Ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's Monday night speech to outline his strategy for the 16-year-war in Afghanistan—which reportedly will be "a total abandonment" of his campaign promises and "a continuation of a failed strategy taken by his two predecessors"—journalist and foreign policy expert Jeremy Scahill argues that under Trump, "very little has changed" with regard to how the CIA and U.S. military operate.
Writing for The Intercept Monday afternoon, Scahill details the president's strategy so far:
Covert operations continue unabated throughout the Arab world and, increasingly, in Somalia. The U.S. remains in Iraq and Afghanistan and is becoming entrenched more deeply in Syria. If anything, the military and CIA are less restrained and are in greater control of decisions—that arguably create policy rather than implement it—than they were under Obama. And civilians are being killed at a greater rate under Trump, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
Scahill warns that the policies of Trump's predecessors—and that "he has surrounded himself with generals who have spent their lives studying and preparing for war and know how to marshal the resources needed for overt and covert campaigns"—have positioned the president to continue empowering "the unelected national security apparatus," while much of the public and media remain distracted by the constant spectacle he and his advisors continue to create in the White House.
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Pointing to mounting speculation that the president may resign or be forced out early, he writes, "Trump may not finish his term as president, but the CIA and the Pentagon will."
In the wake of 9/11, former President George W. Bush emboldened the Joint Special Operations Command to undertake covert operations, and the CIA to develop black sites for torture, which was followed by former President Barack Obama—through White House-approved drone strikes in nations such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia—working "to legitimize assassination and covert offensive military actions as lawful, moral, and necessary," Scahill writes.
"The Obama administration, by institutionalizing a policy of drone-based killings of individuals judged to pose a threat to national security—without indictment or trial, through secret processes," Scahill adds, "bequeathed to our political culture, and thus to Donald Trump, a policy of assassination."
Although debates about modern warfare often revolve around concerns about advancing techology, such as drones, ultimately, he writes, "drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination."