Photo credit: Reuters

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Obama and Louis XI

Dear Mr. President,
“Qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare.” He who does not know how to deceive does not know how to rule. (Louis XI, King of France, 1461-1483). His bio could be yours, Mr. President. Wily, perfidious and cruel, he never fought his enemy openly if he could win in any other way. Two peas in a pod. Secret “Kill Lists,” secret justifications for extra-judicial assassinations and covert wars, secret deals with Middle East tyrants… the list goes on and on. Another characteristic of Louis XI: he ruled “not like a medieval tyrant but with the cool-headed tyranny of a lawyer.” That’s you, Mr. President. Slick. Secretive. A trickster. Lawerly weasel words that permit continued indefinite detention without trial or judicial oversight, extraordinary rendition to torture, and military tribunals of “enemy combatants.” You ignore international and domestic law, treaties and human rights. You order assassinations without remorse. You morphed the CIA into your own private paramilitary that wages covert wars around the globe. You gutted the Constitution by signing into law the NDAA and extending and expanding the Patriot Act. Typically, you signed both when people weren’t watching, the first on New Year’s Eve, the second a few minutes before midnight. That’s how you operate, in the dead of night and in secret. That’s when you send your teams of assassins to terrorize and kill people in distant lands who are no threat and have no defense – in the dead of night. You’ve put in place all the pieces necessary for a full-fledged police state and you are beginning to use it by bringing the full force of the U.S. (in)justice system to bear on whistleblowers, journalists and dissenters. You have cowed the mainstream media, snuffed the Occupy movement and terrorized anyone who dares blow the whistle on government abuse and corruption. All this with the smiles and reassuring words of the trickster, the con. You are the enemy of democracy and justice, Mr. President, a clear and present danger. You are not the lesser of two evils, the refrain I hear constantly. You are, as Glen Ford has eloquently called you, The More Effective of Two Evils. You have mesmerized us and lulled us into quiescence. A quote from the CIA manual on deception written in the 1940s by a magician named Mulholland: “The hand is not quicker than the eye. The key to an illusion is to make the audience explain away the fact it has been deceived in plain sight.” You and Louis XI, masters of deceit.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More on the Kill List

Dear Mr. President,
Two sentences in that New York Times article yesterday stick in my mind: “Barack Obama … unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric,” and “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a DOJ safe.” The first quote verifies that you are a fraud and a liar; the second is the hallmark of your administration–secrecy. You are a flim-flam man, a trickster who will do and say anything to gain power. You came to a nation reeling from eight years of George Bush and told us what we longed to hear, promised Hope, Change, Transformation, the rule of law. But you never believed any of it, it was just a con. We were a nation of rubes and we didn’t understand that you were a ruthless budding despot, that you would make up your own laws and become the world’s number one terrorist. You didn’t tell us you were willing to gut the Constitution, that you would continue to protect the 1%, that you were the Republicans’ Republican. How does it feel to personally approve every name on your “kill list” even when they are 17 year old girls? To play god? To decide who lives and who dies this week? To kill anyone you decide to with impunity? To be judge, jury and executioner? Knowingly killing non-combatants is a war crime, Mr. President. When you ordered, “Take the shot,” on Mehsud after being told his wife and family would be killed as well, that was a war crime. How did that feel, Mr. President? Another easy call like the one to kill Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who had never been tried or convicted of anything? I’ve been told only the dead can kill. Only those who lose their humanity. When did that happen to you, Mr. President? In college? In Eagle Rock at Occidental? Before? We got a tiny hint at the real you on election night when your wife came across the stage to greet you in joy after your speech, when she grabbed your arm and you shrugged her off with a stern look. That was the clue, not noticed by many, but there it was, the first indication that you were not who you portrayed yourself to be. I shudder at a second Obama term, four more years of a war criminal and cold-blooded killer who does not hesitate to wield power in the most brutal and vicious way. I pray people recover from their shock at the magnitude of your betrayal and turn their backs on you. I will not vote for Romney but I will never vote for you. You should be impeached and tried as war criminal, Mr. President, for that’s what you are.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Kill List

Dear Mr. President,

This morning the New York Times ripped the mask off you and revealed a war-mongering killer who disregards domestic and international law and the Constitution without the slightest hesitation or compunction. I was shocked to learn that you personally approve every name that gets put on the weekly “kill-list”–even 17-year-old girls–but there it was, confirmed by current and former advisers. You vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with America’s values, but the use of armed drones controlled by people 8,000 miles away is not an American value, nor is the use of assassins working in the dead of night to carry out extra-judicial killings, or the violation of national sovereignty of countries we are not at war with. You have bureaucratized murder and weasel-worded directives to permit continued indefinite detentions and extraordinary rendition to torture. You are consumed by blood lust and blinded by the ultimate power to decide who lives and who dies. You are like a sheriff in the wild wild west making your own law and enforcing it according to your own sense of right and wrong, judge, jury and executioner. But this is not the wild wild west, Mr. President, and this is not the role of the President of the U.S. of A. You have become, in the words of Mitt Romney, “Dr. Strangelove,” an apt characterization. Instead of making us safer, you have become the most destabilising force in the world today, worse a threat to world peace than Bush or bin Laden. You are a terrorist, Mr. President, a poster boy for the Evil Empire and your drones have become a major recruiting tool for those who hate our hypocrisy and injustice. It is estimated that there are at least three times as many al Qaeda fighters in Yemen today than when you started using drones there. Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan are all more unstable than when you took over three years ago. Iraq–the “dumb” war–was a failure. Afghanistan–your “smart” war–is also a failure. You promised to return us to the rule of law but instead you continue to make of us a nation of barbarians and outlaws. I am appalled that I fell for your lies and voted for you, but then, as the Times article pointed out, you were “never carried away by your own rhetoric”–i.e., you are basically a liar and a fraud. You have betrayed us, brought shame on yourself, on the Office of the President of the United States, on the nation. You should be impeached and tried as a war criminal, Mr. President, for that’s what you are.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Memorial Day Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President,
After more than ten years of War on Terror, we are still mired in an ugly, brutal, immoral, unwinnable war. We have spent well over a trillion dollars, killed thousands of America’s young men and women and perhaps as many as a million people living in the path of our military juggernaut. We have wreaked death and destruction and engendered the enduring hatred of those we have attempted to bend to our will. On this Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to share my thoughts on this.

