Features Jan 16, 2013 at 4:00 am

Torture, Guantanamo, Kill Lists, Unconscionable Casualties, and Obama's Second Term

Tyler Streeter

Comments

1
Shouldn't " the FAA's pointless and humiliating security theater" be the fault of the TSA? I've never been felt up by an air traffic controller.
2
This article, while well intentioned, fails to inform on a few key issues.

There is no mention or explanation of "signature strikes", which target people (whose identities are unknown) based on a pattern of behavior, such as loading a truck with fertilizer, regular calisthenics or target practice, etc.

There is only an oblique mention of "double-tap" strikes, in which one drone strike is followed by another, under the logic that those who run out to help the people hit by the first strike must be terrorists as well. (there is another variation on this where a drone targets the funeral of a deceased Taliban member, which will be presumably attended by other Taliban figures...and civilians)

Finally, there is no mention that the adminitration's definition of militant is "any military-age male in the strike zone."

You can do better, Paul.
3
Your "lesser of two evils" argument is a false dichotomy and self-fulfilling prophesy. You live in a solidly blue state that hasn't voted for a Republican president in nearly 20 years. There were several third party candidates you could have voted for that were outspoken about these issues. Take your pick - I went for Rocky Anderson and the Justice Party. Sure it's a symbolic vote but it makes it a little bit easier to sleep at night knowing you're not giving a vote of confidence to morally reprehensible foreign policy.
4
@3: First-past-the-post voting more or less necessitates voting for the lesser of two evils.
5
This column is the liberal version of the elder Bush's "no matter what the facts are, I'll never apologize for America." Insert 'Obama' and it's a pattern match. It's laughable, except for the part where everyone gets blamed, the bizarre Prole = Wal-Mart Commutative Principle.

It would have shorter and simpler for Paul to write 'Meh' and be done with it, but then we'd have missed the America-as-Cheesecake-Factory-across-the-street part. Chris Hedges should employ some analogies like that.
6
@4. Agreed. But imagine how the narrative of "third party voting is throwing your vote away" would change if a third party got 5-10 percent of Washington State's vote? It's not a perfect solution but when extra-judicial killings of American citizens and foreign innocents is the accepted standard of both American parties there's not much a guy like Paul can do.
7
lesser of 20 evils.
8
@1: That is an old-fashioned mistake on a quick-turn article. I apologize and it's being changed. Thank you!

@3: Okay, so you can vote your conscience because you live in a state that votes for the candidate who you seem to share more beliefs with out of the big two. But if enough progressives voted their conscience the way you did in Washington State, the vote could have been tipped to Romney's favor. Third party candidates don't win the popular vote. And even if they win the popular vote, they'll never win the electoral college. We can argue about this all day long, but that just isn't going to happen without a seismic shift in American politics, and as I argued in the piece, seismic shifts don't happen that often. Isn't it better to agitate to make the party that appeals more to your belief system into a better political party?

@5: Maybe you should read the piece more carefully, because I think you're making shit up about it.
9
I'm not opposed to doing both, Paul, and I appreciate your writing on this criminally overlooked topic. But folks like the ALCU and the well-intentioned proselytizers you cite in the article have been raising hell about this for most of Obama's first term and what have they gotten? A 10-person protest, Dennis Kucinich and, if they're lucky, a few softball questions for John Brennan before he's named CIA Director.
10
"There is historical evidence for this; politics isn't the story of leaps and bounds, but of hesitant steps. Where we are now as a nation is a destination at which we could not have arrived without the work of millions of people who slowly ground themselves to dust for us. The angriest among us can scoff at this idea as the mincing moral equivalence of a sellout, but to ignore that we move toward betterment by crawling for thousands of miles is to ignore the elephant of history sitting square on your chest."

Paul, you magnificent bastard.
11
It is not “the lesser of two evils” argument that dictates people’s politics, but the dogged adherence to branded images and slogans. Whether you are persuaded by Norman Rockwell’s America or a fervent of young educated/united workers/ rainbow coalition rhetoric, the two-party system is a push for the one agenda by same shady post-Bretton Woods characters. Sycophantic supporters of both parties always seem to revert to non sequitur and ad hominem attacks when the medicine they are given prove too bitter. We will be condemned forever in a downward spiral loop when writers, voters, and activists are frozenly convinced that there is no reality outside of a two-party system.
12
Beautiful pros. Poignant observations. Excellent journalism.
13
A vote for the lesser of two evils is nothing more than a gain for evil.

