FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kafka in the Air

by JOSEPH GROSSO

As Barack Obama embarks on his second term media discourse predicatively overflows with talk of how he could avoid the final term doldrums. And this of course all will lead toward talk of an alleged legacy from years from now. In that vain, and in a most pressing way, perhaps the legacy question could and should be answered now. Perhaps it should go by the name of Faheem Qureshi, the young man who in 2009 was the sole survivor of the first drone strike that Barack Obama ordered as president. Before that attack Qureshi, still just a teenager, was one of the top students in his class. After having his skull fractured in the attack and almost being blinded brain damage has made it a struggle for him ever since; or Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, the 16 year-old American citizen who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen.

There are thousands of such names that have died in the some 300 drone strikes ordered by Obama that have not only turned an entire region into a quasi concentration camp but have ushered in a new era of warfare, one even more callous and impersonal, made up of kill lists, macabre “baseball cards” in the words of one official- an era when an American justice department reserves the right to target and murder American citizens without an ounce of due process and even refuses to issue the legal briefs used to justify such an action.

A report titled Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan published by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law makes the implications of this plain:

Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.

The report also describes children being kept home from school; group meetings such as tribal dispute-resolution bodies fear attracting drones; cultural practices such as burial having been adversely affected as families are fearful to hold funerals, and those who have lost loved ones often struggle to support themselves. Besides Pakistan, drone attacks have been launched in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia claiming many more nameless victims. An estimate by the Brookings Institute’s Daniel Byman suggests that for every militant killed, low level or not, ten civilians have died in drone attacks.

Or should the Obama legacy be Guantanamo Bay, still open years after Obama pledged to close it? Just a few days ago Obama signed a defense bill that makes it impossible to transfer detainees to the U.S. and exceeding difficult to transfer them to any other country whether their homeland or a third country. Of the 166 prisoners still lodged at Guantanamo, 86 have been cleared for release.

Then there is the wiretapping of Americans that Obama just authorized for five more years. Only a few months into his first term Obama supported the legislation, contradicting another campaign vow, that granted immunity to telecommunication companies that cooperated with the Bush administration’s orginal wiretapping program.

If it is to be a truism that the role of the modern Democrats is to validate the most controversial policies of their alleged opponents, this may prove especially true for Barack Obama. If over the objections of his labor constitutes, Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and legitimated ‘free’ trade as U.S. policy, one that now faces minimal opposition, then Barack Obama has validated and furthered the worst excesses of the Bush years when it comes to civil rights. Again this has hardly raised a ripple among the liberal establishment which obviously has also been silent on Obama’s free trade agreement with Colombia, a notoriously dangerous place for union activists. One can at least look back somewhat fondly at liberal outrage when George W. Bush started wiretapping and torture. Now with Obama as president we get nary a serious peep. With logic that brings to mind Czeslaw Milosz’s The Captive Mind, here are the editors of The Nation in their endorsement of Barack Obama just before the last election:

We have never been silent about our objections to Obama’s misdeeds, and we don’t ever intend to be. But if on some foreign policy and national security matters the president has shocked his progressive supporters by edging the needle to the right, Mitt Romney promises to move it even further—embracing again the “enhanced interrogation techniques” promoted by Bush and Cheney and moving into lockstep with Israel’s dangerous war games with Iran.

Notice how inescapable this is: the Obama administration moves further to the right on national security than the dreaded Bush administration but still deserves full support since a Republican administration would only improve upon the work Obama has done. There you have it, the pathetic state of American liberalism in a nutshell.

No doubt when the next four years are up and the next election is upon us it will yet again be called the most important election of our lifetime. Who will not be able to shudder at the cynicism that will surely be on display when again the militant celebrating of lesser evil only continues to bring about evil that is ever greater?

Joseph Grosso is a librarian and writer in New York City.

Joseph Grosso is a librarian and writer in New York City.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Dmitry Kolesnik
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus, as, Fear and Loathing Grip Europe.
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail