Horrific Terror Act in London as Man is Beheaded in Broad Daylight. UPDATE: Video of Suspected Killer Speaking
UPDATE: Here is footage of the suspected killer speaking to passerby moments after the killing. WARNING: Highly disturbing images
From the Independent:
A man believed to be a soldier has been beheaded in an attack on a street near the Woolwich barracks in London, witnesses report.
Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford confirmed tonight that two men were shot by armed officers.
Exclusive ITV footage shows that one man was filmed wielding a bloodied meat cleaver and saying: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”
He adds: “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has described the killing as “truly shocking” and has asked the Home Secretary Theresa May to chair a meeting of Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee dealing with incidents that have implications for national security. He is returning to London early from an EU meeting.
Reports the BBC:
The Guardian has an eyewitness account of the murder:
Julia Wilders,51, a local resident, said that she saw a car had crashed into a lamppost when she went to investigate. “My husband said there’s two people trying to resuscitate someone. We parked and walked back to have a look and all of a sudden a tall black bloke come up with a gun. My husband said, ‘Get back, get back’ and we called the police.”
She said that one man was dressed all in black with a black cap whilst the other was dressed in a green jumper.”They looked like they were on drugs,” she said.
She said the black hand gun was pointed down and a crowd soon gathered.
Her husband Graham, 50 called the police to alert them to what they believed was an accident.
“After we called the police I went over to the school to let the school know so the kids wouldn’t come out,” she said.
“I walked back up there and the tall black bloke had changed the gun to the other guy and he had two meat cleavers in his hand. And the response police turned up and he’s ran towards them with meat cleavers before I could even get out of the car so they shot him. And then the other one lifts the gun up and they shot him as well.
She did not know how many shots the police fired but said both assailants fell to the ground after being hit.
She didn’t believe the assailants weapons were fired. “He looked like he was going to, sort of like he was going to lift it up towards the police.”
Her husband said that it looked like the two men were trying to revive the man they’d run over. “They looked like they were pumping his chest but they said that they were trying to cut his head off.”
“A guy in a car told people to ring 999 and then taller guy started waiving the gun at him.”
Call me a hopeless dreamer, but there ought to be a rule in politics banning anyone who caused a crisis from later bitching about the crisis. For the last four years, we’ve witnessed the Republicans, who voted for every Bush-era spending bill and irresponsible tax cut, crapping their cages over the size of the resulting deficit and debt — again, a deficit and debt that they themselves created without uttering even a shrug of protest during eight years in which a surplus transformed into a record deficit. Not a word — except to condemn the Democratic president who was unfortunate enough to inherit the chaos.
Likewise, as we observe the mayhem surrounding the dueling “scandals” of Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press phone records subpoena, the Republicans, true to form, are tripping over each other in a mad dash to scream “Impeach!” into the next nearest cable news video camera. There’s only one problem: when it comes to the IRS situation and the AP phone debacle, the Republicans created the chain-reactions that led to these scandals.
Let’s begin with the IRS scandal first.
While it looks really, really bad for one of the most feared agencies within the Democratically-controlled executive branch to have been exclusively scrutinizing conservative groups, we only need to rewind to the Supreme Court’s reprehensible Citizens United decision to figure out why all of this is going on. The conservative Roberts court not only opened the floodgates allowing unlimited and unregulated corporate money to flow into campaigns, but it also blurred the line between independent 527 political groups and non-profit social welfare groups, which are classified with the designation 501(c)(4). These social welfare groups can also apply for tax-exempt status from the IRS, a designation that used to be the strict privilege of groups that didn’t engage in political speech. But since Citizens United, it’s much more challenging to determine which social welfare groups are dealing in predominantly political speech.
So the IRS is faced with the unenviable challenge of filtering out groups that are stepping over the line and flagrantly abusing the social welfare moniker.
Now, yes, I get it. The IRS staffers shouldn’t have used exclusively right-wing search terms to weed through the applications. They should’ve broadened the criteria to include terms across the political spectrum. But without the conservative, pro-Republican movie created by the infamous Citizens United group in 2008, not to mention the conservative, Republican-affiliated Supreme Court deciding in its favor, we might not be talking about this right now. Furthermore, the Republican-created deficit and the subsequent histrionic demand for austerity led to government cut-backs, including at the IRS where, within the Exempt Organizations Division, the staff has been significantly reduced, thus increasing workloads. Toss into the mix a considerable rise in tax exempt applications and there it is: a formula for negligence. Thanks, Republicans.
On to the AP scandal.
Right off the bat, it might surprise you to learn that it was a cabal of 31 Republican senators who demanded the investigation that eventually led to the subpoena of the AP’s phone records. So there’s that.
In a broader sense, however, I can’t help but to laugh whenever I hear a Republican scream about government overreach on national security and civil liberties. For eight years, the Republicans established an infrastructure under the banner of fighting evildoers at home and abroad — an infrastructure that included a wide variety of trespasses against civil liberties.
They seized phone records from reporters without subpoenas, they spied on liberal groups, they established the usage of body scanners and heightened security measures at airports, they loudly and in some cases tearfully demanded the ability to wiretap American citizens without warrants, they passed the USA PATRIOT Act and ultimately created the modern American surveillance state. The Bush era gave us this counter-terrorism Frankenstein, and now they’re suddenly alarmed about it.
But now that they’re not longer in charge, they melodramatically collapse onto their group fainting couch every time the Justice Department or the president ventures into the same territory — or, ironically enough, whenever the president doesn’t do enough along those lines. Whatever the Obama administration does, they’re against it. And so it is with the AP phone records situation. Once again, as with the IRS scandal, the cries for investigations and even impeachment are loud and plentiful.
For example, Bush’s former attorney general Michael Mukasey described the AP phone records situation by saying, “It’s reprehensible conduct.” This is the same attorney general who took over a Justice Department that had seized phone records from four journalists — without subpoenas — without even flinching. Mukasey was also directly involved with warrantless wiretapping of Americans citizens. And when it appeared as if Congress might pass legislation preventing this egregious activity from continuing, Mukasey literally burst into tears during a speech in which he demanded the power to continue the eavesdropping program or else there would surely be another 9/11. I’m not making that up.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that the post-9/11 fear-mongering and massively exaggerated counter-terrorism hysteria manufactured an atmosphere of capitulation and resignation to flagrant government overreach and violations of privacy and personal dignity.
And who’s to blame for the fear-mongering? People like Matt Drudge, of course, who aided in the effort to scare the crapola out of us about the so-called “terrorist threat” and yet ran a screamer headline on his front page in which he cleverly conflated the AP story with wiretapping: “GOVT TAPS PRESS PHONE RECORDS FOR MONTHS.”
But during the Bush years, Drudge, along with Rush Limbaugh, Fox News Channel and the highest ranking Republican officials in Congress, demanded that all of Washington buy into the notion that you can’t have a Constitution if you’re dead. How do we know this? Well, because they actually said it. Over and over. A few examples for the record:
“You have no civil liberties if you are dead.” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
“Over 3,000 Americans have no civil rights because they are no longer with us.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
“None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
“Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead! If you are dead and pushing up daisies, if you’re sucking dirt inside a casket, do you know what your civil liberties are worth? Zilch, zero, nada.” Rush Limbaugh
Now, years later, these very same Republicans insist that “Big Sis” (Drudge’s nickname for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano) and the “little black man-child” are forcing us to “grab the ankles” and submit to fascist authoritarian policies. Never mind that all of these policies were invented by Republicans and ballyhooed by Drudge in an atmosphere of manufactured fear during conservative control of, well, everything.
Throughout the duration of the Bush years, any and all opponents of these policies were shouted down as being with the terrorists — undermining American security and endangering the troops, while evildoers were lurking under our beds ready to spring forth and crash airplanes into everything. In those years, patriotism was defined by the speed and vigor by which we gave up our civil liberties in lieu of a lot of extra security. This mantra was defined, branded and codified by the Republican Party.
The post-9/11 maxim “either you’re with us, or you are with the terrorists” wasn’t the concoction of Michael Moore or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Janet Napolitano. It was entirely the purview of the Drudge-ruled authoritarian universe of fear and cowardice. And make no mistake: cowardice is precisely what it was — cry-baby cowardice masked by flag-waving machismo in support of a military-industrial-security complex that earned billions in profits on investments ranging from the invasion and occupation of Iraq to the production and deployment of body scanners. Rather than standing firm and upholding American values, the far-right embraced cowardice and set us on a course that’s become so deeply embedded into our political culture that it’s going to take many more years to unravel.
So as you observe the coming months and years of brain-melting scandal coverage surrounding these topics, blame a Republican. It’s okay. They deserve it.
The Republican inquisition over the attacks against Americans in Benghazi has never really gone away, but it appears as though in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this week there’s renewed psycho-histrionics over Benghazi.
Lindsey Graham and Fox News Channel in particular are each crapping their cages over new allegations from an alleged whistleblower, while they continue to deal in previously debunked falsehoods about the sequence of events during and following the attacks. Fox News is predictably helming the biggest raft of hooey on the situation — turning its attention to Hillary Clinton in an abundantly obvious early move to stymie her presidential run before it even begins.
So I thought I’d revisit some territory I covered back in October as a bit of a refresher — especially since it appears as if no one, including and especially the traditional press, intends to ask any of these obnoxious, opportunistic liars about why they’re so obsessed by this one attack yet they entirely ignored the dozen-plus consulate/embassy attacks that occurred when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were allegedly “keeping us safe.”
The Benghazi attacks (the consulate and the CIA compound) are absolutely not unprecedented even though they’re being treated that way by Republicans who are deliberately ignoring anything that happened prior to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.
January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.
October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.
February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.
May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.
July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.
December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.
March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name “David Foy.” This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.)
September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.
January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.
July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.
September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months.
A few observations about this timeline. My initial list was quoted from an article on the Daily Kos which actually contained several errors and only 11 attacks (the above timeline contains all 13 attacks). Also, my list above doesn’t include the numerous and fatal attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraq war — a war that was vocally supported by Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Fox News Channel.
Speaking of Graham, I ran a search on each attack along with the name “Lindsey Graham” in the hopes of discovering that Graham had perhaps commented about the attacks or raised some questions about why the administration didn’t prevent the attacks or respond accordingly to prevent additional embassy attacks. No results. Of course. Now, this could mean the search wasn’t exhaustive enough. But one thing’s for sure: neither Graham nor any of his cohorts launched a crusade against the Bush administration and the State Department in any of those cases — no one did, including the congressional Democrats, by the way.
This leads us to the ultimate point here. Not only have numerous sources previously debunked the Benghazi information being peddled by the Republicans and Fox News (for example, contrary to what the Republicans are saying, yes, reinforcements did in fact arrive before the attack on the CIA compound), but none of these people raised a single word of protest when, for example, American embassies in Yemen and Pakistan were attacked numerous times. Why didn’t the Bush administration do something to secure the compounds after the first attacks? Why didn’t he provide additional security?
Where was your inquest after the Karachi attacks, Mr. Graham? Where were you after the Sana’a attacks, Mr. Hannity? What about all of the embassy attacks in Iraq that I didn’t even list here, Mr. McCain? Do you realize how many people died in attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates when Bush was supposedly keeping us safe, Mr. Ailes? Just once I’d like to hear David Gregory or George Stephanopoulos or Wolf Blitzer ask a Republican member of Congress about the above timeline and why they said nothing at the time of each attack. Just once.
Nearly every accusation being issued about Benghazi could’ve been raised about the Bush era attacks, and yet these self-proclaimed truth-seekers refused to, in their words, undermine the commander-in-chief while troops were in harm’s way (a line they repeated over and over again during those years).
So we’re only left to conclude the obvious. The investigations and accusations and conspiracy theories are entirely motivated by politics and a strategy to escalate this to an impeachment trial. In doing so, the Republicans have the opportunity not only to crush the president’s second term, but also to sabotage the potential for a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Even if they never arrive at that goal, they have in their possession a cudgel formed of horseshit — a means of flogging the current administration with the singularly effective Republican marketing/noise machine, including the conservative entertainment complex. Very seldom does this machine fail to revise history and distort the truth. Ultimately, they don’t even need a full-blown impeachment proceeding when they have a population of way too many truthers and automatons who take all of these lies at face value — not to mention dubiously sourced chunks of “truth” proffered by radio and cable news conspiracy theorists who, if nothing else, are masters at telling angry conservatives precisely what they want to hear: that the probably-Muslim president is weak on terrorism. And so they’ll keep repeating “Benghazi-Gate, Benghazi-Gate, Benghazi-Gate!” without any regard for history or reality. Like always.
