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Although much attention has been paid to the technology of remote killing, the focus on drones has been in many ways a distraction, a surrogate for what should be a broad examination of the state’s power over life and death. Whether extrajudicial killings are carried out by drones or manned aircraft or special forces operators on the ground, the result is the same. Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination.

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As secret U.S. military documents obtained by The Intercept confirmed, the Obama administration as a matter of policy classified unknown persons killed in airstrikes as “enemies killed in action,” even if they were not the intended targets. During a five-month period in Afghanistan, for example, nearly 90 percent of those killed in one high-value campaign were not intended targets. Between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people, only 35 of whom were intended targets. All were labeled EKIA, enemies killed in action.