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Barack Obama – master drone killer

The Daily Show looks at how the US government’s war on language increases along with its desire to break laws and violate the constitution. The latest trial balloon being floated is about how the Obama administration is once again ‘agonizing’ (translation: trying to find the best way to justify to the public) about its desire to summarily kill yet another American.

Oddly enough, these clips act as if this planned extra-judicial murder of an American is a new thing. Have they already forgotten about what was done to four Americans earlier, Anwar al Awlaki, his 16-year old son, and two others?

(These clips aired on February 19, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)

Comments

  1. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Have they already forgotten about what was done to four Americans earlier, Anwar al Awlaki, his 16-year old son, and two others?

    On this issue I agree with what Jim Wright of the Stonekettle Station blog pointed out very well here :

    http://www.stonekettle.com/2011/10/consequences.html

    WARNING : Swearing – NSFW langauge

    Excerpt – whole article is well worth reading in my view :

    Four men died in the explosion.

    And in that moment, in that hellfire, the world became a measurably better place.

    Those men were terrorists, committed, enthusiastic, and unrepentant. They were terrorists in the purest sense of the word – in that they deliberately created, encouraged, promulgated, and enabled terror. Terror was not a byproduct of their campaign, it was the very reason for its existence. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter if they felt justified or moral or compelled by God. They were terrorists and they reveled in it. The only argument is in the details and the degree.

    These men were not only the self-proclaimed and sworn enemies of America, they were the nemesis of civilization everywhere, including and especially in Yemen.

    Quite simply, these men declared war on the entire world and thus made themselves the enemies of every single man, woman, and child on the planet. …. (snip)…. Frankly I fail to understand how it was more moral or honorable or even economical to let thousands of people die during the revolution in Libya, for example, than to just drop a Tomahawk on Khaddafi on day one. Bang! There, the asshole’s dead. Toss his body over the balcony railing and let the mob use it for a piñata, we brought sticks, no pushing there’s enough for everybody. War’s over. Long live the Arab Spring and don’t forget who your friends are.

    (italics original.)

    A bit out of date but still rings very true – Of course the Arab spring thing seems to be well and truly over now after Syria and Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood caused problems turned it very quickly back into metaphorical winter.

    As far as I’m concerned, the minute someone signs up to become a terrorist they hand in all their member of the human race card.

    The terrorists are at war with the rest of us. They are out to kill innocent people -the more they can the happier they are. Would you rather they were stopped from doing so, or not?

  2. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Correction : As far as I’m concerned, the minute someone signs up to become a terrorist they hand in their membership of the human race card.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    ^ .. And consequently forfeit all the rights and benefits and due respect that goes with that metaphorical Human species membership card.

  4. Mano Singham says

    @StevoR,

    Two questions:

    1. Can you define what you mean by the word ‘terrorism’?
    2. What evidence do you have that the four people in the CBS story (who were killed in three separate events, by the way) were ‘terrorists’?

    p.s., You may want to see my comment to a different post.

  5. readysf says

    Terrorist has always been a political designation. It was so in Northern Island, in Sri Lanka, and now in Palestine. The early Zionists murdered Palestinians in cold blood.

    Citizenship has its rights, and these rise above politics. All the bombast in the world cannot void these inalienable rights. A government that ignores them is violating the constitution.

  6. lochaber says

    why is a suicide bomber worse then a (government, administration, individual?) who uses a drone to bomb a funeral or a wedding?

    I’m somewhat doubtful of this idea where terrorists are inherently evil people who just want to kill people and cause mayhem. I imagine the main reason terrorism exists is because, frankly, it works. 9/11 was over a decade ago, and as a nation, the U.S. is still shitting itself over airport security, profiling, wiretapping, illegal searches, etc., amongst other things.

    sorta like conflict exists on a spectrum, conventional warfare, guerrilla warfare, acts of terrorism. If you don’t have the funds/troops to go at it in conventional warfare, you resort to guerrilla methods…

    I’m not trying to morally excuse acts of terrorism or anything, my main disagreement with it is that it involves people who may have no interest in the conflict. But then, by that measure, I’m don’t think the U.S. is exactly innocent and pure…

  7. says

    As far as I’m concerned, the minute someone signs up to become a terrorist they hand in their membership of the human race card.