On 31 December 2000, President Clinton signed the Rome Statute which defines war crimes and created the International Criminal Court (ICC). On 6 May 2002, however, shortly before it was to go into effect, President Bush “nullified” Clinton’s signature and declared that the U.S. would no longer be a party to, nor accept jurisdiction of, the ICC. It is now clear why – Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” extraordinary rendition to torture, and enforced disappearance in secret prisons without trial or legal recourse. These are all war crimes in spite of the Bush administration’s twisted logic that legalized practices we have condemned since World War II. Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Rumsfeld, all are unindicted war criminals.
Barack Obama the Candidate, pledged to end all this; however, none of your predecessor’s policies have been clearly or effectively reversed, including your quiet refusal to re-sign the Rome Statute or come under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Instead, you continue to hold prisoners indefinitely without trial in Guantanamo Bay, ignore both domestic and international law, and pursue wars of aggression in ever more insidious and immoral ways – through extra-judicial assassinations using unmanned drones, CIA operatives and small teams of Special Forces in countries with which we are not at war – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, et. al. Extra-judicial assassinations are a category of willful killing, a war crime. Indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay without a trial is a war crime. You, Sir, are as guilty of war crimes as Bush, as Cheney, as Rumsfeld, as Tenet.

Your love of drones, Mr. President, is well known. They have become your weapon of choice. You make jokes about them, brag about their success and use them to lethal effect, but consider the following:
Distance is of essential importance. It renders responsibility invisible and retaliation impossible.” (Master of the Eclipse, Etel Adnan)
Bug Splat: military jargon for someone killed in a drone strike.
“For a new generation of young guns, the experience of piloting a drone is not unlike the video games they grew up on. …drone operators kill at the touch of a button, without ever leaving their base – a remove that only serves to further desensitize the taking of human life.” (“The Drone Wars,” Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, April 26, 2012)
President George W. Bush, in his eight years as the self-proclaimed War President, authorized 78 drone strikes. On your third day in office, Mr. President, you authorized a drone strike that killed 20 people in Pakistan, three of them children. In your first three years as president, there were 253 known covert drone strikes in Pakistan alone, plus an unknown number in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and, most recently, the Philippines.
There is a category of drone strikes called a “signature strike” in which the identities of individuals are unknown but they are acting in a “suspicious manner” and there is another category, a secondary strike, that attacks rescuers who come to the aid of victims from a first strike (at least 50 confirmed cases) or an attack on a funeral procession (more than 20 times). These are defined in the Rome Statute as war crimes.
The sound of a drone, described as the buzzing of an aerial lawnmower, circling high above a targeted village for hours, strikes fear in the heart of every inhabitant, for they know that, at any time and without warning, they or their loved ones could be incinerated. This, Mr. President, is a form of terrorism.
The Pentagon’s 7,000 drones can take off and land by themselves, track vehicles, individuals, even footprints in the dirt from a mile up, and those which are armed, like the Predator and Reaper drones, can unleash Hellfire missiles with deadly accuracy. The unknown, however, is whether the target is actually a terrorist.
An estimated 3,000 people have been killed in drone strikes and in spite of denials by the Pentagon, the NSC and yourself, Mr. President, a large number of those killed, perhaps as many as thirty percent, were not terrorists or insurgents or affiliated with al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization; they were innocent civilians including at least 174 children. For you to claim that the drone program is highly precise and kept on a tight leash with few civilian casualties makes you either naïve or a liar, neither of which is a good sign.

You are the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces but under the Constitution you cannot declare war; only Congress can do that and they have not done so since World War II. In the hysteria following 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 … in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States…” This open-ended resolution effectively declared war against anyone deemed a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer regardless of nationality or physical location. You have used this to remold and reshape the War on Terror in ways undreamed of by your predecessor.
While George W. Bush and his neocon administration openly invaded and occupied a country that posed no threat to the United States and had no part in the 9/11 attacks, you, Mr. President, are far more subtle. Except for Afghanistan, your wars of aggression are not carried out by armies in the field but by remote-controlled drones and teams of assassins working in the dead of night. The War on Terror under your command has become a program of extra-judicial assassinations with faceless analysts using secret procedures, secret criteria and secret data to determine who lives and who dies. The claim of National Security cloaks everything in an opaque veil of secrecy that hides abuses, mistakes and the horrific reality of war. Ex-CIA Counsel John Rizzo calls extra-judicial assassinations “militarized murder.”
You have turned the CIA into a paramilitary force that operates outside all law and wages covert wars wherever America’s alleged enemies are. Without congressional discussion, debate or oversight, the War on Terror has become a shape-shifting endless war that disregards domestic and international law, basic human rights and the Constitution. We have squandered the nation’s blood and treasure, destroyed the illusion of America as a beacon of justice, and become as bankrupt morally as we are financially, a nation of barbarians and terrorists wreaking death and destruction around the globe.
You, Mr. President, promised to change this disastrous course but your promises were lies and you have changed nothing. You have betrayed us, you have betrayed the world. You should be impeached and tried as a war criminal.