Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Black Comedy for Terror Tuesday

From the Department of the Unintentionally Hilarious comes this observation from Senator Lindsey Graham on President Obama's ballyhooed Pivot to Peace:
At the end of the day,this is the most tone-deaf president I ever could imagine, making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be attacked literally every day.
So here we have the top Congressional proponent of endless war on the global battlefield admitting that there is such a thing as blowback. And he actually wants it! By raining down drones from the skies, America is recklessly making itself a target for more terrorist attacks. Thanks, Lindsey, for speaking truth to power. You finally admit that we will stop getting attacked if we'd only stop attacking others. You even kind of admit that getting attacked turns you on. When you turn your country into a victim of The Other, it's so much easier for the real culprits of Corporate World to continue their stealth attack on the national economy.

 Lindsey's priceless quote is tacked on the very end of a very priceless piece by the New York Times' Peter Baker. The headline is In Terror Shift, Obama Took the Long Path.

A more apt title would be The Agony in the Rose Garden. Baker, with an assist from the usual high-ranking but anonymous White House propaganda sources, is jumping on the bandwagon of the latest PR campaign that portrays Obama as a Biblical Christ-like figure at war with his other self: the wrathful Old Testament patriarch of a deity.

"Revenge is mine" saith the Paternalist in Chief about the unknown militants targeted for assassination below his watchful eye.

"Let this drone cup pass from me", pleads Obama the Son, surrounded by his sleepy disciples in the Gethsemane of the Oval Office. "But let it be as you, not I, would have it." 

The only thing missing from the New York Times narrative are the bloody drops of sweat dripping from the presidential brow. His pronounced and vague sacrificial relinquishment of drone murder was "a pivot two years in the making," writes Baker. Talk about interminable spin -- this administration personifies it.
While part of the re-evaluation was aimed at the next president, it was also about Mr. Obama’s own legacy. What became an exercise lasting months, aides said, forced him to confront his deep conflicts as commander in chief: the Nobel Peace Prize winner with a “kill list,” the antiwar candidate turned war president, the avowed champion of transparency ordering operations over secret battlegrounds. He wanted to be known for healing the rift with the Muslim world, not raining down death from above.
Over the past year, aides said, Mr. Obama spent more time on the subject than on any other national security issue, including the civil war in Syria. The speech he would eventually deliver at the National Defense University became what one aide called “a window into the presidential mind” as Mr. Obama essentially thought out loud about the trade-offs he sees in confronting national security threats.
Rest assured that the anonymous sources revealing the secret gyrations of a tortured presidential psyche will never be punished under new whistleblowing guidelines, nor will Peter Baker's phone records ever be seized by the Department of Justice. This journalist is doing God's work, for God's sake, acting as the earthly conduit for the glorification of the powers that be. 

Current CIA Chief John Brennan is transformed by the Times into a John the Baptist figure, going forth into the desert last year to spread the drone message, pre-Obama's Sermon on the Mount speech. Barack had bigger loaves and fishes to fry, remember, worrying about getting re-elected at the same time he was having Terror Tuesday meetings to decide who'd live and who'd die. And because of grueling endless politics, he had to cast aside his inner gentle Jesus and become Big Daddy Deity:
While the agencies argued, Mr. Obama focused on winning a second term, boasting about the same aggressive approach he was privately rethinking. “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top Al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement,” he said in response to campaign criticism.
But here's where the latest White House propaganda narrative starts to fall apart from the weight of its own glaring inconsistencies. After all the supposed agonizing and hand-wringing on the pivot toward love and peace,  the Old Testament appears to be winning out over the New Testament (or, as the Obama Administration chillingly calls his latest gospel, Archive 2.)  The article continues, 
Ultimately, the president and his team decided to tighten the standard for striking targets outside overt war zones. Instead of being authorized for any “significant threat to U.S. interests,” drone strikes would be used only in cases of a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.” They would also be limited to cases with a “near certainty” of avoiding civilian casualties.
The C.I.A.’s opposition to shifting responsibility for drones entirely to the Pentagon resulted in a compromise: There would be a transition period for the program in Pakistan, which would be reviewed every six months to determine if it was ready to be moved to military control. Administration officials suggest that the transfer of the Pakistan drone program may coincide with the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
Translation: the devil is in the parsing. New Testament same as Old Testament. One hundred percent certainty that a drone victim is a bad guy is replaced by "near certainty". Meaning what -- 51 percent? Hellfire missiles raining down on Pakistan will gradually subside from a raging downpour to a steady shower? And anyway, the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014 is not going to happen. The bases, and the residual military "support staff" will stay forever.

And for all the talk about Obama's switching responsibility for the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon, those protected, anonymous White House sources assure us that the hand of God will still be in ultimate control:
The hawks may be grumbling about it, but that’s to be expected,” said a senior government official who supported the strategy shift. “This is a big change. But no one is screaming.”
The hawks proposed a change of their own, suggesting, as The Daily Beast has reported, that the president leave individual strike decisions in authorized areas outside overt war zones to the Pentagon and the C.I.A. But the White House rejected that. Mr. Obama felt those decisions were the president’s responsibility: he wanted to keep his own finger on the trigger.
Thank God for God. The exalted figure who meditates on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine before acting as judge, jury and executioner will be keeping his own finger on the trigger. Rather than repudiate the power of the president to disregard the Constitution, he simply put the kibosh on hordes of bloodthirsty professional spies and soldiers running amok with the joysticks. Father Knows Best. And without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, those same heartless creatures who voted down the triggerman's impassioned plea for gun control laws.

