President Obama gave a speech last Thursday, May 23, 2013 regarding his use of drones to kill anyone he deems killable, anywhere in the world, for as long as he determines is necessary. (Full text and audio of the speech here.)
This speech follows, by one day, the letter from Obama’s Department of Justice confessing to and rationalizing the due-process free murders of four Americans.
First of all, let’s review the propaganda run-up to the President’s big drone speech.
As is typical of image-building exercises, the President’s message was first leaked to the New York Times.
Specific details of a “classified policy guidance” regarding drone assassinations appear in the leak here (4th paragraph from the top):
A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.
This leak was in an edition of NYT put out May 22, 2013, the day before the President’s speech.
The NYT article doesn’t mention that the details were an “anonymous” leak, of course, but given the nature of the details, you would assume the information had to come from the President’s administration.
The article does point out, however, that the new policy guidance from Obama is “classified”.
I wonder if there will be any witch hunt prosecutions for this self-serving administration leak?
This NYT leak can’t be found anywhere else prior to its release.
PBS refers to the NYT leak as a “… preview [of] the president’s remarks.”
Sometimes, “previews” of classified information land a normal citizen in jail for decades, but leaks/previews are just fine when they cast our leaders in the desired light. The Obama administration, while being as tough as any administration on whistleblowers, is fond of using self-serving leaks when they are helpful.
So, why the NYT? Why leak there before the speech?
In my opinion, the President is using this paper because the NYT will print any anonymous bit of tripe the government wants, without factual vetting, as we saw beautifully illustrated in the Iraq War. (see their more kindly worded apology for doing so)
In addition, the NYT is still the respected paper of what Chomsky calls “the Establishment Left”…left beyond which no major media discussion can occur…and, importantly, the most credible way to reach President Obama’s civil rights critics on the left.
The purpose of the President’s speech was to pacify critics of his drone use.
Incidentally, the critics have a point.
The Washington Post recently reported “…the CIA and the military have carried out an estimated 416 drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen [since 2002], resulting in 3,364 estimated deaths, including militants and civilians.”
416 separate military attacks with no specific congressional approval.
The fun with propaganda continues. Let’s see the post-speech reviews.
The day after the speech, the NYT editorial page ran an op-ed article entitled “The End of the Perpetual War“, purporting to review the speech.
The article is an amazing piece of propaganda.
It makes you wonder if this is the “quo” part of some implicit quid-pro-quo arrangement where the NYT gets the leaked details before anyone else and then trumpets the President’s speech as amazing and successful in return.
The post-speech article “gushingly” calls the speech the “…most important statement…” on the war on terror and states the speech was “…a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America.”
The post-speech op-ed goes on to state:
For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.
The actual text of the President’s speech contains absolutely nothing clear, unequivocal, or otherwise about the war on terror’s ending “…in the not-too-distant-future”.
The speech actually says, in its only reference to an end to the AUMF (war powers given post 9/11) :
And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.
The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.
So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end.
Where did the NYT op-ed writer get that “in the not too distant future” part?
It is absolutely not in the President’s speech.
It is, however, exactly the impression that Obama wants to convey, and so, the NYT was happy to say it for him.
So…when will the war end?
Obama’s military officers have been much more specific than the President’s saying simply that the war “…must end.”
The military has been even more specific than the NYT op-ed’s fabrication that the President said the war would end “in the not-too-distant-future”.
Senior defense official Michael Sheehan, in a congressional hearing held May 16th, 2013, only one week before the speech and only eight days before the post-speech NYT op-ed, under oath and testifying before Senators, stated specifically…
without subsequent correction or “clarification” by Obama…
that the “War on Terror” would last at least another 10 to 20 years!
Funny the NYT op-ed did not mention this in their cheerleading post-speech piece.
How do you leave that out of a story about the “end of the perpetual war”?
President Obama did, however, say something that was special in his speech…
You didn’t see it mentioned in the pre-speech NYT article.
You didn’t see it on the post-speech cheerleading NYT op-ed.
In the speech, the President gave us his view on the breadth of his powers to use military force, globally, under the AUMF. This is the real story.
The President said
Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states [my emphasis]
President Obama views the AUMF powers he has been granted to be “…unbound powers…”.
The words in his speech were, of course, chosen carefully. This was a much-anticipated speech he made, watched around the world. These were not off-the-cuff remarks.
He meant what he said.
Isn’t this the real news story?
Why was this not reported in the lengthy, post-speech cheerleading NYT op-ed ?
President Obama then goes on to say, regarding the “unbound powers” of the AUMF:
“And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.
How would he expand something he believes and has told us is “unbound”?
Bit hollow, that reassurance…
In his speech, President Obama continued:
And that’s why, over the last four years, my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists –- insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.
In the absence of any perceived limits on his powers under the AUMF, Obama and his employees tried to build their own cages, we are told.
He tells us they have even worked “vigorously” insisting on oversight and accountability.
Funny how the due process-free killing of four Americans was just admitted this month, despite having happened years ago.
We have bombed foreign countries over 400 times, and he is just getting around to telling us all about it.
This does not sound too much like vigorous accountability.
Obama is finally getting criticism for his nasty habit of bombing whomever, whenever and wherever he personally chooses.
The AP scandal seemed to wake people up. He deserves much more rigorous and sustained criticism.
One Senator, Senator Angus King, from Maine gets it. In the hearing with senior defense official Michael Sheehan, mentioned above, held May 16th, 2013, Senator King states:
SEN. ANGUS KING: Gentlemen, I’ve only been here five months, but this is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today. The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, clearly says that the Congress has the power to declare war. This—this authorization, the AUMF, is very limited. And you keep using the term “associated forces.” You use it 13 times in your statement. That is not in the AUMF. And you said at one point, “It suits us very well.” I assume it does suit you very well, because you’re reading it to cover everything and anything. And then you said, at another point, “So, even if the AUMF doesn’t apply, the general law of war applies, and we can take these actions.” So, my question is: How do you possibly square this with the requirement of the Constitution that the Congress has the power to declare war?
This is one of the most fundamental divisions in our constitutional scheme, that the Congress has the power to declare war; the president is the commander-in-chief and prosecutes the war. But you’re reading this AUMF in such a way as to apply clearly outside of what it says
Our President needs a real, active, critical press to call him out on his “unbound” warmongering. Maybe the AP scandal waked them.
Our congress needs to stand up and insist on being counted. They should assert their power as the executive branch can’t be counted on to share it, and our checks & balances naturally demand their involvement.
Executive power has concentrated to dangerous levels as a result of the “war on terror”.
Speak out against this perpetual warmongering and totalitarian concentration of power.