Monday, July 11, 2016

The Violence of the Elites

While the ruling establishment cries that its beloved country is falling apart, what with police officers shooting citizens, an Army veteran shooting police officers, and people taking to the streets in protest across the nation, the leader of the free world still has his own capitalistic priorities very much in order.

Dallas or no Dallas, police brutality or no police brutality, crisis or no crisis, there was no way in hell that President Obama was going to cut his war-mongering trip to Europe one day shorter than he already had to.

Belying the New York Times' headline that he is "brooding over the interminable wars of his presidency," a very ebullient Obama boarded a state-of-the-art naval destroyer in the sunny Mediterranean to inspect the troops and gloat over American exceptionalism. No matter that people were being tragically and graphically gunned down stateside on live TV. As Mark Landler drily reports:
“That’s pretty impressive,” Mr. Obama said to Petty Officer Second Class Garrett Nelson, after the sailor told his commander-in-chief about the accuracy of a five-inch, 54-caliber gun mounted on the ship’s foredeck. “That’s better than I do at skeet shooting.”
Mr. Obama’s advisers fought to keep this stop on his five-day trip to Spain and Poland, even after he decided to cut the trip by a day and return home on Sunday to deal with the deadly shootings in Dallas. Sightseeing in Seville, as the president had planned to do, was easy to skip; surveying the military hardware in Rota was not.
You see, there is state-sanctioned violence for profit, and then there is the unsanctioned violence that doesn't make nearly enough money for the very rich and the very powerful. (OK, except for the gun manufacturers and their NRA lobbyists.) Before returning home to "deal with" Dallas, Obama had to complete some very important deal-making in Europe on behalf of military contractors and manufacturers. A thousand more permanent troops in Poland, the retention of more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, and the addition of 500 more pairs of "boots on the ground" in Iraq are just the parts they're bothering to tell us about.The fact that an Afghanistan war vet shot an Iraq war vet in Dallas - bringing the war back home - seemingly didn't even enter into their thought processes.

Henry Giroux describes the pathological idiocy perfectly:
In the increasingly violent landscape of anti-politics, mediation disappears, dissent is squelched, repression operates with impunity, the ethical imagination withers, and the power of representation is on the side of spectacularized state violence. Violence both at the level of the state and in the hands of everyday citizens has become a substitute for genuine forms of agency, citizenship, and mutually informed dialogue and community interaction.
 What we are observing is not simply the overt face of a militarized police culture, the lack of community policing, deeply entrenched anti-democratic tendencies, or the toxic consequences of a culture of violence that saturates every day life. We are in a new historical era, one that is marked a culture of lawlessness, extreme violence, and disposability, fueled, in part, by a culture of fear, a war on terror, and a deeply overt racist culture that is unapologetic in its disciplinary and exclusionary practices. This deep seated racism is reinforced by a culture of cruelty that is the modus operandi of neoliberal capitalism–a cage culture, a culture of combat, a hyper masculine culture that views killing those most vulnerable as sport, entertainment, and policy.

Landler of the Times, meanwhile, provides us with the near-parodic preferred narrative that the elites do want disseminated:
 Throughout this trip, Mr. Obama has confronted the reality that the United States is engaged in military operations around the world. At a NATO summit meeting in Warsaw, he announced that American troops would lead a battalion stationed in Poland to deter an aggressive Russia. The destroyer in Rota is a pillar of a missile-defense program that Mr. Obama has stuck with despite the tensions it raises with Moscow.
This illustrates the typical unaccountability of the "deciders." Obama traipses over to Europe and is shockingly confronted by the military bases and high tech weaponry that suddenly sprang up all by themselves without any elite intervention whatsoever. And of course, the aggression is conveniently couched in terms of "defense," despite the fact that Russia is not currently making any moves to take over the world. But it might want to, someday, so Obama has accordingly and provocatively announced a trillion-dollar upgrade of the American nuclear weapons arsenal. But there will be no government jobs program for the chronically unemployed, no government single payer health care system, and no new taxes on the coddled rich.  

And alleged US enemies, including Russia and Iran, are taking notice that the land of the free doesn't exactly practice what it preaches. There are hysterical untrained traffic cops ordered to fill their cities' coffers from ticketing poor motorists driving decades-old vehicles with broken taillights, and then there are the militarized shock troops playing with all the leftover and surplus gear that the Pentagon always throws away in favor of newer, prettier, more lethal toys.