In the eternal internal struggle that is Obama, it looks like the murderous paternalist is here to stay, despite all the self-serving conflicted rhetoric. The Times piece concludes: 
Mr. Obama was also interested in instituting an independent review of how and when drone strikes would be conducted. Multiple papers were prepared and multiple options evaluated. Among them was a special court to oversee targeted killings, but the discussion became tied up in knots about how it would work. Would a judge have to approve such strikes in advance or after the fact? What about an independent board within the executive branch instead? Administration lawyers argued against surrendering presidential authority, and defense policy makers argued against giving up operational control.
That proved to be a debate Mr. Obama could not resolve. In his speech, he invited Congress to come up with ideas. He also thought it was time to review the authorization of force that Congress passed in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, and that has been the legal foundation for the war on terrorism. But after a two-hour discussion just days before the speech, he could not decide exactly how to do that, either.
Eventually, the president just decided to add one telling caveat to his aspirational message, the phrase that all politicians use when they want to placate the masses, yet have every intention of maintaining the status quo: Be Patient.

Change takes time, remember. Especially when the homeland is trying to be attacked, every single day.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Karen's probably in no rush to repost her outstanding comment of this morning (taking both Dowd and O to task for wasting their respective opportunities to say and do the right things). Again, without clearance from the person who owns the copyright, I rush it to the readers of Sardonicky.

The only people who care about President Obama's social skills or lack thereof are the denizens of D.C., whom the blogger Digby has derisively dubbed "the Villagers." These are the pundits, the lobbyists, the careerists, the hostesses, the movers and shakers, the hangers-on, the leeches.

A prime example of this scourge of insidery insularity is a piece in the Washington Post about the president's low-profile White House counsel -- and her envy-inducing designer shoe collection! Another article in "The Hill" dished about how bad the Republicans feel about being jilted by Obama. He shockingly never asked them out for another date at that fancy $100- a-plate restaurant!

When I first started reading this latest Dowd column, I thought it would be something substantive about the war on journalists. But sadly, it once again devolved into one more chapter in "The President's Analyst" saga. I wonder if she writes this stuff just to get a rise out of the reader commentariat.

What a huge, huge waste. Here we are, facing myriad crises -- climate change, the theft of entire economies by the predatory plutocratic class, millions without health care, one in five families in poverty, endless wars.

And yet every other column, it seems, we get served stale tripe on the endless ways that this president is not a party animal. I'd call it shallow, if not for the feeling I get whenever I read stuff like this -- that I'm stuck in a deep suffocating hole with no chance for escape.

Anonymous said...

I thought Karen's comment on Dowd's column today was terrific, as always. I was also heartened by the comments in response to Karen's. I don't much agree with David Underwood in Citrus Heights (or is it David Citrus in Underwood Heights?) but I thought there was a nugget of truth to what he wrote to Karen. And even more weight to Bill Benton's comment to Karen.
I agree with Karen that Dowd's was a wasted column in terms of the amount of space it took up, OTOH, I think Dowd's complaint is valid: Of Obama, it is fair to say, finally, after four years: this hound just don't hunt.
I'm not sure this hound ever wags its damn tail.

Anonymous said...

IRS scandal spreads:


Pearl said...

In regard to the report in the N.Y.Times and others of the killing by drone of Rehman, a top Taliban
commander in Pakistan, vague references about other people being killed as well but were buried in the ruins of a house, sidesteps whether or not and how many civilians may have perished in this latest exercise.

As well the following comment was made in that N.Y.Times report:

" Even as Mr. Obama said he was tightening the standards by which drone strikes would be allowed administration officials have said - anonymously -
that for months to come the C.I.A. will continue to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan under the more permissive standards used in the past."

The more things are supposed to change the more they remain the same or worse.

Denis Neville said...

People are sheep. Mainstream and social media are their shepherds.

“The moral impulse is unimpeachable. But republics and democracies exist only by virtue of the engagement of their citizens in the management of public affairs. If active or concerned citizens forfeit politics, they thereby abandon their society to its most mediocre and venal public servants.” - Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land


“Familiarity reduces insecurity, so we feel more comfortable describing and combating the risks we think we understand: terrorists, immigrants, job loss or crime. But the true sources of insecurity in decades to come will be those that most of us cannot define: dramatic climate change and its social and environmental effects; imperial decline and its attendant 'small wars'; collective political impotence in the face of distant upheavals with disruptive local impact. These are the threats that chauvinist politicians will be best placed to exploit, precisely because they lead so readily to anger and humiliation.” ― Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land

Tony Judt’s words on “the Strange Death of Liberal America” are even more relevant today:

“It is the liberals, then, who count. They are, as it might be, the canaries in the sulphurous mineshaft of modern democracy. The alacrity with which many of America’s most prominent liberals have censored themselves in the name of the War on Terror, the enthusiasm with which they have invented ideological and moral cover for war and war crimes and proffered that cover to their political enemies: all this is a bad sign. Liberal intellectuals used to be distinguished precisely by their efforts to think for themselves, rather than in the service of others. Intellectuals should not be smugly theorising endless war, much less confidently promoting and excusing it. They should be engaged in disturbing the peace – their own above all.” http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n18/tony-judt/bushs-useful-idiots