Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kill Lists for Dummies

The White House was so freaked out over the specter of a President Mitt Romney getting his hammy hands on its drone death program, operatives were frantically scrambling before Election Day to write an official handbook on the fine art of presidential murder. 

According to Scott Shane of the New York Times, Team Obama had planned to bequeath the secret tome to Romney in particular and future presidents in general, outlining the who, what, when, where, why and how of assassination-by-drone. The article did not say whether Barry planned to personally pass the volume to Mitt under cover of darkness on Inauguration Day, or just discreetly leave it behind in the executive throne room, wedged between copies of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

Two unnamed Administration officials leaked to Shane that there has been quite a bit of internal disagreement about whether executing people is the right thing to do. Therefore, they are still going ahead with their plans for a cover-their-ass rule book. But with the recent electoral victory, it will now be a leisurely process. After all, what's the hurry when the War on Terror is slated to go on indefinitely?

The planned codification of assassination by presidential fiat is not even a new revelation. The existence of a "Disposition Matrix" was leaked to the media right before Election Day. According to The Washington Post,
"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
Former CIA Director David Petraeus was effectively running the drone strike program as part of the spy agency's transformation into an unaccountable branch of the military; his ouster may serve to rein the attacks in somewhat, Shane theorizes.

Although President Obama officially refuses to even confirm the existence of the drone program, he's not above humblebragging about it in entertainment venues. As Shane notes, (without a trace of irony) Obama even went on Comedy Central's The Daily Show just last month to schmooze about it with Jon Stewart. Meanwhile, the writing of the Official White House Assassination Handbook is so fraught with anal retention that draft copies are being carried by hand from office to office. There will be no email trail, no mountains of evidence to furnish to nosy reporters and civil rights lawyers under the Freedom of Information Act. The president will continue on in his accustomed Orwellian doublespeak mode.

But if things start getting too dicey for him, what with the ACLU lawsuit and the looming United Nations human rights probe into the Kill List, perhaps he can have his fan base spring into action. He did just ask them to participate in his Grand Betrayal of safety net cuts, after all. Any day now, our in-boxes will be bombed with Obama for America drone bomb appeals. Just a few small edits to their last appeal should do the trick:


Karen --
Right now, President Obama is working with leaders of both parties in Washington to reduce the deficit in a balanced way  to codify clear standards and procedures for targeted drone strikes so we can lay the foundation for long-term middle-class job growth and prevent your taxes from going up. the inevitable destruction of the Bill of Rights to make you think you are safe from terror.
Your voice and action helped re-elect President Obama, and hundreds of thousands of you have already responded to our survey, which will help shape our next steps as well as justify giving myself unprecedented imperial powers. Thanks to your feedback, we're taking immediate action on one of your suggestions: keeping you informed in the dark about how the President is fighting for you by secretly killing Muslim males of military age so you can continue to talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. So here's the deal:
I believe in a fair shot and a fair shake. Deciding which militants to kill and which New Deal programs to obliterate will be given equal time. As I have made perfectly clear, all deaths will be approached in a balanced, bipartisan way. The elimination of both suspected militants and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is my mandate, as perceived by me and accepted by you via your votes.
 These problems are challenging, but they're solvable. In fact, the Senate has already passed bills to keep your taxes low and keep suspected enemies of the state indefinitely detained without trial. The House needs to pass it, and Congress should get it to the President as soon as possible to give both this President and future Presidents some utterly bogus legal cover.
There's a lot at stake. With your help complicity, we'll continue to move this country forward, trample on human rights, and trumpet American Exceptionalism the wide world over. Please forward this email and spread the word propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. Escape the Safety Net and become a Safety Nut for Obama!
Yes, I am exaggerating. But don't discount some form of public disinformation campaign coming down the pike pretty soon. The only thing holding Obama back is the supreme difficulty of spewing propaganda over an illegal policy he wants you to blindly accept without even acknowledging its very existence. He wants you to believe he cares about due process even as he willfully disdains it. Said a very Orwellian Obama to CNN last month:
Our most powerful tool over the long term to reduce the terrorist threat is to live up to our values and to be able to shape public opinion not just here but around the world that senseless violence is not a way to resolve political differences. And so it’s very important for the President and for the entire culture of our national security team to continually ask tough questions about, are we doing the right thing? Are we abiding by rule of law? Are we abiding by due process? And then set up structures and institutional checks so that you avoid any kind of slippery slope into a place where we’re not being true to who we are.
 One of the most chilling aspects of the drone program is that the administration has decreed that all military-age males are presumed to be terrorists unless they are proven innocent.... post-mortem! Since the Kill List does not even officially exist, the White House is conveniently under no obligation to investigate, let alone apologize to, the hundreds or thousands of "collaterally damaged" human beings who've have the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As other commenters have pointed out, the blowback from the victims and their relatives is a matter not of if, but of when. Make no mistake. Our own government is waging a campaign of state-sponsored terrorism. We have become what we claim to abhor. Lecturing other countries about their own human rights records is no longer even an option.

