When the former president included a Boygenius track in his annual round-up, the group’s guitarist hit back on Twitter
When Barack Obama posts his summer playlist, as he does every year, people like to accuse him of having hired a PR team to curate it – as though it’s implausible that a middle-aged liberal who reads The New Yorker has heard of Mitsky, Kelela, Jorja Smith or whatever other universally acclaimed artist he’s claiming to like. Unfortunately for the former president, this year’s list has been met with a more serious charge. Lucy Dacus, of Boygenius fame, was less than thrilled at the inclusion of her band’s song “Not Strong Enough”, quote-tweeting Obama with the simple but damning riposte: ‘war criminal :(‘.
Throughout all the years that Obama has been posting his playlists, this is the first time that a featured artist has dragged him in response. It’s not, however, the first time that he has been accused of war crimes – Dacus follows in the footsteps of a long list of UN special rapporteurs and human rights organisations who have criticised Obama’s conduct in office. Does she have a point?
Dacus was presumably referring to Obama’s extensive approval of drone warfare, which remains one of the most controversial aspects of his legacy. During his presidency, he authorised the use of 563 drone strikes, which killed approximately 3,797 people. One of the first strikes the approved targeted a funeral in Pakistan, and ended up killing 41 civilians. The first drone strike he approved in Yemen, meanwhile, killed 55 people, including 21 children and 12 women, five of whom were pregnant at the time. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, it’s estimated that between 384 and 807 civilians were killed by drone strikes during Obama’s presidency – in large part because the administration failed to distinguish between militants and civilians.
Most controversial of all was the Obama administration’s use of ‘double-tap’ drone strikes, where a first round of attacks is followed up by a second, which targets rescuers and first responders (i.e anyone who arrives on the scene to help the injured). Several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, argued that this was a direct breach of the Geneva Convention, and could potentially meet the threshold for a war crime. Lucy Dacus is right, and she should say it!