It’s been going on for so many years — Predators cruising, looking for their prey. Some attention has since been paid to the phenomenon and to the devastating effect their actions have had on their victims, but it hasn’t really mattered. The predation has only spread.
Oh, before I go any further, let me clear up one possible bit of confusion. I’m not talking about Charlie Rose, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, or any of that crew of predators. I’m talking about America’s robotic killers, the drones that long ago were grimly named Predators (retired this year) and their more advanced cousins, the Reapers (as in Grim…), who have taken a once-illegal American activity, political assassination, and made it the well-respected law of the land and increasingly of huge swaths of the globe.
In these years of predation, the president — any president — has become an assassin-in-chief. George W. Bush began the process with 50 drone strikes in the Greater Middle East during his years in office. Barack Obama multiplied those numbers tenfold. He even had his own White House “kill list” and “terror Tuesday” meetings to decide just who should be on it. Donald Trump has simply given the U.S. military and the CIA license to send those drones wherever they please. Such drone strikes are now commonplace from Yemen (almost a strike a day in the months after Trump entered the Oval Office) to Afghanistan (where the CIA has, for the first time, been given license to strike at will), Pakistan (where such strikes have recently intensified) to Somalia (23 of them in 2017), Iraq to… Niger (where U.S. surveillance drones are now being weaponized). In the process, across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, the U.S. has taken out not just terror suspects but civilians in significant numbers, including children and American citizens (two of whom were children). The drones, which terrorize the populations under them, have proven to be ferocious assassins, capable of crossing borders without a blink and without respect for national sovereignty, not to speak of remarkable recruitment tools for terror groups.
And keep in mind that these never-ending drone killings are just one small part of America’s wars of the last 16 years that have driven funding for the national security state to new heights and turned Washington into a permanent war capital. Today, TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, wonders when this country will truly notice America’s Predators abroad the way, in recent weeks, we’ve finally noticed them at home.