This White House leak to the media of the planned codification of its drone assassination policy for the edification of future presidents  is a pathetic attempt to justify the unjustifiable.



Denis Neville said...

War is a racket… the U.S.A. is on the forefront of robotic weapons.

The Army’s Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS) is the latest development in miniaturizing drones. The Air Force’s “micro-aviary” is developing small aircraft modeled on insects and tiny birds for spying. When an adversary is found, the Army wants to kill it quickly.

Drones are precursors to killer robots, weapons systems that can kill on their own with no human in the loop.

What is the role of the human from a moral and ethical standpoint? To a robotic system, a school bus and a tank are the same - merely algorithms in a program - no sense of ends, ways and means, no need to know why it is engaging a target.

“Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.” - Isaac Asimov, Foundation

War races on towards a Terminator-like reality…the future war between humanity and machines…in which humans are hunted by robotic killing machines

Human Rights Watch, “Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots,” on the need to ban fully autonomous weapons systems, before it's too late:

“The Master created humans first as the lowest type, most easily formed. Gradually, he replaced them by robots, the next higher step, and finally he created me, to take the place of the last humans.” - Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

Anonymous said...

And consider 'terrorist'. To many, SNL would fit . Certainly Carlin would have fitted the bill to many more. The Republicans love the phrase 'The Enemy Within'. The mechanism is in place. All there is left is an expansion of the definition.

4Runner said...

Beyond DR.ONE himself, there is strong Congressional support for future droning. Check out the 58-member "Unmanned Systems Caucus"--they even have a fancy website--who have strong PAC support for globalizing the drone industry while increasing its share of the Defense budget. BTW a retiring member of that caucus is rape expert Todd Akin.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Has anyone else noticed that the letters of the word "ethics" can be rearranged to spell "ce shit", and vice-versa? (Apologies to L'Académie française).

And that rearrangement is what the technocrats of the pentagon, the corporations affixed to its teats, and our quintessentially cool president have done. They have taken human-directed drone-implemented assassination in foreign lands — which is warfare, no matter how you slice it — and redefined/rationalized it as an ethical means of eliminating those they have defined as the enemy. Never mind that their pseudo-legalistic procedures for defining an enemy actually have no real judicial basis. Never mind that the collateral damage produced by drone strikes is real, with flesh and blood and radicalization consequences. Never mind that warfare that can be undertaken with no human danger or consequences to one side is an activity that can be engaged in without restraint, and even without any genuine justification. Never mind that these current drones will serve as segue to even more immoral/amoral autonomous ones. In the Orwellian minds of our politicians and military-industrialists — and unfortunately, also in the minds of much of the public — many of these issues are simply of no consequence.

As I see it, there are two possible forces that might correct that: blowback, particularly corporate economic, and/or a cost rebellion by taxpayers. (Foreign terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens, their preferred modus operandi, are paradoxically counterproductive because they mobilize U.S. popular anger). If U.S. projection of power when/where/how we shouldn't be doing it begins to produce sufficient blowback, either in the form of economic consequences to specific U.S. corporate interests or the economy as a whole, or if taxpayers finally understand the opportunity costs of U.S. militarism — whether that militarism is carried out by poorly-paid soldiers who nevertheless are costly to support (and "repair"), or high-tech drones that are costly to purchase, maintain, and repair — then we might begin to see some genuine rationality and restraint emerge with regard to how this nation seeks to protect its security.


In other matters: Karen and the commenters here have really been outdoing themselves lately. My own additions here have been rather irregular, but Karen's posts and the discussions have often been more filling than a multi-course Thanksgiving dinner! And I give thanks for that.

James F Traynor said...

I was the "Anonymous" above. Don't know how that happened - ticked the wrong circle I guess. This whole drone thing is really getting out of hand. They're already planning for armed, domestic police drones.

