Ground All Drones is a committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) created to address the use of drones, particularly armed drones. Drones are developed worldwide, not only by the U.S. but by other nations as well. In the U.S.unarmed surveillance drones could be used to spy on citizens, a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. The current focus of this committee is on the use of weaponized drones.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Drone Warfare and the Cyborg Soldier: Margins of Masculinities"

      presented by Suzanne Al-Kayali

Saturday, January 7th 

9:30am Coffee

10:00am Program 

Washburn Library

5244 Lyndale Avenue South


Modern military power has ignited real and virtual changes as nations make war and soldiers perceive themselves as warriors. The role of the soldier has changed with the evolution of technologies, such as drones. Is the hyper- masculine "be-all-you-can-be" soldier being replaced? Suzanne will discuss the role of "masculinity" in contemporary warfare and the development of the new "cyborg" soldier.

Suzanne is WAMM's current director, she earned her Master's degree at Roosevelt University at Chicago in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies.

Sponsored by the Ground All Drone Committee of WAMM 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

UN Condemns US Drone Strike in Afghanistan That Killed 15 Civilians

Published on  Friday, September 30, 2016  by Common Dreams

'I saw dead and wounded bodies everywhere,' said Raghon Shinwari, one of the wounded, from hospital bed in Jalalabad city.

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
A U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan killed at least 15 civilians on Wednesday, drawing United Nations condemnation and calls for an independent probe into the attack.
"Funeral of Afghanistan's latest drone strike victims in Nangarhar province," journalist Emran Feroz wrote on Twitter. "Like many others, they will remain nameless & invisible." (Photo: @Emran_Feroz/Twitter)

In a statement, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the civilians, all men, "had gathered in a village to celebrate the return of a tribal elder from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and were reportedly sleeping in a guesthouse of the elder when the airstrike occurred. Civilian victims of the strike included students and a teacher, as well as members of families considered to be pro-government." In addition to those killed, 13 people including at least one boy were injured in the strike.

"I saw dead and wounded bodies everywhere," said Raghon Shinwari, one of the wounded, from hospital bed in Jalalabad city.

U.S. military sources confirmed the airstrike in Achin, a remote area near the Pakistan border. Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said the U.S. "takes all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously" and was "currently reviewing all materials related to this strike."

In turn, UNAMA reiterated "the need for all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law" and demanded "a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into this incident."

As noted, "This would mark the second bungled U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in a little over a week, after a previous incident in which U.S. forces tried to 'rescue' Afghan police on the ground by blowing up their checkpoint and killing eight of them."

And the Guardian pointed out that "[t]he incident happened almost a year to the day after another U.S. airstrike destroyed a Doctor Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, killing 42. After that incident, the U.S. and the Afghan government refused calls for an independent investigation."


Friday, September 16, 2016


The U.S. has carried out deadly drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria through military and CIA programs. In the latter three countries, drones are often used for surveillance or in conjunction with other aircraft, complicating the tallying of casualties. Casualty numbers are difficult to gather and vary widely depending on methodology. Estimates by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism of the total fatalities caused by drone strikes are six times higher than the number of fatalities reported by The White House. 

For further information:

White House Report (issued July 2016)

    473 Strikes   

Combatants Killed  2,372-2,581   

  Civilians Killed  63-116


Bureau of Investigative Journalism

PAKISTAN,  2004 onwards   
      424 Strikes 
     Total Killed  2,499-4,001
  Civilians  424-966 
  Children  172-207
YEMEN,  2002 onwards 
     129-149 Strikes 
     Total Killed  555-811
  Civilians  65-101   
  Children 8-9

PAKISTAN, 2016 only 
     3 Strikes  
     Total Killed 11-12  
  Civilians 1

AFGHANISTAN,  2015 onwards 
    401-426 Strikes
    Total Killed  1,948-2,477
  Civilians  75-121  
Children  4-18

Friday, June 24, 2016

Anti-drone rally at US air base Ramstein draws thousands

From D W Germany  © 2016 Deutsche Well

Around 5,000 peace activists protested the use of the Ramstein facility in southwestern Germany for the US-led drone war. A nine-kilometer (5.5-mile) human chain was later formed to demand limits on the use of the base. 

Among those taking part in the June 11 protest was former German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine, who said the US drone program contravenes international law.

He also hit out at the German government's silence on the use of drones from Ramstein, saying it was "schizophrenic" that Berlin is generous to refugees but then gives its support to wars waged by the US.

Initially, around 1,500 people gathered outside the base in a rural part of Rhineland-Palatinate to demand that the base no longer be associated with drone operations.

Public anger growing

Later on Saturday, around 5,000 protesters created a human chain close to Ramstein, the principal US Air Force facility in Europe, close to the city of Kaiserslautern.

Organizers described their protest as the biggest ever action against the US base, insisting that public support against the drone issue was growing.

Green MP Tabea Rössner warned that US drone attacks were radicalizing people in the Middle East, while peace activist Reiner Braun said, "The chain is not complete but it is a sign! Ramstein needs to be shut down."

DW Correspondent Greta Hamann, who covered the demo, tweeted images of protesters holding placards, which read "The majority of people want to live in peace" and "He who sows war, will reap refugees."
Whistleblower tells all

Former US drone operator Brandon Bryant first made revelations in "Der Spiegel" magazine in 2013, claiming that Ramstein was a major hub for coordinating Washington's global drone war, which included targets in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

He later told a German parliamentary committee that all data from the plane went through Ramstein. However, the drones were not directly steered from the base, he added.

But the German and US governments have repeatedly downplayed the importance of the facility and have evaded direct questions about its role in the drone program.

The rallies, which began on Friday, are due to end on Sunday June 12.

