WaPo Gives Obama Credit for Bush Drone Program

The Washington Post, in an apparent effort to embellish President Barack Obama’s national security credentials, has given him credit for accelerating the military’s highly successful drone program in an article entitled, “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing.”

President-elect Obama greets eager Washington Post fans (Jan. 2009)

That headline is impressive to all but the most die-hard anti-war activists (mostly quiescent under a Democratic president). The conclusion the Post evidently wishes readers to draw is that Obama has been a tough, courageous, and uniquely successful commander-in-chief.

The article begins:

The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.

In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents…

With a year to go in President Obama’s first term, his administration can point to undeniable results: Osama bin Laden is dead, the core al-Qaeda network is near defeat, and members of its regional affiliates scan the sky for metallic glints.

But the drone program did not begin on January 20, 2009–even if mainstream media squeamishness about it ended on the day. The most important elements of the program began under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush–a fact buried deep into the article:

Inside the White House, according to officials who would discuss the drone program only on the condition of anonymity, the drone is seen as a critical tool whose evolution was accelerating even before Obama was elected.

What is new is that Obama reversed himself and embraced the idea that terrorists could be killed abroad in what the left used to described as “extrajudicial killings,” partly because of Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder’s ideological hostility to terrorist detention.

Despite Obama’s pretensions at “smart power,” the successful drone program is now threatened by a deterioration of relations with Pakistan, and has in fact been suspended there–a fact that the Post article seems eager to downplay.

Much of that deterioration is Pakistan’s fault, and the Obama administration deserves some credit for continuing the drone program–among several other key Bush anti-terror initiatives that were preserved despite Obama’s previous stances and pressure from the left.

Yet it is absurd to portray the Obama administration as uniquely courageous in taking the fight to terrorists, when the White House has refused even to name radical Islam as the enemy, has pursued a policy of appeasement towards America’s enemies, and has planned military withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan for nakedly political reasons.

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