By Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Hampton Institute
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.
Also see: Empire Under Obama: Political Language and the "Mafia Principles" of International Relations
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."
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."
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
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).
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
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
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'."
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
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. 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
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."
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.
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."
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."
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." 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."
In 2011, it was reported that drone strikes in Pakistan had killed
168 children, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
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."
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. 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. 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."
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
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."
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
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, and there have even been reports of drone strikes taking place in the Philippines. The U.S. has also considered undertaking drone strikes in the African country of Mali.
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.
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 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."
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." 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."
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.
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." 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.
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.
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."
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"
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."
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?