The thousands of men, women and children who have been killed and maimed by the secretive and escalating Drone attacks overseas are finally getting some big-time attention from the mainstream press. The Washington Post ran an excellent and disturbing article on its front page yesterday. The gist is that lawmakers in Washington kind of know about the program, but are kind of not allowed to talk about it, because it's a big fat secret. Here's the part that sent chills up my spine:
Key members of Obama’s national security team came into office more inclined to endorse drone strikes than were their counterparts under Bush, current and former officials said.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former CIA director and current Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, and counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan seemed always ready to step on the accelerator . . .
The only member of Obama’s team known to have formally raised objections to the expanding drone campaign is Dennis Blair, who served as director of national intelligence.During a National Security Council meeting in November 2009, Blair sought to override the agenda and force a debate on the use of drones, according to two participants.Blair has since articulated his concerns publicly, calling for a suspension of unilateral drone strikes in Pakistan, which he argues damage relations with that country and kill mainly mid-level militants. But he now speaks as a private citizen. His opinion contributed to his isolation from Obama’s inner circle, and he was fired last year. (bold mine).
The New York Times, meanwhile, is hauling the Administration into court for its failure to be transparent about just how, who, what, where and why it kills civilians without so much as a press release, let alone due process. Glenn Greenwald surmises that Democratic partisans are loath to accuse the nice guy in the White House of rogue terrorism because doing so might give aid and comfort to Mitt Romney. But human rights and civil liberties organizations are ever so politely asking Obama what the deal is with these long-distance murders.
The White House isn't talking, but its close think tank partner -- The Center for American Progress -- is. In a stunning policy paper quietly published online just before Christmas,analyst Peter Juul writes that the drone attacks are indeed the new Obama Doctrine, the defacto foreign policy of the United States. Terror is being defined as leveraged diplomacy. Killing targets from afar is cheap, it's easy, it's fiscally responsible and it boosts the president's austerity bona fides during this second Great Depression. The public need not worry its pretty little head about what mayhem is being committed in our name. Writes Juul:
In 2011 President Obama crafted a new doctrine for the United States’ use of force, but this doctrine is more apparent in his administration’s actions than in his speeches. The new doctrine effectively removes counterinsurgency and nation-building as the main approaches to advancing American national interests and replaces them with partnering with allies and leveraging America’s unique, over-the-horizon military capabilities. This new approach reduces the burdens on the United States in terms of high military casualties and out-of-control military spending while playing to its diplomatic and military strengths.The war in Libya was the Obama Doctrine writ on a larger, "over-the-horizon" scale -- Qaddafi was taken out on the cheap, in less than a year! No American lives were lost either.
Regardless of the more controversial aspects of this approach such as drone strikes, President Obama has crafted a more sustainable way for the United States to use its hard power to advance its interests in the world.
It's called diplomacy, American-style. Speak softly and simply allow a grunt in a Nevada trailer to push a button. Pay no attention to the blowback, the resentment being fomented in Muslim countries for generations to come.
The overthrow of Qaddafi only cost the United States $1.1 billion, (Juul continues) with no American or NATO lives lost over the course of seven-and-a-half months. This compares with $1.38 trillion spent and 7,632 coalition lives lost in multiyear counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.Juul's muted cheerleading propaganda piece fails to mention the thousands of Libyan corpses -- including children -- left behind on the killing ground that no shiny American jackboots ever needed to touch. He also failed to mention the American journalists killed in the fighting. The main thing is the glorious fiscal responsibility of War the Obama way. Nothing to see on TV because as far as you're concerned, the Obama Doctrine does not exist. The Defense Dept and the CIA have been melded into one hypersecretive, coldly efficient hybrid agency. No guts, but plenty of glory for the White House Warrior.
The bellicosity of the mellow guy in the Oval is definitely becoming a political talking point. In a piece in today's Hill, Obama operatives are gearing up for a campaign in which the president will be sold as the "Warrior of the Middle Class" as well as the warrior who protects us from the ephemeral threats from abroad.
Part of the reason, opines Glenn Greenwald, that the Republican Party is plummeting over the right wing lunatic cliff, is that's hard to fight against a defacto Republican warmonger already esconced in the White House. In a Guardian op-ed piece, he writes:
A staple of GOP politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddling America's enemies (both real and imagined), being afraid to use violence, and subordinating US security to international bodies and leftwing conceptions of civil liberties.Indeed. Maybe this is what the Obama apologists had in mind when they theorized that he is the genius of all time and is simpling gaming the GOP in a marathon session of 11-dimensional chess.
But how can a GOP candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush's terrorism policies; waged a war against government whistleblowers as part of a campaign of obsessive secrecy; led efforts to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs; extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorised war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?