The Drone Ranger: Obama's Dirty Wars
By Greg Palast for Vice Magazine
Thursday, 13. June 2013
About the time Barack Obama ordered the drone strike that killed Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki
the 16-year-old American kid Facebooked his second-rate choice of
hip-hop favorites. I say "second-rate," because Abdul was my son's age
almost exactly, so I know the kind of crap they listen to.
Every Tuesday, President Obama personally checks off the names of people
he wants killed. George Bush, a bit more squeamish than Obama, never
did that; but Mr. Obama felt those decisions were the president's
responsibility: he want[s] to keep his own finger on the trigger,"
according to one report. A tidy, scheduled man, the President only
picks his victims once a week, now called "Terror Tuesday
On October 14, 2011, in Shabwah province, Yemen, Abdul, went out with
his cousins and friends for a good old US-style barbecue, when Obama's
drone fired a rocket, blowing the teenager to pieces. Or I should say
"piece." All that was left of Abdul was a piece of skull with long
curly hair that allowed his relatives to identify this hunk of his head
by his US-type haircut.
Obama didn't order the killings (Abdul's friends and cousins died too)
as a random act of crazy. No-Drama Obama doesn't believe in random.
Abdul's problem was that his father was Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama killed
Abdul's dad as well. Daddy al-Awlaki, an American imam who voted for
George Bush, had gone over to the side of the bad guys, and after
leaving the USA, broadcast pro-terrorism radio reports from Arabia.
We can argue until the cows come home about whether Daddy al-Awlaki was a
legitimate kill target. It is, after all, right there in the US
Constitution that the penalty for treason is death. I suppose that,
before executing him, a jury trial would have been nice. But nice was
not going to happen. So, OK, Barack, we'll let that one go.
But what about the 16-year-old? Obama didn't even pretend that the kid
was a terrorist, or terrorist in-the-making, nor adopting in any way his
father's crazed kill-Americans crusade.
What could justify execution of Abdul? When asked, then-White House press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said, "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father
I guess he should have.
Obama's minions tried to cover up the hit on the teenagers. Attorney
General Eric Holder informed Congress of the killings by writing that
U.S. drones had blown up Anwar al-Awlaki, the crazy cleric and three
other Americans who "were not specifically targeted."
Holder's comment makes it seem that Awlaki's son was blown up with him--a sad case of "collateral damage.'
But are you ready for this? The teenager--along with his cousin and friends--was killed two weeks after and hundreds of miles away from
the site where rockets killed his father.
Obama's Seal Team Sick
I was straightened out on the facts by Richard Rowley, America's most
courageous investigative reporter. Rowley filmed, directed and edited
the brilliant, horrific, and brilliantly horrific documentary Dirty Wars,
previewing this week in the US.
The film centers on Rowley's reporting partner, the indefatigable Jeremy
Scahill, whom Rowley follows from the scene of a massacre at a wedding
party in Afghanistan to an interview with a warlord in Mogadishu (while
under sniper fire).
You might know Rowley as Ricardo, the pathologically calm cameraman portrayed in my book Vultures' Picnic.
Iraq, Rowley covered the US Army assault on Fallujah "embedded" with
the assaulted, the insurgents. That was insane. Insane but brilliant.
(Our producer at BBC warned Ricardo that he was one lucky cat, but he'd
already used up seven of his nine lives.)
In Dirty Wars,
Rowley and Scahill reveal that drones are just
one toy in our Presidents' murderous toy-chest. And the kill list is
far larger than even a smart dude like Obama can tick off on a Tuesday.
Scahill calculates that the targeted kills in Afghanistan and Pakistan
now total more than 17,000!
Drones can't kill them all. In 2009, a US cruise missile hit al Majala, a remote village of Bedouins in Yemen
, killing a dozen herdsmen and three babies. Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh
took responsibility, proudly, for killing supposed "terrorists."
However, a courageous Yemeni reporter, Abdulelah Haider Shaye
, visited the site, photographed the remains of the US missile--and was promptly jailed.
The US is particularly shy about taking credit for the cruise missile kills as it boosted al Qaeda's recruitment drive in Yemen.
Rowley and Scahill are the only US reporters to have gone to the Bedouin
village and filmed the missile casing--cold evidence confirming the US
had entered a war without any legal declaration---indeed, in complete
Scahill also revealed that, while Yemen's President Saleh was nervous
about keeping the reporter imprisoned, Saleh withdrew his pardon at the
personal request of Barack Obama. Obama wanted the journalist not just
silenced, but punished.
Wiki-Leaks: Cleaning up Dirty Wars
I was curious: Did Scahill and Rowley make use of Wiki-Leaks?
"Wiki-Leaks was absolutely indispensible," Rowley told me, a treasure
trove of State Department confessions confirming what they found on the
ground. It was through Wiki-Leaks that they discovered that President
Saleh joked with US operatives about lying to his Congress about the US
missile attack on al Majala.
And it was in Wiki-Leaks that Scahill found the warlord Indha Adde--a.k.a. "White Eyes
" was on the USA's payroll. I should say, General
White Eyes--a rank he gave himself in the Somali Army by pinning three
stars on his jacket. Where did the US military find this cutthroat?
Previously, the Wiki-Leaks cables revealed, the US knew he was the
protector of the al Qaeda bombers that blew up the US Embassy in
Rowley captures the warlord/general on camera saying, "The USA is the
master in war"--quite a compliment from a natural born killer like White
And General "Eyes" is quite right. The Drone Ranger's secret war has
now spread to 75 nations. It's all under the command of General William
The US press is in love with McRaven, lauded as the man who planned the
raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. But there's not one single US
network or paper that would report on Scahill's discovery that McRaven
was also the guy who planned the night raid on the Afghan wedding party
that killed the bride, the groom and the groom's mother.
Maybe that was some horrible mistake. But McRaven's crew, called "The
American Taliban" by Afghans, made sure that no one would finger the
US: Rowley and Scahill obtained a secretly recorded video of McRaven's
commandoes slicing the bullets out of the bride's and groom's bodies to
prevent their killers' identification.
McRaven's semi-private army, the Joint Special Operations Command
(JSOC), is warring in our name worldwide--in nations he won't name and
Obama will arrest you for naming. Not even Orwell could have dreamed up
I asked about the value of Wiki-Leaks to Rowley and Scahill because of
the ongoing trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning and the impending capture of
Edward Snowden, the contractor willing to blow away his career and
freedom to let you know that nice Mr. Obama has been spying on you.
A rabbi from Nazareth once said, "The truth shall make you free." And
that's exactly what Obama is afraid of: faced with the truths revealed
in Dirty Wars,
they know most Americans would cut themselves free of McRaven's Seal Team Sick.
I am convinced the hit on al-Awlaki's son was meant to teach a lesson, If you want to be a martyr, we'll make your son and your mom and daughter martyrs too.
Such terror-for-terror can be, I'll admit, quite effective. During the
Ronald Reagan years, that gutless faux-cowboy President sent weapons to
Ayatollah Khomeini in return for the release of hostages taken by
Hezbollah. The Russians got their hostages home another way. The USSR
didn't accept an arms-for-hostage deal. Rather, the KGB systematically
assassinated the hostage-takers' cousins, mothers and brothers one by
one--until Hezbollah released all the Russian hostages.
By rocketing the children of those we fear, we are indeed teaching them a lesson. But what are they learning?
Next year, Malia Obama turns 16. I hope we never hear that harm has
come to Malia while some chuckling spokesman for al Qaeda says, "She
should have had a far more responsible father."