RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Boardman writes: "Who are the terrorists, and can you know one when you see one?"

President Obama. (photo: White House)
President Obama. (photo: White House)

Terror in the Mirror

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

27 April 13


ho are the terrorists, and can you know one when you see one?

How is President Obama not a terrorist, like President Bush and other presidents before him?

What does it mean to be a terrorist? Isn't someone who commits or colludes in a terrorist act quite simply a terrorist?

What is a terrorist act? Isn't a terrorist act an act of violence designed to murder, main, and terrorize civilians?

Is there a difference between a terrorist act and an act of war? Not necessarily. The bombing of London in 1941 and Hiroshima in 1945 were acts of war, and they were both terrorist acts. The former failed, the latter succeeded, and the ripples of nuclear terror continue spreading almost 70 years later.

American drones, Reapers and Predators especially, are weapons of terror. Sometimes they are aimed at specific targets, sometimes they hit those targets, and sometimes they kill indiscriminately. People on the ground can hear or see the drones, but can't know what the drones will do, and that uncertainty gives drones their power to terrorize.

Even unarmed surveillance drones terrorize populations below, who have no way of knowing if unarmed drones are armed or not.

What Terrorist Wouldn't Love to Have a Drone Fleet?

The drone is the American government's terrorist weapon of choice in recent years. Government officials have said they like it because they can target particular individuals who pose some real or imagined threat to the U.S. They don't say, although it appears to be true, that they also like killer drones because even when they miss their target and only achieve wanton killing, that "protects" Americans, too.

American government terrorists have used lethal drones to kill people abroad for a decade or more. The government still keeps much of the drone program secret, especially the actual results of drone strikes. It seems actual carnage, actual dead women and actual dead babies, might undercut widespread popular support for drone killings that are believed to be highly selective and accurate in taking out our legitimate enemies, and only our legitimate enemies.

Most of Congress has apparently felt that way and still does. Until recently, no Senate or House committee had held a single public hearing to find out just what the program of presidential assassination-by-drone was, much less why it was right or even legal for the executive branch to execute people, based on secret "evidence," without due process that included a trial or verdict.

Finally, on April 23, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, held a hearing entitled "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing." The hearing began at 4 p.m.

The Executive Branch Chose Not to Talk About Its Acts of Terror

Even though this was the first ever public Congressional hearing on "Drone Wars," the Obama administration chose not to participate. And the Senate chose not to issue any subpoenas to compel executive branch testimony.

The Senate did postpone the hearing once, to give the administration more time to prepare a witness. In the end, all the White House contributed was an email from a National Security Council spokeswoman that said in part that the White House would work "to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and the world."

The hearing's six witnesses included three retired military officers, two lawyers, one think tank director, and a Yemeni journalist who testified to how wonderfully his life was changed by a U.S. State Department exchange program that brought him from a remote mountain village to spend his senior year in high school in southern California.

How Does a Yemeni Feel When His Home Village Is Bombed?

The journalist is Farea al-Muslimi, who lives and works now in Sana'a, the Yemeni capitol, located about a nine hour drive north of his home village of Wessab. In his testimony, he said:

Just six days ago, my village was struck by an American drone in an attack that terrified the region's poor farmers ...

I could never have imagined that the same hand that changed my life and took it from miserable to promising would also drone my village. My understanding is that a man named Hammed al-Radmi was the target of a drone strike. Many people in Wessab know al-Radmi, and the Yemeni government could easily have found and arrested him. Al-Radmi was well known to government officials, and even to local government Ð and even local government could have captured him if the U.S. had told them to do so.

In the past, what Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love. Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.

Farea al-Muslimi first wrote about the attack on Wasseb, which killed five alleged militants, in the new media web site Al Monitor, which centers on Middle East news. The video of al-Muslimi's five and a half minutes of Senate testimony has gone viral on YouTube.

It's Not That We Shouldn't Dismember People, It's That We Should Do It Properly

Georgetown law professor Rosa Brooks, who served as the Pentagon's special coordinator for rule of law and humanitarian policy during Obama's first administration, testified somewhat gingerly at the same hearing that:

... right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone anywhere on earth at any time for secret reasons based on secret evidence in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials. That frightens me.

I don't doubt their good faith, but that's not the rule of law as we know it.

