Human Rights / Politics / Revolution / War

Marjorie Cohn: Reframing US Foreign Policy

SAMSUNG CSCThis Tuesday, Marjorie Cohn spoke at American University on the topic, “Reframing US Foreign Policy” as part of Human Rights Awareness and Activism week. She is a professor of law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA, and has written on torture and incarceration, and most recently on drones and targeted killings in her newest book, “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”

In her talk this week, she discussed the myths surrounding US-led wars and examined US foreign policy in relation to human rights and democracy around the world. She was unrelenting in her attack on the Obama administration’s perpetual wars abroad, saying the world is Obama’s battlefield. While Obama has stated that “No country can maintain its freedom in the state of perpetual war,” that is precisely what he has been doing. In 2009, as Obama gave his acceptance speech for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he had already ordered more drone strikes in the first year of his administration, than Bush had during his entire two presidential terms.

Marjorie discussed Obama’s “Terror Tuesdays”, where he and John Brennan discuss their targets for assassination for the week. She discussed the Obama administration’s new and “creative” method to count militants killed versus civilian casualties – meaning that all military-age men killed in a drone strike – are considered combatants unless evidence explicitly proves otherwise after the fact. Kill first – ask questions never. This is what is called a “signature strike” – or striking suspicious compounds that follow certain patterns – often with no evidence of who in fact is being killed, also known as “crowd killings”.

What’s more – another common practice of the Obama drone wars abroad have been Double and Triple taps. A double tap is when a bomb is dropped on an area and when first responders rush in to help the survivors, another bomb is dropped. The triple tap is used during funerals of the dead from the first and second strikes. These drones are located thousands of miles from their targets. They hover thousands of miles over people on the ground, emitting a buzzing sound that horrifies people below. “The Buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death,” Marjorie said. The myth that drones are a surgical way to conduct counter-terrorism is false, she explained. They have been responsible for more civilian deaths than manned aircrafts and have now “replaced Guantanamo as the primary recruitment tool for militants.” Targeted killings carried out in countries abroad by the United States are the death penalty without due process, and in taking out civilians along with our “targets”, we are reinforcing the idea that Americans are somehow more important than the people of other nations. Marjorie asked – is it preferable that little Afghan or Iraqi children are killed in order to ensure that little American children will not?

Full video below.

<br /><a href=”; style=”font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px; font-weight: normal; text-align: left;” target=”_blank”>Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream</a>

Following the event, we held a small campaign to draw attention to what is going on in Bahrain – the capture and torture of thousands of political prisoners who are staging protests against the oppressive government – a government who is a staunch ally of the United States and hosts the US 5th Fleet. Photos below:



2 thoughts on “Marjorie Cohn: Reframing US Foreign Policy

  1. I attended this event and thought Marjorie was very impressive. I think its important for AU to have more alternative voices as opposed to purely Beltway establishment statist points of view. Just a critique of the presentation style, however. I would have preferred someone else on the panel as well. She spoke nearly nonstop for an hour without a breath.

    • So glad to hear you attended and enjoyed the event. I agree – we need these dissenting voices on campus much more often – especially being in DC.

      For the entire week of events, we tried to have more panels, however we couldn’t always get everyone we wanted for the events. We’ll keep that in mind for next time, though. Thanks for the feedback!

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