President Barack Obama has decided to deal with revelations about the Justice Department’s spying on journalists and other scandals by changing the subject. In a major national security address last Thursday, he announced the phase out of the Guantanamo prison facility and the CIA’s oversight of the drone program. But these are cosmetic changes that can’t conceal the biggest scandal: His record on the war on terrorism, which is arguably even more draconian than George W. Bush’s, his angst notwithstanding
The question is whether liberals will protect their principles or their man.
What was remarkable about Obama’s speech was its complete disconnect with his own actions in office. In a textbook example of Orwellian doublespeak, he declared that America would be haunted by the civilian casualties produced by drone attacks — without noting that these attacks were the defining feature of his war on terror.
As atonement, he pledged to transfer oversight of the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. But the problem with the program is not who runs it but what it does.
The theory behind transferring the program is that lawmakers will be able to offer more effective oversight given that Congressional defense committees have more power to extract information from the Pentagon than intelligence committees from the CIA, explains Cato Institute’s Benjamin Friedman, a defense expert. But the ingeniousness of the drone program is that even if Congress can provide more oversight, it will have little incentive to actually do so.
Invasion of foreign countries — like Bush’s misadventure in Iraq — risk American blood and treasure and therefore invite domestic scrutiny. Not so with the drone program that has made the war on terror virtually costless to Americans; drones, after all, are cheap and unmanned.
This has enabled the administration to vastly expand both the size and scope of the program without raising an eyebrow outside of civil libertarian circles.
It has escalated drone strikes against alleged militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. According to the liberal AlterNet, the Bush administration conducted 52 drone strikes in this region killing 438 people, including 182 civilians. This administration ordered 300 strikes in just its first term, killing 2,152 people, including 260 civilians. The constant buzzing in the sky traumatizes the local population — and violates Pakistani sovereignty — all of which has caused America’s popularity in Pakistan to plummet from