Why a former Obama administration official was talking about her own fear was not explored. But something else al-Muslimi said helped put the lawyer's fears in fuller perspective:

The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis. I have spoken to many victims of U.S. drone strikes, like a mother in Jaar who had to identify her innocent 18-year-old son's body through a video in a stranger's cellphone, or the father in Shaqra who held his four-and six-year-old children as they died in his arms.

Recently in Aden, I spoke with one of the tribal leaders present in 2009 at the place where the U.S. cruise missiles targeted the village of al-Majalah in Lawdar, Abyan. More than 40 civilians were killed, including four pregnant women.

The tribal leader and others tried to rescue the victims, but the bodies were so decimated that it was impossible to differentiate between those of children, women and their animals. Some of these innocent people were buried in the same grave as their animals.

Who Cares What Blows You Up, Once You're Blown Up?

But wait, some might say, cruise missiles are different from missiles from drones, and technically that's correct. It's also morally meaningless. The remote killing of civilians remains an act of terror, and a war crime, and it really doesn't matter if drone missiles have less explosive power and therefore kill innocent people at a slower rate.

These days, in America, drone wars are not part of a moral debate. Discussion of anonymous killing from the air has raised a debate about technicalities, sometimes important technicalities of ordnance, tactics, law, and constitutionality.

If the debate were about morality, we'd admit that our country commits terrorist acts with relative impunity Ð and then we'd consider whether that's the country we want to go on being.

Terrorism is generally thought to be a weapon of the weak, but there's no inherent reason it can't work even more effectively for the strong, at least in the short term. Especially when the strong have the media ability to redefine their terrorist acts as "targeted killings" or, better, "signature strikes."

What's good about the "war on terrorism" (for America) is that it's a war we can't lose. Those foreign terrorists, no matter how you add them up, cannot become an existential threat to the United States. They don't have the numbers or the resources.

So why does the U.S. pursue fundamentally impotent enemies with such implacable ferocity? Especially, why does the U.S. pursue terrorists in ways that create more terrorists than we kill?

Or is that the point?

What if the Point of the War on Terror Is to Sustain the War on Terror?

Since 9/11 our government, with the consent of all too many of the governed, has taken us down the road of permanent war against an abstraction - terrorism - rooted in a racist premise, that the terrorists are mostly Arabs or Muslims or some sort of poor, brown people.

They envy us our freedoms, as some like to say, with apparently unintended irony, since the course of permanent war abroad has been accompanied by a permanent state of security at home that looks more and more like the latest incarnation of a police state.

That enlarged authoritarian presence in our lives likely contributes to concern about the Constitution and the rule of law - even when those concerned ignore the rule of lawlessness in places like Yemen. Taking this situation as a whole, the Constitution looks more and more like collateral damage.

On its face, American anti-terrorism terrorism is insanely stupid in its ineffectual circularity. Or is it fiendishly clever, however planned or unplanned, in its seemingly infinite self-perpetuation?

When our president and our government commit terrorist acts, they do so partly in our name. When our congressmen and our senators seek to justify the government's terrorist acts, or to cover them over with a transparent film of legality, they do so partly in our name. When our judges allow the terrorist acts of the American government to go unchallenged and unaccountable, they do so partly in our name.

These are the fundamental elements of our three-branch government conspiring to commit terrorist acts around the world, thereby making us all terrorists, except those who resist.

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


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+12 # indian weaver 2013-04-27 14:23
The White House has become The Black House, a torture chamber of unbelievable horror. That is what Obama is - the War Criminal Par Excellence, same as dubya, dick, rice rove Rumsfeld ad infinitum. Obama has no future nor do his children, same as dubya's kids and family all of whom are prime targets, worldwide. Obama snivels around in his black house, obeying his masters of destruction because he has no spine, no principles, no nothing, the best example of a terrorist torturing vapid dolt operating on the world stage. Hard to believe this assassin is supposedly president of the usa. He's not my leader, or anyone's. He sold out and is afraid of being taken out just like amerika took out MLK, JFK, on and on. Obama hides behind his big mouth and wife's skirts.
+52 # WBoardman 2013-04-27 17:59
Obama seems to me more symptom than problem.

The public opposition to drone strikes, renditions,
night raids, and other terrorist tactics used by Americans
is pretty anemic.

While the American people seem generally reluctant
to go to war -- against Iran or North Korea or Syria --
the public sentiment does not seem strong and
there is a healthy minority apparently ready to send
other people's children off to any war they can have.

