Barack Obama didn't even find it necessary on Thursday to utter the word "drone" to explain how an American aid worker and an Italian aid worker died in Pakistan early this year. He didn't have to mention the countless thousands of others, known alternately as "collateral damage" or "suspected militants" whom he has killed over the years, because Congress has kindly decreed he needn't ever divulge their names or the grisly details. He will, however, nobly accept "full responsibility," cut a check or two, and move on.
And move on he did. Regrets, he had a few, but then again too few to mention. Because by afternoon, he was the center of hilarious attention at another White House event honoring the Super Bowl champs. Far from feeling deflated after his wooden apology (described as anguished and heartfelt by media sycophants) to his victims' relatives, he cracked jokes for eight straight minutes with the ballers who brawl both on and off the field. He devoted at least twice as much time regaling players and sports fans as he did explaining his drone kills to the hostage families and to the rest of us.
Within the space of a few short hours, Obama went from this:
They don't call him the chameleon for nothing. He himself did once warn us that he was naught but a blank slate upon which we could pin all our hopes and dreams. So stop complainin' and lookin' blank, citizens, and eat your peas.
We've haven't played Parse-a-Prez for a awhile, have we? So let's give it another go, beginning with the Sad Obama character:
This morning, I want to express our grief and condolences to the families of two hostages. One American, Dr. Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, who were tragically killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation.Right off the bat he absolves himself of any real blame by using the weasely passive voice. Predator drones launched on his personal orders deliberately smashed a group of human beings to smithereens in an act of state-sponsored murder. It was not a "tragedy." It was another war crime, hideously euphemized by Obama as an "operation."
Warren and Giovanni were aid workers in Pakistan devoted to improving the lives of the Pakistani people. After Warren was abducted by al Qaeda in 2011, I directed my national security team to do everything possible to find him and to bring him home safely to his family. And dedicated professionals across our government worked tirelessly to do so. We also worked closely with our Italian allies on behalf of Giovanni, who was kidnapped in 2012.Weinstein's widow begs to differ with the condolator in chief. She is not shy about accusing the government of doing bupkis to find her husband and secure his release.
Since 9/11, our counterterrorism efforts have prevented terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives both here in America, and around the world. And that determination to protect innocent life only makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us. Based on information and intelligence we have obtained, we believe that a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accidentally killed Warren and Giovanni this past January.That is pure bullshit of course. His efforts, aka bombings, have caused mayhem and fear among innocent families. His efforts have helped destabilize vast swaths of the Middle East, most recently in Yemen, which is now being pounded by Saudi Arabia, Obama's authoritarian BFF and buyer of expensive American killing machines. Obama is especially pained by having to deal with the deaths of two hostages, because it proves he and his team have no earthly idea who it is they're targeting. Their advanced technology was unable to detect the presence of the prisoners. They had no clue that prisoners are often kept in compounds.
It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes -- sometimes deadly mistakes -- can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.Shit happens, but we wipe our asses with expensive toilet tissue, wash our hands, and move on. Because we're exceptional imperialists. Because we can get away with it. "America" is not perfect, but the cartel running the place surely must be.
Today we join their families and friends in honoring Warren and Giovanni -- two humanitarians who came from different countries but who were united by a spirit of service.....
I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat. All right, all right. That whole story got blown a little out of proportion.Bugsplat, drones, get it?
Uhhhh.... What's that you say? I got a little ahead of my skis and careened right into Obama's next speech by passive mistake? Ooops. Well, I do extend my regrets and accept full responsibility for mistakes that were made in the fog of blog. But let's turn the page, look forward, move on to Happy Obama:
All right, all right. That whole story (Deflate Gate) got blown a little out of proportion. All right, where were we? Here’s what makes the Patriots the Patriots. Even in the midst of a huge distraction, during the biggest media circus of the sports year, they stayed focused. As coach Belichick would say, it was simply on to Seattle.(Obama can so relate to not letting blowback and distractions ever get in his way. He has that preternatural ability to flit from place to place, mood to mood, persona to persona.)