This is the already legendary picture being seen round the world today, confirming the race and class-oppressive oligarchical system that still insists upon calling itself American democracy:

(Jonathan Bachman, Reuters)

But golly gee, says Obama, isn't it just terrible that too many people in the Homeland "feel like" they're getting picked on by trigger-happy, under-trained cops. Isn't it awful that guns are getting into the hands of the mentally ill, for whom no government-subsidized treatment is forthcoming. But he'll make room in the busy schedule to head on down to open-carry Texas to lecture the Black Lives Matter movement some more. 

Then he'll go directly to Congress and demand an immediate multibillion-dollar aid package for cash-strapped cities, including funds for psychological police recruit vetting, hiring and intensive training.Then he'll put the kibosh on those private equity vultures getting their claws on public pension funds and otherwise exploiting and injuring American municipalities. (Only kidding: he will do no such thing.)

As Conor Friedersdorf observed in The Atlantic, Obama actually hews pretty closely to the conservative rhetoric of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas whenever he talks about racism. And Obama is rarely criticized by liberals when he frequently espouses "political correctness" and compromise with one's oppressors as a substitute for direct social action.

But back to Landler of the Times, ironically forging ahead with the government-manufactured "news analysis" presented as straight reporting:

Small wonder, then, that Mr. Obama was in a reflective mood on Saturday when a reporter asked him at a NATO news conference about the nature of war in the 21st century — and, specifically, how he felt about the likelihood that he would be the first two-term president to have presided over a nation at war for every day of his presidency.
Speaking with striking candor for a public setting, Mr. Obama said: “As commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world, I spend a lot of time brooding over these issues. And I’m not satisfied that we’ve got it perfect yet.” But he added, “I can say, honestly, it’s better than it was when I came into office.”
This is Obama in his contrived media role as pensive philosopher king. Let us celebrate the fact that he was so strikingly candid in front of a group of sycophantic reporters and a small personal army of security guards. He ever so 'umbly admitted that he is not perfect, although he is a lot more perfect than any of his predecessors. Especially George W. Bush, who continues to live in the lap of luxury in the same city that saw so much violence last week. Obama, of course, had refused to prosecute him and his neocon pals for invading Iraq on false pretenses and killing millions of people and torturing who knows how many. Nonetheless, he will never hesitate to lecture both the cops on the street and the protesters on how to get along together for the sake of American exceptionalism. When he vowed that "justice will be done" in Dallas, he unfortunately was not referring to the former president.

On the contrary: Bush will join Obama as an honored guest at Tuesday's interfaith service honoring the slain police officers. 

Landler again:
 Mr. Obama characterized his approach to war as a hybrid: committing limited numbers of American troops to conflict-ridden countries, but working with those countries to develop their own armies and police. He drew attention to an announcement at the Warsaw meeting that NATO would begin training Iraqi troops inside the country. (The alliance had already been training them in neighboring Jordan.)
As evidenced by the large number of "green on blue" attacks in Afghanistan, this community policing approach has worked out about as well over there as it has over here. As evidenced by the quagmire of Vietnam, helping other countries by sending in "advisers" is only one of the first steps of mission-creep and open-ended war. And ka-ching goes the beat of late-stage capitalism's malignant heart.
 “What I’ve been trying to do is to create an architecture, a structure — and it’s not there yet,” the president said. The difficulties of working with unreliable partners is “probably going to be something that we have to continue to grapple with for years to come.”
Ah, the semantics of war and death. Call it a building project, perhaps worthy of the Pritzker Prize. But also warn that the constant building is going to cause inevitable collapses and collateral human damage. Those non-union construction workers and corrupt inspectors make a plutocrat's life a living hell. But there's still enormous profit to be made with all that endless "grappling" with the consequences of your own shoddy policies and standards.
 Mr. Obama said chronic, low-level counterterrorism campaigns could have a debilitating effect on society. “This different kind of low-grade threat, one that’s not an existential threat but can do real damage and real harm to our societies, and creates the kind of fear that can cause division and political reactions — we have to do that better,” he said.
This is the same guy who recently accused Donald Trump of being an irresponsible fear-monger. Of course, Obama is as much as admitting that his own "limited" drone assassination program causes fear, division and political reactions. He has to do better in order to get people to accept their own dooms.
For Mr. Obama, who was a lawyer, the shadowy legal status of this hybrid form of warfare is another heavy burden. That, he said, helped explain why the White House issued a report two weeks ago disclosing estimates of the civilian casualties from drone strikes.
“What I’m trying to do there is to institutionalize a system where we begin to hold ourselves accountable for this different kind of national security threat and these different kinds of operations,” he said.
It only took him seven years to begin to pretend to hold himself accountable for Murder, Inc. Therefore, he is hastening to "institutionalize" his renegade killing policy for the sole craven purpose of absolving himself from any personal responsibility.