All in all, Obama seems under more pressure to do
most of what he's been doing than to do something else.

This does not absolve him of anything,
but it doesn't absolve most of the rest of us, either.
+10 # RMDC 2013-04-28 07:08
The american people are too stupid and too ill-informed to make any difference. They can be lied to and manipulated like children.

The pressure you refer to comes from the neo-cons, CIA, and Israelis. Obama is a coward and a liar.
+6 # Kathymoi 2013-04-28 07:52
Often, I look at photos of Obama and I wonder, "How can a man be responsible for a kill list every day, order and condone torture and inhumanity at Guantanamo and elsewhere everyday, support planned poverty creating in the US with the austerity program, and look so fresh and happy day after day? He hasn't aged a minute since he took office. He smiles. He keeps up his exercise program and his vacation schedule. How is that possible----for a human?
0 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-04-28 09:24
God, can truth hurt, indian weaver. And, hurtful but so needed truth you just told in this, your terrific, so on point comment.

Oh Bomb Ah - warmonger for the evil villainaire rulers. The Occupiers were soooo correct, with the chant:

+12 # Surflar 2013-04-27 17:45
The first big Obama lie was when he was given the peace prize for doing nothing. Now it's lie, cover up, false flag, take rights away....etc. You are right on indian weaver.
+2 # indian weaver 2013-04-28 08:23
I emailed the Nobel Price Committee after they committed the outrage of giving this war criminal the Peace Prize for Christ's sake. I told them they should resign and they destroyed the impact and meaning of the Peace Prize forever for millions of us. If Obama had any guts and integrity, he'd have refused to accept it. That would have been impressive but - not a chance this asshole is going to impress anyone. The big money is laughing at him all the way to the bank.
+3 # fabricedeldongo 2013-04-28 10:54
Surely the committee long ago forfeited any right to all but an ironic take on its name. Henry Kissinger, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt- all the way back in 1906...A rogue's gallery of warmongers.
+10 # trini-boy 2013-04-27 23:41
I am growing increasingly more, and more disillusioned and angry with the Obama administration! ! I WAS a big supporter; but, The administrations "embrace" of policies and tactics; both domestic and foreign seem errily like neo-con policies of past adminstrations? Obama has taken his re-election "mandate; and is running a-muk; buck-wild with it!
+6 # James Marcus 2013-04-27 23:56
War is an act of Terror. Has the US 'declared war' on all these nations that receive drone bombs?
Somehow, I think NOT.
Does it make difference?
It does to me, and to those innocents who die, as well as newly born 'Militants', 'Reactionaries' defending their families and land
Obama is a terrorist, as is Bush, Johnson, Bush Sr.
and everyone involved in this Mass Murder Campaign
Also, 'Liar in the Mirror'. Tis guy is a pathological menace, in his ability to feign truth to the degree he does, repeatedly, and with premeditation.
We still know not the extent of his Terror Campaign...
Very Sad, and Horrifying, to anyone with a thread of Morals or compassion.
+14 # LizR 2013-04-28 00:34
Wow, looks like Mr Orwell really knew what he was talking about back in 1948 or thereabouts, although even he might not have expected the Western democracies to base their policies so completely on the slogans he invented.

War is peace.
Freedom is Slavery.
Ignorance is Strength.
0 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-04-28 08:06
Wasn't Orwell, it was Aldous Huxley -- or don't you listen to Fox "news" geniuses?
+1 # tclose 2013-04-28 15:47
No, LizR is right - it was Orwell in his "1984", Curious that his dystopian world is becoming closer to reality as time goes by.
+1 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-04-29 05:05
Sorry this one went over your head.
+6 # Cassandra2012 2013-04-28 15:01
Yes, The Shrub, Darth Cheney and co. embodied the Orwellian view....

On the destruction of the Baghdad Museum*

War is peace and
peace is tyranny
A robot
mouthing words he’s been rehearsed to
whatever questions
he is asked
he answers in the currency
of plastic
flag, freedom, democracy
Security —
war is peace
peace is war
war is security
security is
we will destroy
this village / city / nation / child
to save it

We will bribe the Turk,
barbarians will burn the Library, let them
pillage 7, 000 years of history,
enrich the greed/
y to save freedom, peace, the nation
will sacrifice the young for our glorious

silence the speakers
to save liberty,
tax the poor,
kiss the oily feet of the wealthy
and loose the dogs of war
napalm, biting
at their open sores.