Related article:  Transatlantic relations
Berlin powerless to challenge US drone operations at Ramstein air base

Friday, June 3, 2016

Letter to President Obama

Former U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Captain Chris Antal reads his resignation letter to President Obama. "I resign because I refuse to support U.S. armed drone policy," Antal wrote. "The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing."

June 3, 2016 on Democracy
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Chris Antal, I was wondering if we could end with you reading your resignation letter to President Obama in your own words.

REV. CHRIS ANTAL: I’d be glad to do that.

“Dear Mr. President:

“I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. armed drone policy. The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The Executive Branch continues to invest billions of dollars into nuclear weapons, which threaten the existence of humankind and the earth. I refuse to support this policy of terror and mutually assured destruction.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection. The Executive Branch continues to claim extra-constitutional authority and impunity from international law. I refuse to support this policy of imperial overstretch.

“I resign because I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain. I cannot reconcile these policies with either my sworn duty to protect and defend America and our constitutional democracy or my covenantal commitment to the core principles of my religion faith. These principles include: justice, equity and compassion in human relations, a free and responsible search for truth, a commitment to the democratic process, and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

“Respectfully submitted,
"Christopher John Antal"

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Chris Antal, minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation now at Rock Tavern, New York, founder of the Hudson Valley, New York, chapter of Veterans for Peace. He has served as a U.S. Army chaplain in Afghanistan, before publicly resigning over the Obama administration’s drone warfare program. He wrote that letter to President Obama in April.

"I will not lend religious legitimacy to this state santioned violence"

"I Refuse to Serve as an Empire Chaplain": U.S. Army Minister Resigns over Drone Program

June 03, 2016

Interview on  Democracy

Rev. Chris Antal minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern, New York, and a founder of the Hudson Valley, New York, chapter of Veterans for Peace. He served as a U.S. Army chaplain in Afghanistan before publicly resigning over the Obama administration’s drone warfare program.