Outsida said...

Contrast the reaction to President Morsi's power grab in Egypt to the reaction to President Obama's ongoing power grabs that are in obvious violation of our Constitution: *crickets*

Here in the USSA, both major political parties AND the Supreme Court are complicit in creating a dictatorship. It must be the Law of Conservation - when one country loses a dictator, another one has to develop one.

Obviously Egypt has a far better participatory democracy, if not a better government - at least their Supremes are objecting.

Zee said...

The use of drones by civilians, that is, non-military, non-law enforcement persons and entities, has started now, too.

Here's one example:

Pretty soon our neighbors will be using drones to spy on us in our outdoor hot-tubs on summer evenings.

(Please note that I condemn live pigeon shoots. That's not hunting and it's not sporting. It's needless killing. This is just an example of civilians spying on civilians.)

Outsida said...

President Constitutional Law Professor shreds the Constitution without hesitation or compunction.

President Community Organizer throws all his supporters under the bus after winning his election.

President Peace 'humbly' accepts the Nobel prize then surges the violence in Afghanistan and in at least 6 other countries. (Who nominated him anyway, David Axelrod? They obviously did a terrific sales job.)

President Peace also develops a Kill List and assassinates American citizens as well killing and terrorizing multitudes of innocent foreign civilians.

President Christian engages in actions that are totally contradictory to Christ's teachings while piously cloaking himself in that mantle.

President Most Transparent has the most prosecutions of whistleblowers, the most state secrets, the most classifed information, etc. of any administration ever. Oh, and the best propaganda machine to convince us not to believe our lying eyes.

He is definitely a person who, judging by his actions, is the complete opposite of who he claims to be, yet makes a skillful and herculean effort to hide it or convince us otherwise.

Some Christians would call that the Anti-Christ. His supporters just swoon and call him Mr. President. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Who really IS this man?

spreadoption said...

@outsida. Thank you for that wonderful way of defining our President! You've summed it up.

I wish to add, President Healthcare. If I hear one more person say how extraordinarily great that guy is for "giving" healthcare to 30 million more Americans, I'm gonna throw up. There is nothing affordable about it; it was designed as a gift (bailout) to the insurance industry; but what a sales job that was, too.

Yes, "Who really IS this man?" How 'bout, a psychopath? Wait... it's not so far-fetched. Just in the last few days I've read a few articles in CounterPunch about psychopathy. We usually think of Charles Manson-types but new understanding supports the idea that there is a spectrum and at the other end are what might be called "successful" psychopaths. These are individuals who cover their evil nature with exceptional social skills. Many would be described as charismatic. Chief hallmarks of the disorder are extreme narcissism, greed, lack of compassion or remorse, coupled with an ease in lying (see, flip-flopping). Examples given are every President from LBJ to GWB (excepting Carter?), with W and the wannabe Rmoney being the best-in-kind. Include also many Republicans, Wall Street players, and corporate executives, and of course, the very wealthy.

Given his intelligence and his stealthy ways, could it be that our President Wonderful is the most nefarious of all?

Jim - South Florida said...

A process of normalization is underway. PDs are planning to use spy drones here in the States. From there, it's a short step to arming them.

Autonomous robots are portrayed as more ethical, as they have no emotions. The machine instructs the operator. You have to be devoid of emotion to fire a missile at a crowd of people whose alleged crimes are unknown to you.

We've been at war in Afghanistan since 2002. More than 10 years. Yet the war receives scant coverage; the peccadilloes of generals get more column space. War is becoming a mechanized abstraction, as noteworthy as a traffic light.

I try to keep abreast of the war, and bring it into conversations whenever possible. That makes others uncomfortable, which is right and proper.

Even the hysterical tabloid Pravda understands more than most Americans, though I'd hardly agree Obama's a communist:

"Recently, Obama has been re-elected for a 2nd term by an illiterate society and he is ready to continue his lies of less taxes while he raises them. He gives speeches of peace and love in the world while he promotes wars as he did in Egypt, Libya and Syria. He plans his next war is with Iran as he fires or demotes his generals who get in the way."

Obama's Soviet Mistake

Anonymous said...


Regarding your interest on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you might like:

A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Mark Tessler

Milt Gustafson

Zee said...

@Milt Gustafson--

Thanks for the book title. I will have a look at it.