* At the beginning of the Iraq war, the few US soldiers there were told the priority was to protect the Oil Ministry building rather than stop the looting of the Baghdad Museum’s treasures of human history dating from 7,000 B.C..
+2 # Milarepa 2013-04-28 01:15
Obama's future might be to search himself, repent and sin no more - as should be our future as well, no religious effort required. I don't know more about the man than most people, so for me to judge him would only add to my own karmic burden.
+6 # CAulds 2013-04-28 02:40
The goal of the drone strikes; which apparently hit without warning, literally like a blot from the blue, is not limited to a few targeted individuals. They send the message: "anytime, anywhere, MF ... we know who you are and where you're gonna be."

But that's why those innocents who die the "collateral damage" is important. Like the burning of "hootches" in Vietnam, it sends another message: "Don't give refuge to our enemies!"

It's very much terrorism. It is violence use to induce fear in order to induce change in behaviour.
+10 # futhark 2013-04-28 05:34
Barack Obama told you which side he was on back in 2008 when he voted for FISA in the senate and again in May, 2009, when he gave his nationally televised speech from the National Archives advocating a program of "indefinite detention". These and many more actions have amply demonstrated that he is the willing tool of the military-indust rial complex and the surveillance state apparatus and all the wishful thinking of those who voted for him in the hope that he would provide change they could believe in (sic) have not budged him the least bit in his relentless program of expanding the use of coercive force in international relations, violating our civil liberties at home, and persecuting whistle blowers.

As a voter for over 40 years I have never derived so much satisfaction as I have for the knowledge that I resisted Mr. Obama's false campaign blandishments and voted for candidates who honestly stood for principles of peace, justice, equality and liberty.
+5 # RMDC 2013-04-28 07:02
Thanks. This is a good article. It needs to be printed in the NY Times or run on TV news so more people will know this. But it won't.

Obama is the worst terrorist on earth. The boston bombers killed 3 people. Obama has killed many thousands and destroyed two whole nations-- Libya and Syria -- with his terror campaigns.
+1 # tclose 2013-04-28 16:38
Can you explain to me how Obama destroyed Syria? We haven't done a damn thing there -yet.

As to Libya, don't think we did as much killing and destruction as other NATO members, including Canada. And not nearly as much as Gaddafi did to his own people.
0 # RobertMStahl 2013-04-28 07:04
When similarity turns into simile, is there enough ironic distance to do the things that matter, to follow history? Does truth turn into the enemy if night sucks the day into oblivion?
+5 # Majikman 2013-04-28 07:46
Mr. Boardman, as you so correctly say, Obama is the symptom of the problem and it's poster boy. With the military having the lion's share of the budget, and every state receiving it's pork from military spending, there's no way congress is going to bite the hand that feeds them. Here in Wa.State, a very blue state, Boeing is the biggest employer and whatever Boeing wants, Boeing's a job creator, you know. I think that as much as Amerikans say they abhor the drone program...well, to do away with Terra, Inc. would mean the loss of lotsa jobs....can't have that.
If the government were to divert that huge military budget to domestic spending to improve infrastructure, eduction, quality of life etc. which would create jobs, then perhaps Amerikans might wake up to the fact that it's in their interest to stop our death culture.
Money is really a morality issue...we spend money on our top priorities. The US top priority is Terra, Inc. Until, or unless, we make a paradigm shift in the purpose of life, ain't nothin' gonna change.
+2 # Kathymoi 2013-04-28 07:47
When our president and our government commit terrorist acts, they do so partly in our name. And this is why killing any Americans who happen to be in any targeted location at any time is retaliation. It is not incomprehensibl e. It is not random. It is targeted against those people who targeted random civilians in their country. We can end it by ending the motivation and offering respect and understanding to the people of countries currently targeted by US terrorists acts.
-2 # Milarepa 2013-04-28 09:44
My own piety aside, I have to admit the truth: Odrona stinks!
0 # fabricedeldongo 2013-04-28 10:34
His policy earns him the name of my favorite Irish whiskey "Black Bush".
0 # mdhome 2013-04-28 10:35
"So why does the U.S. pursue fundamentally impotent enemies with such implacable ferocity? Especially, why does the U.S. pursue terrorists in ways that create more terrorists than we kill?"

