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Boardman writes: "Who in a sane state of mind would expect any change of policy when the President gives a speech about counter-terrorism at the National Defense University?"

President Obama outlined his counterterrorism policies in a major speech at National Defense University in Washington, D.C. yesterday. (photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)
President Obama outlined his counterterrorism policies in a major speech at National Defense University in Washington, D.C. yesterday. (photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)

War on Terror to Continue With Fresh Makeup

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

24 May 13


The President's promise: global war on terror to continue, but with fresh makeup

he United States uses Predator and Reaper drones to kill people at a distance, sometimes at random, sometimes Americans or children, and after a decade of this practice, in the face of scattered popular protest, President Obama gave a speech about it on May 23 that was preceded by waves of advance media buzz that the President was going to change some of the policy in the global war on terrorism.

Who in a sane state of mind would expect any change of policy when the President gives a speech about counter-terrorism at the National Defense University?

In effect, two American administrations have followed the same pre-emptive killing policy that can be summed up simply: "Assassinating people prevents them from attacking us, whether they want to or not, and it's not up to us to figure out what they want."

No administration official since 2001 has put it quite that way, of course, but it is a fair summary of the country's fear-based endless war against an abstraction, terrorism, that is made more palpable by the very actions taken to fight it.

Another way to summarize a dozen years of pre-emptive war is that the United States is within its rights to defend itself against all enemies, real and imagined.

What Do You Call It When One Man Decides Who Lives or Dies?

Since American terror policy is contradictory and semi-secret, it appears incoherent. In March 2012 on CNN, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed the administration's point of view in a manner suitable to Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass." Here, rendered in the quasi-poetic form it deserves, is Holder's explanation of lethal drone strikes:

Some have called such operations "assassinations."
They are not. And the use of that loaded term is misplaced.
"Assassinations" are "unlawful killings."
Here, for the reasons that I have given,
the US Government's use of lethal force
in self-defense against a leader of al Qaeda
or an associated force
who presents an imminent threat of violent attack
would not be unlawful
and therefore would not violate
the executive order banning assassination….

In Holderworld, it is somehow not an assassination to commit a killing that fits the widely accepted definition of "assassination" as "the murder of a prominent person or political figure by a surprise attack, usually for payment or political reasons…. An assassination may be prompted by religious, ideological, political, or military motives…."

You Don't Need Law When There's No Political Challenge

As Holder well knows, as does Obama, both being lawyers, there is no clear constitutional, statutory, court precedent, or other legal grounding for assassination by drone. The only basis in law is untested legal argument, some if which remains secret. But as both men know, the assassination policy has solid grounding in both politics and psychology.

And so the President framed his counter-terrorism speech with 9/11, which is as logical and useful as it is exceptional and misleading, telling his audience falsely but with Humpty Dumpty mastery of words, "And so our nation went to war."

That has been the delusional national consensus since 2001, even though it's not war in any constitutional, historic, or honest sense. But war justifies everything, at least for awhile. And that may be the meaning behind Obama's speech, a sense that time may be running out on the "nation at war" meme, and perhaps it's time for the clever leader to get ahead of the politics and the psychology by at least seeming to change course a little.

The President acknowledges much of the damage our self-chosen wars have done to us at home and abroad. He ticks off government surveillance, torture, secret prisons – but not renditions. He says, "And in some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values."

Then he tried to sell us an inherent contradiction: "We stepped up the war against al Qaeda, but also sought to change its course," by which he seemed to mean we stopped torturing as may people and generally tried to break fewer domestic and international laws.

But on the other hand, we should still be afraid: "Our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston…." He did not clarify when Benghazi became part of "our nation."

At a Crossroads and Choosing to Go in All Four Directions?

The President rambled on in this contradictory fashion, warning the nation that "America is at a crossroads" and quoting Madison saying that "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare" – then assuring us that our war on terrorism would continue.

"We must make decisions based not on fear," the President said, suggesting that we need to understand the threat we face. Then a short while later he added that "the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11."

"Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology," Obama said, echoing the recent words of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: "the war against radical Islam, or terror, or whatever description you like." Contrary to a good many of his fellow Americans, the President went on to assert that "the United States is not at war with Islam."

Then he used the magic language, defining the enemy as "al Qaeda and its associated forces." Given the limitations of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon has been using the catch-all "and its associated forces" to argue the legality of doing whatever they want to whomever they want, or just not interfering with the free hand of the CIA or other clandestine forces.

Obama suggested that "we must define our effort not as a boundless 'global war on terror,'" and went on to offer no boundaries to our willingness to attack whomever we define as an enemy in any part of the world.

Assassination by Drone to Remain Presidential Prerogative

With regard to assassination by drone, the President claimed "our actions are effective…. These strikes have saved lives." He offered no serious evidence to support either claim, neither of which appears to be provable.

Amidst much vague reassurance about how drone strikes would be fewer, and kill fewer innocents, he also made an unsupported claim that strains credulity: "For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq."

To dispel the haunting, the President immediately played the fear card again: "To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties…."

Earlier in the day, the Obama administration admitted to killing four American citizens, and unnumbered others, without any legal due process. Yet in his speech he said, "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."

The President went on to discuss engaging with the Muslim American community, being troubled by intimidating reporters, modifying the legal basis for continued war-making, and mitigating the horrors of Guantanamo. All these are issues he could have addressed at any time during his presidency, and he offered no pressing reason for addressing any of them now. Nor did he outline any clear new direction on any of them.

Boiled down, the President's speech signaled that he had noticed that there were problems waging global war, that he would try to make it neater and prettier, but that it would continue – be afraid.

The one apparent exception to the contradictory verbal soft talk was a fleeting comment about three-quarters of the way through. Without offering any analysis, or even any means of doing this, he said: "We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements – because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism."

This echoed Secretary of State John Kerry's comment in Jordan on May 22: "In the event that we can't find that way forward, in the event that the Assad regime is unwilling to negotiate Geneva 1 in good faith, we will also talk about our continued support and growing support for the opposition in order to permit them to continue to be able to fight for the freedom of their country."

Now there's something to be afraid of.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+16 # DurangoKid 2013-05-24 21:37
Same pig, different lipstick.
+4 # curmudgeon 2013-05-25 07:07
Took the words right out of my mouth! ;~}

Or should I say out of my tube?
-12 # tahoevalleylines 2013-05-24 23:24
Here, Mr. Boardman. Noam, Juan et al might as well chime in too: Oh, and Ms. Benjamin-

Iran is negotiating with North Korea for nuclear warheads. They reportedly have a $5 Billion budget. They intend to use them to precipitate a general M.E.conflict, expecting arrival of the 12th Caliphate as consequence of hostilities. What Iran will get is crippled Islam & Israel on original Covenant borders, as promised in scripture. Psalm 83, Isaiah 17.

We will go round and round about drones, Gaza, rendition, US empire malpractice bla bla, but the march of Mohammedanism goes on. Syrian army units are now being supplemented in dozens of locations by Al Queda (Hezballah; Hamas; Fatah; whatever) aimed at pecking away at Israel. Russia has reinstated the Mediterranean fleet ops, dormant since 1991. They are back at their Syrian Port, and are introducing potent S-300 Ground to air missiles into the M.E.

All hands need to understand one big thing- Israel will sooner or later take a really deadly blow, react with fury, and the world shall not be the same forever after. It will be allowed to happen.

