â€˜Killing for opticsâ€™? Obama claims he â€˜took no joyâ€™ in drone strikes, but ordered them to avoid looking â€˜soft on terrorismâ€™
Former US President Barack Obama has sparked an anti-war backlash after saying in his new memoir he â€œtook no joyâ€ in ordering deadly drone strikes, reasoning that his administration â€œcouldn't afford to look soft on terrorism.â€
The ex-presidentâ€™s new book â€˜A Promised Landâ€™ sheds some light on the Obama administrationâ€™s controversial expansion of the US drone program, which was launched under his predecessor George W. Bush.
One of Obamaâ€™s original campaign promises was for US withdrawal from middle-eastern conflicts. However, that promise was not fulfilled during his eight years in office, and the Democrat is now often accused of having further escalated violence in the region through his policies in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere.
In excerpts from the memoir published by Business Insider, Obama claims that his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was â€œobsessedâ€ with the administrationâ€™s infamous terrorist â€œkill list.â€ Rahm had â€œspent enough time in Washington to know that his new, liberal president couldn't afford to look soft on terrorism,â€ Obama writes.
Despite his willingness to ramp up the drone program, Obama confessed he â€œtook no joy in any of thisâ€ and that it did not make him feel â€œpowerful.â€ However, he adds that the work was â€œnecessaryâ€ and that it was his responsibility â€œto make sure our operations were as effective as possible.â€
However, the liberal political iconâ€™s anti-war critics donâ€™t typically argue that the drone program was ineffective, rather that it was more often than not imprecise, killing many civilians in the process. The â€˜Drone Papersâ€™ leak in 2015 revealed that, at least during one period, 90 percent of US drone strike victims wereâ€œnot the intended targets.â€
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Obama infamously joked about the supposedly joyless drone strikes during a well-remembered White House Correspondentsâ€™ Dinner in 2010. The then-president jokingly threatened boyband the Jonas Brothers with assassination should they make a move on one of his daughters. â€œBoys, don't get any ideas,â€ he said, â€œI have two words for you: predator drones.â€
It did not take long for Obamaâ€™s critics to express their outrage over the new book excerpt. He was accused of being â€œMachiavellianâ€ for signing off on drone strikes â€œfor optics.â€ Others were appalled by the idea that he would kill â€œto look tough.â€
â€œI'm sure [his comments] makes the families of innocent civilian casualties feel better,â€ another person wrote.
One person quipped that he had only â€œpretended to be into drone assassinationsâ€ so he would â€œhave something to talk about with the generals.â€