Thursday, May 23, 2013

But this war, like all wars, must end

Today, Barack Obama finally admitted to the use of drones, in a speech.

AND YET WE SEEM TO HAVE A NEW ONE EVERY TIME WE GET BORED: “Americans are deeply ambivalent about war...”

PRICE TAG: “...but having fought for our independence, we know that a price must be paid for freedom.” Did he just describe every war the US has ever fought, including Vietnam and Iraq and, I don’t know, Grenada, as the price of freedom?

“With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a new dawn of democracy took hold abroad, and a decade of peace and prosperity arrived at home.” Unless you count the Gulf War. And Kosovo. I guess with so many prices paid for freedom, it’s natural he’d forget about one or two.

THAT MOMENT: 2:37 A.M., AUGUST 8, 1997: “For a moment, it seemed the 21st century would be a tranquil time.”

Then, he says dramatically, came 9/11: “This was a different kind of war. No armies came to our shores...” So it was a different kind of war from the War of 1812.

SHIFTED OUR FOCUS, WHAT A POLITE WAY OF REFERRING TO IT: “What’s clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq.”

WHAT WE MUST DEFINE: “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’ Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror.” Really, because I seem to remember your illustrious predecessor doing just that.

ALWAYS WITH THE SPECIFIC METRICS, THIS GUY: “Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat.”

SO IT’S ALL BEEN JUST A CRAZY MISUNDERSTANDING? “Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam”.

BOUNDFUL: “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” So it’s not boundless, it just goes on anywhere in the world we feel like, and forever. But not, you know, boundless.

He explains that sending in troops to capture “terrorists” isn’t always convenient, or may create an international crisis, and what are we gonna do, NOT kill people every day all over the world?

HE USED THE D WORD! HE USED THE D WORD! “It is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones.”

EFFECTIVE: “To begin with, our actions are effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, ‘we could lose the reserves to the enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives.’” So now he’s supporting his policies by quoting military genius and master of strategy Osama bin Laden?

DOES.. NOT.. COMPUTE: “Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.”

LEGAL: “Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.” Oh, piffle.

AND YET SOMEHOW WE ALWAYS WIND UP USING OUR FLYING KILLER ROBOTS INSTEAD: “our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them”. In fact, he says that this is our “preference” no fewer than four times. It’s evidently a Platonic ideal that can never be reached in our reality.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T / FIND OUT WHAT IT MEANS TO ME: “our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty.”

REMEMBER: TERRORISTS ARE NOT INDIVIDUALS, THEY’RE LIKE BEES: “America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people”.

THE HIGHEST STANDARD: “And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.” Actually, the highest standard is not using winged battledicks to kill people in the first place.

“This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes - at home and abroad - understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports.” Possibly because you define anyone killed by a drone strike as a combatant.

OR MAYBE THAT’S JUST BIDEN RUNNING AROUND THE WHITE HOUSE WITH A SHEET OVER HIS HEAD GOING “WOOOOOO” AGAIN: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live”.

Funny, Obama doesn’t seem much like someone who’s “haunted” by all the civilians he’s killed. Or even mildly irked.

TERRORISM AGAINST MUSLIM DWARFS? OH, RIGHT. “Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.” We kill fewer civilians than they do, so we’re the good guys, that’s your moral argument here?

But conventional air strikes are “less precise” than drones. “And invasions of these territories lead us to be viewed as occupying armies”. Yes, if your armies invade other countries, they do tend to be “viewed” as occupying armies, because they actually are occupying armies.

He talks about the dronicide of Anwar Awlaki (without mentioning the others killed because they happened to be near him). “For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process.” I don’t understand this; is he saying there was some sort of “due process” in Awlaki’s assassination?

He goes on about what a bad dude Awlaki was – “he was continuously trying to kill people.” “And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out Awlaki.” Yeah, all those 40+ presidents who didn’t kill people with drone strikes were totally derelict in their duty.

THRESHOLD: “But the high threshold that we have set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life.” So the way... you decide to kill people... respects the inherent dignity... oh, I give up.

SAYS THE DUDE ORDERING DRONE STRIKES FROM HIS DEN: “Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home.”

He does the Mr. Balanced thing about how he needs to stop “national security leaks” but he totally supports a free press. “I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law.” Reporters should be free, but anyone who attempts to give them information should go to jail.

He looks forward to repealing the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force you know, some day. “But this war, like all wars, must end.” Somewhere, Dick Cheney sheds a single tear.

THERE NEEDS TO BE A JUSTIFICATION BEYOND POLITICS? On Guantanamo: “there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened.”

He admits that some Guantanamo detainees can’t be prosecuted “because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law,” which he called “this legacy problem.” Which is as good a name as any for George W. Bush.

YES, YES IT IS, OR YOU’D HAVE ORDERED IT STOPPED: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are?” I will give him credit for not using a euphemism.

NO, IF THEIR SLAVES ACTED UP, THEY’D JUST WHIP THEM: “Is that something that our Founders foresaw?”

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PJ said...

This bit continues to irk me (not that most of the other sections don't):

"... Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.”

I'm sorry, have I been asleep? I don't recall Congress issuing a declaration of war since Dec of 1941. Doesn't the Constitution say they are the only body with that authority?

Christopher said...

Did he just describe every war the US has ever fought, including Vietnam and Iraq and, I don’t know, Grenada, as the price of freedom?

If it weren't for our boys in the military, we'd all be speaking Vietnamese today.

WIIIAI said...

Christopher: Or Grenadian.

PJ: I don't know that there's any framework in international law for "wars" against non-state actors. As I said, what he was speaking was piffle.

I have resolved to try to say the word piffle more.

PJ said...

Perhaps TPTB should stop using the term.

But I guess "police action" was already used...