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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail