An open question regarding drone strikes

Last night, I had the privilege of going to a talk by Jeremy Scahill (@jeremyscahill), a former intern to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and current investigative journalist at Pierre Omidyar's The Intercept.

If you get a chance to see him speak while he's on the book tour for "The Assasination Complex", you should probably just drop everything and go.

At the end of the talk there was a Q&A session and audience members submitted their questions on slips of paper (of which there were many). I had a question as well, but there wasn't enough time (and maybe its not a great question), but it went something like this:

Do you think President Obama could end the Drone Strikes even if he wanted to?

I have been wondering about this for quite some time. How much control does this (or any) President actually have over the most "adventurous" elements of the US military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about?

Scahill recounted stories that I've also seen documented elsewhere where a drone target in Afghanistan will be circled on a kill list and an operation will be set in motion to go find and terminate that person (along with anyone they might happen to be with). Sometimes if the target is not where the drone operators expected it to be, they'll just kill other people instead; people not authorized by the administration for killing.

As much as I disagree with Obama's stated (and implicit ) policies abroad, I still can't really imagine a world where Obama would have authorized the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Members of the military have now been (some say very lightly) disciplined for carrying this out. Maybe I am naive, but this thing doesn't really seem like Obama's style, and the administration has certainly already publicly apologized for this most disturbing transgression.

It makes you wonder how many of these already illegal, extra-judicial targeted assassinations happen without the White House even having a say in the matter?

So I am genuinely asking the question above. If anyone with more knowledge than I have about the inner workings and dynamics within this administration and its military leadership, I'd like to know what people with more insight into this think. I can also see how people might rather not answer this question, though.

If you want to venture a public response, post it on your blog (or social media of choice) and send an email to vision (((@))) and I'll ping you back from this post.

Another fantastic resource for learning more about the drone programs abroad, check out the documentary "National Bird" by Sonia Kennebeck. I got to see it at the San Francisco International Film Festival (their website says it will be in theaters in the fall). Go check it out.


Lauren Garcia is a software developer in the San Francisco Bay Area.