By David Hoffman
Politicians are slime, pure and simple. They are self-serving, venal, conscienceless reprobates, perverse enough to waste millions of dollars seeking offices where they can make life and death decisions, and arrogant enough to believe those decisions are never wrong.
The United States Supreme Court's corruption inviting Citizens United ruling (2010) made this slime even more toxic. Governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Mike Pence in Indiana (and his predecessor Mitch Daniels), and the legislators who do their bidding, have become nothing more than puppets for billionaires. In fact, given the shameless proclivity of American politicians to sell their souls to the highest bidder, there arises a temptation to compare them to prostitutes.
But such an analogy would be an insult to prostitutes.
I do not say this facetiously. Whatever one may think of "the world's oldest profession," at least there are no illusions about the transaction. As a rule, prostitutes do not love their clients, and most probably do not even like them. Politicians, on the other hand, incessantly try to pretend they are motivated by a calling to "public service."
This hypocrisy is perhaps the most disgusting thing about politicians. They will zealously and unquestioningly embrace policies and actions promoted by members of their own political party, and just as zealously question and condemn identical or similar policies and actions promoted by their opposition.
Recently, in fact, questions have been raised about why supporters of Barack Obama do not seem as eager to condemn his war crimes, his lawlessness, his illegal usurpation of power, and his destruction of the Bill of Rights as they did when these actions were perpetrated by George W. Bush. In fact, members of the Nobel Committee, weary of the warmongering Bush-era, so readily swallowed Obama's con job that they awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009-an impulsive action that now mocks the deeds and sacrifices of past recipients, and taints the award for future ones.
Had they but waited a couple more years.
Regular readers of Pravda.Ru will have little difficulty recalling that I had (and have) nothing but contempt for George W. Bush and his fellow torturers and war criminals, and I did not hesitate to say so. The fact that many of them are now making lucrative livings teaching at universities, serving as judges, working at prestigious law firms, making speeches and/or writing books makes all the pontifications about America being a bastion of human rights and justice where "nobody is above the law" ring hollow.
I'll admit, I bought Obama's snake oil when he first ran for president. But, early on, I also voiced some skepticisms and suspicions about him in articles like The Beginning of Hope (11/07/08), Et Tu Barack? Part II (04/09/09), and So You Really Thought Things Would Change? (06/01/2009).
It didn't take long for these skepticisms and suspicions to be confirmed, as the man who many welcomed as the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream demonstrated he was not only oblivious to King's philosophy that passive acceptance of evil "is really cooperating with it," he actively sought to ensure that such evil would go unpunished.
Wikileaks revealed that Obama strong-armed foreign governments into ceasing their investigations into Bush-era torture and war crimes, while his administration, in the words of the British Newspaper The Guardian, almost immediately began conducting an "aggressive, full-scale whitewashing" of Bush-era crimes, allowing torturers and murderers, and those who facilitated and/or covered up their deeds, to walk free.
The question is why? The answer has become disturbingly clear: Obama wanted unbridled authority to perpetrate his own war crimes, human rights abuses, and destruction of the Bill of Rights.
Although George W. Bush once opined that the so-called "war on terror" gave the United States government the authority to execute its own citizens without charge or trial, it is Obama who first did such executions through his use of unmanned attack drones.
One of the victims of such an attack was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011. Al-Awlaki's death, and the events that preceded it, highlighted the first problem with Obama's "drone war": America's corrupt legal system has made it virtually impossible for a person to challenge his/her placement on Obama's "kill list."
As I stated in America is Still Dead (10/3/2011), when al-Awlaki's father petitioned the federal courts to remove his son's name from this "kill list," he was advised that he lacked the "standing" to do so, meaning that Anwar al-Awlaki himself had to file such a petition. This, of course, "creates a ludicrous and perverse Catch-22 for persons on this list, because seeking legal redress in America to prevent their extrajudicial executions would also heighten their chances of being extrajudicially executed before they ever reached the courthouse."
Al-Awlaki's death also demonstrates the second problem with Obama's "drone war": Its arbitrariness, secrecy, and lack of legal oversight are an invitation for cover-up and abuse. As Oliver Knox of Yahoo News recently reported, an Obama administration memo lists three criteria that allegedly must be established before a drone attack is launched: First, "an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government" must conclude that the targeted individual is a "senior operational leader" of al-Qaida or "associated forces"; Second, the targeted individual must pose "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States"; Third, it must be "infeasible" to attempt to capture the targeted individual.
However, in vague and overbroad language typical of self-appointed demigods lusting for unchecked power over life and death, the memo goes on to state that the phrase "imminent threat" does not require "clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future," only that the targeted individual "recently" participated in "activities" that a high-level government official construes as a threat.
Under the auspices of these so-called "criteria," sixteen-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was also killed in a drone attack just two weeks after his father-his extrajudicial murder ordered by a government whose own laws prohibit the execution of juveniles within its borders. Yet, when asked if this teenager was a "senior operational leader" of a terrorist group, White House press secretary Jay Carney, in a duplicitous, cowardly and hypocritical response typical of the political slime he represents, remarked, "I'm not going to talk about individual operations that may or may not have occurred."
In other words, when someone, even an American citizen, is murdered in Obama's "drone war," the American people, if they are informed of the killing at all, are simply being told to obsequiously accept the government's contention that the person was a legitimate target.
Yet it was just a few short years ago that America's corporate-controlled media, and the majority of America's people, were blindly accepting George W. Bush's assertions that Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction" and bore some responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These assertions turned out to be nothing more than unmitigated lies, disseminated by corrupt politicians who segued the fear and anger over 9/11 into a war designed to enrich their cronies in the military-industrial complex.
