Joe Biden and Killer Strikes

The casual and deeply malevolent insult delivered to President Putin on television smacks of the hideous years of Trump.

President Joe Biden has been busy with domestic affairs, but not so occupied that he hasn’t had time to indulge in erratic attempts at international point scoring by adopting a stance and rhetoric regrettably similar to the “Make America Great Again” absurdity of his unlamented predecessor. Indeed he excelled himself on March 16 when in answer to a question in a television interview he insulted the head of state of a major nation.

The practice of insult by television interview is not generally accepted as an appropriate way in which to convey important national policy. In this case, the rudeness was rendered even more offensive by the off-hand manner in which it was delivered. The interviewer on the ABC programme said “So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he’s a killer?” And the reply by the President of the United States was “Mmm hmm, I do.”

President Putin decided to play his counterpart at his own game — although without descending to abuse — and observed in an interview that “We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are. And as a result we assess [a person’s] activities and give assessments.”

That is itself a rational assessment, because President Biden has indeed been a killer, and when he was Vice President to Barack Obama he supported all sorts of assassinations, including many by drones firing missiles in countries all round the world.

At the beginning of March the New York Times reported that “the Biden administration has quietly imposed temporary limits on counterterrorism drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefield zones like Afghanistan and Syria, and has begun a broad review of whether to tighten Trump-era rules for such operations, according to officials.” This could be a modest step forward along the path of adherence to international law as it affects combat activities within the borders of countries with which the U.S. is not officially at war — and as it affects the killing of people whose death sentences are decreed by a combination of intelligence operatives and political appointees at various levels.

The Times also noted that “as President Barack Obama’s vice president, Mr. Biden was part of a previous administration that oversaw a major escalation in targeted killings using remote-piloted aircraft in its first term, and then imposed significant new restraints on the practice in its second.” But it was during the second Obama administration that there was one particularly repulsive drone-targeting that caused the death of a totally innocent man. And Vice President Biden was one of the killers.

In June 2016 Strategic Culture published a piece in which I described U.S. assassination by drone, and in the context of President Biden calling other people “killers” it is interesting to reflect on what he supported five years ago. I wrote that:

On May 21 [2016] a taxi driver called Mohammad Azam was earning his tiny daily wage by picking up passengers who crossed the Iranian border into Pakistan. Sometimes he would take them only to nearby villages, but that day he picked up a client who wanted to go to the city of Quetta, eight hours drive away. He drove off in his Toyota Corolla, and a few hours later, when he stopped for a rest, the Pentagon’s Hellfires struck and blasted the car to twisted shards of metal — and reduced Azam and his customer to smoking corpses.

Azam’s passenger was the brutal Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, travelling under a false identity. His sought-for anonymity didn’t do him much good, however, because while he was in Iran or — more likely — when he was going through border crossing examination on the Pakistan side, a U.S.-paid agent planted a chip on him that could be tracked by the missile-shooting video-gamers.

Azam didn’t know Mullah Mansour and was not associated with the Taliban or any other such organisation. He was an entirely innocent man trying to earn enough money to feed his family — his wife, four children and a crippled brother who stayed with them.

But Azam was killed by the same U.S. Hellfire missiles that killed Mullah Mansoor.

The Pentagon stated that “Mansur has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict.” So they killed him. And they also killed the taxi driver Mohammad Azam.

If a person in a foreign country that can’t retaliate to drone strikes is declared an enemy of the United States there is no question of arrest, charge and trial. They are killed by a drone missile strike, personally authorised by the President.

And there was not the slightest objection by Vice President Biden who now, according to the Times, has ordered a “review of legal and policy frameworks governing targeting”, although, of course, this is still in “preliminary stages.” But no matter what the results of the review the stark fact is that the functions of judge, jury and executioner will continue to be exercised by the White House, just as they were by the team of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the killing of the Pakistani taxi driver.

There was yet another mass shooting in America on March 16 when some gun-toting loony in Atlanta, Georgia, killed eight people including six Asian-descent women, and it is intriguing that while meeting with leaders of Atlanta’s Asian-American community Mr Biden declared that Asians have “been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed. It’s been a year of living in fear for their lives.” It is ironic because President Biden, the person who abhors “killers”, has been complicit in the killing of many more innocent Asians than that crazed Atlanta gunman.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism records that during the Obama-Biden years (2009-2017) “a total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen… compared to 57 strikes under Bush. Between 384 and 807 civilians were killed in those countries…” The official figures are very much smaller, of course, and in July 2016 the Washington Post reported the White House as admitting that the U.S. “inadvertently killed between 64 and 116 civilians in drone and other lethal air attacks against terrorism suspects in non-war zones.” In other words, they actually admit, taking the smallest (and thus least believable) figure of deaths, that they killed 64 completely harmless people.

Let’s have no more nonsense from Joe Biden rotating on his shaky moral pinnacle. The casual and deeply malevolent insult delivered to President Putin on television smacks of the hideous years of Trump — as does the blatant hypocrisy of the Biden attitude concerning killer strikes. He should think about the orphans he created when he endorsed the missile attack on the entirely innocent Pakistani taxi driver, Mohammad Azam. Killers, anyone?