AN essay published in Counterpunch bearing this title describes as surprising the official acknowledgement that the United States has had a program of selective assassinations for more than 50 years, drawing more attention now with the unprecedented use of drones, unpiloted remote-controlled warplanes, to attack different targets around the planet.
The fact that a list of people to kill exists, and is approved at the highest level of U.S. government, has drawn extensive media coverage, reflecting concern even among powerful sectors.
A Washington Post editorial noted that "No government has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals."
The New York Times described Obama’s role as "without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war…"
Former President James Carter insisted, in a recent guest column in The New York Times, "We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times."
The fact is that these long-distance homicides and selective assassinations with Presidential approval, have been taking place secretly for at least 50 years. The only novelty in recent revelations about hit lists, and the use of drones, is the openness with which they are discussed.
"Those who are mortified by the latest revelations of Obama’s hit lists have much to learn from a more comprehensive, historical perspective on U.S. killing around the globe," says Doug Noble, a long-time anti-war activist from Rochester, New York.
The author summarizes 50 years of massacres, selective assassinations committed by the U. S. in a piece including three sections. The first describes the lethal Phoenix program developed in Vietnam, which he describes as the original source of terrorist strategies and tactics used later. The second part is about the well-known kill lists of people in Latin America and those less publicized, targeting individuals on other continents. The third section addresses the resurrection of the Phoenix program in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in a growing number of countries with which the U.S. is technically not at war.
The Phoenix program was top secret when it was developed in 1967 by the CIA for use in Vietnam, intended to "neutralize" the Vietcong’s internal structure by assassinating South Vietnamese civilians suspected of supporting Vietcong fighters in the North.
Although then CIA director William Colby told Congress in 1971, "Phoenix is not a program of assassinations," he later admitted that its agents killed 20,000 people between 1967 and 1972. The My Lai massacre was just one of the program’s operations.
Noble describes the impact the program had on Latin America with a wealth of facts, showing how the U.S. intelligence community adapted Phoenix as the super-secret Project X. Phoenix methods were used in Operation Condor to assassinated hundreds of thousands of Latin American patriots. Organized crime, in practically all the countries involved, facilitated the gathering and exchange of information and collaborated in the repression of struggles and ideas opposing U.S. hegemony in the region. During the Carter administration, the implementation of Project X was halted because of alleged human rights violations, but quickly revived under Reagan.
Noble writes, "The U.S. drone killing program has come out of the closet. Those of us protesting U.S. drones for years have correctly focused on the use of drones as illegal, immoral and strategically counterproductive. We have abhorred the schizophrenic ease of remote killing, the uniquely frightening horror of a drone strike, and the unavoidable (even intentional) killing of countless civilian "terrorist suspects" in "signature strikes." We have also warned of the proliferation of drones in countries around the globe and of their procurement by U.S. police forces and border patrols, for surveillance and ‘non-lethal’ targeting."
The Phoenix program has gone global, contributing to the designation of the United States as an assassination nation.
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Thousands of civilians have been killed in drone attacks approved by the Obama administration.