An unlikely voice has emerged challenging the drone warfare program: former U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Captain Chris Antal, who spent time based in Afghanistan. In April, he wrote an open letter to President Obama detailing his reasons for leaving the U.S. Army Reserves, citing his opposition to the administration’s use of drone strikes, its policy on nuclear proliferation, and what he calls the executive branch’s claim of "extraconstitutional authority and impunity for international law."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: During a commencement speech on Thursday, President Obama defended his foreign policy, including targeted assassinations and drone warfare. Obama made the remarks at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As commander-in-chief, I have not hesitated to use force unilaterally where necessary to protect the American people. Thanks to our military, intelligence and counterterrorism professionals, bin Laden is gone. Anwar Awlaki, a leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, is gone. Ahmed Abdi Godane, the al-Qaeda leader in Somalia, he’s gone. Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused in the attacks in Benghazi, captured. Mohammad Mansour, the leader of the Taliban, gone. Leader after leader in ISIL—Haji Mutazz, their number two; Mohammed Emwazi, who brutally murdered Americans; Abu Nabil, the ISIL leader in Libya—all gone. Abu Dawud, a leader of their chemical weapons program, captured. The list goes on, because if you target Americans, we will find you, and justice will be done, and we will defend our nation.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama delivering the commencement speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on Thursday. With only a small number of U.S. Special Forces on the ground, Iraq and Syria have become new fronts in the global drone war that has launched thousands of strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The exact number of civilians killed by drones is unknown, because the program operates in secret.
We turn now to an unlikely voice challenging the drone warfare program: former U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Chris Antal, who recently resigned his post in protest. In April, Reverend Antal wrote a letter to President Obama detailing his reasons for leaving the U.S. Army Reserves, citing his opposition to the administration’s use of drone strikes, its policy on nuclear proliferation, and what he calls the executive branch’s claim of "extraconstitutional authority and impunity for international law," unquote.
This is not the first time Reverend Antal has voiced his concerns. In 2012, he delivered a sermon in Afghanistan and anonymously [sic] posted the text on a Unitarian Universalist website. At the time, he identified himself only as an Army chaplain in Afghanistan. The sermon read in part, quote, "We have sanitized killing and condoned extrajudicial assassinations: ... war made easy without due process, protecting ourselves from the human cost of war. We have deceived ourselves, ... denying the colossal misery our wars inflict on the innocent." Reverend Antal’s superiors discovered the sermon, and he was reprimanded, nearly losing his job. Then, mid-April, he decided to voluntarily resign over his continued concerns about drone warfare. In doing so, Reverend Antal forfeits benefits that otherwise would have accrued to him through his eight years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Reverend Chris Antal joins us now in our New York studio. He is a minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rock Tavern, New York, and a founder of the Hudson Valley, New York, chapter of Veterans for Peace.
Reverend Chris Antal, welcome to Democracy Now!
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Amy, thank you. I’m glad to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re still in the Army, is that right?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: I’m on my way out, but the paperwork hasn’t been completed yet.
AMY GOODMAN: But you have resigned.
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: I’ve submitted my resignation, but the Army is a big bureaucracy, and it takes time to get all the signatures.
AMY GOODMAN: So, really, you’re still a U.S. Army chaplain.
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: I am. I can’t speak from that capacity on this program, but on paper, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about your decision. How long did you serve as an Army chaplain, and where did you serve?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Sure. I served for five years—eight years in the Reserve, five years as a chaplain, and most of that time was as a Reserve chaplain. I did spend about two years on active duty, and altogether, about six months in Afghanistan.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about your decision to leave.
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Sure. Well, before I can talk about my decision to leave, I need to say why I got in in the first place. As a minister, I was driven by compassion to care for the wounded; and as a citizen, driven by a sense of civic duty to carry my fair share in our nation’s wars. I think I did both of those things during my time in service, but eventually began to feel a role conflict between my role as a military officer and my role as an ordained minister. And I couldn’t reconcile that role conflict, so I decided to resign.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the speech I just quoted from. Where did you give that speech?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Sure. Well, it was a sermon. And it was never anonymous, as you said. When I posted it, I identified myself. I gave that sermon on Veterans Day, which was on a Sunday in 2012, at Kandahar Airfield to a gathered—a community gathered for worship in my tradition, a Unitarian Universalist service. And that was about six weeks into my deployment. When I had witnessed drones, I had learned about practices that violate my sense of what is right. And I decided it was my prerogative as a religious leader to address that in the context of a religious service, a form of lamentation, a confession. And that is what I did in my sermon. And because I think the issues I raise are of concern for a larger audience, for the whole nation, I made that available through a church website that is sponsored by my denomination.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what happened then. How was it discovered, and what was the response by the military?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Well, two days after it appeared online, I was contacted by an Army lawyer who had read the post. He forwarded it to my commander. I was summoned to the commander’s office. He told me that my message doesn’t support the mission. He told me that I make us look like the bad guys. He asked me to take it down, which I did, and immediately. Nevertheless, I was subjected to an investigation. It’s called an Article 15-6 investigation. I had to get a trial defense lawyer in Afghanistan, that was provided to me by the Army. And that process drew out for about two months, and it ended with what’s called a general officer memorandum of reprimand. I was handed an official reprimand that said I had made politically inflammatory statements, and I was, on that basis, released from active duty in Afghanistan, sent home with a "do not promote" evaluation, which is really a career killer in the military.
AMY GOODMAN: You quit in a very public way, with a letter to President Obama, your letter of resignation. And in it, you said, "I resign because I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain." Explain.
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Well, sure. For me, democracy is about checks and balances. Democracy is about due process. These drone wars have blown due process up in smoke. They’ve blown checks and balances up in smoke. And democracy is also about no establishment and free exercise of religion. We have in our nation an established religion. It’s not Christianity. Jeremy Gunn calls it American National Religion. It has—consists of the unholy trinity of governmental theism, military supremacy and an understanding of capitalism as freedom. And as a religious leader, I feel it’s my prerogative to differentiate myself from this state-sanctioned religion and speak from my authentic tradition in a way that resists these national policies. And that’s what I’ve done in offering my resignation and stating quite clearly that I will not serve as an empire chaplain. I will not lend religious legitimacy to this state-sanctioned violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you received a response from President Obama, since that’s who you wrote your resignation letter to?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: I have not.
AMY GOODMAN: You also have become a shareholder of Honeywell?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: I am a shareholder of Honeywell, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Is this how you plan to support yourself now?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Well, I’ve never been a shareholder before of anything, and I only own one share. And the reason why I became a shareholder is because I was frustrated with the lack of progress through legislative advocacy, and I believe what we are facing in our country is not just a military-industrial complex, that Eisenhower wrote about, it’s a military-industrial-congressional complex. And we cannot do legislative advocacy without doing shareholder advocacy and confronting some of the corporations that are profiting and that are lobbying our elected officials in order to influence the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about attending the Honeywell shareholders’ meeting and what you did?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Sure. I’ve been to two shareholder meetings now, the first one in 2015, where I addressed the CEO, David Cote, on their profiting from armed drones proliferation. This year, I went, as I did last year, with my fellow veteran, Nick Mottern, and he addressed the drone profiting, and I chose to address Honeywell’s profiting from nuclear weapons. So I asked Mr. Cote how much Honeywell is profiting from the administration’s investment of trillions of dollars in the modernization of our nuclear arsenal. I asked him how much Honeywell is profiting from the administration’s decision to launch a new airdropped nuclear cruise missile. And I asked Mr. Cote if he’d ever been to Hiroshima, because I’ve been there twice, and whether he had faced the horror that this technology produces.
AMY GOODMAN: Your wife of 18 years is Japanese?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Yes, I’ve been married 18 years, and we have five children.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was your response to President Obama just last week going to Hiroshima?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Well, I was glad and proud of our president for visiting Hiroshima; however, I am disappointed that although he talks the talk of nuclear abolition, the actions of his administration are not consistent with what he’s saying. I agree that Hiroshima calls for a moral revolution, a revolution of consciousness, and an awakening of America. And I hope, and I remain hopeful, that the administration will cancel plans for the new airdropped nuclear cruise missile and take the thousand nuclear warheads off launch-on-warning status.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Chris Antal, can you talk about how those you’ve ministered to have responded to your resignation? Who did you serve in Afghanistan?
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Well, I served as an Army chaplain. And as an Army chaplain, I’m responsible for the soldiers in my assigned unit, but also soldiers in my area of operations, as well as contractors and servicemembers from all branches. And I served all of those people during my deployment to Afghanistan. I can say that when I preached the sermon that led to my reprimand, I had the full support of the community of faith that attended that service. When I appealed the letter of reprimand, I appealed with more than 30 letters of support from everyone in that congregation, as well as concerned clergy, chaplains and citizens across America. So I have had a lot of support.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to this presidential election. I want to turn to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2014, The Guardian columnist Owen Jones questioned her about the use of drone warfare.
OWEN JONES: You’re a loving parent. What would you say to the loving parents of up to 202 children who have been killed by drones in Pakistan in a program which you escalated as secretary of state?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I would argue with the premise, because, clearly, the efforts that were made by the United States, in cooperation with our allies in Afghanistan and certainly with the Afghan government, to prevent the threat that was in Pakistan from crossing the border, killing Afghans, killing Americans, Brits and others, was aimed at targets that had been identified and were considered to be threats. The numbers about potential civilian casualties, I take with a somewhat big grain of salt, because there has been other studies which have proven there not to have been the number of civilian casualties.
AMY GOODMAN: And last October on NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders about his position on drones.
CHUCK TODD: What does counterterrorism look like in a Sanders administration? Drones? Special Forces? Or what does it look like?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, all of that and more.
CHUCK TODD: You would—you’re OK with the drone, using drones as—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Look, drone is a weapon. When it works badly, it is terrible and it is counterproductive. When you blow up a facility or a building which kills women and children—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: —you know what? It not only doesn’t do us—it’s terrible.
CHUCK TODD: But you’re comfortable with the idea of using drones if you think you’ve isolated an important terrorist?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, yes, yes, yes.
CHUCK TODD: So, that continues in a Sanders administration.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yes. And look, look, we all know, you know, that there are people, as of this moment, plotting against the United States. We have got to be vigorous in protecting our country, no question about it.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Senator Bernie Sanders and, before that, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
REV. CHRIS ANTAL: Yeah, what they’re not saying is the numbers. And the Bureau of Investigative Journalism released just two days ago that there have been 7,142 people killed with U.S. drone strikes, most of those in Pakistan. Now, my question is: Where is the necessity? Where is the imminent threat to my family, to our families here in the United States, when we kill people halfway around the world with a drone strike?