Given the secrecy surrounding the "drone wars," who will ever know for sure that the United States government is not simply using "terrorist" as a term of opprobrium to target individuals because of their political or religious beliefs, family connections, demands for human rights, or desires to exercise fundamental freedoms? And, given the dangerous precedent Obama's "drone war" has set, what will prevent corrupt foreign political leaders in the future from granting economic, political, and/or military "favors" to the United States government in exchange for it killing political opposition leaders who have falsely been branded as "terrorists?"
There was a time when America supported the apartheid regime in South Africa. If this happened today, would Nelson Mandela be a "legitimate" drone target? How about members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Black Panther Party, the Weather Underground, the anti-war movement, or even individuals like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X?
Before dismissing this argument as far-fetched, it must be remembered that government officials in the past, without the benefit of drones, demonstrated little hesitancy in using any means available, legal or illegal, to target individuals and groups considered to be threats to "national security." Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were extrajudicially executed; Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt was framed for a murder he did not commit; Lee Otis Johnson was sentenced to thirty-years in prison for allegedly passing a marijuana joint to an undercover police officer; Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada based upon a perjured affidavit; and Weather Underground members and their families were subjected to illegal spying and break-ins. And even when two government officials were convicted for their roles in these break-ins, Ronald Reagan pardoned them.
The third problem with the "drone wars" is the specious arguments about their "legality." In the abovementioned Yahooarticle, Carney is quoted as calling the killing of Americans in drone attacks "legal," "ethical," and "wise."
Carney's argument stirs memories of Martin Luther King Jr.'s excellent analysis of "just" and "unjust" laws. King once noted that everything Adolf Hitler did was "legal" under the laws of the Nazi regime, while everything Mahatma Gandhi did to nonviolently free India from British rule was "illegal." Yet, of these two men, who truly represented the moral high ground?
Although I am not comparing Obama to Hitler, there is no doubt that all Americans should be disturbed by a system where the individuals who create laws and policies are also the ones who determine their "legality".
How does it bode for the future when "drone wars" become more common? Can one imagine the outrage the Obama administration would express if Iran, North Korea, or China used a drone to kill one of their citizens on American soil, especially if this drone killed innocent Americans as well? Yet the precedent Obama is setting, and the fact he has demonstrated no reluctance about using drone strikes even when they pose a risk to innocent people, certainly invite such scenarios.
Finally, there is the Star Trek problem. Science fiction has a way of becoming science fact, and the "drone wars" are a glaring example of this maxim. In the episode, A Taste of Armageddon, the crew of the USS Enterprise find themselves caught in the middle of two planets whose inhabitants have fought a war for over five hundred years solely through the use of computers. When the computer from one planet scored a "hit" on the other, all occupants in the affected area were required to report to disintegration chambers to be put to death-the moral being that if wars only bring death, but not destruction, they go on forever.
It is not difficult to see how the so-called "war on terror," being fought largely in secret with unmanned drones directed against an enemy assimilated into civilian populations and scattered throughout the world, could potentially go on forever, particularly since opportunistic and power hungry politicians have recognized that the fear such a war generates continues to dupe Americans into sacrificing their freedoms and rights in the name of "national security."
Some opponents of Obama may argue that America would be better off if Mitt Romney had been elected president. But conspicuously missing from the political debates during the 2012 presidential campaign was any mention of the tactics being used to fight the so-called "war on terror."
As Knox also pointed out in his article, Obama campaigned in 2008 as a "fierce critic of George W. Bush's national security policies." Yet, once he obtained the presidency, "he apparently learned to stop worrying and love executive power-the literal power of life and death over fellow U.S. citizens . . ."
Lord Acton's observation, now personified by Obama, that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," coupled with the fact that Romney was largely silent about the escalating and unconstitutional usurpation of power now being assumed by American presidents, leaves little doubt that, had he won the election, the "drone wars" would have continued unabated.
So the question becomes, why do the people of the United States habitually give the reins of political power to sociopaths?
One reason may be a theory I have propounded in several previous articles for Pravda.Ru: Evil is the primary motivating force in the world, and therefore most of the world's conflicts are simply struggles between varying degrees of evil. So while people are rightfully outraged when deranged individuals commit torture and murder, far too many subserviently and routinely wave the flag and cheer when such tortures and murders are given the "government seal of approval." Thus politicians are nothing more than reflections of humanity's evil.
A second theory could be that politics, by its very nature, only attracts the most despicable people, much like rotting flesh attracts maggots and vultures. Good people are not only repulsed by political office, most would probably not stand a chance of being elected because their principles would impede them from sinking to the depths of dishonesty and hypocrisy necessary to win elections. It doesn't take a historical scholar to see that many of the positive changes in the world have not evolved from politicians, but from people who challenged them and condemned their evil.
In these past articles, I also argued that the persistence of evil might explain the meaning of mortality. If evil people did not die, then the power they acquired from their evil could profit them forever. Death, the great equalizer, befalls the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the subjugated, the famous and the unknown. It befalls sixteen-year-old boys targeted by drones, and will one day befall those who ordered and/or defended such targeting. After all, in the end only God can play God.
Some critics of my articles have contended, and I agree, that my arguments cannot survive unless a just God truly exists. But when men like George W. Bush and Barack Obama obtain power in arguably the most powerful nation in the world, it does raise doubts about the existence of such a God.
Still, one fact is clear: Barack Obama, the man who rode his Audacity of Hope to the presidency, also possessed the audacity to destroy the hope of millions who once believed in him and his message of change.
David R. Hoffman
Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru