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Monday, April 30, 2012

America's Third War of Covert Operations



"America's Third War" is the title of an article by Micah Zenko that can be found here. Zenko notes that democratic governments have a responsibility to keep citizens informed about their activities although he admits that some secrets that would compromise national security should remain secret. However in practice governments keep secret whatever they think might be politically damaging even though revealing what they are doing would not harm national security. Often "national security" is used as a cover to keep activities secret that ought to be known by citizens.

As well as employing targeted killings in Afghanistan and Libya where the U.S. has been involved in combat the U.S. has also attempted to kill targets in at least four other countries. Approximately 300 attacks have been made in Pakistan, 20 in Somalia, 30 in Yemen and apparently one in Syria. While most of these attacks are by drones, they have also used cruise missiles launched by ships and aircraft. Others are conducted by AC-130 gunships and special operations forces.

Estimates vary but around three thousand people have been killed in these attacks including Al Qaeda suspects and local militants plus an unknown number of civilians. These activities are what Zenko calls America's Third War. Unlike the Iraq and Afghanistan wars there has been little oversight or debate in congress about this war. There are no time lines ever discussed as to when it might end, no coherent strategy and no transparency.

Although claims are made that drone attacks are made only under very strict conditions there is no transparency that would allow this to be verified. In fact attempts to gain information are blocked on grounds of national security. Even the very existence of the Pakistan attacks are still not admitted even though everyone knows who is responsible.

The continuing policy of keeping citizens in the dark about the Third War is indefensible and contrary to the need for the U.S. government to be accountable. While keeping what is happening secret the administration nevertheless crows about its success as happened when Obama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan or Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. For more see the full article. That the Third War may be counter productive and produce virulent anti-Americanism and more militants never seems to be seriously considered.

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