    As far as I am concerned, the minute someone signs up to become a member of a government’s military they hand in their membership in the human race card.

    It’s easy to argue that being a soldier (or a cop, for that matter!) is less moral than being an ideological fighter, since the ideological fighter at least (in theory) has some deeply-held belief system that motivates their actions. The soldier and cop are agreeing in the abstract to obey orders or enforce laws against anyone they are told to in the abstract; they are specifically agreeing to suspend their judgement. Frequently both soldiers and ideological fighters will deliberately engage in group punishment; instead of killing someone they know is associated with hostilities, they kill others – this is what a “terrorist” is doing when they set off a bomb in a store, or a soldier is doing when they call in artillery on a village. An ideological warrior who was carefully only targeting enemy military in uniform would be in a superior moral position to a uniformed soldier in a national military that was facilitating or directly participating in area operations that might involve civilians. Note that “might involve civilians” is a good enough criterion – you don’t need to wait to see dead civilians to know that you’ve done wrong – simply hauling ammunition for the people who kill civilians, or being part of the logistical train that is killing civilians – it’s a step away from pulling the trigger.

  8. doublereed says

    Wow, Marcus, way to go off the deep end.

    It’s enough to say that we have these things called courts and such that are supposed to rule on such matters. You don’t just give branches of the government the authority to do whatever they want because some dudes somewhere say they hate America. Ridiculous.

    Sometimes this concept is “For the good of the tribe, do not kill for the good of the tribe.” It doesn’t matter necessarily about the consequences of a single action, but the effect it has on our policy, separation of powers, oversight, and authority.

  9. DsylexicHippo says

    @#8, doublereed: I agree with Marcus. These things called courts that you are so proud of, have become nothing but doormats of one branch of the government.

    As for the definition of terrorism, it can get murky pretty quick. One man’s freedom fighter can be another person’s terrorist.

    Agreed that Alwaki tried hard to earn his place in the “afterlife” and was rewarded with a present from the sky but what exactly did his 16-year old son do to give up his membership of the human race card? In either case, other than rubber-stamping what they were presented with in secret, what role did courts play?

    Courts that operate in secret are kangaroo courts.

  10. Silentbob says

    @ 6 lochaber

    why is a suicide bomber worse then a (government, administration, individual?) who uses a drone to bomb a funeral or a wedding? [… ] If you don’t have the funds/troops to go at it in conventional warfare, you resort to guerrilla methods…

    Indeed. I don’t get this either. I’ve never understood the cognitive dissonance of people who see things like this:

    Poorly funded group resorts to terrorism using makeshift weapons as their only means of attacking a much more powerful enemy – “Evil! Murderers! Scum of the Earth!”
    Extremely well funded group uses sophisticated weapons to kill vastly more people at very little risk to themselves – “Brave heroes serving their country! Salute and give them a medal!”

  11. says

    It’s enough to say that we have these things called courts and such that are supposed to rule on such matters

    I find your faith in government to be charming.

  12. says

    Poorly funded group resorts to terrorism using makeshift weapons as their only means of attacking a much more powerful enemy – “Evil! Murderers! Scum of the Earth!”
    Extremely well funded group uses sophisticated weapons to kill vastly more people at very little risk to themselves – “Brave heroes serving their country! Salute and give them a medal!”

    I believe it was in “Battle of Algiers” where there’s a scene in which a Frenchman complains to one of the Algerian fighters that they are not fighting fair, putting bombs in baby carriages. The Algerian replies “If you give us some of your mystere fighter-jets then we will not have to use baby carriages any more.”

