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Obama’s kill list raises red flags

Nathan James

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When a politician does something that breaks the stereotypes of their party, they’ll usually be congratulated for it. Say what you will about party politics, but Americans like to see our leaders defy expectations. Sometimes, such as with Bush’s bailouts, we like it so much that we fail to properly analyze the merit of an unexpected decision. This is exactly what happened in late May when the country learned of President Obama’s “kill list.”

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the kill list is a program that marks suspected terrorists for death, regardless of the circumstances in which they are discovered and confronted. Individuals on this kill list have been killed in droves by airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles, with the order to carry out each strike coming from Obama himself.

The moral implications of this policy are, frankly, staggering. The CIA has claimed the list incurs limited civilian casualties, but according to senior military officers, this is only true if you count every Pakistani male youth as an enemy combatant. In other words, it implies that having a Y-chromosome and being from Pakistan makes you an enemy of the United States, which is not conducive to healthy international relations.

Furthermore, even when the targets are confirmed terrorists, killing them with drones while they are inactive and defenseless violates countless international treaties. Not least among these is the Geneva Convention. And, of course, Obama should have learned from Bush’s handling of Guantanamo that intelligence regarding who is and who is not a terrorist can be tenuous.

What’s frustrating about all this is that Obama has once again failed to display moral fortitude in his handling of the war on terror. The first warning sign came when, despite his promises to the contrary, Obama neglected to close Guantanamo Bay or even seriously revise its operating policies.

The next red flag was Obama’s suspiciously ambivalent stance on “enhanced interrogation.” Although he claimed to be opposed to it, he has never moved to ban it or denied its usage in ongoing military operations.

However, in spite of these serious human rights violations, no one seems terribly concerned about Obama’s handling of the war. The unfortunate fact seems to be that no one is willing to call Obama out. Democrats won’t because, well, they’re Democrats, and Republicans are pleasantly surprised that, for once, Obama is acting just like Bush. No one is keeping him in line.

I don’t mean to imply that Obama hasn’t handled some aspects of the war well. I thoroughly support his repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and I believe he’s making the right move by gradually removing troops from Afghanistan. But when it comes to addressing human rights violations committed by the Bush administration, Obama has been alarmingly passive. In fact, he doesn’t seem to have any more respect for the lives and rights of Afghanis, Pakistanis or Yemenis than his predecessor.

The kill list should be a wake-up call for Americans. Is it kind of cool that our liberal president is taking a tough stance on terror? Absolutely. But just because he isn’t the weakling Republicans said he would be doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t expect him to show some restraint. A Democrat can commit war crimes just like a Republican if his constituents allow him to. And Obama’s political affiliation doesn’t make his offenses any less egregious than those of Bush.

It’s a painful cliché, but Obama promised change. And as far as the war goes, it’s about time Americans asked to see some.

Nathan James is a sophomore majoring in public relations. 


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Obama’s kill list raises red flags