America and EU countries will feel years of aftershocks from random violence. Adding US inconvenience to Israel's injury, expect prolonged period of motor fuel rationing to a degree unimagined, orders of magnitude worse than the WWII years. Except this time we have less than half the public transport and/or rail freight mileage available...
+4 # WestWinds 2013-05-25 10:23
Let's leave the biblical razzle-dazzle out of this, shall we? Things are confused and confusing enough without adding a bunch of allegory to the mix. Let's keep it simple.
+17 # Susan W 2013-05-24 23:45
How can anyone believe a word he says? He claims killing an American is unconstitutiona l right after admitting that he did so. Does he hear what he says or is he so caught up in his own cleverness that he thinks no one else hears what he says. Wow!That "lesser evil" is looking quite evil from here.
+4 # Henry 2013-05-25 08:51
Remember: He is reading.
+2 # WestWinds 2013-05-25 10:24
Great! The country, nay the world is in trouble and we have another Ronnie Ray-gun script reading sock puppet!
+6 # barbaratodish 2013-05-25 00:53
"The president went on to discuss... being troubled by intimidating reporters.." Mr. Boardman, please clarify, if possible. Are there intimidating reporters? If so, who are they, because I want to respect them, if, that is the "intimidation" is based on only words, instead of threats, of course. Or, do you mean that President Obama is troubled by his own intimidation of (the implicaion is) timid reporters?
+6 # WBoardman 2013-05-25 11:18
Would that there were "intimidating reporters,"
but that seems largely a thing of the past, or myth.

Your second reading was my intent, but your first
reading is much funnier. The ambiguity was mine.

The President's exact words were:
"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable."

Troubled? Really? Doesn't seem credible.
And when did it cease to be government's responsibility
to be accountable all by itself?

Bradley Manning has been tortured and imprisoned
essentially for the "crime" of revealing that US troops
in Iraq (in this instance) felt free to murder civilians,
including children and reporters.

What part of THAT shouldn't "trouble" any President?

But perhaps those reporters don't count as "intimidated."

Because they're dead.
+11 # tomo 2013-05-25 01:55
It's a good article. It captures well the climate of "Sentence now, verdict later" which we've come to share with the mad queen encountered by Alice. What personally I found most offensive in the President's random complaints about foreign policy is that his manner suggested these bad things had all been done by someone other than himself. That, and his casual observational asides that, bad as these things are, they will probably continue. I believe that last part.
+1 # WestWinds 2013-05-25 10:32
I believe the mad Queen part.
+1 # tomo 2013-05-25 01:55
It's a good article. It captures well the climate of "Sentence now, verdict later" which we've come to share with the mad queen encountered by Alice. What personally I found most offensive in the President's random complaints about foreign policy is that his manner suggested these bad things had all been done by someone other than himself. That, and his casual observational asides that, bad as these things are, they will probably continue. I believe that last part.
+3 # tomo 2013-05-25 01:55
It's a good article. It captures well the climate of "Sentence now, verdict later" which we've come to share with the mad queen encountered by Alice. What personally I found most offensive in the President's random complaints about foreign policy is that his manner suggested these bad things had all been done by someone other than himself. That, and his casual observational asides that, bad as these things are, they will probably continue. I believe that last part.
+9 # seeuingoa 2013-05-25 02:58
What a legacy this man will have
and what a legacy he could have had.
+7 # Inspired Citizen 2013-05-25 05:00
Obama should be impeached for killing Anwar al Awaki without due process. His assertions during that speech were accusations, unproven in a court of law.

His rationale did not cut mustard.
+13 # indian weaver 2013-05-25 06:45
If one pays attention to what Obama says, then one is not aware he has said very little containing any truth. His lies are legion at this point while his credibility is at the nadir of believability. If I see Obama on TV, I turn it off or turn off the sound. If I hear Obama or his speech somewhere, I know it'll be mostly obfuscation and double speak. Why give this loser coward any face time, to yourself anyhow? Why waste your time. Many of us know what he is at this point and we are not impressed, at all. He certainly is not a credible leader, or even a credible normal human we can trust. However, this applies to his entire administration. Chuck Hagel seems to be a bit more forthcoming. Maybe that is because he was in Viet Nam as a soldier on the ground and knows bullshit first hand, unlike most of the idiots, cowards and terrorists in the administration, including Obama.
+2 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-05-25 07:44
Yes, indian weaver, what you say rings a truth bell. And, it must be of great worry to the Bushwhacking/Ko chsucking villainaire rulers, that there are any number of upper ups in the military, and other 'enforcement' agencies, who know and understand..."b ullshit first hand", and are fed up and then some with all the evil greed and power addiction that's at the root of our ongoing wars on 'terror'.
+3 # WBoardman 2013-05-25 11:27
One of the traps laid by dissatisfaction with Obama
is the possibility that there's someone better,
in the administration or out of it, who can make a difference.