    A few years ago I got into it with one of the uniformed proles of the American empire, who said something similar about how cowardly the insurgents in Afghanistan are, hiding behind women and children and fading into the landscape when I attacked. I asked him how “brave” it is to rain bombs on an enemy from a B-52, or to sit in a comfortable seat piloting a drone where the only risk to the pilot is a heart attack from lack of physical activity. The insurgents put their blood and bone on the line, with no support infrastructure except their own families and networks of friends, against an enemy that can see them and kill them in the dark, in the rain, through walls, and will indiscriminately bomb an entire village if someone in the village is believed to have fired a shot at them. As a pacifist, I do not approve of the insurgents’ methods (though they can at least claim to be repelling an invader) but I’ve never understood what is heroic about being part of such a massively over-logisticed army – an army that brings Pizza Hut and millions of dollars of air conditioning with it, which has relatively amazing battlefield medicine and surveillance, and virtually infinite ammunition. I’m pretty sure the insurgents would be extremely happy if the Americans stopped being such fucking cowards. I’m also pretty sure the Americans would win at a tactical level, every time. But the US Empire today specializes in choosing the kind of wars where you can win every battle and never win the war, so tactical mastery of the field is wasted blood and effort anyway. Is there anything worse and more cowardly than to keep fighting and trying to kill your opponent in a war that your leaders acknowledged was lost 8 years ago? Yes, probably to be those leaders, and to keep the killing going because you don’t want to hurt your political party’s chances in the next election.

  13. says

    Agreed that Alwaki tried hard to earn his place in the “afterlife” and was rewarded with a present from the sky but what exactly did his 16-year old son do to give up his membership of the human race card?

    There were other people with Awlaki when he was killed; they were killed as well.

    Doublreed’s prating about justice and courts is farcical when you understand that there were three other people in that car that got no due process at all; they were blown to bits without judicial review or mercy, for the crime of “Being Within The Blast Radius”

    Awlaki’s son was in the company of several other people when he was killed; they were killed as well.

    Like doublereed, I have a great deal of faith in governments. I believe that when they are given the tools to do violence, they will find excuses to use them, and eventually will use them indiscriminately. It is to prevent this kind of government overreach that ideas like “a justice system” separate from an excutive branch was invented. The current executive branch has deliberately undermined those controls through secret interpretations of captive courts. It is rational to fear such government, because it is engaging in the sort of actions that encourage revenge in kind.

    September 11 killed 2,977 people and was considered sufficient cause for the US to attack Afghanistan, killing a bit more than the same number, and vastly more Afghanis. What is disgusting to me is that it’s hard to find a count of the Afghani civilians killed because, apparently, nobody except their families and friends give a shit about how many of them were killed in retaliation. You can bet it was more than 2,977. Indeed, the drones alone have killed about 2,900 in Pakistan and the tribal regions. By any measure, if the US was justified in invading Afghanistan for the deaths on September 11, the Afghanis would be justified in retaliating in kind. That is the immoral and absurd calculus of war; the only way to break the cycle is to … stop.

  14. doublereed says

    I meant like an actual court with due process. Not the FISA court or whatever.

    We’re supposed to use them if we believe someone is trying to damage our society or what-have-you. That’s what courts are for.

  15. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @4. Mano Singham :

    @StevoR, Two questions:

    1. Can you define what you mean by the word ‘terrorism’?
    2. What evidence do you have that the four people in the CBS story (who were killed in three separate events, by the way) were ‘terrorists’?

    p.s., You may want to see my comment to a different post.

    1.) I would define terrorist as a person or group of people who seek to impose their ideological / political / personal manifestos upon others through illegally terrorising innocent people.

    Governments incidentally are restrained by law and accountable (usually & especially in Western & other democracies) to their people so they have authority to enforce laws and protect innocent people incl. done in ways that some have sometimes argued amounts to terrorism but in my view and I think many others does not.

    2) I haven’t read the CBS story and wasn’t necessarily talking about those people but in general terms if they are described as “terrorists” in the reporting I see no reason to immediately doubt or dispute that description being given unless there is some strong reason to disagree.

    In my comments (#1,2,3) I was especially referring to the linked article by Stonekettle Station’ blogger Jim Wright who I trust and hold in high esteem.

    I’ll look at that other comment in a while. Sorry its taken me so long to reply – really busy week for me.