Fox News Channel amplified its crusade against the president yesterday, implying that the same administration that killed Bin Laden and much of al-Qaida’s leadership, and the same administration that boasts a considerable record of killing terrorist operatives with targeted attacks using an escalating number of drone strikes is composed of terrorist sympathizers who are only concerned with enabling and sympathizing with the “jihadis.”
The network’s mission on this front is to engage in a Southern Strategy-style campaign to exploit conspiracy theories around president’s name and background in order to confirm the paranoia of Fox News’ viewers who believe the president is connected to al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood while spearheading the effort to usurp the Constitution with Sharia law. Actually, the Fox News approach is more or less the “lite” version of unmitigated cage-crapping on the extreme right: Alex Jones and his cult recently accused the president of being the official leader of al-Qaida.
In its most recent manic episode, however, Fox News suggested that the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder, care more about preemptively thwarting hate crimes against Muslims than condemning perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Some background. During a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that’s committed in part to preventing hate crimes, Holder spoke about the Boston Marathon bombing and then, naturally, segued into a section about preventing hate crimes against Muslim Americans in the wake of the tragedy — a kneejerk and deadly reaction we’ve seen too many times before. Among other things, Holder said:
“I also want to make clear that – just as we will pursue relentlessly anyone who would target our people or attempt to terrorize our cities – the Justice Department is firmly committed to protecting innocent people against misguided acts of retaliation.”
As you can plainly see, Holder is with the terrorists. At least, that’s what Fox News wants its people to believe. In a FOX NEWS ALERT! HOLY SHIT: JIHAD! segment yesterday, Megyn Kelly asked one of her guests the following question — a question that wasn’t a question at all, of course, but a statement about Holder’s obviously outrageous condemnation of attacks against innocent people:
“Um. Jay [Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice], if you take those remarks and put them on paper and just disconnect them to the Boston marathon bombings they’re not controversial at all. But to have the attorney general of the United States get up and focus on backlash against Muslims?!”
Later, Kelly brought in anti-Muslim bigot Michelle Malkin clearly because the network hadn’t sufficiently crapped all over the idea of protecting innocent Americans from being assaulted by anti-Muslim bigots. Malkin, for her part, endorsed an earlier anti-Holder rant by human-sinus hybrid Mark Levin, and continued by saying that Holder should’ve praised the “restraint” and “fairness” of the American people for not resorting to terrorist attacks against Muslims — the technique, Malkin said, that “jihadis” used against Americans. Put another way, Malkin is proud of the fact that Americans evidently don’t resort to terrible violence against “jihadis” (except that we’ve been at war against jihadists for 12 years now).
Nevertheless, the following Holder remark attracted the harshest rebuke from Kelly, Malkin and Levin:
“America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country. Every immigrant can be fully and equally American because we’re one country. Race and color should not divide us, because America is one country.”
Whoops! Correction. That wasn’t a Holder quote. It was spoken by President Bush on April 30, 2002, and no one at Fox News Channel or the conservative entertainment complex criticized him for it because, among other reasons, any such criticism was considered to be a treason-worthy trespass during the months following 9/11, according to, well, everyone. Fact: President Bush condemned violence against Muslim Americans and defended the Islamic faith on at least 25 different occasions between September 17, 2001 and the end of 2002.
Meanwhile, hate crimes against Muslim Americans increased dramatically throughout the last 12 years in spite of remarks from Bush, Obama and Holder. Contrary to Kelly’s anecdotal observations, law enforcement is correctly worried about retribution against Muslims for more than just Boston, but for Boston plus 9/11 and other attacks. So, yes, anti-Muslim violence is real. In December, a man named Sunando Sen was waiting for a subway in New York City when an assailant shoved him onto the tracks where he was struck and killed by a train.
The culprit, Erika Menendez, later confessed to the police, “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims… Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers, I’ve been beating them up.”
Sen was an Indian immigrant and wasn’t even Muslim, but he made the deadly error of looking like one. Is Holder supposed to wait for more of these tragedies to occur and only then use the FBI and other agencies to prevent further attacks? Within the frightened walnut-sized lizard-brains of Kelly, Malkin and Levin, yes — Holder should wait until after more attacks happen before condemning them. And what does that say about these Fox News anti-Muslim fire-eaters? We have to seriously question whether they’d prefer to see Muslim Americans targeted by vigilantes like Menendez, and therefore we have to seriously question whether Fox News is contributing to anti-Muslim hate crimes by demanding that our government turn a blind eye.
It must be difficult to be a Republican these days. Since 2009 we’ve witnessed an ongoing strategy by party leadership of taking the exact opposite position of the White House, regardless of whether the opposite position will make Republicans seem unreasonable, self-contradictory or just plain ludicrous.
You name it: they’ve reversed themselves on the individual mandate, cap-and-trade, background checks (even the NRA used to support them), government spending and so forth. While chiseling Ronald Reagan’s ebullient noggin into the facade of the make-believe Mount Rushmore residing within the fantasy cortex of their lizard brains, they routinely demonize policies that Reagan himself once supported. No wonder so many Republican voters are out of their gourds — they’re being whipped around on a psychopolitical Tilt-A-Whirl controlled by sociopaths like Reince Priebus and Mitch McConnell.
And so it goes with Saint Rand of Paul, who, at this point, doesn’t seem to know what the hell he believes about the use of drone technology. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about what he said yesterday when he appeared on Fox Business Channel and completely reversed his position on the use of drones against American citizens on American soil.
“…I’ve never argued against any technology being used when you an imminent threat, an active crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and 50 dollars in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him, but it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub, or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.”
So Paul explicitly endorsed the use of drones to kill American citizens who happen to be in the midst of committing a petty robbery. There’s not a lot of gray area there. He supports the use of drones in most circumstances except when law enforcement wants to “do surveillance” on citizens who are lounging in hot tubs. In other words, it’s permissible to kill a citizen without due process, but it’s not okay to use drones to perv-out on a semi-naked citizen in a Jacuzzi. Interesting. I haven’t heard from or read about anyone who supports using drones to randomly spy on innocent civilians, but okay. What are the hot tub people up to anyway? If they haven’t committed any crimes, then using a drone to spy on them is not only illegal under a broad range of statutes, but it’s also unconstitutional. However, if they have, in fact, committed a crime involving a firearm, Paul thinks it’s within the purview of law enforcement (or the government) to kill them without due process. In their hot tub.
Naturally, this new statement from Paul contradicts his previous position best summarized by the title of the legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): “A Bill to Prohibit the Use of Drones to Kill Citizens of the U.S. Within the U.S.” Perhaps Paul and Cruz should revise the title to “A Bill to Prohibit the Use of Drones to Kill Citizens of the U.S. Within the U.S. Unless Those Citizens Just Robbed A Liquor Store, Which Case Let The Hellfire Missiles Soar!”
But this shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone who wasn’t foolish enough to be swept up in Rand Paul Filibuster Fever! Catch it! It turns out, prior to- and even during his mid-March filibuster of the John Brennan confirmation, Paul actually supported the use of drones. He supported using drones as a method of border patrol; he supported the use of targeted drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan; he supported the use of a drone in the killing of American-born enemy combatant Anwar Al-Awlaki; he even opened up a loophole for killing American citizens while they’re “eating dinner, in America” as long as there are “some rules.”
However, throughout this allegedly noble, heroic and anti-drone filibuster, Paul also said, “When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer… It should have been a resounding and unequivocal ‘no.’” Weird, since we know from his filibuster transcript and his remarks yesterday that Paul himself would respond “yes” to that question. Come to think of it, unlike his demand for an “unequivocal” response, Rand Paul would likely equivocate all over the place, given his, shall we say, fluid position on the issue.
Of course, I’m being generous by describing his position as “fluid.” He’s either very confused and befuddled on drones, or he’s a crazy-like-a-fox careerist who doesn’t mind saying anything to grab a headline. Everyone who climbed aboard the #StandWithRand hashtag rocketship to awesomeness failed to realize either diagnosis and immediately jumped to the conclusion that he’s an anti-drone superhero — full stop.
