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writing for godot

Going Rogue: The Audacity of Assassination

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Written by Robert S. Becker   
Sunday, 03 June 2012 23:17
Talk about starting your military career at the top, with guns blazing. On point, Obama's leaked, instantly notorious drone war represents the next costly surge against stealthy insurgents, perhaps a few genuine terrorists. But thanks to his high moral intentions, confirmed by the NY Times, these still qualify as “devoutly non-ideological" strikes.

Otherwise, we might equate Obama with full-fledged GOP crusaders who broke international rules and went badly rogue in Iraq. Nevertheless, this warrior campaigner follows the Queen's Rules of Roguery: never retreat, just reload when gunning down home-grown, though unindicted, citizen evil-doers. Yet should we not worry that Obama's military legacy (pace G. Wallace) will blaze into history as "drones today, drones tomorrow, drones forever?"

The rousing campaigner who once critiqued "dumb" militarism and Bush rights violations finishes his "Full Romney," flip-flopping on rights violations his campaign assailed by charging ahead as hands-on Drone Master. I tell you, change is getting painfully hard to believe in. Unprecedented White House Hit Squads, however, fuel the Obama bio-pic to come, chock-a-block with bin Laden contract, renditions, tribunals, secret prisons, even cyber attacks on saber-rattlers.

Think of the high drama, the biting irony of the Nobel Peace winner who embraces the Bush-McCain's Violence-First brigade, with musical motifs of "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Alas, the poignant tragedy of "The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Obama." Democratic fingers on the drone console displace nightmares of another secretive hawks running virtual cockpits, V.P. Richard Cheney.

Oh no, not another war criminal

In retrospect, Bush's "Mission Accomplished" mock-up glimmers darkly as bad theatre, displaced by Obama's self-appointed deployment as top gunner for real-time, real-world action. No one ever again questions this neo-liberal's lack of military grit, nor the obvious appeal: the commander-in-chief brooks no opposition when Drone Master, a chilling Decider. That contrasts starkly to his squirrelly Congressional jawboning, pathetic administration narratives, or compliance to GOP hysterics. Instead of redirecting America's worship of militarism with an alternative heroism, Obama drones turn terrorist thugs (per PBS' Frontline) into martyrs and dead civilians into recruiting champs, enhanced by the Great Satan's juggernaut.

While haphazard terminations don't win local hearts or minds, they confirm Obama's commitment to this nation's worst, most outmoded ideological failure since WWII: the delusion that war resolves cultural-political-religious strife, that scattered violence grants peace, stability and good will. Au contraire, across Vietnam, Korea, Africa and the ever-contentious Middle East. How many counterproductive invasions must fail before we abandon this twisted national mania?

Further, if this tops Obama's overseas "pragmatism," he betrays principled American intellectual positions articulated by C. S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. That hallowed Pragmatism mandates rigorous verification (justifying drones serve national security), skepticism against ideological constructs (unverifiable, abstract "anti-terrorism"), and real-world moral-intellectual equivalences between intention and consequence, asking: are Hit Squads unconstitutional, executive abuses or, like torture, defiance of our values? Like years of incapacity to reign in Bush-Cheney's lawless torture, predatory war confirms the heartless price that an empire exacts.

Fine, a literate belligerent

Even the NY Times' editorial page, the loyalist of Obama strongholds, declares its shock and awe:

The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

Says who? How about the million civilian Iraqis who didn't quite "live through" the Bush years because they stopped breathing, thanks to "surgical" bombing. And then, with this howler, the Times shoots its own outrage in the foot, "To his credit, Mr. Obama believes he should take moral responsibility for these decisions, and he has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas."

Well, bully for this moral bully. Does higher literacy than W. let Obama's "unilateral campaign of death" off the hook -- or worsen the crime? We again travel beyond satire, where Kissinger wins the Nobel Peace Prize for ending a war he instigated.

Thanks to calculated administration leaks, Obama boasts national security bona fides absent when he defeated McCain. We'll never know if McCain the career soldier would have violated such legal and historic restraints -- all without public input. Hell, Cheney obscured his death squads fearful of international backlash. No small irony: while McCain was ridiculed for sing-song threats against one nation with whom we were not at war, Obama freely penetrates many countries (even "allies" like complaining Pakistan) with whom we are not at war.

How many '08 Obama fans imagined their critic of overwrought militarism would 1) refuse to dispute militarism as universal strategy, or 2) outdo Bush, Cheney and perhaps McCain? If massive civilian drone deaths get recorded with the precision of drone strikes, won't historians indict this program as state-sanctioned terrorism?

Whatever a president does . . .

If running top-down, private wars sum up Obama's critique of the military over-reach that elected him, then he's either a phony, a hypocrite, or lacks all memory. Do not unlegislated drone strikes evoke Nixon's heinous dictum that whatever a president does must be legal? And absent Congressional outrage by still nuttier zealots, no legal challenges will matter until long after Obama has moved on.

Nothing driving American Pragmatism blindly elevates "whatever works," as in "whatever you can get away with," even "whatever looks good to befuddled masses." If any more, like-minded "pragmatists" (read: ruthless neo-cons) slink into power, a valuable American philosophy, not unlike evolution that's rejected by 46% of us, will be dumped on the ash heap.

If drones gratuitously wipe out suspects listed by some warlord, why not also hunt up terrorist ghouls, gremlins, and trolls? Now we're talking hideous creatures that distill what alien, foreign and dangerous mean. If a former liberal-critic of indefensible militarism readily goes to the dark side, so far with modest electoral payoffs, the mind reels: what will the "severely conservative," hardhearted, Etch-a-Sketch Mitt Romney deliver?

Romney certainly knows bare-knuckled "pragmatism" first hand, "what works" according to his predator drone capitalism. Does he not assail Obama for insufficient pragmatism, as well-meaning boob unable to make hard decisions? Well, Mitt now contends with a pro-active, pre-emptive unflinching warrior who tragically gets all too many missions accomplished. As millions of sacrificed Iraqis made W. a re-electable "war president," why not a neo-liberal who insists on running his own wars, executing, without doubt, devoutly ideological pragmatism. Whatever works, if it works.
 

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0 # futhark 2012-06-05 03:07
If the revolutionaries of 1776 had been "pragmatists", they would never have risked their lives, their fortunes, or their sacred honor to form a government investing sovereignty in the people and defining the rights of individuals. The United States of America has been a bold social and political experiment, based on idealistic notions about truth and justice. We will continue to need such courageous leaders if the experiment has any hope of succeeding in the deliverance of a better, more peaceful, secure, and equitable world.
 
 
0 # Robert S. Becker 2012-06-05 09:51
All well and good, fine rhetoric, what is the specific relevance to my piece. I like real pragmatists (of which I'd consider most Founders) but it's the "pragmatism at any cost" crew that disturbs me. So, are you defending Obama, as if he were another bold leader? And how is investing sovereignty in the people doing, thanks to Obama?
 

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