  16. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    In the other comment (#24 MattTabbibi joins thread) :

    In his answer he was looking at the history of the word ‘terrorism’ and arguing that it had been twisted so much that it had become meaningless because there was no way to define the word objectively that did not also include actions taken by the US and Israeli governments. So now all the word ‘terrorism’ means as used by the US is any action taken against US and Israeli interests, and a ‘terrorist’ organization is any one that does so.

    I would disagree with that definition. Terrorism is unlawful and not restrained by usual ethical and legal considerations in the way government actions (Incl. US and Israeli govt) are. (is – grammar uncertain?)

    Pretty much by definition, governments work inside the laws and they are accountable for their actions and subject to democratic checks and balances and represent the wishes of the people which is NOT the case for terrorists who are again by definition acting illegally and are almost always unaccountable and unrepresentative.

    I think my definition : ((terrorist as a person or group of people who seek to impose their ideological / political / personal manifestos upon others through illegally terrorising innocent people.) remains good and valid and will just clarify that by “terrorising innocent people” I mean killing and seeking to harm them in large numbers and or destroying and targeting symbolic properties as well maybe.

  17. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    In regard to terrorists and also serial killers, murderers, rapists, armed robbers, pedophiles and other extremely serious criminal offenders I think there’s a good case for the old notion of oulaw status where such outlaws are then treated as legally without any rights.

    If someone chooses to put themselves far outside the usual laws then I think it’s reasonable to say they’ve forfeited the normal legal protections and are fair game for whatever needs to be done to stop them committing further especially terrible crimes to protect the rest of society and the world generally.

  18. Dunc says

    Tell me Stevo, were the British government working inside the laws and subject to democratic checks and balances when they declared the Chagos Islands uninhabited and the Chagossians officially non-existent, prior to rounding them up at gunpoint, gassing their dogs in front of their children, and shipping them all off to Mauritius?

  19. Dunc says

    As for the notion that “terrorists and also serial killers, murderers, rapists, armed robbers, pedophiles and other extremely serious criminal offenders” should be “treated as legally without any rights”, were you envisioning any kind of legal process in there, or is a mere assertion by by some anonymous bureaucrat sufficient for you? Also, do you have any idea of what has always tended to happen in the past when the state asserts that it can completely arrogate the human rights of certain classes of people? It’s been tried rather a lot of times before, and the results are rarely encouraging.

  20. Mano Singham says

    @StevoR at #15 and #17,

    When you define terrorism not just by specifying the acts themselves but also by who does it and excluding the actions of some governments, then you are basically using it as a propaganda term to mean “acts by people that I disapprove of”.

    The idea that the news media (CBS!) does an independent analysis and uses objective criteria to arrive at a conclusion as to who is a terrorist reveals great naiveté about the media. The major US media calls people terrorists anyone the US government calls a terrorist. This has been so well-established as to be hardly worth debating.

    Noam Chomsky, among many others, has studied the use of the word terrorism as a propaganda weapon the way that you seem to favor and has written extensively documenting its abuse. His book Manufacturing Consent is one source but you can also look at this article written back in 1991. In it he says:

    There are two ways to approach the study of terrorism. One may adopt a literal approach, taking the topic seriously, or a propagandistic approach, construing the concept of terrorism as a weapon to be exploited in the service of some system of power. In each case it is clear how to proceed. Pursuing the literal approach, we begin by determining what constitutes terrorism. We then seek instances of the phenomenon — concentrating on the major examples, if we are serious — and try to determine causes and remedies. The propagandistic approach dictates a different course. We begin with the thesis that terrorism is the responsibility of some officially designated enemy. We then designate terrorist acts as “terrorist” just in the cases where they can be attributed (whether plausibly or not) to the required source; otherwise they are to be ignored, suppressed, or termed “retaliation” or “self-defence.”

    It comes as no surprise that the propagandistic approach is adopted by governments generally, and by their instruments in totalitarian states. More interesting is the fact that the same is largely true of the media and scholarship in the Western industrial democracies, as has been documented in extensive detail.1 “We must recognize,” Michael Stohl observes, “that by convention — and it must be emphasized only by convention — great power use and the threat of the use of force is normally described as coercive diplomacy and not as a form of terrorism,” though it commonly involves “the threat and often the use of violence for what would be described as terroristic purposes were it not great powers who were pursuing the very same tactic.”2 Only one qualification must be added: the term “great powers” must be restricted to favored states; in the Western conventions under discussion, the Soviet Union is granted no such rhetorical license, and indeed can be charged and convicted on the flimsiest of evidence.