To wit, writers and activists ranging from Glenn Greenwald to Marcy Wheeler to Jeremy Scahill thought they had an ally on the drone issue on the Republican side of the aisle, and so they desperately scrambled to stand with him in his allegedly anti-drone filibuster, once again illustrating the weird leftist compulsion to make nice with political enemies only to be sucker punched later (see also the unlikely alliance between Jane Hamsher and Grover Norquist against Obamacare). Suffice to say, it turns out Paul is not a superhero of filibustery civil liberties in spite of his canonization by neoliberals and smug libertarian hipster-contrarians in their united crusade against all things Obama. He’s also not, as some writers observed, scrambling “the left/right paradigm.” He’s more or less a doctrinaire far-right conservative, just like his Dad, with one or two hippie-stoner-inspired exceptions to attract his Dad’s off-the-grid supporters and his hypercaffeinated internet money-bombing ReLOVElution foot soldiers. While I’m here, it’s also worth mentioning that he’s really good at tricking people who ought to know better into overlooking his racist, nullification wingnuttery on federalism, states’ rights and the Civil Rights Act.
One thing’s for sure: he’s absolutely to the right of President Obama on drones, among many other things, and, at least for now, he supports a broader, less restrained view of drone policy. Sorry, hipsters, that’s a fact. Neither the president nor Eric Holder has ever supported using drones to kill Americans on American soil — especially citizens who’ve simply horked a bottle of Ripple.
Worse, he’s currently taking advantage of the increased visibility and cred he received from otherwise well-respected #StandWithRand fanboys as a means of pushing for the increased deployment of drones, just as he parlayed his anti-drone filibuster to attack the gun control bill in the Senate. I assure you, following his filibuster stunt, the news media is paying closer attention to what he says. The #StandWithRand people have been double-crossed even though they should’ve seen it coming from a mile away. And as soon as the administration began to pursue a traditional law enforcement and legal approach in prosecuting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rand Paul and the rest of the Republican Party took the opposite position, calling for an expansion of the war on terrorism and an increased deployment of weaponized drones.
They’ll keep playing this opposite-day strategy for as long as Democrats control the White House but, hopefully, this will be the last time certain liberals fall for Rand Paul’s opportunistic trickery.
UPDATE: Rand Paul has reversed his position yet again.
“My comments [on Tuesday] left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed. Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster. Additionally, surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets.”
By Paul R. Pillar
The seemingly scripted national response to the Boston Marathon bombing continues. Over the past few days that response has included expressions of patriotism and community spirit that have included ovations for law enforcement officers and special observances at baseball games.
This is the lemonade-out-of-a-lemon positive side of responding to a lethal event. It is a reaching back to the larger but otherwise similar communal expressions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with Americans now attempting to revive and relive the positive side of what they remember from the aftermath of that earlier tragedy.
Defiance is one of the themes of the collective expressions. It was a theme of a rousing speech in which President Barack Obama talked about how the Boston Marathon would be held next year with people running harder than ever and cheering louder than ever. The message is that Americans will not let terrorists disrupt their lives.
But Americans have been letting terrorists, including the latest two, disrupt their lives a lot. Just think about the week-long saturation news coverage of this one story, and of all the work that wasn’t getting done and other matters not being tended to across the country as people followed the story.
Then late last week was the extraordinary happening of a major American city and several of its suburbs being locked down for a day. This greatly lengthened the tally sheet of the costs and consequences of one terrorist act and, more to the point, the response to it.
Possibly the lockdown offset some of the physical toll of the bombing in the form of fatal traffic accidents that did not occur and other violent crime that was not committed because the streets were empty. But the economic cost of shutting down a city full of businesses, though impossible to calculate with exactitude, was certainly very large.
All of this was done ostensibly for the purpose of tracking down a single, bleeding, 19-year-old fugitive suspect. It was a prudent assumption that this person would have had little compunction about killing again if he could have and thought he needed to kill to stay at large. But there also was little or no reason to believe that at the time he was being chased he posed more of a threat to public safety than the average garden-variety armed robber whom the Boston police probably deal with every week.
