Al-Qaeda, blah, blah, blah. America, blah, blah, al-Qaeda. Weapons, blah, blah, America, blah, al-Qaeda. Blah, blah, let us not forget about al-Qaeda, blah, blah…drones, blah. God bless America, blah, blah. Drones.
I will admit that this synopsis is not entirely fair, as there was one noteworthy part of this otherwise insensate piece of political theatre. What I am referring to is the speech’s interruption by an articulate audience member who criticized Obama for the indiscriminate detention and torture of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
These prisoners – alternately referred to by the coolly Orwellian titles “Persons under Control,” “Illegal Combatants,” or “Enemy Detainees” – have been languishing in America’s Auschwitz at Guantanamo in stunning contravention to international law, many of them for years. The illegality of this practice had been criticized by Obama, an expert in constitutional law who promised to close the concentration camp at the beginning of his presidential term – that is, his first term, over four years ago.
Since then Obama has not only equivocated on this simple moral issue but a litany of others. Instead of listening to the audience member, however, he chose to shrug her off, testily replying “Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn’t listening to me and much of what I said,” before closing with the predictable “May God bless the United States of America.”
“May God bless the United States of America” for what? Sodomizing innocent prisoners, abducting children from their homes (yes, children), murdering defenseless people just because they have an Arabic name?
I would suggest that the problem is not that the audience member “wasn’t listening” to Obama but, rather, that Obama was and has not been listening to the American public, international law and his conscience, if indeed he has one.
As far as substantive policies concerning Guantanamo Bay, the administration has said that it hopes to close down the prison by shipping the prisoners to other countries for incarceration. This is a transparently political move to quell domestic criticism since it in effect outsources the torture and imprisonment of these prisoners to foreign governments.
If the policy goes through then Obama and his quislings can continue to market themselves as “liberals” and plausibly deny that the U.S. abducts and tortures people. Of course, this will only be because the U.S. will have other governments hold and torture them for us. As one U.S. official confided during the long days of the Bush II era, if you want information, send them to Jordan; if you want to torture them, send them to Syria.
It is also worth noting that the policy speech was given in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The president’s call for scaling down of the Global War on Terror while memories of the bombings remain etched in the public’s memory is, contrary to the official rhetoric, a tacit admission that the past decade of war has not made the U.S. any safer.
In fact, it is telling that the Boston bombers cited the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the key motivating factors in their move towards terrorism. Just as all the regional specialists and experts had predicted from the start, killing millions of Iraqis and Afghans would not make us safer but only embitter people towards the U.S. In other words, by chasing our own illusions we created our own enemies too, the ultimate act of “terrorism.”
And let no one make the mistake of thinking that Obama really intends to scale down the wars. Like Nixon and Kissinger who pulled the troops out of Vietnam only to escalate aerial bombing campaigns, Obama’s numerous and lyrical references to the use of drones makes it clear that the government plans to keep American drone warfare in the Middle-East a mainstay of U.S. policy for years to come.
The use of drones, if anything, just makes the wars even more one-sided. Now instead of risking any U.S. soldiers’ lives in war against elusive “terrorists” of our own making, our military gets to reap all the destruction without any losses. In other words, American forces can slaughter at will and without oversight; there will be no public feedback because no American lives are lost by manning drones, and because the drone programs themselves are shrouded in near-complete secrecy.
So I guess that Obama is right in one sense when he claims that drone warfare is not, in fact, warfare. It really is rape. One side gets to penetrate the other at will, regardless of boundaries or the sovereign rights of the victim. Totally and utterly powerless against the most formidable military force in world history, the other side does not get to tell their story of victimization even as they bleed themselves dry. And as the victims lie wasted in the gutter the perpetrator gets to deliver policy speeches at gala affairs, dressing down any naysayer who dares to question his management of an illegal brothel with the claim that she simply "wasn't listening."
“May God bless the United States of America”