 The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"The Assassination Complex": Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Probe Secret US Drone Wars in New Book

Talking about the global assassination program with Amy Goodman on May 3, 2016 at  Democracy Now. Org

As the Obama administration prepares to release for the first time the number of people it believes it has killed in drone strikes in countries that lie outside of conventional war zones, we look at a new book out today that paints a very different picture of the U.S. drone program. "The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program" is written by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept, and based on leaked government documents provided by a whistleblower. The documents undermine government claims that drone strikes have been precise. Part of the book looks at a program called Operation Haymaker in northeastern Afghanistan. During one five-month period, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.

The book is based on articles published by The Intercept last year. It also includes new contributions from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and The Intercept’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald. We speak with Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald.


Jeremy Scahillco-founder of the The Intercept. His new book is The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. He’s also the author of the best-selling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. His film Dirty Wars was nominated for an Academy Award.
Glenn GreenwaldPulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He is a contributor to Jeremy Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

Read Transcript below or listen at Democracy Now. Org

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re on the road in Sarasota, Florida. I’ll be speaking in Atlanta, Georgia, tonight. But here in Sarasota, we’re less than an hour from Tampa, which houses the United States Special Operations Command. It’s the epicenter of planning for the global targeted killing program and other covert military action. Well, we turn now to look at President Obama and drones. On Saturday night, Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore criticized Obama’s reliance on drone warfare during his remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. He compared Obama’s foreign policy to that of reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry.
LARRY WILMORE: It looks like you’re really enjoying your last year of the presidency. Saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors. That was cool. That was cool, yeah. You know, it kind of makes sense, too, because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, right? Yeah, sure. What? Am I wrong?
AMY GOODMAN: Larry Wilmore’s comments come as the Obama administration prepares to release for the first time the number of people it believes it’s killed in drone strikes in countries that lie outside of conventional war zones. Speaking last month in Chicago, President Obama addressed the issue of civilian deaths in drone strikes.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There’s no doubt that some innocent people have been killed by drone strikes. It is not true that it has been this sort of willy-nilly, you know, "Let’s bomb a village." That is not how it’s—folks have operated. And what I can say with great certainty is that the rate of civilian casualties in any drone operation are far lower than the rate of civilian casualties that occur in conventional war.
AMY GOODMAN: A new book being published today paints a very different picture of the U.S. drone program. It’s titled The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. It’s written by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept, based on leaked government documents provided by a whistleblower. The documents undermine government claims that drone strikes have been precise. Part of the book looks at a program called Operation Haymaker in northeastern Afghanistan. During one five-month period, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The book is based on articles published by The Intercept last year. It also includes new contributions from NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden and The Intercept's Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald. Snowden's introduction to the book has just been published on The Intercept’s website.

Joining us now, still with us, Jeremy Scahill, and Glenn Greenwald is joining us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They founded The Intercept with Laura Poitras. Jeremy, let’s go back to you. Lay out the scope of The Assassination Complex, especially now as President Obama is about to reveal at least what the government is willing to admit are the number of people killed in drone strikes.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, well, Amy, you know, the covert drone program, for the majority of its lifespan, has been shrouded in secrecy, and it was sort of a kind of macabre joke in Washington, because the entire world could see that the U.S. was raining bombs down on people across the globe and in an increasing number of countries in the early stages of Obama’s presidency, and yet the United States would never officially confirm that it had conducted a drone strike. And instead, you would see President Obama making jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner about how he was going to conduct a drone strike against the Jonas Brothers if they came near his daughters, and everybody yucks it up and laughs in Washington about it. He then answered a question on a Google Plus hangout, but never gave a substantive policy speech on the use of drones, really, until 2013.

And what the Obama administration is doing right now is basically trying to rebrand and engage in historical revisionism about what is going to be one of the most deadly legacies of the Obama era, and that is that somehow they came up with a cleaner way of waging war. I would say that the most significant aspect of what President Obama has done, regarding drones and regarding the so-called targeted killing program around the world, is that Obama has codified assassination as a central official component of American foreign policy. And he has implemented policies that a Republican probably would not have been able to implement, certainly not with the support that Obama has received from so many self-identified liberals. It will be very interesting to see, if a Republican wins, how many of the MSNBC pundits and other, you know, so-called liberals—what their position will be on these very same policies.

But the fact is that the White House—we understand the White House is going to be releasing statistics, that some indicate are going to say that upwards of 60 people—six-zero people—have been killed in drone strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is a—it’s a horrifying piece of propaganda, if that is—if that’s true. The reason that the Obama administration and that the president can say to the American people, "Well, we’ve only killed a small number of civilians," is because—and our documents in the book show this—because they have embraced a system of counting the dead which almost always will result in zero civilians killed, because anyone who is killed in a drone strike, under this administration, is labeled as an enemy killed in action, an EKIA, until or unless posthumously proven to have not been a militant, a terrorist, what have you. This is a global assassination program that is authorized and run under what amounts to a parallel legal system or judicial system where the president and his advisers serve as the judge, jury and executioner of people across the globe. And so, the documents that we obtained will give lie to the proclamations that this somehow is a saner, less deadly form of warfare when it comes to impacting civilians.

