A lawyer friend who intends to "hold his nose" and vote to re-elect President Obama has failed to persuade me to do the same.
I'll admit, the Follies Bizarre that is the Republican nomination process had me wavering.
But I've just spent hours poring over a remarkable bit of British journalism by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism based at City University, London. (http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/) It provides the most penetrating and thoroughly-researched examination yet of the United States program of Death by Drone.
It makes a powerful case that Barack Obama is as guilty as George Bush and Dick Cheney of war crimes.
It renewed my conviction that I cannot, in good conscience, vote for Obama.
The Bureau is an independent, non-profit organization of journalists dedicated to providing "high quality investigations" to supplement mainstream journalism. It often works in partnership with other news organizations such as the BBC, The Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, Le Monde and the Sunday Times of London, its partner in the drone investigation. It operates under extremely strict rules of sourcing, cross-checking and evaluating data. Thus the following numbers are, if anything, understated:
Total reported killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan: 2,383 - 3,019; civilians reported killed: 464 - 815; children reported killed: 175; total reported injured: 1,149-1,241. Total U.S. strikes: 312; total strikes ordered by the Obama administration: 260.
The bureau found found evidence, including eyewitness accounts, that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.
Apparently the administration got wind of what was coming from the Bureau. Just a few days before its report came out, the President himself spoke publicly for the first time about the once super-secret drone war. He said the drones are used strictly to target terrorists, rejecting what he called "this perception we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly." He insisted that "drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans."
In North Waziristan in May of 2009, the report said, a group of Taliban militants was preparing to cross the nearby border into Afghanistan to launch an attack on US forces. But a CIA drone flying overhead fired its missiles into the Taliban group, killing at least a dozen people. Villagers tried to retrieve the dead and injured. As rescuers clambered through the rubble to assist the victims, two more missiles slammed into them, killing many more. At least 29 people died in total. Many of them were Taliban, but six ordinary villagers also died that day, identified by Bureau field researchers as Sabir, Ikram, Mohib, Zahid, Mashal and Syed Noor (most people in the area use only one name). Regarding the second strike, Naz Modirzadeh, associate director of the program on humanitarian policy and conflict research (HPCR) at Harvard University, said "each death (in this episode) is illegal. Each death is a murder."
Between May, 2009 and June, 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media. For three months a team of local researchers employed by the Bureau sought independent confirmation of these strikes. They have found credible, independently sourced evidence of civilians killed in ten of the reported attacks on rescuers. In five other reported attacks, the researchers found no evidence of any rescuers – civilians or otherwise – killed. The researchers were told by villagers that strikes on rescuers began as early as March 2008, although no media carried reports at the time. The Bureau is still seeking testimony relating to nine additional incidents.
If the rescuers had been wearing Red Cross or Red Crescent identification, their slayings would clearly be war crimes under the Geneva conventions.
Even John A. Rizzo, the infamous CIA general counsel who helped create the rationale for torture in the Bush regime, and who was kept on when Obama took office, has used the term "murder" in reference to the drone war.
Never mind the legal nit-picking.
Anyone who purports to have an iota of concern about morality, justice and human rights must withhold his vote from the man who is ultimately responsible for tactics like these.
Barack Obama is unfit to lead my country. I will vote for the Green Party nominee in 2012.