Nobel Peace Prize Winner #2: Silence.
Okay, so maybe Barack Obama hasn't had time to personally reply to the Dec. 19 letter from the Nobel-winning Human Rights Watch, demanding that he explain the legality of his targeted attack and assassination programs. He didn't reply to a similar letter he received from HRW last year, either. But his minions have repeatedly said such explanations must be kept secret because the CIA is conducting the operations. And the CIA is a secret agency, you see, now conveniently headed by Iraq/Afghanistan War Gen. David Petraeus, and thus not publicly accountable as is the regular military.
In a statement released yesterday, the same day as the letter, Human Rights Watch said:
In the decade since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush and Obama administrations have engaged in a campaign of “targeted killings” – deliberate, lethal attacks aimed at specific individuals under the color of law. Estimates of the number of deaths of alleged al Qaeda members, other armed group members, and civilians from US targeted killings range from several hundred to more than two thousand. Most of these attacks are believed to have occurred in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs.Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth, a former U.S. prosecutor, wrote to the president:
The lawfulness of a targeted killing hinges in part on the applicable international law, which is determined by the context in which the attack takes place, Human Rights Watch said. The laws of war permit attacks during situations of armed conflict only against valid military targets. Attacks causing disproportionate loss of civilian life or property are prohibited. During law enforcement situations, international human rights law permits the use of lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save human life. Individuals cannot be targeted with lethal force merely because of past unlawful behavior, but only for imminent or other grave threats to life when arrest is not reasonably possible.
The US government should clarify fully and publicly its legal rationale for conducting targeted killings and the legal limits on such strikes. Your administration has yet to explain clearly where it draws the line between lawful and unlawful targeted killings. The government should also explain why it believes that its attacks are in conformity with international law and make public information, including video footage, on how particular attacks comply with that standard. To ensure compliance with international law, the United States should conduct investigations of targeted killings where there is credible evidence of wrongdoing, provide compensation to all victims of illegal strikes, and discipline or prosecute as appropriate those responsible for conducting or ordering unlawful attacks.Now that Congress has officially declared the entire globe, including the United States, to be an international battlefield in an open-ended war on terror, the lack of transparency about what we are doing, who we are killing, is downright scary. Concluded Roth :
We are particularly concerned about the expanded involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the targeted killings program. International humanitarian law does not prohibit intelligence agencies from participating in combat operations during armed conflicts. However, parties to an armed conflict have obligations to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and provide redress for victims. Because the US government routinely neither confirms nor denies the CIA’s well-known participation in targeted killings in northern Pakistan and elsewhere, there is no transparency in its operations.
The CIA, like all US government agencies, is bound by international human rights and humanitarian law. Unlike the US armed forces, the CIA has provided little or no information regarding the training and composition of its drone teams, or the procedures and rules it follows in conducting targeted killings. Nor has the government provided information as to whether the CIA has conducted any investigations into possible international law violations and their outcomes. As a result there is no basis for determining whether the US government is actually meeting its international legal obligations with respect to CIA targeting operations or providing redress for victims of unlawful attacks. Repeated assertions by senior US officials that all US agencies are operating in compliance with international law – without providing information that would corroborate such claims – is wholly inadequate.Human Rights Watch might as well be crying in the desert. The mainstream media and the Democrats have not only given Obama a huge pass on his apparent flouting of international law: they have cheered the assassinations and drone strikes as "foreign policy successes." Obama himself rankles at criticism that he is soft on terror. “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 other out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement, or, whoever is left out there," he bragged at a news conference earlier this month.
It takes a tough man to listen to legal advice to tell a drone operator in a Nevada trailer to joystick his way into Pakistan and take out some human flotsam and jetsam in a surgical strike.