The harshest critics of my column, “No, President Obama Is Not ‘Worse Than Bush’ on National Security,” posted both here at The Daily Banter and on The Huffington Post, were anti-Obama screechers to my left (I evidently have a left) and the most common refrain was that I’m an Obama apologist and my column proves it.
Here are a few from the The Daily Banter comments:
Tony: “This might just be one of the most asinine attempts at defending a murderer on the entire internet.”
Steven Skelton: “The sad truth is that your just an Obama cheerleader.”
Peter Bockenthien: “Tells me you’re interested in being a loyal Obama apologist with no real interest in hearing other opinions. […] Continue on with your legalistic justifications for Obama’s doing away with Habeus Corpus, just be honest and transparent that you’re doing so only because you like him so much more than Bush.”
joseph2004: “Anyone who’s aware of the clique of left-wing Progressive “voices” will notice that Cesca is just the latest among them to “admit” to having some (not much but some) discomfort over Obama’s long-running escalated use of drones and the inocents who are killed.”
I probably shouldn’t even get into the Thunderdome that is the Huff Post comment area, but here are some random highlights anyway:
Caniculus: “Cesca, with liberals like you, who needs conservatives.”
321bibi: “I hope ‘the administration’ paid well this this article”
Micheal Anderson: “Sadly, Democrats are starting to act more and more like Republicans, which is bad for everybody.”
NYtoVT: “Once you make the decision to tolerate a leader murdering his own citizens without any consideration for Constitutional rights or the judicial system, a line has been crossed and whether you go further or stay where you are, you are still on the dark side.”
Here’s the problem: the centerpiece of what I wrote, as well as a column on the same subject a week earlier, was the notion that Obama should be stripped of the war powers authority granted in the September 14, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and/or that predator drones ought to be well-regulated because it’s too easy for this risk-free military and intelligence technology to be abused.
For some reason, stripping the president of his war on terrorism powers and calling for drone oversight makes me an Obamabot and a presidential apologist. I’m not sure how that works because calling for the president to be stripped of certain powers — twice — is, in fact, the opposite of endorsing those powers.
The only conclusion I can gather is that too many commenters/activists/trolls have been conditioned to kneejerk into self-righteous screams of “Baby killer!” and “War criminal!” whenever the subject of the president and drones comes up, regardless of the context or the points being made. Perhaps it was the fact that I recapped some history indicating that other presidents have killed enemy combatant U.S. citizens during wartime under the umbrella of special presidential war powers. I shouldn’t have to write this but grasping a realistic view of history is critical in analyzing current events, and that was my goal. Which is to say that in evaluating our current president for the targeted killing of two enemy combatant citizens, as well as various civilian casualties in drone attacks, shouldn’t we re-evaluate other presidents with the same wild, torch-and-pitchfork outrage? If Obama is a war criminal, then so is FDR, Lincoln and other wartime presidents. Instead, FDR and Lincoln are icons on the left, and for many good reasons that tend to overshadow their brutal wartime actions. Furthermore, if I praise Lincoln’s conduct during the American Civil War, am I a Lincolnbot because he killed 250,000 U.S. citizens without due process, suspended habeas corpus and other contemporaneous abuses of his “immense power,” as Daniel Day-Lewis loudly emphasized in Lincoln? Likewise, if I boast that a liberal, FDR, defeated the Nazis and Japan, am I a monster for not categorically condemning his wartime conduct because of the incarceration of 100,000 Japanese-American citizens in indefinite detention camps, and the multiple firebombings of civilian populations far from a traditional battlefield?
Whenever I’ve raised this same comparative presidential argument, people like Glenn Greenwald have replied that there’s no comparison between the war on terrorism and World War II.
That’s partially correct, actually. None of those other wars began with the slaughter of 3,000 civilians in New York City and Pennsylvania. Beyond that, members of the terrorist group that committed those atrocities are blended into civilian populations and not engaged on battlefields. And so towns and villages have become de facto battlefields. Certainly not the ground of our choosing. In fact, beginning with Vietnam, when enemy guerrillas were blended into the population, there have been very few traditional battlefields. I hasten to note that this isn’t an endorsement of anything, including the president’s national security policies. It’s a statement of fact. And the harrowingly non-battlefield nature of the war on terrorism is why there must be a timetable for the expiration of the AUMF and/or the strict regulation of how we’re to be engaged in this evidently infinite so-called “new kind of war.”
To that point, I couldn’t agree more with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post in which he expresses his deep concern over the endless nature of this war, and wonders if there will ever be a time when we decide that we can never entirely eradicate Islamic terrorism. Being engaged in a hot war without ever reaching a point of victory is unacceptable. As I wrote last week, if the war is infinite, this president and future presidents could infinitely retain the AUMF war powers, handed down from administration to administration. This too is unacceptable, obviously. And it leads us back to Obama. He’s uniquely positioned, as both the slayer of Bin Laden and the The Drone Warrior, to be the president who gives up the AUMF and signs a congressional bill to repeal it. This is ultimately what I support and what I will endeavor to push for. But I refuse to screech about Obama wantonly killing babies, so I must be lying, right?