Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Vigilante President

The New York Times finally got around to revealing today that President Obama has given himself the right to kill people in foreign countries by targeted drone strikes. He and his henchmen apparently get together every week for "Terror Tuesdays" to decide who lives and who dies in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and any number of countries with whom we are not at war. I guess "Manic Mondays" would not have been in keeping with what The Times calls the cool, yet compassionate, way that Obama ultimately decides who will be executed.

From The Times piece:
It is also because 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.
It's hard out there for a vigilante. Just think how George Zimmerman must have felt when he noticed a black kid in a hoodie walking around his neighborhood. As he noted in his 911 call, "there's a real suspicious guy at Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he's up to no good."


Kat said...

Most excellent analogy.

Anne Lavoie said...

I lifted this from a commenter on Glenn Greenwald's piece '"Militants": media propaganda':

"Forthcoming: Child victims will be reclassified as 'future militants', mothers as 'militant recruiters', and the elderly as 'former militants'."

Jay - Ottawa said...

But, Karen, he is our king.

Denis, great link to the Medea Benjamin interview (at the end of the previous post). Benjamin lists a number of reasons for the disappearance of the noisy, principled peace movement.

Many causes are out of our hands, and we'll need big-time organizing to rebuild the peace movement. But one of the causes is always under our immediate, personal control. As long as leftish Democrats remain loyal to party -- or at least quiescent, accepting and ever hopeful about lesser evilism -- there will be no real Left left in the land, and therefore no peace movement springing forth from that. One more argument for thinking Third Party this time around.

As for the drones, we have a more subtle business to contend with. Drones are widely accepted as mere technology and don’t constitute full-blown “war” because, as everybody knows, war means boots on the ground. Case in point: no troops on the ground in Libya cleared the way for bombs away by NATO. There was no war there. And we're on the way out of Afghanistan.

Medea Benjamin: “The difference with drones is that drones make these wars possible. From being able to wage them without even having to go to Congress, because according to the Administration’s definition of war, war is when you put your own soldiers’ lives at risk. And since we’re not doing that with drones, it’s not war, it doesn’t have to be agreed in Congress. It doesn’t even have to be open to the American people. It can be carried out in total secrecy.”

So, peaceniks, give us a break. Casualties, chaos and destruction do not constitute war -- except for people on the receiving end; only troops on the ground amount to war. There is no war for you to push back against. That's why you keep falling on your face.

Bush and now Obama are gods. They possess the mythical power of Zeus to issue thunderbolts from the sky. And like Zeus, they answer to nobody.

Furthermore, after 9/11, antiterrorist activity above or below the radar, not to mention old-fashioned revenge, deserve a pass every time -- according to 8 out of 10 Americans polled on the matter.

The millennial lessons of statecraft are these: Our interests uber all others. Revenge is preferable to naivet√©. An eye (or more) for an eye. State-sponsored droning is not war, only murder, which is allowed in the case of nation states, if not to individual citizens. Power defines morality. We will win the just war (oops!) -- er, the noble struggle against terrorism, eventually. In the meantime, don’t make waves.

Kat said...

A lot of people up to no good on Wall Street...

Kat said...

Just want to clarify-- I wasn't advocating directing violence elsewhere, I've just grown so tired of what we consider a threat in this country.

Denis Neville said...

@ Jay – re: “But, Karen, he is our king.”

“Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their peoples in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was their object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."- Abraham Lincoln

The NY Times headline – “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.”

Hello? Nobel Peace Prize Committee?

What principles? Where is there any evidence that Obomber has any principles or will?

Why did Obomber chose the despicable John Brennan as the White House’s drone czar? “Behold the Lord High Executioner!” Scott Horton, http://harpers.org/archive/2012/05/hbc-90008629

What happens if the recent rapid increase of strikes in Pakistan and Yemen turn out to not solve the problem? What then? More strikes? Obomber’s drones, the recruiting tool of choice for militants. He is increasing the problem instead of solving it.

Hello imperial presidency!

Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch, introducing Andrew Bacevich’s “The Golden Age of Special Operations”:
“These days, from Somalia to the Philippines, presidential global interventions are increasingly a dime a dozen; and they are normally spearheaded by those special ops troops backed by CIA or Air Force drones. Few Americans even notice… Diplomacy? It’s so old school in such a sexy, new, “covert” war-fightin’ world... war American-style is heading back ‘into the shadows’ and it's going to be one roller-coaster of a scary ride…”

Barack Obama and special operations forces:
“John F. Kennedy famously gave the Green Berets their distinctive headgear. Obama has endowed the whole special operations “community” with something less decorative but far more important: privileged status that provides special operators with maximum autonomy while insulating them from the vagaries of politics, budgetary or otherwise. Congress may yet require the Pentagon to undertake some (very modest) belt-tightening, but one thing’s for sure: no one is going to tell USSOCOM to go on a diet. What the special ops types want, they will get, with few questions asked -- and virtually none of those few posed in public.”


Poll finds Obama’s counterterrorism policies, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party (liberal ‘lemmings’ headed off the cliff).


As James Madison said long ago, our nation could not trust to “parchment barriers” to halt the encroaching spirit of power. In the end, the Constitution would live only if it embodied the spirit of the American people.

Zee said...


“Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.” is a long article, and thus far I have only skimmed it. I've printed it off for a detailed read.

Still, I've gleaned yet more fascinating tidbits from the likes of an "administration official who has watched him closely" about who Obama really is versus the "transformative figure" that the Left thought it was electing.

