A Failed Policy

“The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its torture policies, to provide necessary details about its enhanced interrogation program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to torture hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments.” *

A failed policy! Consider its key features:

  • Congress and the President approved of the policy based on claims that it could keep the country safe
  • The bureaucrats—praised for their professionalism—adopted brutal techniques, with little regard for civil liberties or basic human rights.
  • Yet, there was little evidence of its effectiveness, despite claims of its supporters
  • Even when the facts were widely understood, no one was held accountable for the violence done to the victims

The details of the CIA’s use of torture are disturbing, without question. But the basic features—as presented above—could be used to describe so much of what the government does. It seems like a good description of our current drone policy and our decades long war on drugs.

I am pleased that President Obama has taken a strong stance against the use of torture. But let us not lose sight of the larger fact that he has also embraced the extensive use of drones, killing thousands, including civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2004 and 2014, there were 405 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, 354 of which were ordered by President Obama. The estimated body count: 2,400-3,888. The estimated civilian body count: 416-959. The estimated number of children killed: 168-204. By way of comparison, according to the Senate Select Committee report,  the CIA detained 119 individuals, 26 of whom were wrongfully detained.

Be rightfully horrified by the details of the CIA’s use of torture. The details are mind numbing. But we should be equally horrified by our drone policy that has killed and maimed thousands.

Read the Senate Select Committee report.

Read the Stanford/NYU report, Living Under Drones.

*By the way, the above quote was taken from the Stanford/NYU report, p. viii. Mentions of drone strikes were replaced with the words “torture” and “enhanced interrogation” The correct quote is:

“The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments.”

One thought on “A Failed Policy

  1. This is what government does, for the good of all of us. The worst of behaviors to protect the safety and security of the people. Or so they say. Drone strikes are deployed today for the same reason torture was ten years ago. So, ten years from now we will be treated to a Congressional report on the abuses inflicted by the drone program.

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