Scary Discussion on Obama Drone Killings

By Ben Cohen: Yesterday on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe an interesting and very scary debate occurred centering on Tom Junod’s Esquire piece titled “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama”. Junod was on the show along with high profile ‘liberal’ pundit Harold Ford Jr, and neocon Dan Senor, and the three got into it about President Obama’s policy of killing suspected terrorists abroad.

The debate was scary given both Ford and Senor’s complete lack of regard for human life, particularly when confronted with the U.S. killing of innocent 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki in Yemen. Neither man acknowledged the killing and simply stuck to their individual talk points – Ford that he supported the President’s policies whole heartedly, and Senor that he wanted to interrogate the terrorists first (ie. torture them).

Junod had written the following on the President’s use of lethal force:

More than any other president you have made the killing rather than the capture of individuals the option of first resort, and have killed them both from the sky, with drones, and on the ground, with “nighttime” raids not dissimilar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden. You have killed individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and are making provisions to expand the presence of American Special Forces in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Pakistan and other places where the United States has not committed troops, you are estimated to have killed at least two thousand by drone. You have formalized what is known as “the program,” and at the height of its activity it was reported to be launching drone strikes in Pakistan every three days. Your lethality is expansive in both practice and principle; you are fighting terrorism with a policy of preemptive execution, and claiming not just the legal right to do so but the legal right to do so in secret.

The article is well worth reading in full because it lays out in stark details the human cost and legal murkiness of Obama’s killing policy. No matter where you are on the political spectrum or whether you support Obama or not, there are clearly issues that should trouble every American and cause them to reevaluate his Presidency. None of the above seemed to worry the other guests in the slightest, with Ford even going as far as to tout the economic efficiency of killing people without questioning them first.

“It also shows we can save money by not putting boots on the ground,” he said calmly.

As Glenn Greenwald writes, this attitude is a very worrying attribute of many commentators willing to commit violence without ever getting their hands dirty:

You just have to watch the reaction of Ford, neocon Dan Senor, and Mike Barnacle to appreciate the soulless rot that leads people so cavalierly to defend and dismiss the continuous killing of innocent Muslims by the U.S. But it’s Ford’s smirking, self-satisfied, effete ignorance — from a warmonger whose delicately manicured hands have never been and will never be near any of the carnage he reflexively defends — that is particularly nauseating. Like most mindless defenders of U.S. violence, Ford just repeatedly utters the word “Terrorist” over and over like a hypnotic mantra.

Even after Junod describes the heinous death of the indisputably innocent American teeanger, Ford just smirks and pronounces that it’s better to Kill The Terrorists than to capture them.

It is expected that a neo-con like Senor is not interested in human cost – it is the projection of US power that they are most interested in regardless of the damage done. I’ve long believed neo-cons are former victims of bullying in high school and are exacting their revenge either in government or by writing propaganda pieces in the media. But it is people like Harold Ford Jr who are the worst – nakedly ambitious, greedy, and completely devoid of empathy. As Greenwald notes, Ford’s career has been one long quest to service the needs of the powerful and climb the totem pole by any means necessary:

After Tennessee voters drove him from Congress by rejecting his 2006 Senate bid, Ford immediately cashed in on his servitude to Wall Street and peddled his D.C. influence by becoming Vice Chairman and Senior Policy Adviser of Merrill Lynch. During Ford’s tenure, “Merrill Lynch nearly collapsed, was bailed out by US taxpayers, and went through a troubled merger with Bank of America,” yet he nonetheless received $2 million a year in guaranteed salary plus what were almost certainly substantial annual bonuses. He left what had become Bank of America Merrill to become a Senior Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, at which time he bought a $3 million co-op in Manhattan. Upon leaving Congress, Ford also cashed in by becoming the last Chairman of the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council (“last” because, typifying his career, the DLC ceased to exist under his leadership). He cashed in further by becoming a Fox News contributor, until he left for MSNBC.

I find it nauseating watching Ford speak – he has an ‘American Psycho’ neatness to him and answers questions in packaged responses designed to further his own career rather than contribute to debate. Ford is apparently eyeing up the NY Senate, and right now, President Obama is the most powerful force in US politics, and therefore Ford agrees with him lockstep. Saddling up to the President is crucial to his career, so don’t expect any independent thought – if he’s capable of that in the first place.

President Obama’s killing policy should cause every rational person to think seriously about the use of lethal preemptive force as standard doctrine, and the least we can expect is a serious debate about it. Ignoring the killing of innocent people and refusing to acknowledge the moral hazard it presents is not the hallmark of a reasonable human being, but that of a callous sociopath.

The lesson is clear – voters should stay away from Harold Ford Jr.

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