Trending Topics:

John Brennan, assassin

on 14 Comments

Brennan protest at White House
Brennan protest at the White House Monday, organized by Code Pink, photo by TCHallMedia

In October 2011, 16-year-old Tariq Aziz attended a gathering in Islamabad where he was taught how to use a video camera so he could document the drones that were constantly circling over his Pakistani village, terrorizing and killing his family and neighbors. Two days later, when Aziz was driving with his 12-year-old cousin to a village near his home in Waziristan to pick up his aunt, his car was struck by a Hellfire missile. With the push of a button by a pilot at a US base thousands of miles away, both boys were instantly vaporized—only a few chunks of flesh remained.

Afterwards, the US government refused to acknowledge the boys’ deaths or explain why they were targeted. Why should they? This is a covert program where no one is held accountable for their actions.

The main architect of this drone policy that has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents, including 176 children in Pakistan alone, is President Obama’s counterterrorism chief and his pick for the next director of the CIA: John Brennan.

On my recent trip to Pakistan, I met with people whose loved ones had been blown to bits by drone attacks, people who have been maimed for life, young victims with no hope for the future and aching for revenge. For all of them, there has been no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.

That’s why when John Brennan spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC last April and described our policies as ethical, wise and in compliance with international law,  I felt compelled to stand up and speak out on behalf of Tariq Aziz and so many others. As they dragged me out of the room, my parting words were: “I love the rule of law and I love my country. You are making us less safe by killing so many innocent people. Shame on you, John Brennan.”

Rather than expressing remorse for any civilian deaths, John Brennan made the extraordinary statement in 2011 that during the preceding year, there hadn’t been a single collateral death “because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Brennan later adjusted his statement somewhat, saying, “Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq.” We later learned why Brennan’s count was so low: the administration had come up with a semantic solution of simply counting all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.

The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented over 350 drones strikes in Pakistan that have killed 2,600-3,400 people since 2004. Drone strikes in Yemen have been on the rise, with at least 42 strikes carried out in 2012, including one just hours after President Obama’s reelection. The first strike in 2013 took place just four days into the new year.

A May 29, 2011 New York Times exposé showed John Brennan as President Obama’s top advisor in formulating a “kill list” for drone strikes. The people Brennan recommends for the hit list are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law. The kind of intelligence Brennan uses to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

In addition to kill lists, Brennan pushed for the CIA to have the authority to kill with even greater ease using “signature strikes,” also known as “crowd killing,” which are strikes based solely on suspicious behavior.

When President Obama announced his nomination of John Brennan, he talked about Brennan’s integrity and commitment to the values that define us as Americans.  He said Brennan has worked to “embed our efforts in a strong legal framework” and that he “understands we are a nation of laws.”

A nation of laws? Really? Going around the world killing anyone we want, whenever we want, based on secret information? Just think of the precedent John Brennan is setting for a world of lawlessness and chaos, now that 76 countries have drones—mostly surveillance drones but many in the process of weaponizing them. Why shouldn’t China declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an “enemy combatant” and send a missile into Manhattan, or Russia launch a drone attack against a Chechen living in London? Or why shouldn’t a relative of a drone victim retaliate against us here at home? It’s not so far-fetched. In 2011, 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus, a Massachusetts-based graduate with a degree in physics, was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison for plotting to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol with small drones filled with explosives.

In his search for a new CIA chief, Obama said he looked at who is going to do the best job in securing America. Yet the blowback from Brennan’s drone attacks is creating enemies far faster than we can kill them. Three out of four Pakistanis now see the US as their enemy—that’s about 133 million people, which certainly can’t be good for US security. When Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was asked the source of US enmity, she had a one word answer: drones.

In Yemen, escalating U.S. drones strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. Since the January 4, 2013 attack in Yemen, militants in the tribal areas have gained more recruits and supporters in their war against the Yemeni government and its key backer, the United States. According to Abduh Rahman Berman, executive director of a Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, the drone war is failing. “If the Americans kill 10, al-Qaeda will recruit 100,” he said.

Around the world, the drone program constructed by John Brennan has become a provocative symbol of American hubris, showing contempt for national sovereignty and innocent lives.

If Obama thinks John Brennan is a good choice to head the CIA and secure America, he should contemplate the tragic deaths of victims like 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, and think again.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of and, is author of the book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.


Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, is the author of The Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

14 Responses

  1. marc b. on January 9, 2013, 10:13 am

    i had previously linked a Der Spiegel (EN) article which provided some insight into the drone program. when one of the drone operators who was interviewed had noticed a child appear from behind a building just before a previously launched drone struck, he commented that they had apparently just killed a kid. in response, he was told, ‘no, that was a dog’. so much for the credibility of the statistics on collateral deaths. insane. absolutely insane. brennan et al can’t be so stupid as to not understand that these programs are counterproductive. (it would be too much, i know, to expect them to consider the moral implications of what they do.)