    He goes on to provide an exhaustive analysis of how western governments (the list includes US and Israel) are guilty of the same acts that they accuse the ‘terrorists’ of doing, citing case after case. What has changed since 1991 is that the list of such acts has just grown longer.

    Your call in #17 for the summary execution of people without any due process by simply declaring them ‘outlaws’ (who gets to do the declaring anyway?) reveals a shocking desire for the kind of frontier justice that people used back in the days where they felt perfectly justified in stringing people up without any trial but just because someone in power had decided they deserved it. Of course, then too most of the victims were ‘the other’, weak and powerless.

    Are you really advocating such a policy? Because if so, then I really think I have nothing more to say to you because that is simply beyond the pale, barbaric beyond anything I expected from you. By arguing thus, it is you who have ceased to be part of the modern, civilized world and have become an ‘outlaw’ because you seem to be implying that you (or the people you support) can act outside the law.

  21. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Mano Singham :

    @StevoR at #15 and #17,

    When you define terrorism not just by specifying the acts themselves but also by who does it and excluding the actions of some governments, then you are basically using it as a propaganda term to mean “acts by people that I disapprove of”.

    I don’t think that’s the case. That’s NOT my definition. I’ve offered my definition and why I think governments especially democratic ones with checks and balances aren’t the same

    The idea that the news media (CBS!) does an independent analysis and uses objective criteria to arrive at a conclusion as to who is a terrorist reveals great naiveté about the media. The major US media calls people terrorists anyone the US government calls a terrorist. This has been so well-established as to be hardly worth debating.

    But is it wrong to do so? Are there really clear-cut cases where those described as “terrorists” really genuinely and inarguably were not terrorists – setting aside the question of collateral damage?

    As you already know I’m really not a fan of Noam Chomksy and don’t hold him in much esteem or respect. I don’t have to remind you why do I?

    By arguing thus, it is you who have ceased to be part of the modern, civilized world and have become an ‘outlaw’ because you seem to be implying that you (or the people you support) can act outside the law.

    Not saying outside the law saying it should be the law.

    As for seriously advocating outlaw laws? Oh I don’t know. depends. Its certainly emotionally tempting at times when hearing about some people and things and what the worst examples of humanity can do so inhumanely to others and get away with. I’m certainly NOT launching any campaign lobbying for it or anything.

    I also know it won’t ever happen so a moot point. I’m not going to get my policies on that through any more than Chomsky is going to get his wishes through into legislation or effect either.Just expressing how I feel when it comes to terrorists and the worst criminals who threaten us all and have caused so much harm and carnage to so many I guess.

    Do you not get upset when you hear of terrorist attacks and murders and suchlike? Don’t you ever think things like that should happen too sometimes?

    @ 18. Dunc : I don’t know. I do that that what the British government did to the Chagos islanders was terribly wrong a massive injustice that should not have been allowed to happen. I wouldn’t classify it as terrorism though.

    @19. Dunc : Well, of course I’d want there to be some sort of valid legal process and also no doubt over identity or guilt. And no not just a bureaucrat. I’m talking people like Osama bin Laden, Jack the Ripper and the like here.

  22. Mano Singham says

    StevoR @#21

    Of course I get upset about terrorist attacks on innocent people. Where I differ from you is that I do not seek to lash out blindly at anyone whom governments with vested interests deem worthy of death. The legal system is meant to prevent vigilante actions of that sort.

    I also differ from you in thinking that the mudering of innocent people and without any due process is as bad when done by governments as by individuals and groups.

    I know you don’t like Chomsky. Whom we like or dislike is not at issue. The question is whether you have arguments to counter his (and Glenn Greenwald’s) point that any objective definition of terrorism will sweep in governments as well unless, like you, you simply exempt your preferred ones by fiat.

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