And as much as people will "blame the third party candidate" or say "that's the way it is" remember, the voters allow this to go on. Blame Obama or Bush all you want to but look in the mirror first.

14
A vote for the lesser of two evils is nothing more than a gain for evil.

At the end of the day this is on the voters who embrace the "two party only system". So before you blame Obama or Bush look in the mirror first and understand your contribution to the problem.

Reponsibility starts at home..and with yourself.
15
Drop #13 and keep #14...damn double posting before I had a chance to save the edit
16
So what do we replace the drones with? More boots on the ground? Or just let the Talibans gain control over the Pakistani nukes? What's the realistic alternative here?

Also note that the Talibans have killed thousands more Pakistani than the drones.
17
Paul, I have two questions for you:

1. Doesn't your dismissal of revolution (of some sort) as an actual option--based on people in the US being relatively well fed, clothed, with access to particular privilege, etc. -- doesn't this just displace the revolutionary justification to outside US borders? This is what's called the "third worldist" hypothesis in revolutionary theory, which argues that we have a "labor aristocracy" in the 1st world that makes it impossible to instigate revolution or real (positive) world change of any sort. I mean, I disagree with this (on an empirical and anecdotal basis, since I am from one of the many parts of the US that are basically abandoned zones, "wastelands" of the type described by Chris Hedges in his recent book--and these areas are larger and closer than liberals like you make it seem). But still, do you think that revolutions (including against US Imperialism) are justified overseas, but just not here?

2. I think you're misportraying the revolutionary argument about historic change -- the idea isn't that there are there massive "jumps" that occur after revolutions (if anything, every revolution begins with a material step BACKWARD as people rebuild from the revolutionary war). The argument is that revolutions are necessary points of abrupt discontinuity, where that graduated, snails-pace of actual historic movement CHANGES TRAJECTORY. At certain points this change in direction involves a (relatively quick) restructuring of "productive forces." Today that would mean, for example, the immediate start of a process toward entirely dismantling coal and oil energy networks, paired with massive projects to build up new energy sources and decrease/redistribute existing productive capacity throughout the world--including more localization of agriculture. All of this comes through ABRUPT breaks in political power--breaks in which people directly assert themselves, which often means some degree of violence against the police/military/pinkertons/etc. suppressing those people and against the material conditions (such as prisons, military installations, sweatshops, etc.) aiding this suppression. It doesn't mean there is some magical "jump ahead," just a kind of torsion which changes the ultimate arc of history.

So do you actually think you have historical examples which contradict this (the actual) revolutionary argument? If so: WHAT? What real basic changes in productive forces or fundamental social relations actually came out of simple slow growth with no abrupt discontinuity in trajectory, with no people directly rising against injustice and (often violently) destroying it?

I also want to point out that I think much of your portrayal of Obama (and even his differences with Romney) is inaccurate even according to the liberal-progressive metric you seem to be using. Here's more data on that in the best (that I've read) of the "progressive" critiques against Obama by Matt Stoller:

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/27/the_prog…

Finally: Though I don't think it's reasonable that you offer a straw-man argument for revolution here, I also want to emphasize that I have little interest in defending the particular revolutionary arguments of World Can't Wait -- an organization which is simply a front-group for the wingnut RCP Bob Avakian cult. But if you're looking for a straw man to burn, they're a goddamn good one.

18
@13: That's why I always write-in for the perfect candidate who'd never do anything wrong: Jesus Christ.
19
The lesser of two evils is the candidate that will be allowed to keep going the status quo machine: of massive economic inequality, empire, and a two-tiered system of justice and police statism. Nice to know.

tl;dr "Pooh-pooh protestors. Let us know when you want to get serious and sit at the grown-up table of change."
20
"ringleader and spokeswoman Emma Kaplan" of course had she been protesting Bush our little Paulie would have said brazen leader. The temerity of stating third-party candidates are useless, where the hidden objective is to publicly reinforce the ol' left/right gangster paradigm.
21
Wow. Thank you for writing this Mr Constant. Your excellent essay navigates the ambiguous confusing terrain I feel lost in at times concerning Obama and drones especially. Your criticism as well as well deserved praise for Kaplan and The World Can't Wait shows your ability to embrace contradictions with integrity and compassion. This piece can be very helpful for getting the dialogue going. Thanks!
Melissa Parson
22
Blame it on bin Laden.
23
If you look at societies structure with a critical eye it's undeniable that the old design has failed and we are going down-hill fast. People in general are far less happy than they were just 40 or 50 yrs ago. The dead oceans are inevitable at this point. Its OBVIOUS that progressives/liberals aren't capable of affecting any real positive change. [see: throngs of folks crying in the street because their masters finally let them get married...
40 fuckin years after the summer of love!! They should've been flipping over cop cars and buttfucking in Starbucks. The only reason these mass shootings don't happen TEN-FOLD is because the populace is being drugged en-masse. My point is that this system has slow boiled your critical thinking skills and isn't worth protecting. Let the anarchists have their A.K. 47's and maybe we can re-structure into smaller, denser, self-sustainable communities that don't create adam lanzas.
Down with the globalists.
24
Your choices as a morally-conscious participant in society are despair, or to fill your life with enough noise that you don't notice. The other option is to march into the woods with a 70-liter pack and disappear.

@23: sure, or fucking devour each other like the Cultural Revolution. lupus est homo homini
25
What exactly is the point of this article? It feels like an attempt by Constant to morally justify his acquiescence to the status quo by arguing that nothing else is possible since we're not all starving, and only incremental positive change has ever occurred. As others have pointed out, this version of revolutionary determinism is historically incorrect. Just look at the Revolutionary War, which wasn't about starving peasants rising up, but one group of aristocrats angry at being financially screwed by another group of aristocrats. There have even been examples of a more democratic basis in U.S. territory, like the popular coup in Pennsylvania shortly before the Revolutionary War, which installed the most progressive government of any of the colonies.

But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.
26
I trust Obama enough to assume he's carefully weighing these issues, negotiating an ugly, messy war he inherited against a determined enemy. I trust that he's trying to end said war as expeditiously as possible. That's why I voted for him without reservation. I'm uneasy with the drone strikes, with their high collateral damage and suspect efficacy, but the people trying to kill Americans or or allies have realized by now that the only way to survive long enough to make a go of it is to stay as close as possible to as many civilians as possible. In the balance, though, messy assassination is much preferred over ground offensives as far as humane sentiment goes. Still, like Paul, I'm glad the protesters are around. We need to keep the bloody price of our safety in mind, keep the wounds of our democracy open.
27
@8 Paul, I may have to defer to your experience concerning things made up...like Obama having any sort of moral grounding. Start this clip at 12:30.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l64zFyTu…
28
It's a strange time when you almost have to go to Red State to read about the return of rendition.
29
The point of third parties is to defeat the major party closest to your ideals-to get their attention. Roosevelt cut the GOP vote in 1912 handing the election to Wilson. While this was as much about TR's ego as policies, it sent a message to the GOP that they needed to take TR's ideas more seriously. Perot in 1992 and Nader in 2000 sent the same message: Ignore us at your peril. After 1992, both the GOP and Dems became more concerned about Perot's message about the deficit. Nader's 2000 run had a smaller impact, but still basically communicated "don't ignore us" to the Democratic party.
30
Makes me think of Frank Shallard.
31
Constant repeats the US Chamber of Commerce mantra, the Wall Street bankster talking point, that we are all to blame, that none of us have clean hands so therefore, ignore all those billionaires and trillionaires who have profited from all the death and destruction!

FYI to Constant: slave labor is still alive and thriving in America, sonny!

Responding to a Paul Constant article is beneath me. It isn’t that I have such a high opinion of myself, but such a dismal opinion of the drivel Constant writes.

Once upon a time, the book reviewers and that sort represented the unbridled conscience of a newspaper or journal, while today they represent the worst. (Note the statistically improbable number of book reviews which have appeared in the Sunday edition of the New York Times Book Review section, written by neocon members of PNAC, during the years 2000 to 2010!)

Frizzelle recently blogged on the “irony” that the only one to face jail time for US torture was the CIA whistleblower who had sought to expose it, John Kiriakou.

No doubt Frizzelle thought his a clever observation, whereas it didn’t even reach the sophomoric level. There is nothing “ironic” of any of the nefarious actions of the neocon administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

There was nothing ironic about Reagan establishing the Office of Privatization --- to privatize everything --- within the OMB with his Executive Order #12615, just as there was nothing ironic about Clinton and Obama advisor, Robert Rubin, establishing the Hamilton Project --- to promote the privatization of everything --- within the Brookings Institution.

