Fresh from a victory designed to forever keep the grisly details of all his extrajudicial overseas drone executions from the American public, President Obama has deftly pivoted away from his own hypocrisy by calling for a review of capital punishment here in the One Indispensable Nation.
That is because in the Land of the Free, as opposed to those anti-free "tribal areas," executions are open to the public, albeit by invitation only. And sometimes they don't go as smoothly and as silently as planned. The "botched" execution of an Oklahoma inmate is a case in point. The convict didn't oblige the State by going gently into that good night. It was not a clean, surgical strike. The guy suffered mightily under state-sanctioned torture. Witnesses were subjected to his impolitic lingering.
Death has a funny way of doing that to us sometimes, even in America, where we squeamishly like to keep our dead and dying under sanitized wraps.
The New York Times' Peter Baker is on it:
President Obama declared this week’s botched execution in Oklahoma “deeply disturbing” and directed the attorney general on Friday to review how the death penalty is applied in the United States at a time when it has become increasingly debated.
Whenever Obama is forced to concern-troll an issue that he would not otherwise touch with a ten-foot pole -- such as those extra-legal executions and NSA spying -- he suggests that we think deep thoughts, ask questions, have a debate... and, oh yeah, conduct the obligatoryWeighing in on a polarizing issue that he rarely discusses, Mr. Obama said the Oklahoma episode, in which a prisoner remained groaning in pain after sedatives were apparently not fully delivered, underscored concerns with capital punishment as it is carried out in America today. While reiterating his support for the death penalty in certain cases, Mr. Obama said Americans should “ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions” about its use.
Within hours, the Justice Department outlined a relatively narrow review focused on how executions are carried out rather assessing the entire system. But given Mr. Obama’s broader comments, supporters and opponents wondered whether he might be foreshadowing an eventual shift in position by the time he leaves office, much as he dropped his opposition to same-sex marriage in 2012.Wonder away, supporters and opponents. Comparing the president's championing of the right to marry (for political purposes) to his championing of the right to live (for humanitarian purposes) is like comparing apples to oranges. You simply do not "evolve" a conscience where none has previously been shown to exist. See: Presidential Kill List.
“In the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, you know, situations in which there were individuals on death row who later on were discovered to have been innocent because of exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.”But this is America, where we do still have trials by jury. People theoretically are given due process before being condemned to death. And if you are affluent and white, you even get all due deference. See: the Affluenza Defense. Outside the exceptional boundaries of the One Indispensable Nation of dispensable people, there's something called a Disposition Matrix. This is the unwritten law, dreamed up by the Obama administration, that proclaims that all men in the prime of their lives are considered guilty unless proven innocent ex-post mortem. And Obama has certainly never raised any "significant questions" about the possible innocence of those people. He has never ordered DNA testing on the human bugsplat staining the "tribal regions."
For now, Mr. Obama said his position had not changed.
By all credible accounts, Barack Obama is responsible for the mass killings of thousands of people. And transparent humble-bragger that he is, he has only seen fit to admit to the drone strikes against the four Americans targeted in his killing spree. Could it possibly be that he doesn't consider the lives of foreign "militants" (including children and wedding parties) as valuable or as concerning as the lives of American citizens? Is his campaign of extra-legal executions being "unevenly applied"?“The individual who was subject to the death penalty had committed heinous crimes, terrible crimes,” he said of the Oklahoma inmate. “And I’ve said in the past that there are certain circumstances in which a crime is so terrible that the application of the death penalty may be appropriate — mass killings, the killings of children.”
In a piece written for the New York Review of Books, David Cole notes that the Senate decision that excuses Obama from coming clean about his own filthy deeds comes on the 10th anniversary of that other public spectacle of cruel and unusual punishment: the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal:
To this day, the United States has not held accountable any senior official for torture inflicted during the “war on terror”—not at Abu Ghraib, not at Guantanamo, not at Bagram Air Force Base, and not in the CIA’s secret prisons, or “black sites.” President Obama has stuck to his commitment to look forward, not backward, and his administration has opposed all efforts to hold the perpetrators of these abuses to account. Indeed, the administration has classified even the memories of the survivors of torture in CIA black sites, now housed at Guantanamo, maintaining that they and their lawyers cannot under any circumstance even talk publically about their mistreatment.Otherwise, the consumer-spectators of America might get the unpleasant idea that war crimes are being both covered up and continuing, and that the people they elected to represent them are cold-blooded sadists and worse.
But, whatever. Let's have a debate. Let's conduct a study. Let's cover it up. Pick the red team, pick the blue team, and let's all go to the polls and pretend we're still living in a humane, democratic society.
Meanwhile, you can probably scratch Occidental College (Obama's peri-alma mater) off the list of potential presidential library sites. A gigantic satiric sculpture of one of his killer drones is currently on display at that California campus:
From the press release for the exhibit:
The centerpiece of "We Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust" is a full-scale model of a MQ-1 predator drone, and the public is invited to participate in its completion. Participants will use traditional methods to apply architectural grade mud to the surface of an industrially manufactured drone skeleton. In the dichotomy between the drone's form and its surface, the sculpture is intended to open a discussion about technology and foreign policy while inviting multiple propositions about cultural legacies and possible resistances in the era of global surveillance and warfare.(the sculpture was completed with the help of the public in March, and will remain on display in the center of the campus through this month)
With this project, Finishing School continues to explore its ability to make unwieldy political issues tangibly personal. For more than 10 years, the collective has employed various strategies to create environments in which a viewer/participant voluntarily enters into a relationship (usually an uncomfortable one) with an idea that has previously been regarded as an abstraction. At first glance the projects can appear to be light-hearted, as the collective generally uses an element of humor to disarm its audiences. Topics spotlighted by their work have ranged from corporate and government impacts on individual freedoms, to interpersonal hierarchies, and now to our relationship with the fastest-growing new technology wielded for civilian and military use.Wow. No wonder Barack high-tailed it out of there and fled to the elite Ivy League. President Transparency will not be going to an Occidental reunion any time soon, I reckon.