And the final thing, Amy, that I would say is that I think what you really see come through in the military’s own assessments, that we’re publishing in this book, of the drone program is that the U.S. is creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Rather than stopping terrorism, the U.S., through its drone program, is encouraging terrorism and providing terrorist organization with recruitment material, just as the Guantánamo prison serves as recruitment material for the people that the Obama administration claims it’s trying stop from conducting acts of terrorism.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jeremy Scahill. We’re also joined by Glenn Greenwald. He’s in Rio de Janeiro, and I’m in Sarasota, Florida, right near SOCOM, the Special Operations Command. In the afterword, Glenn, of The Assassination Complex, you say that most of the revelations in the book, quote, "signify one of the most enduring and consequential aspects of the Obama legacy: the continuation of endless war." Can you expand on this?

GLENN GREENWALD: It seems like a really distant memory now, but if you look back to what President Obama, then-Senator Obama, was saying in 2006, 2007, as his critique of the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism, he was essentially railing against not just the policies, but the mindset and the approach that, once he became president, he ended up not only embracing, but strengthening and increasing. He talked all the time about how terrible it was to treat somebody like a terrorist and punish them with imprisonment in Guantánamo, with indefinite detention, without so much as giving them the right to have a trial. And not only has he continued the system of indefinite detention—and he intended to continue the system of indefinite detention, even if he were able to close Guantánamo; his plan was simply to shift it to American soil—he’s done much more than that. He has institutionalized a program where now we don’t only just imprison people without any charges or due process, we don’t just eavesdrop on them, which was one of his big critiques of the Bush administration, without first giving them due process or a trial, we now just target them for execution, for death, for a death penalty.

You know, for a long time, a staple of Democratic ideology has been that the death penalty is wrong, even with a full trial and appeals and due process and lawyers and all of the constitutional rights that are afforded to criminal defendants. And yet President Obama has embraced a policy that says that he can literally go around the world, target people for death anywhere in the world that he wants, including places where we’re not at war, including even American citizens, and simply eradicate their lives based on his order—not in a war zone, people who are not engaged in combat at the time they’re killed. They’re killed in cars, in their houses, while they’re working, driving with their children, at funerals, rescuing people. Wherever it is that they might be found, they can simply be killed.
And the most extraordinary aspect about it is that Democratic partisans, who were cheering his critiques in 2006 and 2007 and pretending to oppose this approach because it was a Republican who did it, switched completely on a dime. And the minute that President Obama embraced these policies, they, as public opinion polls show, completely switched how they think about all of these policies and started supporting them. And what this has meant is that these policies have shifted from being just a right-wing, extremist, Republican framework into one that is fully bipartisan, and therefore will be institutionalized and has been strengthened for years, if not decades, to come, in a way that George Bush and Dick Cheney could only have dreamed of.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a clip from National Bird, a new documentary on drone warfare that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month. This is Lisa Ling, a former drone system technical sergeant.
LISA LING: This is global. This is getting information anywhere at any time, shooting people from anywhere at any time. And it’s not just one person sitting there with a little remote control, a little joystick, moving around a plane that’s halfway across the world. That’s not all there is. It’s like borders don’t matter anymore. And there’s a huge system that spans the globe, that can just suck up endless amounts of your life, your personal data. I mean, this could grow to get so out of control. And we’re not the only ones that have this. This is going to be commonplace, if it’s not already. It’s a secret program. And what that means is that I can’t just go shouting off the hilltops telling the public what it is. What I can tell you is that, to me, one person who worked within this massive thing, it’s frightening.
AMY GOODMAN: Drone whistleblower Lisa Ling in the documentary National Bird.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How Drone Kills Happen: "Eye in The Sky" Film Dramatizes Techno-Moral Dilemma

Director Gavin Hood sat down with Reason TV's Meredith Bragg to discuss the film, Eye in the Sky.

In a world of secret kill lists and drone operators who routinely blow up terrorist targets from thousands of miles away, ordinary citizens have little understanding of how specific missions are given the green light.

Eye in the Sky, the highly praised new thriller from Oscar-winning director Gavin Hood starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and the late Alan Rickman in his final role, takes us into the secretive world of military operations, forcing the audience to wrestle with the moral, legal, and political questions surrounding a single drone mission.

"We are only at the beginning of where this kind of warfare is going," Hood explains. "I think this is an evolving conversation and I hope that if an audience goes into this film not knowing much about drones they will come out more informed, they will come out having experienced a good movie and a good thriller but they will also be left with a lot to talk about."

Hood sat down with Reason TV's Meredith Bragg to discuss the film, which goes into wide release this weekend, and why he hopes the movie will spark a national conversation about drone warfare.

Approximately 11 minutes.

Produced and Edited by Meredith Bragg.
Published on Mar 17, 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

Author Scott Shane on "Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone"

Democracy Now   March 18, 2016   Web Exclusive

In this web exclusive interview, New York Times reporter Scott Shane discusses his new book, "Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone." It just won the 2016 Lionel Gelber Prize. The book tells the story of the first American deliberately killed in a drone strike, Anwar al-Awlaki, and examines why U.S. counterterrorism efforts since 9/11 seem to have backfired.

