The two award-winning journalists argue that Democratic president Obama has been able to perpetrate crimes and repressive policies that liberals would never allow a Republican carry out. The Democratic president, they say, has gotten away with crimes and repressive policies that liberals never would have let a Republican carry out, certainly not with the support of many liberals. Scahill said in an interview on Democracy Now: “The most significant aspect of what President Obama has done, regarding drones and regarding the so-called targeted killing program around the world, is that Obama has codified assassination as a central official component of American foreign policy.”
Just over last year, the U.S. dropped over 23,000 bombs on six countries with Muslim majorities. Scahill believes that liberals and liberal pundits will not maintain the same supportive position about such operations as many do now if a Republican wins the presidency and carries on with the same policies. During his 2007 campaign, Obama had lambasted the destructive policies of the Bush administration, but as president, Obama has not only adopted the same policies but has increased and strengthened them. He has continued indefinite detention in Guantanamo and other places and greatly expanded the drone program from what it was under Bush.
Greenwald says that Obama not only imprisons suspected terrorists without charge or due process or eavesdrop on them as many Democrats had criticized Bush for doing, Obama also targets them for execution. He points out that Democrats have long opposed the death penalty even when criminals are sentenced to death after a full trial, yet Obama claims that he can “target people for death anywhere in the world that he wants, including places where we are not at war, including even American citizens.”
Scahill has written a new book called “The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program”. The book was a joint project of the staff of the Intercept, the news outlet formed by Scahill and Greenwald along with filmmakers Laura Poitras. Edward Snowden wrote an introduction to the book with can be read on The Intercept. The Assassination Complex is based upon leaked government documents showing how destructive the program has been. Some of the documents were released last October as the Drone Papers.
Among many damaging revelations, one is that during a five-month period, Operation Haymaker, a US program in northeastern Afghanistan, ninety percent of those killed in the attacks were not the intended targets. Investigative journalists and researchers place the number of civilians killed by drone attacks in the hundreds at the least but the program remains secret with little information released. Only recently has the Obama administration promised to release the number of people it has killed.
Obama has insisted that though some innocent people are killed the rate of civilian casualties is far less than those that would be killed by a pilot in conventional war. Experts at the Council on Foreign Relations claim the opposite is true. Scahill thinks that the statistics Obama will release will drastically underestimate the number of civilians killed.
The government considers any male of military age as an enemy unless there is verified evidence to the contrary. As Scahill notes, the system of counting virtually ensures the often zero civilians will be killed:
Virtually anyone who is killed in a U.S. drone strike is labeled an “enemy killed in action,” or EKIA, …until they are posthumously proven to not have been a militant. It is the polar inversion of the basic principle of the justice system: you are innocent until proven guilty.
Scahill along with many others argues that through the drone program the US encourages terrorism, providing terror organizations with recruiting material. Policies that were once publicly opposed during the Bush administration became acceptable The Obama administration has now made the drone program and targeted assassination a key official component of US policy and an important part of his legacy.