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Today in Secret (and Not so Secret) Wars

While the US may actually withdraw from Iraq, the government is out today threatening to turn one of their undeclared wars into an explicit one.

The Obama administration has sharply warned Pakistan that it must cut ties with a leading Taliban group based in the tribal region along the Afghan border and help eliminate its leaders, according to officials from both countries.

In what amounts to an ultimatum, administration officials have indicated that the United States will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply.

The message, delivered in high-level meetings and public statements over the past several days, reflects the belief of a growing number of senior administration officials that a years-long strategy of using persuasion and military assistance to influence Pakistani behavior has been ineffective.

White House officials and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta are said to be adamant in their determination to change the approach, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about internal administration deliberations.

I’m trying to figure out how this isn’t a threat of unilateral war. The US is vowing to unilaterally pursue and kill people in a foreign country. Just because we’ve been doing this in an undeclared way for so long doesn’t mean that it’s not an act of war when you declare it.

Speaking of undeclared wars, numbers 4 and 5 get a mention today in the WaPo:

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The President is speaking right as I write this at the United Nations, talking about the need to work colelctively to pursue peace. At the same time, his government is assembling a drone army to unilaterally hunt down and kill, without trial, foreign citizens – in a few cases, US citizens – in foreign countries. And we’ve become so desensitized by a decade of war without end, that we say almost nothing about it.

The money spent on this, for some reason, never enters our discussions about the deficit.

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David Dayen

David Dayen