There was a fascinating exchange on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program today between host Joe Scarborough and Time columnist Joe Klein on Obama’s use of drones. Here’s the partial transcript:
SCARBOROUGH: “What we’re doing with drones is remarkable: the fact that over the past eight years during the Bush years – when a lot of people brought up some legitimate questions about international law – my God, those lines have been completely eradicated by a drone policy that says: if you’re between 17 and 30, and within a half-mile of a suspect, we can blow you up, and that’s exactly what’s happening . . . . They are focused on killing the bad guys, but it is indiscriminate as to other people who are around them at the same time . . . . it is something that will cause us problems in the coming years” . . . .
KLEIN: “I completely disagree with you. . . . It has been remarkably successful” —
SCARBOROUGH: “at killing people” —
KLEIN: “At decimating bad people, taking out a lot of bad people – and saving Americans lives as well, because our troops don’t have to do this . . . You don’t need pilots any more because you do it with a joystick in California.”
SCARBOROUGH: “This is offensive to me, though. Because you do it with a joystick in California – and it seems so antiseptic – it seems so clean – and yet you have 4-year-old girls being blown to bits because we have a policy that now says: ‘you know what? Instead of trying to go in and take the risk and get the terrorists out of hiding in a Karachi suburb, we’re just going to blow up everyone around them.’
“This is what bothers me. . . . We don’t detain people any more: we kill them, and we kill everyone around them. . . . I hate to sound like a Code Pink guy here. I’m telling you this quote ‘collateral damage’ – it seems so clean with a joystick from California – this is going to cause the US problems in the future.”
KLEIN: “If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government. But: the bottom line in the end is – whose 4-year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
This really as extraordinary defense of the use of drones from Klein – a serial conventional wisdom merchant who far too often lends his talents to advocating American aggression around the world (Klein supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and has remained mute on many of the Obama administration’s egregious civil rights abuses). As Glenn Greenwald notes, the logic is not only flawed, but barbaric:
Klein’s justification – we have to kill their children in order to protect our children – is the exact mentality of every person deemed in US discourse to be a “terrorist”. Almost every single person arrested and prosecuted over the last decade on terrorism charges, when asked why they were willing to kill innocent Americans including children, offered some version of Joe Klein’s mindset….
Leaving aside the sociopathic, morally grotesque defense of killing 4-year-olds with a “joystick from California”. Klein’s claims are completely false on pragmatic grounds. Slaughtering Muslim children does not protect American children from terrorism. The opposite is true. That is precisely what causes the anti-American hatred that fuels and sustains terrorism aimed at Americans in the first place, as even a study commissioned by the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon recognized almost a decade ago.
Just think about the situation in reverse: Were the attacks on September 11th then justified from Al Qaeda’s perspective because killing American men women and children pre-emptively would stop the US from killing them? It is entirely ridiculous and goes against the basic tenants of international law that makes pre-emptive military action the ultimate war crime.
I’m inclined to agree with the Greenwaldian view that this type of sycophantic dedication to Obama and the Democrats potentially makes them even more dangerous than the Republicans when they are in power – at least from a foreign policy perspective. When Bush was in power, the Left took up civil liberties and American violence abroad as serious causes. Now there’s a Democrat in power, the Left is lining up behind the President regardless of how extreme his policies are. And in Klein’s case, he’s actually defending and promoting the illegal use of drones. Amazing.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.