Obama said he couldn’t afford to look soft on terrorism as a ‘liberal president,’ but that he ‘took no joy’ in ordering people killed

Barack Obama

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The first drone strike of Barack Obama’s presidency occurred just three days after he was sworn into office. 

The strike would typify Obama’s approach to counterterrorism. The Obama administration vastly expanded the US drone program established under former President George W. Bush, using drones for surveillance and targeted killings. 

In his new book, “A Promised Land,” Obama reflected on the task of ordering such killings, stating that he “took no joy” in doing so. 

“In places like Yemen and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the lives of millions of young men…had been warped and stunted by desperation, ignorance, dreams of religious glory, the violence of their surroundings, or the schemes of older men. They were dangerous, these young men, often deliberately and casually cruel. Still, in the aggregate, at least, I wanted somehow to save them — send them to school, give them a trade, drain them of the hate that had been filling their heads,” Obama wrote. 

“And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead,” the former president added. 

Obama said his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was “obsessed” with keeping track of what was essentially a kill list, or a list of top terrorist targets. The former president said Emanuel had “spent enough time in Washington to know that his new, liberal president couldn’t afford to look soft on terrorism.” 

“I took no joy in any of this. It didn’t make me feel powerful. I’d entered politics to help kids get a better education, to help families get healthcare, to help poor counties grow more food — it was that kind of power that I measured myself against,” Obama wrote. “But the work was necessary, and it was my responsibility to make sure our operations were as effective as possible.”

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Obama inherited the war on terror at a time when Americans were growing weary of foreign conflict and didn’t want to see more US service members in harm’s way, but still wanted the US to combat terrorism. Drones offered an ostensible solution to this quagmire. 

“As al-Qaeda had scattered and gone underground, metastasizing into a complex web of affiliates, operatives, sleep cells, and sympathizers connected by the internet and burner phones, our national security agencies had been challenged to construct new forms of more targeted, nontraditional warfare — including operating an arsenal of lethal drones to take out al-Qaeda operatives within the territory of Pakistan,” Obama said. 

Though Obama sought to eradicate many of the more aggressive and controversial aspects of the Bush administration’s approach to counterterrorism, such as the use of torture, he’s been heavily criticized by human rights groups and foreign policy experts over his major expansion of the US drone war (which his successor exacerbated even further).

Over the course of the war on terror, the US has targeted and killed suspected terrorists in a number of countries it is not technically at war with. On top of this, drone strikes have often resulted in civilian casualties. …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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