One can understand and even sympathize with public officials who order something like the lockdown. Given the enormous public attention to the case, if the suspect had evaded the dragnet there would have been a chorus of recriminations about how this was Tora Bora all over again. But note that we are talking here not about terrorism, or even about fear of terrorism, but instead about the politics of the fear of terrorism.
All of this brings to mind the observations of John Mueller, who has written most extensively about how American reactions or overreactions to terrorism have entailed costs that greatly exceed the costs of terrorism itself. Mueller has made many comparisons between terrorism and other sources of death and destruction to make his point about terrorism being an especially overblown threat.
It was if the fates wanted to punctuate that point that they also gave us last week an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed significantly more people than the marathon bombers but received much less attention in the news media.
Americans have inflicted on themselves, especially over the past 11 ½ years, costs from their responses to terrorism that go far beyond all that lost business in Boston. One of the biggest indirect costs came from Americans becoming so fearful and angry that they allowed themselves to be bamboozled into supporting a war against a country that had nothing to do with what had made them fearful and angry.
There also have been severe, disgraceful departures from what otherwise would have been thought of as important legal and moral principles associated with the United States, involving especially the treatment and rights of detained persons. It is as if once anyone utters the T-word, many American minds go haywire and suddenly forget legality, morality and longstanding American values and jurisprudence.
And so we have Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte and Representative Peter King arguing that the suspect now recovering in a Massachusetts hospital should be handled as an “enemy combatant” rather than face justice in a criminal court. Why? Because of his Chechen ancestry?
He is a U.S. citizen accused of committing a crime in the United States. Based on what we know at the moment, there is no more reason to treat the Boston Marathon bomber as an “enemy combatant” than to treat the Boston Strangler that way.
Americans do not have to respond like this; such behavior is not part of our DNA. We faced far more frequently perpetrated terrorism in the United States in the 1970s than we have ever since without responding this way.
Perhaps some of the reasons for how the nation acted in the 1970s (including post-Watergate views of certain federal agencies) provided no more of a lasting basis for sound national policy than some of the reasons (including post-9/11 Islamophobia) for the responses we see today. But Americans have a long, long way to go before we can honestly say we are not letting terrorism disrupt our way of life.
Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)
(Originally posted at Consortium News)
I’m old enough to remember when country singer Natalie Maines said during a Dixie Chicks concert, “We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” She wasn’t broadcasting a political demand for impeachment or a half-baked conspiracy theory to anyone outside of the auditorium — no audiences of millions on AM radio or cable news. Just a few thousand people in a closed setting. But based on the bug-eyed, flag-molesting outrage that followed you’d think she had colluded with Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the ghost of Khrushchev to shank George W. Bush with a prison shiv. The nation exploded in a collective hissy fit that included a conga-line of scolding conservatives and more than a few witch-hunt style protests in which Dixie Chicks CDs were smashed by heavy machinery or burned, all to the tune of the familiar warning: don’t undermine the commander-in-chief or else.
And that was in March of 2003, years after the 9/11 attacks and long after the high-water mark of unwavering, luxuriant god-worship of George W. Bush.
In the days and months after 9/11, even hinting that Bush had acted poorly in the wake of the attacks or had perhaps not done enough to prevent them (he was warned — a lot) was immediately beaten down as unpatriotic or “with the terrorists.” The sentiment was universal. Democrats and Republicans alike agreed to lay off the president for a while, an attitude that definitely lasted for way too long and enabled a long list of craptastical laws that passed with unanimous bipartisan support — laws that we’re still trying to unravel today. It’s not a stretch to attribute this reaction to both Republican partisanship and jingoism and the strange Democratic psychosis involuntarily forcing them to be easily suckered into coitus with political enemies.
Conversely, none of the same courtesy has been extended to our current president following the Boston Marathon bombing. Not so shocking, considering how it likewise didn’t happen in the aftermath of the Great Recession, or after the killing of Bin Laden, or after the end of the Iraq War. It certainly didn’t happen following each of the various gun massacres — terrorist attacks at gunpoint. And, as we’re all aware, an outright conservative inquest was launched following the consulate attack in Benghazi, in spite of the fact that 11 similar attacks took place during the Bush years with considerably greater body counts.
