Lloyd Gardner’s new book is an in depth historical analysis of President Obama’s foreign policy during his first 5 years in public office. In 2008, many Americans had deep trust that President Obama was going to bring significant change into the White House and guide our country to a place of more “rightful” and lawful foreign policy strategies by putting an end to torture, drawing down the illegal Iraq War, and closing down Guantanamo prison. President Obama promised the American public more transparency and accountability, and adherence to the rule of law, without “looking back”.
Killing Machine documents, through careful analysis and source citing, an even greater movement away from the rule of law as the Obama Administration rapidly expanded this county’s secret drone wars, giving the CIA even further paramilitary-like capabilities, and allowing the “intelligence gathering” agency to direct lethal policies independent of any government oversight or “game rules.” Mr. Gardner discusses in detail the internal struggles within the Administration’s first few years as officials favoring boots-on-the-ground and the “counterinsurgency approach” battled with others who argued for the “counterterrorism” approachwhich guaranteed minimal loss of American lives, a movement away from the battleground, and promised less overall cost. The counter-terrorism proponents won the battle ultimately, according to Gardner, which led to targeted killing by drones in even more countries: Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and who knows where else? New drone bases are being constructed rapidly both at home and abroad.
The deep secrecy of the targeted killing program, led by the CIA, and the President’s unwillingness to respond to repeated requests by Congress, lawyers and the public for legal justification, legal memos and details is all well documented in Killing Machine. The book discusses the targeted assassinations of Osama Bin Laden, and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric, and then two weeks later, his 16 year old son, and the debate and controversies arising from them.
Obama’s legacy following the Bush presidency is his movement away from capturing and detaining individuals that the U.S. identifies as threats to “national security” and a movement toward instant and easy elimination of these threats by high-tech, low risk assassination. Some of the biggest sacrifices or costs that come from these lethal policies are the high ratio of civilian casualties that is well hidden from the public and the damage to our world image and further movement away from any ethical base in foreign policy. But the most frightening cost is the precedent that Obama is setting for future presidencies and for other countries as the use of these lethal weapons spread around the world.
Today we will discuss with the author some of the serious concerns that his book raises and hopefully also have time to discuss things that we as American citizens can do to reverse this disturbing trend.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]