There do seem to be better people out there, but they are
largely quiet or marginalized.

The dominant cultural continues, it seems, to be
the struggle among the bad, the worse, and the much worse.

PS As for Hagel, I'd withhold hope till he does something
to make impossible for the good ole boys to dismiss
their buddies' rape convictions.
+1 # Lolanne 2013-05-26 07:12
Quoting WBoardman:
One of the traps laid by dissatisfaction with Obama
is the possibility that there's someone better,
in the administration or out of it, who can make a difference. . . .

Many of us do understand the situation. We KNOW there's no one better, no one who can make a difference at all, unless and until we can somehow manage to get money out of our election process. Since it takes a mint to even run for office in modern times, there is no way "anybody better" can possibly ever be even a candidate, much less get elected, without taking the handouts from the wealthiest individuals and the corporations. Then they are landed, hook, line and sinker, and only able to move whatever way the line is pulled. The threat of having the financial support removed means they just flop around ineffectually if they even try to do anything that would make a real, positive difference in the way things are run here. And this president, who was the hope for so many, hasn't even appeared to try in most cases.

It's damn depressing to see what's happening, has happened, to our country and feel powerless to do anything about it. One loses hope after a while.
+9 # walt 2013-05-25 07:04
Obama is a great disappointment to many of us who hoped for better.

He has allowed himself to be the puppet of the neocons and their lobby and he shows that he is not really a peace-maker at all. He sticks by those who want to keep the USA in perpetual war.

In the last four years there has not been a single peace initiative come from him or his administration.

And every American should remember...we pick up the bill for all this while being told to tighten our belts and do without! That seems treasonous!
+1 # WestWinds 2013-05-25 10:37
He's going along (with the NeoCons) to get along (and feather his nest; now with Wall Street investments and later when he becomes a lobbyist or gets a big fat CEO job with some company like Monsanto.)
+11 # RMDC 2013-05-25 07:20
Thanks, good article.

I can't even listen to this lying terrorist any more. He's just as bad as Bush/Cheney. The US global war of terror has grown under his presidency at a pace that no republican could have done. If a republican president were bombing people with drones, the liberals would be howling about crimes against humanity. Obama does it and most people remain silent -- except for Medea Benjamin.

Let's face it. The military-indust rial-banking complex runs the US regime. Obama is just as much of a puppet in the white house as Bush was. He's just as ignorant and morally cowardly as Bush. He could close guantanamo with an executive order if he wanted to or if he had the moral courage.

Maybe in 2016 there will be a candidate who has the decency and the courage to shut down the global war of terror. By then, a half million Syrians will be dead. Several more nations will be destroyed like Libya.
+5 # WestWinds 2013-05-25 10:39
Yes, and We the People could end it, but for some reason, this country remains inert.
+6 # WBoardman 2013-05-25 11:29
Elections are useless without good candidates.
+3 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-05-25 08:40
Obama is just as bad as Bush/Cheney and the Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats. There is no lesser evil. Our government is corrupt and we must rebel and resist this rotten government---th e best that money can buy---and DID!! Our task is regime change. We all must do all we can to stop the wars and the austerity program. Our nation is not broke!!! Our commonwealth has been stolen and we must regain some democracy. Do all you can to resist, rebel and speak your mind.
+3 # jwb110 2013-05-25 08:59
He did not clarify when Benghazi became part of "our nation."

A diplomatic mission is considered to be equivalent to being on its own soil and bound by the laws of the country which it represents. This is true of all diplomatic buildings.