Read TRANSCRIPT below or Watch HERE
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We continue our conversation with Scott Shane, the national security reporter for The New York Times. His new book is called Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone. It just won the 2016 Lionel Gelber Prize. The book tells the story of the first American deliberately killed in a drone strike, Anwar al-Awlaki, and examines why U.S. counterterrorism efforts since 9/11 seem to have backfired.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Shane, why don’t you start off with the title of the book, Objective Troy?
SCOTT SHANE: Yeah. If you are added to the kill list, the list of suspected terrorists that, in the Obama administration, have been targeted for killing in drone strikes, the military calls you an "objective" and gives you a codename. And in Anwar al-Awlaki’s case, he was given the name "Objective Troy." You know, at first I wondered if that was some reference to the Trojan horse or something literary or symbolic, but it turns out that they gave the people targeted in Yemen the names of Ohio towns. So Anwar al-Awlaki became Objective Troy because of Troy, Ohio, small town in Ohio.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what this program was, what the Obama administration did and the whole thesis of, well, the subtitle, A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone.
SCOTT SHANE: Well, you know, I wanted to take a look at both sides of the kind of problem that has dominated U.S. foreign policy for 15 years, and that is the threat of terrorism and what the U.S.’s response has been. And the story of Anwar al-Awlaki sort of captures both sides of this, because, on the one hand, he was an American who spent about half of his 40 years in the U.S., had a quite happy life here, had a very successful career as an imam here, denounced 9/11, called for bridge building after 9/11, and yet he ended up with al-Qaeda in his last years plotting attacks on the U.S. So I wanted to sort of understand that trajectory and what made him take that course.
And on the other side, I guess, as a reporter, I’ve been struck by the fact that just about everything the U.S. has done against the terrorist threat or in connection with the terrorist threat since 9/11, whatever its contribution to the U.S. security, has also generated this sort of backlash that has played into the hands of al-Qaeda and, more recently, ISIS. So, you know, I’m talking about the CIA’s black sites, interrogation and torture at Guantánamo, the prison at Guantámao Bay, and, you know, especially under Obama, the drone strikes. You know, all of these things have become sort of recruiting tools for al-Qaeda and ISIS, proof that—you know, for those groups, that the U.S. is at war with Islam, as they say, and therefore, you know, a generator of recruits for the very groups that the U.S. is trying to fight.
And Awlaki’s case also provided insight into that. You know, he was killed in 2011. It took them almost a year and a half to find him. In Yemen, you know, a drone found him. He was killed along with another American acolyte, Samir Khan, and two Yemeni guys from al-Qaeda. And I think, at the time, the Obama administration saw this as a real victory, a sort of feather in their cap. A few months earlier, they had caught and killed Osama bin Laden. But in retrospect, while Anwar al-Awlaki was removed as an operational terrorist—he wasn’t going to actually participate, obviously, in any more terrorist plots—he was a guy whose greatest importance was as the most effective ideologue, propagandist recruiter for al-Qaeda, in English, you know, in its history. And he has lived on on the Internet. I went on YouTube yesterday and put his name into the search engine, and you come up with 67,000 videos, most of which are his life’s work, from the early days when he put out mainstream boxes of CDs, 53 CDs on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, all the way through to the al-Qaeda stuff at the end of his life, when he was instructing Muslims in the West and in the United States that it was their religious obligation to stage attacks. And it’s all there, and it remains very powerful, very influential, more than four years after his death. And not only that, but by killing him, the U.S. government inadvertently promoted him to martyrdom in the eyes of his fans. So if you go on YouTube, you find that they have posted and reposted his videos with tributes to Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, the great martyr. So he speaks from beyond the grave with even more authority and influence than when he was alive.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, let’s go back to Anwar al-Awlaki in November 2001. He spoke to The Washington Post then about the significance of Ramadan.
ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: Ramadan is a chance for us to get away from the worldly indulgence in everything that is material. It’s a chance for us to have a more austere life. I think that, in general, Islam is presented in a—in a negative way. I mean, there’s always this association between Islam and terrorism, when that is not true at all. I mean, Islam is a religion of peace.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, less than 10 years later, Anwar al-Awlaki released this al-Qaeda video, "A Call to Jihad."
ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: Do not be deceived by the promises of preserving your rights from a government that is right now killing your own brothers and sisters. Today, with the war between Muslims and the West escalating, you cannot count on the message of solidarity you may get from a civic group or a political party, or the word of support you hear from a kind neighbor or a nice co-worker. The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens. Hence my advice to you is this. You have two choices: either hijra or jihad. You either leave or you fight.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That’s Anwar al-Awlaki. So, Scott Shane, can you talk about his transformation and how he came to work with al-Qaeda? And also, that video, where was it recorded?
SCOTT SHANE: Well, the first video was recorded by The Washington Post when—at a time right after 9/11, when the media in Washington discovered that there was this young, charismatic imam who spoke native English and native Arabic and was available to explain Islam to Americans, who suddenly had a great interest in this topic. And, you know, he was suddenly in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He was on TV, he was on the radio. And he—you know, he was sort of on a trajectory to become a major public figure in the U.S. He was well on his way—
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, he was invited to the Pentagon, right?
SCOTT SHANE: He spoke—he was a luncheon speaker at the Pentagon. He preached at the Capitol. And, you know, looking back, I have often thought that he might have been a national voice for American Muslims in the last 15 years, a voice that has not really existed at the highest level, sort of on the Sunday TV shows and that kind of thing. He was certainly capable of that. And I think that was where he was headed. But some personal things and some external sort of world developments intervened.
The first personal thing that happened was he discovered—he was actually planning—he was very happy in the U.S. He was planning to stay and keep his career going. The FBI, which had looked into him after 9/11, had concluded he had no ties to al-Qaeda and no ties to the 9/11 plot, even though a few of the hijackers had prayed at his mosques, and so they were worried about that, but they had essentially cleared him. But what he found out was that in the process of following him around to see if he had any ties to al-Qaeda, they had discovered that he had the habit of visiting prostitutes in Washington hotels on a regular basis. And one of the managers of one of these escort services that he had been using called him out—called him up and told him the FBI knew all about these visits. And he panicked. And he—you know, he was a conservative preacher with a conservative congregation, and he just could not stand the idea that he would be exposed as a hypocrite before the world. And he flew off to the U.K. and abandoned his career in the U.S. And so, we had this guy with a lot of talent and a lot of ambition, and he was sort of in play at this point, and he was looking for a new place to take his career.
And the other thing that happened, while he was in the U.K. preaching and taking an increasingly radical line, although it was always shaped at that point in terms of Islamic history and sort of the history of jihad in Muhammad’s—in the Prophet Muhammad’s time—but the other thing that happened, of course, was the U.S. had invaded Afghanistan, which Anwar al-Awlaki denounced, but in a fairly modest way, mild way. But when the U.S. invaded Iraq, that had a huge impact on him. And, you know, I think he began to think about what bin Laden had already said, which was that there was a war between the U.S. and Islam, and you had to take sides.
And eventually he ended up in Yemen. He was in prison for a year and a half without charges, in part with the encouragement of the United States, which was worried about his influence as a radicalizer. And when he got out of prison, not long after that, he moved to the tribal territories in Yemen and hooked up with al-Qaeda. And so, when he made that second video, he was, you know, a quite influential member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and he was a part of a small cell within that group that was focused, not as the bulk of the group was on the Yemeni government and the Saudi monarchy, but on the so-called far enemy, as al-Qaeda called it, the United States. So he played a significant role in organizing the underwear bomb attack on Christmas Day in 2009, as folks will remember, when a young Nigerian tried to blow up a plane over Detroit. He played a role in sending two bombs in printer ink cartridges aboard cargo planes addressed to Chicago, clearly chosen because of the association with Obama.
So, you know, you had this peculiar situation where Obama had given the kill order, and the American drones were looking for Awlaki, to send a missile his way in Yemen. And he was, in effect, sending, you know, airplanes back at the U.S. loaded with bombs. But actually, the plots he was involved in all failed. And as I mentioned, he was killed at the end of September in 2011.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Scott Shane, could you talk about the 2010 legal opinion, which made it, in fact, legal and constitutional to kill Anwar al-Awlaki? You write in Objective Troy, "Before 9/11, anyone proposing to use missiles in a country where we were not at war to kill suspected terrorists week after week would have been met with strong opposition." So could you tell us about the people who wrote this opinion, David Barron and Marty Lederman?
SCOTT SHANE: Yeah. I mean, what is sort of striking about the drone program, in general, is the, in my opinion, excessive secrecy that has been attached to it. So, it took years before there was any congressional debate. We still don’t know what the government itself thinks is the record of the drone program. And it took us—I filed a FOIA, a Freedom of Information, request in 2010 for all the Justice Department legal opinions on targeted killing, and it took a long court fight before an appeals court gave us—ordered the government to release redacted copies of two legal opinions that justified the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. So, you know, there’s been a great deal of secrecy even around the legal opinions that the government—in which the government explains why it believes these actions are legal and constitutional.
But in this particular instance, after the evidence emerged connecting Anwar al-Awlaki to the underwear bomb plot in December of 2009, President Obama essentially asked the Justice Department to take a look at whether it would be legal and constitutional for him to give the order to kill this guy, because he was an American citizen. And, you know, on the face of it, the Constitution makes it impermissible to deprive someone of life or liberty without due process of law. So, Marty Lederman and David Barron were both sort of liberal legal academics who had been highly critical of the Bush administration and its approach to counterterrorism. So, they suddenly found themselves with the job of, in great secrecy, deciding whether it was legal to target and kill Anwar al-Awlaki. And they concluded that it was, and gave the word to the White House. And the White House approved—the president approved on February 5th, 2010, the legality of killing this guy. That was based on one legal opinion, which they completed in written form in February.
Then, out in the world, it had been leaked that Anwar al-Awlaki was on the kill list, and some legal scholars, you know, criticized this decision. And they came up with another legal opinion in July of 2010 sort of plugging the holes that people had poked in this argument. But, you know, what’s interesting is, for my book, with the help of a friend who teaches constitutional law, I organized a sort of unofficial, informal poll of people who had taught or do teach constitutional law, professors of constitutional law. And of about three dozen, I asked them only the question: "Was it legal and constitutional for the U.S. government to kill Anwar al-Awlaki?" And the answers came back very divided. About a third said, yes, it was. About a third said, no, it was not. And about a third said it depended on the details. So, this is far from a settled question—
AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean if it’s not, Scott?
SCOTT SHANE: —certainly in the scholarly community.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Shane, what does it mean, if it’s not?
SCOTT SHANE: Well, it means that this—that this act, certainly in the opinions of the critics, that it violated the Fifth Amendment and maybe the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. And some would also argue that it violates some statutes, including one called the foreign-murder statute. And so, you know, how this will play out in future administrations, we’ll have to see. But the precedent has been set.
AMY GOODMAN: So then, it could be that President Obama, if it was found not to be legal, could be brought up on war crimes.
SCOTT SHANE: I think that’s highly unlikely, because it’s hard to imagine, you know, how this ever comes before a court. Anwar al-Awlaki’s father Nasser, the former agriculture minister and chancellor of universities in Yemen, twice went to U.S. court. He felt—he was a big fan of America, had spent a dozen years living here, and he felt that he wanted to hold the U.S. to what he saw as its principles, which he had always admired. And so, he went to court twice, first to get his son off the kill list and then to force the government to sort of present the evidence on which—on the basis of which it had killed his son and, actually, his grandson, who had been killed in a second drone strike. And both those cases were dismissed. And so, you know, this question, as has happened often since 9/11, you know, a major question that you would hope and think that American courts would sort of weigh in on, has not actually found a way to come before the justice system.
AMY GOODMAN: And that point you just made about—and then his son was killed. I mean, two weeks later, a 16-year-old boy, right, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who went out to find his father in the desert, who’s sitting at an outdoor cafe, is then killed in a drone strike, born in Denver, Colorado. What is the explanation of this?