    • Woody Tanaka on January 9, 2013, 11:30 am

      These drone “pilots” are fools or scum or both, who should be shunned and spat upon. But they’re merely tools. People like Brennan, Obama and the like are the real criminals.

      • marc b. on January 9, 2013, 4:05 pm

        they are merely tools, some being sharpened since infancy. Exhibit A of the desensitizing effects of violent media, imo. i’d guess that the ‘pilots’ will be one of the next class of elevated suicides in the military once they start waking up to significance of what they’ve done.

    • radkelt on January 10, 2013, 12:30 am

      “brennan et al can’t be so stupid as to not understand that these programs are counterproductive”

      Why not consider Brennan et al as delusional pschyopaths?

      re: Ron Suskind “we’re an empire now, and we create our own reality” or something very like that.

      Perhaps the inmates have taken over the asylum!

      • on January 10, 2013, 3:25 am

        “brennan et al can’t be so stupid as to not understand that these programs are counterproductive”

        Not counterproductive. Producing exactly what Obama (=”et al.”) and his owners and handlers want to obtain. You can’t have endless war without making enemies.

      • marc b. on January 10, 2013, 11:28 am

        delusional pschyopaths?

        Producing exactly what Obama (=”et al.”) and his owners and handlers want to obtain.

        good points, both.

  2. pabelmont on January 9, 2013, 11:39 am

    ” He paused for emphasis as he spoke of the young people bleeding in the dirt and the mud when we go to war and said Hagel would be on their side.”

    I think this explains Obama’s love affair with drones. He hates killing “American boys”. He’s not aware of drones killing foreign kids. Or hides from it. Or thinks that most Americans don’t know or don’t care. Or thinks that the BIGs (BIG ARMS, here, BIG-ZION) don’t care. Or thinks you must be pro-war, but not pro-killing-American-boys.

  3. Mooser on January 9, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Funny, the only people Americans aren’t afraid to kill in person are other Americans.

  4. Kathleen on January 9, 2013, 3:10 pm

    Dr. Marcy Wheeler has been relentlessly covering the Brennan torture issue over at for months. She does the deepest research of any other blogger that I have ever read. Wish some of the so called liberal outlets would have Wheeler on as a guest to talk about this issue. But then again she said “blowjob” on David Schusters program. Where did he go anyway?

    • marc b. on January 9, 2013, 4:06 pm

      ‘blow job’? that’s not one of the seven deadly words, is it?

  5. Kathleen on January 9, 2013, 8:41 pm

    Emptywheel on John Brennan

    So much at her site on this issue

  6. kalithea on January 10, 2013, 12:43 am

    Look, the CIA is no better than a mob racket. Goodfellows was the Disney version of what the CIA does. The CIA has demonstrated nothing but total contempt for the law. So now, Obama taps the master of torture and chief executioner to head the government-approved Cosa Nostra. What could be more fitting in Wild West Shoot ’em up Americaland than to have an outfit that goes around the world killing, kidnapping and torturing headed by someone whose reputation as an executioner precedes him? The example of lawlessness for the masses is being set from the top down. The hypocrisy is staggering, and too many guns are but the tip of the iceberg as far as America’s culture of violence is concerned.

    The guy responsible for the tragedy in Newton was obsessed with the military and military video games. Somewhere out there some kid is enjoying what these CIA mobsters do and wants to be just like them when he grows up.

  7. Kathleen on January 10, 2013, 11:42 am

    16 year old Aziz and his 12 year old cousin “vaporized” by Obama’s drones. How old are Obama’s kids? One would think he would be able to be concerned. A racist war. 2600 to 3400 people in Pakistan killed by US drones in Pakistan. And somehow they can not come up with numbers of dead by US drones in Afghanistan, Yemen etc. Obama and team do not count the people that they kill. Learned that one from Bush and team. Act like they don’t exist and the MSM will follow suit. Don’t count the dead, don’t show pictures..that is all our military and government learned from Vietnam. Just don’t count the people that the US kills. Bradley Manning tried but we see what is happening to him.

    Great article Medea and thank you for all you do calling out US officials for crimes against humanity

  8. gazacalling on January 10, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Wow, this is a powerful and important post.

    There needs to be more shame, there needs to be more outrage.

    By neutering the left, Obama has been worse than Bush. At least everyone hated Bush, and he got slammed in the media. The press is so unbelievably compliant with Obama, it does a service to nobody.

Leave a Reply