but-drone-war-in-Afghanistan-is-destroying-the-Wests-reputation.html

[19] Seumas Milne, “America’s murderous drone campaign is fuelling terror,” The Guardian, 29 May 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/may/29/americas-drone-campaign-terror

[20] Owen Bowcott, “Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur,” The Guardian, 21 June 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/21/drone-strikes-international-law-un

[21] Paul Harris, “Drone attacks create terrorist safe havens, warns former CIA official,” The Guardian, 5 June 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/05/al-qaida-drone-attacks-too-broad

[22] Charlie Savage, “Drone Strikes Turn Allies Into Enemies, Yemeni Says,” The New York Times, 23 April 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/world/middleeast/judiciary-panel-hears-testimony-on-use-of-drones.html

[23] Elspeth Reeve, “The Scope of America’s World War Drone,” The Atlantic Wire, 6 February 2013:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/02/world-war-drone-map/61873/

[24] Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin, “Deadly Drone Strike on Muslims in the Southern Philippines,” 5 March 2012:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2012/03/05-drones-philippines-ahmed

[25] Raf Sanchez, “US ‘to deploy drones to launch air strikes against al-Qaeda in Mali’,” The Telegraph, 2 October 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9582612/US-to-deploy-drones-to-launch-air-strikes-against-al-Qaeda-in-Mali.html

[26] Craig Whitlock, “U.S. troops arrive in Niger to set up drone base,” The Washington Post, 22 February 2013:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-22/world/37233792_1_drone-base-drone-flights-qaeda

[27] Craig Whitlock, “Drone warfare: Niger becomes latest frontline in US war on terror,” The Guardian, 26 March 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/26/niger-africa-drones-us-terror

[28] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

[29] Conor Friedersdorf, “How Team Obama Justifies the Killing of a 16-Year-Old American,” The Atlantic, 24 October 2012:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/how-team-obama-justifies-the-killing-of-a-16-year-old-american/264028/

[30] Glenn Greenwald, “Obama, the US and the Muslim world: the animosity deepens,” The Guardian, 15 February 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/us-obama-muslims-animosity-deepens

[31] Glenn Greenwald, “Obama, the US and the Muslim world: the animosity deepens,” The Guardian, 15 February 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/us-obama-muslims-animosity-deepens

[32] Glenn Greenwald, “Washington gets explicit: its ‘war on terror’ is permanent,” The Guardian, 17 May 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/17/endless-war-on-terror-obama

[33] Akbar Ahmed, “The Drone War Is Far From Over,” The New York Times, 30 may 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/opinion/the-drone-war-is-far-from-over.html

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54.

[37] Barack Obama, “As Delivered: Obama’s Speech on Terrorism,” The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, 23 May 2013:

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/05/23/prepared-text-obamas-speech-on-terrorism/