Obama defends deadly drone campaign in new book, middleeasteye.net

Amandla Thomas-Johnson, journalist based in Dakar, Senegal

Barack Obama has forcefully defended his controversial killer drone policy in the former US president’s first memoir written after his eight-year tenure in the White House.

In an excerpt from A Promised Land published in the Sunday Times ahead of its release on Tuesday, Obama said the evolving face of warfare meant that he had to resort to “more targeted, non-traditional warfare”.

Compared to his predecessor George W Bush, drone strikes under Obama increased tenfold, resulting in thousands of deaths in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, among other countries. But rights groups have consistently questioned the legality of such strikes and their precision, and have argued that well into Obama’s presidency, dozens of civilians were being killed in the ruthless pursuit of a single target.

Obama’s drone policy has been viewed as a significant blemish on his reputation as a president, with some regarding it as the most dangerous aspect of his legacy.

Defending his policy, Obama wrote that the often young men and boys he targeted “had been warped and stunted by desperation, ignorance, dreams of religious glory”. “They were dangerous,” he writes. “The world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead.”[…]

Obama oversaw more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out in his entire presidency. A total of 563 air strikes, mostly by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen during Obama’s eight years in office, compared to 57 under Bush, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Obama’s administration also carried out hundreds of strikes in Libya and Syria. The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) estimates that 3,797 people were killed in drone strikes during Obama’s tenure, including 324 civilians, a number that is disputed.

The expansion was enabled by Obama’s embrace of so-called “signature strikes” that allowed fire on gatherings of suspected militants. As Obama reportedly told senior aides in 2011: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.” Läs artikel