US predator drone_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
WASHINGTON – A very strange story, a 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece
on how, every Tuesday, Barack Obama shuffles “baseball cards” with the pictures
and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and chooses who shall die
by drone strike. He even reserves for himself the decision of whether to proceed
when the probability of killing family members or bystanders is
The article could have been titled “Barack Obama: Drone
Warrior.” Great detail on how Obama personally runs the assassination campaign.
On-the-record quotes from the highest officials. This was no leak. This was a
White House press release.
Why? To portray Obama as tough guy. And why
now? Because in crisis after recent crisis, Obama has looked particularly weak:
standing helplessly by as thousands are massacred in Syria; being played by Iran
in nuclear negotiations, now reeling with the collapse of the latest round in
Baghdad; being treated with contempt by Vladimir Putin, who blocks any action on
Syria or Iran and adds personal insult by standing up Obama at the latter’s G- 8
and NATO summits.
The Obama camp thought that any political problem with
foreign policy would be cured by the Osama bin Laden operation.
administration’s attempt to politically exploit the raid’s one-year anniversary
backfired, earning ridicule and condemnation for its crude appropriation of the
heroic acts of others.
A campaign ad had Bill Clinton praising Obama for
the courage of ordering the raid because, had it failed and Americans been
killed, “the downside would have been horrible for him.” Outraged veterans
released a response ad pointing out that it would have been considerably more
horrible for the dead SEALs. Obama only compounded the self-aggrandizement
problem when he spoke a week later about the military “fighting on my
The Osama-slayer card having been vastly overplayed, what to do?
A new card: Obama, drone warrior, steely and solitary, delivering death with
cool dispatch to the rest of the al-Qaida depth chart.
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peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for
America having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people
Obama now kills, has become – just in time for the 2012 campaign – Zeus the
Avenger, smiting by lightning strike.
A rather strange ethics. You go
around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by
electing a president profoundly offended by George W.
and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that
you personally play judge, jury and executioner to unseen combatants of your
choosing, and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.
not to argue against drone attacks.
In principle, they are fully
justified. No quarter need be given to terrorists who wear civilian clothes,
hide among civilians and target civilians indiscriminately. But it is to
question the moral amnesia of those whose delicate sensibilities were offended
by the Bush methods that kept America safe for a decade – and who now embrace
Obama’s campaign of assassination by remote control.
Moreover, there is
an acute military problem. Dead terrorists can’t talk. Drone attacks are
cheap – which is good.
But the path of least resistance has a cost. It
yields no intelligence about terror networks or terror plans.
could potentially make us safer than 10 killings. But because of the moral
incoherence of Obama’s war on terror, there are practically no captures
What would be the point? There’s nowhere for the CIA to
interrogate. And what would they learn even if they did, Obama having decreed a
new regime of kid-gloves, name-rank-and-serial-number interrogation? This
administration came out opposing military tribunals, wanting to try Khalid Sheik
Mohammed in New York, reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights and
trying mightily (and unsuccessfully, there being – surprise! – no plausible
alternative) to close Guantanamo. Yet alongside this exquisite delicacy about
the rights of terrorists is the campaign to kill them in their beds.
festoon your prisoners with rights – but you take no prisoners. The morality is
perverse. Which is why the results are so mixed. We do kill terror operatives,
an important part of the war on terror, but we gratuitously forfeit potentially
But that will cost us later. For now, we are to
bask in the moral seriousness and cool purpose of our drone warrior
president.Charles Krauthammer’s email address is
email@example.com. (c) 2012, The Washington Post Writers Group.
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