Documentary filmmaker spills the beans on Obama’s secretive drone program
July 16, 2013
Documentarian, author and journalist Jeremy Scahill appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report Monday night attempting to communicate a few of the lesser-known details surrounding the Obama administration’s secretive drone warfare campaign, at one point even shocking the boisterous cable host into sober seriousness.
The seasoned satirist got off to a cynical start, introducing Scahill to the audience by saying, “It’s an honor to be the last man to see him alive.”
Scahill, a national security correspondent for The Nation magazine and producer of the 2013 documentary Dirty Wars, has been on the ground and experienced first hand the devastation wrought by U.S. drones upon innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen where he says the Obama administration is killing people indiscriminately in covert, undeclared wars.
“We’re doing night raids, drone strikes, cruise missile attacks. We’re killing a tremendous number of innocent civilians and we’re killing people whose identities we don’t even know,” Scahill told Colbert talking about a secret war being conducted in Afghanistan being concealed by a larger, more public war.
“What do you mean, we’re killing a bunch of innocent [people]?,” Colbert asked, befuddled. “I haven’t heard much about that.”
“Well, I was on the ground in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia,” Scahill states, adding, “I went to villages where for instance one of the first strikes President Obama authorized in Yemen killed 46 people. 14 of them were women, 21 were children. Who was the target in that action? The White House has not provided any information.”
One of the biggest problems with the unmanned drone program is that the number of strikes and people killed are kept strictly confidential. In fact, not until earlier this year was there an actual confirmation by the government that such a program even existed. So much for the “most transparent administration in history.”
Scahill elaborated, “We are doing pre-crime, like Minority Report, where we say if you’re a military-age male in a certain region of these countries we’re gonna kill you and then later say that you were a terrorist without ever providing any information that you actually were involved in a terror plot.”
Scahill is alluding to the Obama administration’s redefinition of the word “militant,” whose definition has been transformed to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone.”
Former Salon and current Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald had this to say about the brazenly propagandized term: “By ‘militant,’ the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).”
The faux-conservative liberal next assumed a trademark liberal stance, claiming that if Scahill didn’t support unmanned drones, he didn’t support the troops.
“In fact,” Scahill fired back, “you know they tried to make a medal for drone pilots and then it was rescinded by the Defense Secretary because of outrage from the actual troops. So, the troops actually disagree with your position that a drone is a troop.”
“So what’s your answer?” Colbert asked, seemingly interested.
“Well, I think first of all we can indict them and demand their extradition,” Scahill stated, referring to the rule of law due process requirement that typically governs war scenarios.
Scahill then engaged in a debate about reported terrorist recruiter and motivator, not to mention confirmed Pentagon dinner guest, Anwar al-Awlaki who was born in New Mexico. “What [Obama] did was he fast-forwarded to the death penalty without even indicting him.”
As Colbert proceeded to play devil’s advocate, Scahill – by this time genuinely disturbed – asked, “It doesn’t trouble you that the President of the United States is asserting the right to kill American citizens without presenting any actual evidence or indicting them at all?”
“Well, I’m not on the list,” Colbert flippantly stated.
Scahill remarked, “Well, how do you know?” eliciting a huge gasp from the audience.
“How do you get on the list?” asked Colbert cautiously, albeit comically.
“I mean I watch this show; you could be on the list,” Scahill warned, emphasizing the fact that details surrounding the drone program are kept confidential, just as former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted earlier this year.
“So you get on the list and then, can you get off the list?” Colbert worriedly queried.
Ominously, Scahill replied, “Only from a drone strike it seems.”
Without missing a beat, Colbert ended the segment and thanked Scahill: “Thank you so much for joining me, I’ve got to catch a cab.”