There was nothing ironic when Reagan appointed William Casey to be CIA director, when Casey’s first action was to privatize the earth resources data garnered from CIA spy satellites, once available to the public, thenceforth only available to Casey’s Wall Street cronies.

There was nothing ironic when George H.W. Bush failed to pass NAFTA, so they brought in Clinton to accomplish that bankster task.

There was nothing ironic about Clinton appointing billionaire and Rockefeller lackey, Peter G. Peterson (expelled from MIT for massive cheating), to Clinton’s commission to “…end welfare as we know it…”, since Peterson’s life mission has always been to end Medicare/Medicaid, privatize (steal) Social Security, and offshore all American jobs (Peterson’s day job was private equity LBOs; buying oil refineries, then closing them to drive up the price of oil, investing in the privatization of prisons, cornering the telecom market [please recall the original Rockefeller ownership of AT&T], cornering the Anthrax vaccine market, etc.).

There wasn’t anything ironic about Clinton and the dramatic increase in the privatization of the American intelligence establishment, fully realized under George W. Bush’s administration, just as there’s nothing ironic about Obama’s continuation and expansion of George W. Bush’s War On Whistleblowers.

There’s nothing ironic about the US Congress wasting so much time and taxpayer monies in their pursuit of sports types like Barry Bonds or Lance Armstrong --- after all, the sports types don’t own the government, it’s the banksters which have the monopoly on the government, on congress, on the Supreme Court.

There is, therefore, nothing ironic about federal prosecutors hounding to death Aaron Swartz, who successfully sallied forth against AT&T and the others, just as there’s nothing ironic about the amoral imprisonment of Gov. Don Siegelman, Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou and Shakir Hamoodi, and anyone else in America who does the right thing, the good deed, the moral undertaking.

The only irony is why anyone would employ the likes of a Paul Constant?
32
@12, simpleton you, have you ever passed an IQ test, by any chance?
33
OBAMA kept Bush' entire National Security Team for the first term, and most of the economic advisers. Thus, it is no surprise that he would turn out to be yet another presidential war criminal - the Nobel Peace Prize is advance icing on that cake. The only reason he became president is because the sheeples are hooked on hope - the most dangerous drug of them all. http://summapolitico.blogspot.com/2012/1…
35
Honesty Update:

When President Obama falsely claims the banks didn't break any laws, and faux newsies like David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Sorkin et al., make similarly false claims, then why is the SEC always fining the banksters! (True, they are the smallest, most insignificant fines possible, but it bears reflection.)

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litrelease…
36
This is a simplistic article that tries to achieve a moral high ground while being completely naive to the realities of the world. Obama can't close Guantanamo because the republicans blocked funding to do so under the AUMF; Obama could argue that his Article II authority permits him to do so, but that would mirror the exact kind of Constitutional overreaching that Bush engaged in.

And your comments on the drone strikes? That they presuppose that American lives are more important that those overseas? That is a ridiculous assertion. Your answer that the US should go in on the ground and arrest those on the hit list is even more absurd. That would almost surely result in more deaths, both of Americans and foreigners. And one of the reasons we don't do so is because the countries we are operating the drone program in specifically deny our use of ground forces there. Your article assumes that foreign affairs is a simple and safe slate; it isn't. Likewise it does that same in assuming that the President has unlimited power in closing Gitmo; he doesn't.
37
Three words: Instant. Runoff. Voting.
38
The inherent problem with any criticism of the president is that you presume you know anything at. This article is riddled with moral subjectiveness both literally and implied. We pretend to know what information is being provided (or pretend that is irrelevant) and pretend that we know what the process is that informed the decision. And best of all, we pretend that because the results were not optimal or to our liking that therefore our decision must be the correct one.

The crime is not in what the president has done. It is us insisting that in his place we would make the perfect moral decision.
39
No worries, if Obama completely fucks everything up he can use his go to move and blame Bush......again.
40
SO the point is the people protesting with a valid argument are just wasting their time? You would vote for someone with a record of Assassination and torture to maintain the hypothetical evil someone else may do.
We had an American citizen killed in another country because he preached. Key word preached against us. And it is OK? The real issue is the rhetoric used to keep 3rd party candidates down. Like "A vote for Ron Paul or whoever is a vote for the other side"

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