At least with John McCain one knew what one was getting.

Better to be lucky than good, but even better still to have a mellifluous voice and the ability to read well from a teleprompter and to say with a straight face what everyone wants to hear.

Karen Garcia said...

Maureen Dowd worries about doomsday in her latest column. My comment as follows:

Within our lifetimes, a massive solar storm could knock out the global power grid for weeks, months or even years. That fearsome black hole could be closer than we think.

And while we're waiting, the immediate sky will be filling up with thousands of unmanned drones. The catastrophic possibilities are endless. But, we're told that drones will help cops and corporations, and will be only used to spy on us. You needn't fret about being precisely attacked unless live in one of those unstable countries. Pakistani and Yemeni children don't require Mayan doomsday bunk to get scared. Our leaders apparently feel no sense of their own evil when it comes to scaring the children of "militants" to death. Their Apocalyse is Now.

If that isn't scary enough, how about those oil companies headed toward the Arctic, right this minute, to drill baby drill -- even though they have virtually no safety or clean-up plans in place? Think of all that newly-released methane gas joining the already leaking methane gas from the disappearing permafrost, and raising ocean levels and global temperatures even more? Scary stuff -- but hey, it's an election year. And species go extinct all the time.

Reality is too hideous, so we might as well indulge in some escapism while we can. Just try to avoid Donald Trump's resurgence on every cable TV channel as you're searching for a Twilight Zone rerun. Maybe a fried electric grid wouldn't be so terrible after all.

Denis Neville said...

New mantra for the re-election of Obomba, "Kill, baby, kill"

If you're "probably up to no good," Obomba will kill you. It’s simple logic!

“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.” – NY Times Kill List article

Aren’t they saying the same thing that George Zimmerman said about Trayvon Martin? "Looks like he's up to no good."

From Robert Bolt’s "A Man for All Seasons":

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Zee said...


This does not relate to Karen's current thread, but I want to pass these thoughts and links along before I forget about them or get distracted, as I am often wont to do.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. has written a recent column which paints a vision of conservatism that parallels my way of thinking. Entitled “Conservatives Used to Care About Community. What Happened?” Dionne describes what I refer to as Thinking Conservatism.


Without a concern for community and some sense of a commonality of purpose, what disinguishes Americans as a people? We devolve to a collection of individuals, each with his/her unrelated—indeed, often competing—individual goals, who just happen to live in the same geographic location.

Today's so-called Conservatives have forgotten this. It is shocking—to me—to have
Dionne quote Michelle Malkin as saying that “ ‘compassionate conservatism’ and fiscal conservatism were never compatible.” While I have heard and read some of Malkin's commentaries in the past, it is amazing to me to learn that as a “fiscal conservative” myself, she believes that, metaphorically speaking, I have to cut out my own heart.

As all of you out there might suspect, I disagree with Dionne more often than not. But mostly in the details. I think that the following quote is Dionne at his finest when he describes an America as it should be:

“Because of the depth of our commitment to individual liberty, Americans never fully adopted this all-encompassing view of community. But we never fully rejected it, either. And therein lies the genius of the American tradition: We were born with a divided political heart. From the beginning, we have been torn by a deep but healthy tension between individualism and community. We are communitarian individualists or individualistic communitarians, but we have rarely been comfortable with being all one or all the other. --E.J. Dionne (Bold emphasis added.)


“For much of our history, Americans — even in our most quarrelsome moments — have avoided the kind of polarized politics we have now. We did so because we understood that it is when we balance our individualism with a sense of communal obligation that we are most ourselves as Americans. The 20th century was built on this balance, and we will once again prove the prophets of U.S. decline wrong if we can refresh and build upon that tradition. But doing so will require conservatives to abandon untempered individualism, which betrays what conservatism has been and should be.” --E. J. Dionne

I would also commend to all of you another, earlier op/ed piece by Dionne, which is in the same vein:


I found the link to a speech by Robert Taft to be especially interesting.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – re: “so-called Conservatives have forgotten concern for community and some sense of a commonality of purpose”

So-called “liberal” Democrats, for all their populist posing, have too.

Dionne is right about “the new conservatism, for all its claims of representing the values that inspired our founders, breaks with the country’s deepest traditions.” He could say the same about the pandering neo-liberals.

As Matt Stoller points out, “Growth of Income Inequality Is Worse Under Obama than Bush”:


According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the Pharisees that God commands us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Where are the compassionate conservatives? Where are the compassionate Democrats? Compassionate for whom? Banks, corporations, and other entities now endowed with personhood ? There is shockingly little compassion today. Does austerity trump compassion? Both parties could care less about community and commonality of purpose.

Or the American people for that matter.

Katherine Boo, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” writes:

“the slumdwellers rarely got mad together…Instead powerless individuals blamed other powerless individuals for what they lacked. Sometimes they tried to destroy one another. Sometimes they destroyed themselves in the process. When they were fortunate, they improved their lots by beggaring the life chances of other poor people.

“What was unfolding in Mumbai was unfolding elsewhere, too. In the age of global market capitalism, hopes and grievances were narrowly conceived, which blunted a sense of common predicament. Poor people didn’t unite; they competed ferociously amongst themselves for gains as slender as they were provisional. And this undercity strife created only faintest ripple in the fabric of the society at large. The gates of the rich, occasionally rattled, remained unbreached. The politicians held forth on the middle class. The poor took down one another, and the world’s great, unequal cities soldiered on in relative peace.”

Robama or Obomney?