Silent but deadly US drone attacks are inspired by the Jewish state

I finally read Jane Mayer’s fascinating, recent piece in the New Yorker on Washington’s increasing reliance on Predator drones to kill “terrorists” and perceived enemies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

I was struck by the constant references to Israel and the Jewish state’s influence on this insidious business:

The advent of the Predator targeted-killing program “is really a sea change,” says Gary Solis, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Law Center and recently retired from running the law program at the U.S. Military Academy. “Not only would we have expressed abhorrence of such a policy a few years ago; we did.” In July, 2001, two months before Al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington profoundly altered America’s mind-set, the U.S. denounced Israel’s use of targeted killing against Palestinian terrorists. The American Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, said at the time, “The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations. . . . They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”.

Yet once America had suffered terrorist attacks on its own soil the agency’s posture changed, and it petitioned the White House for new authority. Within days, President Bush had signed a secret Memorandum of Notification, giving the C.I.A. the right to kill members of Al Qaeda and their confederates virtually anywhere in the world. Congress endorsed this policy, passing a bill called the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Bush’s legal advisers modelled their rationale on Israel’s position against terrorism, arguing that the U.S. government had the right to use lethal force against suspected terrorists in “anticipatory” self-defense. By classifying terrorism as an act of war, rather than as a crime, the Bush Administration reasoned that it was no longer bound by legal constraints requiring the government to give suspected terrorists due process.

Seven years later, there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy. “The things we were complaining about from Israel a few years ago we now embrace,” Solis says. Now, he notes, nobody in the government calls it assassination.

In Israel, which conducts unmanned air strikes in the Palestinian territories, the process of identifying targets, in theory at least, is even more exacting. Military lawyers have to be convinced that the target can’t reasonably be captured, and that he poses a threat to national security. Military specialists in Arab culture also have to be convinced that the hit will do more good than harm. “You have to be incredibly cautious,” Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah, says. From 1994 to 1997, he advised Israeli commanders on targeted killings in the Gaza Strip. “Not everyone is at the level appropriate for targeted killing,” he says. “You want a leader, the hub with many spokes.” Guiora, who follows the Predator program closely, fears that national-security officials here lack a clear policy and a firm definition of success. “Once you start targeted killing, you better make damn sure there’s a policy guiding it,” he says. “It can’t be just catch-as-catch-can.”