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Obama's drone wars and the normalisation of extrajudicial murder

A Pakistani protest in June 2012, after two recent US drone strikes killed 12 people. Photograph: SS Mirza/AFP/Getty
A Pakistani protest in June 2012, after two recent US drone strikes killed 12 people. Photograph: SS Mirza/AFP/Getty
In his first campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama promised to reverse the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism ? such as the use of torture, the rendition of terrorist suspects to CIA-run black sites around the globe, and the denial of basic legal rights to prisoners in Guant?namo ? and to develop a counterterrorism policy that was consistent with the legal and moral tradition of the United States.?In an address at the Woodrow Wilson Center in August 2007, Obama criticized the Bush administration for putting forward a “false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand”, and swore to provide “our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our constitution and our freedom”.
As a candidate, Obama also promised to restore proper legislative and judicial oversight to counterterrorism operations. Rather than treat counterterrorism policy as an area of exception, operating without the normal safeguards that protect the rights of the accused, Obama promised that his approach “will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that?justice is not arbitrary.”
Four years later, it is clear that President Obama has delivered a very different counterterrorism policy from that which he promised on the campaign trail. (Full disclosure: I was an adviser on the Obama campaign’s counterterrorism expert group from July 2007-November 2008.) In fairness, he?has?delivered on a few of his promises, including closing the CIA-run “black site” prisons abroad and ordering that interrogations of all suspects be conducted according to the US army field manual, which proscribes?many of the tactics widely considered torture. And some failures were not wholly his own: Obama’s inability to close Guant?namo Bay was due more to congressional opposition and to an array of legal obstacles than to his own lack of initiative.

India in Afghanistan, Nation building or proxy war?

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At a time when Bangladesh is being asked (against the wishes of its citizens) to send troops to Afghanistan, an interesting article on the complex forces that are at play in the region.
related article: Sitting on a man’s back
By MATTHIEU AIKINS
Published1 October 2010
CARAVAN
Matthieu Aikins is a journalist whose feature writing and photography have appeared in such US, Canadian, British and Indian publications as Harper’s Magazine, the Globe & Mail, the National Post, the Coast, the Toronto Sun, The Caravan, Progress Magazine, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the Kingston Whig-Standard, Bad Idea Magazine, SAIL Magazine, and on CBC’s ‘The National’ and Global TV’s ‘National News’.
THEY WERE BOTH YOUNG. One had just the first wisps of hair on his cheeks, like an adolescent. The other was not much older, his short-trimmed beard caked with dried blood. There were gaping exit wounds in his shoulder, and in the pale skin of his belly, where his undershirt had been pulled up to reveal the damage. The two boys were lying dead amongst scattered bricks, at the feet of a crowd of gaping onlookers and journalists, in an abandoned construction site in Kabul.
?Where do you think they?re from?? a reporter asked the policeman who was taking a picture of the bodies with his cell phone, his assault rifle dangling from his other hand. The glaze of adrenaline still shone on the cop?s cheeks and eyes. ?Pakistan,? he said. ?Definitely not Afghans.? They always say that here, as if you could tell. They looked like Pashtuns, at least.
It was just one of several attacks in Kabul this summer, unremarkable in its execution and impact, but as a result, a series of extraordinary events had been triggered that would serve as a bellwether of India?s waning influence in Afghanistan. It was 29 May, the first day of the National Consultative Peace Jirga, and the two militants had managed to set up in the empty site and fire rockets at the Polytechnic University, the site of the peace jirga?a carefully stage-managed event that had brought handpicked tribal elders and civil society figures to endorse President Hamid Karzai?s plan to reconcile with the Taliban.
Karzai was furious that the jirga had been disrupted, in the middle of his inaugural speech, no less. One of the rockets had severed the leg of one of his personal bodyguards, and the two attackers had held out for several hours in a gun battle with police before finally being shot to death.
The following week, Karzai called a meeting with Hanif Atmar, the Minister of the Interior, and Amrullah Saleh, the chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS)? the Afghan intelligence service?where he accused them of deliberately failing to provide adequate security in order to undermine the jirga. In a heated exchange, both offered their resignations. It wasn?t the first time that either of them had offered their resignations in response to an angry outburst by Karzai, but this time the president accepted.