"Gronkowski just being Gronkowski. He’s not making rabbit ears back there. I told him to keep his shirt on. He asked me what would happen if he took it off. I said, ‘Secret Service probably wouldn’t like it.’ He said, ‘What could they do to me?’I got two words for you guys: Predator Drones. Or maybe Colombia hookers. Heh heh heh.
Obama was making an inside joke about the Secret Service's alleged lack of humor. At last month's annual off-the-record Gridiron Dinner, which Obama headlined, male reporters, aka media personalities, dressed as Colombia prostitutes and sang "We're Not Watching You" to the tune of "Every Breath You Take." The props included a White House fence and a drone flying overhead.
The Secret Service was not amused at being turned into a complete laughingstock, apparently. From the Washington Post:
In a letter obtained by the Loop to Gridiron President Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, the trade association that represents the Secret Service let known its displeasure.I guess they didn't get the message that they are merely the help, and that although Obama proclaimed himself very angry in public about the prostitution scandal, his mood swung violently back to hilarity at the private dinner as the prostituted reporters played prostitute and thumbed their noses at the cops tasked with guarding official government hides. It was all in such good fun. There was absolutely no danger of the courtier press getting shot. They are too indispensable to the status quo.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association “understands a good joke,” wrote Jon Adler, the group’s president. “But the jokes concerning the Secret Service’s recent issues came off lowbrow and unappreciated by our Members working at the dinner.”
We are so exceptional. God Help America.
*Update, 4/24: Scott Shane of the New York Times has written a pretty chilling analysis of Obama's drone program. Or should I say his drone addiction:
Shane offers no evidence, nor any names of the hundreds of dangerous militants, defined in a secret document called the Disposition Matrix as any male of military age.The drone’s vaunted capability for pinpoint killing appealed to a president intrigued by a new technology and determined to try to keep the United States out of new quagmires. Aides said Mr. Obama liked the idea of picking off dangerous terrorists a few at a time, without endangering American lives or risking the yearslong bloodshed of conventional war.“Let’s kill the people who are trying to kill us,” he often told aides.By most accounts, hundreds of dangerous militants have, indeed, been killed by drones, including some high-ranking Qaeda figures. But for six years, when the heavy cloak of secrecy has occasionally been breached, the results of some strikes have often turned out to be deeply troubling.
This is an article designed to show that Obama is human and is doing some heavy soul-searching. Once it becomes evident that "everyday Americans" still don't care, the story likely will be sucked down the memory hole. My published comment:The president’s announcement on Thursday that a January strike on Al Qaeda in Pakistan had killed two Western hostages, and that it took many weeks to confirm their deaths, bolstered the assessments of the program’s harshest outside critics. The dark picture was compounded by the additional disclosure that two American members of Al Qaeda were killed in strikes that same month, but neither had been identified in advance and deliberately targeted.In all, it was a devastating acknowledgment for Mr. Obama, who had hoped to pioneer a new, more discriminating kind of warfare. Whether the episode might bring a long-delayed public reckoning about targeted killings, long hidden by classification rules, remained uncertain.
Will the revelations of the botched drone strike cause a great national soul-searching? That's highly doubtful.
The majority of polled Americans don't care about the deaths and maimings of people living in "tribal areas." The xenophobia and fear-mongering blasting nonstop from Fox and CNN have been highly effective in normalizing signature strikes against persons both unknown and unknowable.
Within hours of delivering his apology for the "mistakes that were made in the fog of war," Obama was laughing it up at another White House event honoring the Super Bowl champions. He spent at least twice as much time cracking jokes and regaling the audience and the media as he had expressing his regrets to the families of the dead hostages. He even joked about what the Secret Service might do to a player if he took off his shirt.
Tasteless, arrogant, ruthless and sick.
No scandal, no consequences for Oval Office Murder, Inc. Because it was almost a year ago that the Senate quietly stripped an intelligence bill provision that would have required the president to supply the names and other details of everybody killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. James Clapper complained that such transparency would undermine the effectiveness of what they euphemize as "operations."
Well, so much for the vaunted therapeutic surgical precision of the Kill List. I am surprised they didn't also joke that although the operation was a success, the wrong patients died.