And, yes, I listened to the speech and i am still very much afraid how these "new policies" can be turned against the US Citizen.
It would only take one President in an ideological regime to turn these very loose rules against anyone "perceived" as someone with an interest in attacking the country.
Who is a terrorist, an enemy combatant, a person expressing a alternate opinion? Who upholds the tenant that "all men are created equal and endowed with certain in alienable rights"? This goes for Americans also. Looks like statesmen-ship has gone by the by.
0 # WBoardman 2013-05-25 11:32
Quire so about a diplomatic mission.

But Benghazi remains a Libyan city,
of which only a small part of which is a diplomatic mission,
and another small part a CIA station.

My comment was meant to take ironic notice
of the President's imperial formulation,
whether deliberate or mindless.
+2 # 666 2013-05-26 06:07
Mr. Boardman, thank you for taking the time to engage with your readers. There are many valid points made in these discussions, too often however I feel they never reach the author.
+2 # wwway 2013-05-25 10:14
Alien and Sedition Acts John Adams administration. In fear of France, in order to protect American citizens the Acts were designed to silence critics. Americans don't realize that since that 5th congress of Federalists passed those 4 acts, subsequent congresses have put new make-up on ASA.
Diplomatic vs Pre-emptive foreign policy debate continues to rage on and it seemed that Joe McCarthy might have finally inspired Americans to throw out the internal paranoia that the ASA promotes. That is until George W. Bush said this about his War on Terror and support for his war in Iraq, "If you are not for us, you are against us."
How subsequent administrations manage the damage has been tricky.
Remember also that Nixon's War on Drugs has been an ongoing, expensive war. Bush added another on top of it, the War on Terror. Both are never ending drains on the American taxpayer with no signs of abating.
0 # cmp 2013-05-25 11:10
And, the term "Predatory lending," sounds much softer as "Sub-Prime lending.."

"Stimulus," that don't sell.. But, "Quantitative Easing" does..

"Austerity?" Too aristocratic.. "Sequester?" Just right..
+3 # geraldom 2013-05-25 13:35
So Bush & Cheney have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in convincing the people in power to make war on the whole world based on a false-flag event known as 9/11.

In the past, in order to just illegal military actions by the U.S. for world empire, we needed to create enemies that would not be permanent, like communist Russia or communist China, or so-called leftist govts in Central & South America.

In order to complete our military conquest for the rest of the planet, we needed a faceless generic enemy that could never go away, so we created the "terrorist," an entity that could exist anywhere & everywhere, a stateless person or groups. Bush & Cheney invoked the plan spelled out in PNAC, the Plan for a New American Century. Check the upper left-hand corner of page 51 of the following PDF file:

Check out the para that mentions a Pearl Harbor event.

Check out the following page & the signatures at the very bottom:

As a matter of fact, I'd check out the whole site from top to bottom:

9/11 was a false-flag event perpetrated by the Bush admin that'll never ever go away. We will now have endless wars of aggression & a slow but systematic loss of our civil liberties because nobody wants to look at the real evidence of that day.
+1 # 6thextinction 2013-05-25 18:27
There will be no change in either party until there is a grassroots movement against the corruption in both of them.

And it needs to start now, before the congressional election next year. We must stop voting for the lesser of 2 evils, and start making both parties afraid of US, instead of the usual fear felt by the electorate. Let's start a can't-be-ignore d huge growth of third parties.

This country's deterioration must end.
0 # Lou17 2013-05-26 01:05

Election of third party candidates will require political reforms: instant runoff voting to prevent wasting votes when voting for them; free air time for candidates; and inclusion of smaller parties in candidates’ debates. Ultimately, we need constitutional amendments requiring publicly financed elections and elimination of corporate personhood.

We have had plenty of complaining, including incisive analyses, of the wrong course of this country since 2001, but there is insufficient realization of the causes and insufficient commitment to working for reform.
+1 # Anarchist 23 2013-05-26 17:16
Is it Fascism yet?

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