Suffice to say, if another attack were to occur at or even below the level of September 11, this president would likely be impeached within a week.
Worse, the conspiracy theories first marketed by Alex Jones last week are being mainstreamed throughout the conservative entertainment complex. In the Bush post-9/11 context, imagine not only broad liberal and Democratic attacks against President Bush within a week of the attacks, but also the mainstreaming of the various 9/11 Truther conspiracies.
Both Alex Jones (naturally) and Sean Hannity launched a conspiracy theory by anti-Islam crackpot Steve Emerson involving the Obama administration’s alleged cover-up of the connection between the bombing and Saudi Arabia via the Saudi student who was questioned and released immediately following the marathon bombing.
On Friday, Glenn Beck said America should “demand impeachment” over the Saudi conspiracy theory.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the president of “leading from behind.”
The Tea Party Nation not only suggested that the president was to blame for this attack, but he’s also to blame for the next attack which will happen “sooner than later.”
Fox & Friends co-host and miraculous talking monkey Brian Kilmeade said on his radio show, “So like it or not, this president has left [the Middle East] alone. And guess what happens? Now the IEDs are blowing up in our streets.” Yep, the Boston bombing was the president’s fault. 100 percent. Why? Because of the Middle East, even though the Tsarvaev’s are from, you know, Chechnya.
Rush Limbaugh attacked the president’s handling of the bombing by invoking Benghazi, the New Black Panthers (all two of them at that polling place in Philadelphia) and Rev. Wright of all people — all in the context of the Obama government’s refusal to tell the truth.
Former Bush attorney general Michael Mukasey attacked the president for apparently downplaying the motives of the Tsarnaev brothers, “There is also cause for concern in the president’s reluctance, soon after the Boston bombing, even to use the ‘t’ word—terrorism—and in his vague musing on Friday about some unspecified agenda of the perpetrators, when by then there was no mystery: the agenda was jihad.”
I think you get the idea. It’s been just over a week and all of the usual suspects are engaged in nonsense far worse than anything Natalie Maines ever said. In fact, I’m waiting for Dinesh D’Souza to release another movie about how the president’s “anti-colonialism” caused the bombing. Just wait another few days and it’ll be in wide release. Actually, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Republicans elevated the Saudi conspiracy theory into another Benghazi-style coverup plot.
It’s all yet another case study in how the Republicans too often comport themselves in the wake of a disaster — these self-proclaimed “patriots” are merely selective, fair-weather patriots, only willing to lend their unified support when the president is from their own party and prepared to bomb the hell out of brown people somewhere. They will not give an inch on anything. They will contradict themselves, ignore their own records, jump to paranoid conclusions, risk embarrassment and generally do whatever it takes to disrupt and sabotage the Obama presidency. And they’re willing to brazenly and unapologetically exploit these tragedies as a means of doing so.
This isn’t to say that the viral site is without merit – BuzzFeed is certainly very clickable and quite fun to read (the french bulldog/baby pictures really were hard not to smile at). But it’s foray into journalism is misguided at best, and at worst, downright dangerous. Take this epically irresponsible piece titled “Boston Bomber’s” Former Friends Suspect Him In Triple Murder“.
The staff at BuzzFeed interviewed three of Tamerlan Tsernaev’s friends who now suspect the killed suspect may have been involved in a triple homicide involving a close friend in 2011, because he ”didn’t show up” at the funeral. If you’re looking for some serious evidence or argument that Tsernaev had something to do with the horrific murders that saw three men have their throats slit, think again. The thousand word piece speculates that because Tsernaev didn’t appear at the funeral, may or may not have been with one of the people killed the night before the incident, went to Russia a few months after the murder and apparently slept a lot, he might have had something to do with the killings.
Apparently this constitutes journalism – interviewing anonymous people who claimed to know Tsernaev, pondering whether his behavior was suspicious at the time, and quoting tweets from other supposed accomplices like this:
Tsernaev may well have committed the triple homicide. He might have committed all 51 murders in Boston last year. While we’re speculating, lets throw in 9/11 given we don’t know his exact whereabouts or what he was doing at the time. After all, as his buddy told BuzzFeed, Tsernaev “kind of had an accent,” and “was sociable but kind of distant.”