Jeremy Scahill Calls Obama’s Murderous Actions Murder

by lizard

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

—George Orwell

Obama as murderer? Jeremy Scahill says yes, causing quite an uproar with his appearance on Chris Hayes’ show.

According to what should be a shocking article in the New York Times, our Nobel Peace Prize winning president has fully embraced the ultimate power of deciding who dies and who doesn’t.

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

I say should be shocking because, well, it doesn’t seem to be shocking too many people. Obama supporters appear more concerned about Scahill’s word choices than they are about Obama’s death choices, which includes kids and US citizens.

And in accordance with Orwell’s description of political language as functioning to make murder respectable, Obama has gone deeply Orwellian by counting any corpse of a fighting-age man killed by drone strikes as “militants”—this from the NYT article:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

The incrementalism that slowly cooks the oblivious frog is inching along toward a bad end for human rights and civil liberties in America and around the world.

Are Americans too brainwashed by corporate media at this point to register the implications of Obama’s dangerous expansion of the unitary executive in its use of a remote control death squad of drones that has killed regardless of national sovereignty and US citizenship?

Glenn Greenwald makes the very important point about the propaganda value of how the Obama administration counts corpses. link:

For now, consider what this means for American media outlets. Any of them which use the term “militants” to describe those killed by U.S. strikes are knowingly disseminating a false and misleading term of propaganda. By “militant,” the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).

What kind of self-respecting media outlet would be party to this practice? Here’s the New York Times documenting that this is what the term “militant” means when used by government officials. Any media outlet that continues using it while knowing this is explicitly choosing to be an instrument for state propaganda — not that that’s anything new, but this makes this clearer than it’s ever been.

Sure, clearer if you’re looking for it. But that’s the brilliance of American propaganda; many Americans don’t think that’s what they’re consuming, just like many Obama supporters don’t see the nefarious implications of Obama’s actions as president.

I’ve been accused of not being a member of the reality-based community where apparently apologizing for politicians has become a proud tradition.

That said, here’s the reality as I see it: the baton Obama will pass off to the next unitary executive will feature a handy button allowing him/her to kill anyone, anywhere, at anytime, and with the flimsiest reasoning as justification.

Whether it’s one term or two, the legacy Obama seems poised to leave behind will be one of decimated civil liberties at home, and indiscriminate death wrapped in lies and propaganda littered around the globe.

The useless anger directed at Jeremy Scahill for calling Obama’s actions murder is a truly sad measure of how close we are, as a country, to being cooked.

  1. Steve W

    As Dick Gregory used to say, “Play time is almost over.”

  2. I cannot agree that Obama acts alone. He may be the final authority, but he does not act alone. The information collected and processed in order to choose targets is not the work of the president. I it would not be hard for me to believe that thousands of individual American citizens devoted to protecting you are involved before the President is even notified.

    Are you really saying that the President shouldn’t have to the final authority on the choice of targets? He really doesn’t. Some low level people have already made many choices before he administers the final civilian authority over our military.

    I am glad that the person making these important decisions is elected by every voter, and will be up for election this November. This president is my president, and he acts for the nation according to his office, not for himself. Murder is a poor choice of words. There is an important distinction that needs to preserved in our language between warfare, and individual crimes.

    • Steve W

      Why Rev? So you can feel OK about murder that’s collectively plotted?

      • I’m not interested in feelings, but in the principle that we must defend our nation against the collectively plotted acts of unjust war committed against us. But you probably believe that 9/11 was justifiable warfare. Specifically targeting airplane passengers, and office worker isn’t morally justifiable combat tactics.

        Drone warfare? That is a different, more complex and interesting question where good people can hold different opinions, and discussion would be welcome.

      • lizard19

        Steve, though I might disagree with the Rev, he has received more antagonism than he’s dished out in his efforts to add to the conversation here, and I respect him for that.

    • lizard19

      Rev, it’s too bad you assume this cowardly targeted assassination program is being done to protect us.

      instead, you are exemplifying what I pointed out by expressing the same concern over the choice of words and not the policy it’s describing.

      that said, I think Scahill is being a bit sensationalist, possibly even a little self-serving to bolster his street-cred—and you’re right that a distinction may be getting blurred with his choice of words.

      but I would argue that pales in comparison to the distinction being blurred between countries we are at war with, and countries we are not technically at war with. there are much more tangible consequences to that distinction being eroded than one person referring to the extrajudicial killing signed off by our president as murder.

      we are not in a congressionally declared war with Pakistan or Yemen, yet those who are elected to uphold the constitution are currently allowing people in those countries to be blown up.

      I wish our elected officials were more concerned about that distinction.

      • jack ruby

        That line between countries we are at war with and not has been blurred so much over time as to be indistinguishable. I believe Congress is as much or as more to blame regarding the extra judicial killings by their failure to create a framework of judicial oversight for what the President is doing.

      • Unfortunately we are not at war with countries or nations but with a transnational movement who hold to barbaric religious beliefs. We could declare war against all the nations who harbor and support them, but we would only unite Islam against a common enemy. I don’t think that is necessary. But whether or not we declare war against them, they are at war against us along with every other people who have not submitted yet.

        As far as the policy, it is a more ethical form of combat than they choose to wage on us. I am certain that you wouldn’t want us to start ritually beheading prisoners while screaming “God is Great!” I’m not for that so I guess I will support the use of “suicide bomber” drones that do not require American lives, and kill fewer innocent civilians than A-bombs. But give it some more time and this war may come to that if we cannot comprehend the motivation of our enemies.

        • lizard19

          please don’t go all religious bigotry, Rev. we are at war with a tactic—terrorism—not barbaric religious beliefs.

          for example, sometimes terrorists set secondary bombs to kill first responders. it’s a despicable tactic aimed at those who are rushing to salvage life from senseless death.

          and guess what, the Obama administration does the same thing:

          In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that after the U.S. kills people with drones in Pakistan, it then targets for death those who show up at the scene to rescue the survivors and retrieve the bodies, as well as those who gather to mourn the dead at funerals: “the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.” As The New York Times summarized those findings: “at least 50 civilians had been killed in follow-up strikes after they rushed to help those hit by a drone-fired missile” while “the bureau counted more than 20 other civilians killed in strikes on funerals.”

          it takes some tortured logic to spin this as an action that is intended to keep us poor targeted Americans safe from crazy Muslims.

          • I’m not sure I trust the sources on this information. But rest assured that I find this practice evil if it is occurring. The biggest problem is believing the sources coming out of the middle east. Remember Saddam’s information minister and his totally accurate accounts of what was happening in Bagdad? That was quite obviously false.

            As far as religious bigotry, do you not find beheading in “Allah’s” name barbaric religion? Which is it not? Barbaric or religious? That is all I did. If you need verification that it happens, there is video evidence created by the very people who do it.

            • lizard19

              it’s not just sources from the middle east that one should be skeptical of. like I said in the post, we’re getting propaganda’d all the time by the likes of CNN, but many Americans don’t see it that way.

              as for those barbaric Muslims beheading people, yes, that’s awful. so is torture, indefinite detention, solitary confinement, and having your entire family killed. what’s your point?

              none of that is defensible, and all of it is happening. we can’t ultimately control how other countries and cultures operate.

              but we do still have some say in how America operates, and right now, we’re as guilty as anyone of acting barbarically.

        • Steve W

          Shock and Awe, the bombing and missile attack on the City of Bagdad was better than cutting off heads, Rev?


          It killed and maimed a lot more innocents a lot faster than using swords ever could. It was the Trade Center times a thousand, and Iraq had zero to do the Trade Center.

          There was no reason to bomb, missile, and invade Iraq except that Bush wanted to.

          • Shock and Awe was specifically designed to keep civilian deaths to a minimum. The were basically big fireworks. The trade center was planned for maximum death. If they had more lethal means they probably would use them. I think Iran is cooking those up right now.

            As far as reasons for the war, I won’t defend it, but there was some good accomplished, and only time will tell how much. South Korea, Japan, and Germany were all defeated and occupied by us. These are wonderful places to visit today.

            • lizard19

              what good was accomplished? please be specific.

              • A dictator, and murder of his own subjects was found cowering in a spider hole. In the peoples rage against him, they convicted him in their own courts, and had him hung. A stable replacement government by the Iraqi people was established, and we left them to rule themselves.

                If wonder if this is good, ask the people of Iraq. Yes, our news sources don’t do that, which is a shame. I recommend the movie “Voices of Iraq” which is a compilation of Iraqi home videos responding to a simple question asked in 2004.

          • “There was no reason to bomb, missile, and invade Iraq except that Bush wanted to.”

            But there’s no difference between Bush, who started that war, and Obama, who ended it, according to many.

        • Consider self-immolating, “Rev.”

          and Jesus said:”just kill the darker people who worship funny.”.

          • lizard19


            • religion is barbarity, liz: one parasite’s cult is another’s joy of sects. it’s time to stand up to the gordishs hiding behind collars to influence politics: fuck that.

              • Scahill is a personal hero, liz: transparency looks like open source to me. As for the Nobel Peace Prize, the President would gladly hand it back over if called upon to do so.

                Don’t expect the Justice Department or Congress to brand drone warfare murder just yet.

          • Actually the gospel specifically mentions the salvation of Ethiopia, and the Old Testament includes numerous black protagonists. Christianity, and (to my admittedly limited knowledge) Islam are both race neutral (though Islam is not language neutral), and originate in areas historically high levels of religious diversity. Africa was an integral part of the Christian world until the Islamic conquest of Egypt and the Maghreb cut the oriental churches off, and not until the schism did Europe became the center of of the Church and Christianity became associated with whiteness.

            The belief that religion is inseparable from barbarism is the same belief that led to the Ghost Dance fiasco and ultimately wounded knee. As a Dakotan, you should know that.

  3. Whether he’s a “murderer” seems to me to be an epistemological question of which I’ll let you all argue. But the question is in my mind from where has he gained the authority to act in this manner? There is no declaration of war and Congress is disturbingly absent on the discussion.

    George Bush has nuthin’ on this guy. But it’s Congress that has ultimately failed.

  4. A nation of laws no more? We were warned very early on.

    Second, one can always apply The Golden Rule. No, not the one that says “those with the gold, rule.”

  5. lizard19

    I’m going to respond down here, Rev.

    you say:

    A dictator, and murder of his own subjects was found cowering in a spider hole. In the peoples rage against him, they convicted him in their own courts, and had him hung. A stable replacement government by the Iraqi people was established, and we left them to rule themselves.

    I’m sure there are plenty of people that would agree with you that Saddam Hussein being dead is a good thing, but when you describe the “replacement” government as being “stable” I have to wonder if you are paying any attention at all.

    Interpol is looking for the Iraqi vice president on charges he ran a Sunni death squad:

    Interpol has called for help in arresting fugitive Iraqi vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi on suspicion of planning and funding attacks in Iraq.

    Hashemi, a leading Sunni Muslim politician, fled Baghdad in December when the Shia-led government accused him of running death squads.

    then, just yesterday, 26 people were killed and over 190 injured in a suicide bomb attack outside a Shi’ite office in Baghdad.

    when we talk about Iraq, we can’t forget the Bush administration lied us into a horrendous war of aggression against a nation that posed no imminent threat to us. tens of thousands have died, and that’s the conservative estimate. the cost to the army and to our country is devastating, and will be ongoing for physically and psychologically damaged veterans and their families.

    maybe you think Saddam’s death is worth the cost. I don’t.

  6. Turner

    Looking at the discussion, I wonder whether anyone here thinks we should be fighting against Al Queda anymore. Didn’t we win already? Or (as McCarthy said years ago about communists) does the fact that there are now so few of them make them more dangerous?

  7. lizard19

    only monsters like Assad would kill their own women and children at close range. NATO, on the other hand, is much more humane, killing other people’s women and children by remote control.

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