The Corner

Re: Drones and Liberals

Mark, the most precious part of the “bureaucratically, legally and morally sound” approach to “targeted killing” that the Obama geniuses have devised is its premise: the profiling of Muslims.

Recall the fawning — and, at times, unintentionally hilarious — New York Times profile of The One as philosopher-warrior, personally picking the targets to rub out between chapters of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas:


The president’s directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because “the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration,” said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush. 

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

Funny … when I said such things, Obama’s pals in the Lawyer Left — many of whom became the makers of Obama administration policy — said I was a Constitution-shredding, Islamophobic racist. Go figure. The Times continued:

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

I guess, to answer the Pakistani comander’s question, that’s how 20 gets to be a few hundred without ever getting to 20. Or as Bill Daley, Obama’s former chief-of-staff ruefully explained the math to the Times, “One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20? At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?” Counting’s no easy thing when the earth is moving.


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