Wednesday, June 6, 2012

President Obama's Kill List: Murder Incorporated Drones

Obama kills children. I meant to write on this last week but due to work requirements I had to table it. Let's get back to some serious questions. You may not have noticed it what with all the media's fawning over the President at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the President's oh so brave announcement that he supports gay marriage that made some people fall out in Messianic ecstasy or the sudden Democratic "discovery" and "shocked outrage" (just in time for the November election) that the US income and wealth distributions have continued to ever more sharply tilt toward the well off but the undeclared war of worldwide drone attacks that the President has sanctioned and directed has continued. It's worse than I thought and probably worse than any of us know. 

No, while Democratic partisans were girding themselves for holy war over the pressing issue of forcing the Catholic Church to underwrite birth control for middle class women, hunting out homophobic heresies among comedians and preachers or stating with a straight face that a federal mandate to give money to huge corporate insurers without price controls was actually a progressive position, the Obama Administration was taking the so-called war on terror (a term it avoids because Bush used it) to a level of lawlessness and violence undreamed of by President Bush. The most striking aspect of Obama's first term has been not the ugliness with which some low-information racist voters oppose him, but the extent to which Obama's policies around war and civil liberties have been a continuation, well really a degradation, of Bush programs. 

That's right. There may be some mild debate among the elites on homosexual marriage or abortion but when it comes to killing or spying on people without warrant, judicial or congressional oversight, this Administration fits perfectly with the previous one. You can vote for a Republican and get war or vote for a Democrat and get war. Yummy. What great choices we have in our duopolistic plutocracy.
The New York Times, which is generally supportive of President Obama, recently did an expose of the Murder Incorporated campaign which the President is personally overseeing in contravention of law and morality. It is quite lengthy but I strongly urge you to take some time, okay a lot of time, and read it here.
Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program. This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants. But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.

I am the law!
Did you get that? Everybody who looks like a terrorist is a terrorist so there haven't been many civilians killed because we only kill terrorists. The President said so. So it must be true. This is hogwash!!! The fact that a Black man is saying it doesn't change that fact. It shows how ridiculously premature and insane it was to give Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. But hey I'm sure that the families of those killed from afar by our brave philosopher warrior-king will take solace in knowing that their loved ones were either terrorists or up to no good. And it's not like the Third World is running out of people so what's the big deal, right? Every male we kill is a terrorist until someone can POSTHUMOUSLY prove otherwise. Hmm. Isn't that the EXACT same mentality of the NYPD supersized steroid gobbling thug who rousts, harasses or kills black men? You're black so you must be up to something. And even if you weren't doing anything wrong this time well let this arrest/insult/beatdown be an example to those who were. This is the mindset that is processing the Global War on Terror, uh excuse me Overseas Contingency Operation. 
But some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist “signature” were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official.  Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued. Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well. “We are not going to war with Yemen,” he admonished in one meeting, according to participants. His guidance was formalized in a memo by General Jones, who called it a “governor, if you will, on the throttle,” intended to remind everyone that “one should not assume that it’s just O.K. to do these things because we spot a bad guy somewhere in the world.”Mr. Obama had drawn a line.  But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when C.I.A. analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence.  And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory. Today, the Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. Officials say the criteria are tighter than those for signature strikes, requiring evidence of a threat to the United States, and they have even given them a new name — TADS, for Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes. But the details are a closely guarded secret — part of a pattern for a president who came into office promising transparency.
Future Terrorist Stopped!!!
Whoa Nelly... The Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. This is amazing. So we don't even need to know your name, what your alleged crime was or who you are. All we need is that some soft bureaucrat or politician without the stones to put his own life on the line gives an order, no doubt while munching on arugula salad or sipping decaf latte, and halfway around the world another human being is blown to bits. What a country we live in. How wonderful it is that a President's courage can be written down in the blood of other people's children. Historians will doubtless write admiring biographies detailing President's Obama's steadfast grim determination to stay the course in the face of absolutely no serious political opposition on this issue.

But hey he's a good guy because he's trying to get people to drive Volts and help women in their struggle for "reproductive justice". Perhaps this is just what President Obama had in mind when he said that after he was elected that this would be the moment when the planet began to heal. I think his idea of healing the planet and mine are somewhat different but what do I know. Maybe you really can bring peace to the world by dropping bombs on brown and black people you don't like. I had a much longer diatribe planned but this is long enough already. If you really think these actions are just fine there's not much I can write to convince you otherwise. I'll just make a few final points and stop since work beckons. 
  • Drone attacks on countries with whom we have not declared war are a particularly odious and dare I say cowardly way of conducting foreign policy. The Constitution lays out a clear road map to declaring war. I don't care what other Presidents did in the past. You either do the right thing or you do not. 
  • The US is setting a very very bad precedent here. Does the US think it's the only country with grudges to settle with so-called terrorists? Do you know the name Luis Posada Carriles? If you don't then you should. He is a terrorist with a very long history of violence against Cuban and Venezuelan people, including an airliner bombing. But as far as the US military and intelligence community is concerned, he was killing the right people so he is a popular fixture among the insane right-wing Miami Cuban-American community. Cuba and Venezuela would very much like to get their hands on him but the US has refused. Now what do you think would be the US response, what would be your response, if one or both of those countries started a series of drone attacks across south Florida, killing dozens or even hundreds of people until they got Carriles? And when the US protested, Cuba responded "Hey well, people knew who this guy was. The way we see it, anybody hanging around him was a terrorist so we won't lose sleep or apologize over what we did. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs so quit your crying."
  • The US is making more enemies than it is killing with these drone attacks. Again, what would you do if someone starting shooting at your relative's wedding because they had information that your second cousin twice removed was there. And he was a bad guy. But let's say your cousin wasn't there and scores of your relatives and friends and their children were wounded and killed. Chances are you wouldn't be in a joyous mood. In fact you might be so angry and desperate that you and some other like minded people would get together to plan a little payback. It might take a while. It might happen two decades later and then just like with 9-11 naive and historically illiterate Americans would wonder why "they" hate us. It's already starting to happen
  • It is of course I'm sure a mere coincidence that one of Obama's earliest big money contributors just happens to be the billionaire Lester Crown, a previous chairman of and primary stockholder in General Dynamics, which wouldn't you know, makes drones. How lucky Crown is then, that the politician he supported has increased demand for his company's product. 
The NYT story is only concerned with process and how this might play politically. The NYT is not that concerned with the number of children killed. If Bush or Cheney had been overseeing this program I suspect there might have been a different tone to the article. The ugly truth about this though is that the Times story not withstanding this system of extra-judicial murder and unsanctioned war is something that is deeply bi-partisan. Neither major party presidential candidate would stop this program. In my view, neither man is worthy of being President or has much use for either the Constitution or basic morality. Many people who got on their high horse and attacked President Bush over Guantanamo, torture, assassinations or cherry picked intelligence are quiet as church mice now that it's their guy sitting in the big seat. There are a few brave consistent souls, Ralph Nader for one or Jeremy Scahill, who have the integrity not to change their beliefs about murder, based on which party the President claims. Good for them. There's something rotten in America's soul when these actions pass without comment. Should we get a President Romney I don't want to hear a mumbling word from some snide slug of a delinquent Democrat who has, post-election, miraculously rediscovered his or her dedication to constitutional limitations on Presidential actions. Not. One. Word.
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure. If today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us' but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.'" -Abraham Lincoln
What's your take?
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