Landler hilariously concludes, 
Mr. Obama also looked on the bright side. There are fewer wars today between states, he said, and no wars between great powers. That is a testament to institutions like NATO, he said, and a reason that Russia’s revanchism was such a big concern at the summit meeting.
As Mr. Obama enters the final six months of his presidency, his approach to war clearly remains a work in progress. But he insisted that — whether it was drone strikes, the surveillance programs of the National Security Agency, the long effort to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay or the training of soldiers of other countries — he had tried to bring 21st-century warfare out of the shadows.
Stay on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, stay on the sunny side of life... and death.

Now, it's on to Dallas to lecture those pesky Black Lives Matter folks. 



The New York Times ran a rather smarmy editorial on Sunday, politely requesting that Obama be a tad more accountable about his drones of death. Compared to  more than 1300 reader responses to Maureen Dowd's Sunday column on how Hillary Clinton has "contaminated" Obama and his minions with her email scandal, the drone editorial only gathered 111 comments. Faraway death and destruction just aren't as riveting as political intrigue and the fortunes of the elites, I suppose.

Here are my published comments to the drone editorial (the second one is actually a reply to a reply):
For all that Americans care that politicians and bureaucrats have given themselves the hideous right to summarily execute people, it's not likely that the administration is sweating this one out.

Polls show that a majority of us are fine with the assassination program. In one A.P. poll, only 13% of respondents declared themselves strongly opposed. Nearly half said it's O.K. to unleash Hellfire missiles from the aptly named Predator and Reaper drones even when there's a chance that innocents will also die in the process.

Let's face it: what we Americans don't know, (and what we aren't allowed by our government to see in all its bloodiness) definitely will hurt us. Those unnamed and unknown drone victims have family and friends. They leave behind orphans who might understandably become radicalized enough to join ISIS and other groups which never would have existed in the first place without American aggression.

We must acknowledge that our own government is a terrorist state in the eyes of those "other people" who are afraid to even send their kids to school, what with the drones constantly buzzing above their heads. We must acknowledge that our government is not "keeping us safe" by killing hundreds (or thousands) of people for no other reason than that they can.

State-sanctioned murder is state-sanctioned murder, whether it's accomplished by trigger-happy untrained cops on our own streets, or by remote-control unaccountable technocrats in remote "tribal areas."
And the follow-up to a reader asserting that I am well-meaning but naive about the realities of war:

1. Despite the fact that Bush invaded Iraq on false pretenses, as evidenced most recently by that exhaustive British report, you automatically assume that Americans are the "good guys."

2. The drone strikes in question are being conducted in countries with whom the US is not at war. The whole definition of war has become so loose as to become meaningless. The world is now a battlefield, and all the people in it are potential targets based upon some magic formula. I believe that the term that CIA Director John Brennan used is the "disposition matrix." The "casualties of war," are dehumanized through an Orwellian sci-fi term dreamed up by an unelected bureaucrat.

3. The White House report, written by NSA Director James ("we don't collect your emails") Clapper, is suspect on its face. The numbers don't match with the body counts of other independent (and reputable) organizations. His glib explanation for the lack of details is that it would be just too hard for the USA to helicopter down and pretend to be forensic pathologists. They don't know, and they don't want to know. And they get away with it, because most American citizens don't much care either. It's telling, for example, that the big brouhaha over Hillary's emails rarely mentions that she herself signed off on a few drone strikes using her unsecured system. It's the medium that concerns people, not the lethal message.

And finally, I fully realize that I am in a distinct pacifistic minority.


Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Your NYT comments were outstanding, as usual. Hit the nail on the head . . . something that makes people wanting to believe we are still a functioning democracy very uncomfortable.

I really despise Obama and struggle to understand why more people don't see through the charade.

Elizabeth Adams said...

The elites. Violent. Impune. Narcissistic. Sociopathic. Psychopathic. Entitled. Greedy. Racist. Currently hell-bent on gaslighting Russia to justify WWIII.

Thank you so much for all your work, KG.

Jamie said...

Both Obama and Bush are guilty of war crimes based on the Nuremberg principles. Obama's wars of aggression in Libya, Syria, the Ukraine -- and his illegal drone killings make him the perfect cellmate for Bush at the Hague. That is why he never prosecuted Bush for lying us into Iraq.