I can't help but think the founding fathers would go into total shock, if they could see what has become of the constitution and the country wrote the constitution for.
+6 # Vern Radul 2013-04-28 11:41
To have a never ending "war on terror" they need to create all the "terrorists" they can possibly create.
0 # Vern Radul 2013-04-28 11:39
Since Obama was murdering innocent kids around the world during his first term and this was no secret but instead was common knowledge at the 2012 election, and it was no secret that he fully intended to go after social safety nets in America with his "sequester", the only reasonable and honest conclusions that can be drawn after the fact are that...

• Obama is a terrorist by all definitions of the word.

• Obama is a terrorist who deserves to be in prison enjoying fairer and more humane treatment than he doles out to his victims with hellfire missiles and to his American torture victims like Bradley Manning.

• Obama belongs in a cell, with Bush and Cheney. He is their getaway driver.

• Obama's response to being outed as a terrorist has been to escalate and expand his foreign terrorism to now include domestic terrorism against US citizens with his sequester.

• Obama with his sequester is now not only sanctioning Iranians, he is sanctioning Americans, and cowardly going after the old, the weak, and the sick - the people least able to withstand his assaults.

• Thousands of Medicare patients lost chemotherapy because of Obama's sequester. In one series of clinics in NY, over 5,000 Medicare chemotherapy patients are now being turned away because of the sequester. Multiply that nationwide.

• Anyone who voted for Obama in 2012 and is now supporting him is either consciously and intentionally a terrorist sympathizer and supporter, or is just plain stupid.
-1 # MichaelSSmithNJ 2013-04-28 12:58
While the use of UAV (drones) can be a usefull tool in the war against terrorists they should be used sparenly and juduciously only when it is certain that no inocent persons (that included the terrorist family) will hurt or killed.
0 # tahoevalleylines 2013-04-28 14:36
It is a sad thing to see RSN commenters thrash their oil-based lives. like chickens when a raccoon gets in the pen..

Not a single one connects America's presence in the Middle East with FDR's Malta promise to the House of Saud at the end of WWII. It was about putting returning soldiers back to work. Rubber tire economics would replace rail based distribution & mobility.

Truman upset the applecart when he supported the new State of Israel in M17 1948. Had FDR lived America would have still established corporate & military presence in the Middle East. Mohammedanism would have concentrated their efforts to push back the infidels without the Palestinian red herring. In fact, the Palestinian Muslims would have been worse off generally speaking.

ARAMCO, in a field of bidders instead of having carte blanche to Saudi oilfield development, would have been required to share the spoils. US motorists would paid more at the pump from the get-go. As technology and money flowed into Muslim economies, the seeds of Islamic world domination, dormant since the Battle of Tours, would have soon sprouted, Israel or no.

Unfortunately for Mohammedanism and their impulses, Israel's appearance in 1948 was more than a fluke in the UN Security Council. Hebrew Scripture contains many passages, some encrypted; very precise identification of Israel's return can be seen in 2500 year old writings.
0 # unitedwestand 2013-04-28 16:09
What is disappointing about Obama is that he is not doing anything different than the previous administration in some ways. I still believe he had better intentions but he quickly towed the line of the background powers that we know exist, that of the Pentagon, the Military Industrial Complex, Corporations including banks, and maybe even international countries such as Saudi Arabia. (You know the Bushes love them a lot.)

Make no mistake though, as disappointed that we may be, we would be seeing even more carnage if the other party had won. Would they have stopped development of more drone use? Could they have in Iran already? Could we have had more foreign terror attacks?

What we do need to stop now is that the makers of the Drones are trying to promote their products for use by our police posing reasons that they can be used to monitor traffic better, etc. This I fear, but we all know that the Military Industrial profiteers will do anything to keep us fearful of our own shadows and we will accept everything they want to dish out.

The dystopia in the Orwellian world or Huxley's is real and we are starting to live it, while in other countries they've been in it for a long time, such as in North Korea.
-1 # da gaf 2013-04-28 17:13
0 # Milarepa 2013-04-29 00:46
Sorry, I take that back - Odrona probably doesn't stink. Still, I wouldn't want to get too close to him: whatever possesses him may be catching.
0 # Milarepa 2013-04-29 12:26
... and this isn't about semantics, who is a terrorist, who isn't.
It's about killing. The moment we stop killing people things get better. So let's just stop killing!

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.