SCOTT SHANE: I mean, the explanation that I heard repeatedly from people inside the government was that this was a tragic and colossal screw-up. You know, the claim is—and I believe this—that they had no idea who they were shooting at, which unfortunately has happened too often in the drone war. They believed that they were shooting at a kind of mid-level al-Qaeda guy, an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna. He turned out not to be there. There is some evidence that some of the people—some of the seven men killed in that strike were affiliated with al-Qaeda, but two of the others there were 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki and his 17-year-old cousin.
Abdulrahman, who by all accounts was a very sweet kid, a great kid with no history of any association with radicalism or terrorism, as you say, he had left home. He was living with his grandparents. He had left home to find his father. And this was after—you know, everybody remembers the spring of 2011 and a lot of young people coming out onto the central squares in Arab capitals, including in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. And young Abdulrahman had been part of that and had sort of had a political awakening. And I think that led to his desire to find his father, talk to his father about all these big issues. You know, his father was, by then, essentially a notorious member of al-Qaeda. He did not find his father, but while he was looking for him, he got word that his father had been killed in an American drone strike in another part of Yemen. There is evidence that at that point this 16-year-old kid, you know, said, "That does it, I’m joining the jihad," and that that may be one reason why he was with al-Qaeda figures when he was killed.
But it remains also the case that he was not on any American kill list and that Obama was reportedly furious when he heard that this had happened, because he understood that while a lot of Yemenis understood the death of Anwar al-Awlaki—I mean, he was seen as trying to kill Americans, and the Americans got to him first, and Yemen is a tribal land where people kind of understand that. The death of the 16-year-old made a huge impression. And when I was reporting for the book in 2014 in Yemen, you know, I found that that was still something that caused huge outrage and grief and remained a kind of stain on the American reputation in Yemen, and certainly had played into the hands of al-Qaeda there.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, people in the Obama administration, including Obama himself, have in fact justified the use of drones and targeted killings by saying that it vastly diminishes the number of civilian casualties, or what’s referred to as collateral damage. What do you make of that?
SCOTT SHANE: Well, certainly, in the history of warfare, if you take a long view and you look back at World War I or World War II and the firebombing of Tokyo and of Dresden, let alone the atomic bombs, if you even look at Vietnam, you know, with the Americans dropping huge tonnage of bombs on Vietnamese villages, I mean, the killing in those wars was incomparably greater than in the drone program. And I think what drew Obama to the drone was the idea that you would fit the weapon to the target. He thought the big wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had been, you know, essentially failures, disasters, had not really contributed to making the U.S. safer from terrorism and had these colossal civilian casualties and casualties for American troops, civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands. So, he thought, if a drone could kill three terrorists, five terrorists, you know, that would—without turning a country upside down, that would make a lot of sense.
I don’t think he has given up on that belief. He’s said to believe that, you know, real attacks on the West had been averted by drone strikes. But I think the administration has also learned that it’s impossible to get perfect intelligence to tell who’s who on the ground thousands of miles away. And so that these drone strikes have, in some cases, [inaudible] maybe as many of—you know, of 10 or 20 percent of the people killed have been innocents. And that’s produced a huge backlash. And the question of sort of the invasion of other countries’ sovereignty has produced a big political backlash in Yemen and Pakistan. So, you know, sort of the bottom line on this program remains to be, you know, judged. What is clear is I’m told that there are now six countries that have used armed drones. You know, the example the U.S. has set is being copied around the world. And I don’t think this weapon is going to go away. So the path that the U.S. has sort of pioneered is going to play out, and we’ll see what the consequences are.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Shane, we don’t have much time, but I wanted to ask about another thread through Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone, in this parallel in the lives of Anwar al-Awlaki and President Obama in how they grew up, their family backgrounds. Can you talk about this and the different paths they took?
SCOTT SHANE: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think—I don’t want to make too much of this. It’s, in a way, a somewhat random observation. But it is remarkable that both Barack Obama and Anwar al-Awlaki were born in the U.S. to fathers of Muslim background who had come to the United States to study as graduate students. Both of them then were taken by their families overseas to Muslim countries, and then they came back to the U.S. Barack Obama, of course, went to Indonesia and came back with his mother. Anwar al-Awlaki came back to go to—was sent back by his father from Yemen to attend college at Colorado State.
And interestingly, this caused them both, I think it’s fair to say, some confusion about identity, some sort of identity crisis, which Obama has famously described in his book, Dreams from My Father. And Obama actually talks in that book about the temptation of radicalism, of militancy, that he felt as a young man, as a young black man in America, with this very colorful and sort of mixed-up background. Anwar al-Awlaki clearly also, ultimately, felt the temptation of radicalism and ended up taking, you know, a very different path from Barack Obama. But it’s sort of fascinating. President Obama wouldn’t talk to me for this book, but maybe after he’s out of office, I would love to sit down with him and talk to him about how he sees all of this.
AMY GOODMAN: And what most surprised you in writing this book, in writing Objective Troy?
SCOTT SHANE: You know, I guess what struck me was—and I guess this is true of all of our lives, but the sort of random twists and turns that have such a profound effect on an individual life and sometimes on the course of history. I think if that escort service manager had not called Anwar al-Awlaki and sent him on the path that ended with al-Qaeda in Yemen, we might be as tired of seeing Anwar al-Awlaki on Meet the Press as some people are of seeing Senator McCain on Meet the Press, and he might be, you know, a sort of prominent American political voice and perhaps a useful voice, given the events of the last 15 years. So, you know, it just struck me in a way how contingent life is, how random life is and how very small events can have profound outcomes.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Shane, we want to thank you so much for being with us. Scott Shane is national security reporter for The New York Times. Along with Jo Becker, he recently wrote a two-part series [part one, part two] in the Times, "The Libya Gamble," but he’s also author of the brand new book, Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone. The book just won the 2016 Lionel Gelber Prize. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks for joining us.

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