It seems like an easy thing to remember, but then, so does don’t kill people.
In America, the two party system dominates. And on nearly every issue, the number
two is a bit generous. Usually, one party pushes hard for an excess of privilege,
and other side (and its supporters) either yields, or fights against it tepidly,
only to justify it the next time they are in power.
Drone warfare is a perfect example of this. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (the term
the industry preferred, in vain, over the more sinister-sounding “drones”)
were not invented during the Obama presidency. George W. Bush used drones a
handful of times, mostly in Pakistan. However, their use as a common tool of
war was pioneered under President Barack Obama. Or, as Jonathan Chait noted
a recent interview with Obama “When you hear critics on the left express
what they don’t like about your presidency, the word drone might come
up more than anything.”
The piece is a fascinating look into the mind of the most powerful man in the
world. And the man knows how to make himself sound good – sound thoughtful,
self-reflective, and aware. He tells Chait. “I don’t ever want to get to
the point where we’re that comfortable with killing. It’s not why I wanted to
be president, to kill people.”
You did, though.
Obama also talks a great deal about his frustration with the Republican opposition
on various issues. He is certainly not wrong about the partisanship in their
squabbles, or even their utter hypocrisy about statecraft and foreign policy
in particular. And yet, if morality is in any way consistent, who cares? Their
badness doesn’t erase what Obama has done.
President Obama is one of the most perfect examples of the liberal who believes
that solemnity and a furrowed, concerned brow makes up for a loss of life. If
he just shows he cares – maybe even really does in some way – then nothing the
US does counts as mass murder, theft, invasion, and terrorizing. He even professes
to be pleased when “the left” scolds him and “pushes” him
on drones and such.
It’s hard to know what it’s like to be president. But it shouldn’t be so difficult
to realize what is downplayed and ignored both by Obama, his supporters, and
anyone who puts partisan victories over morality and justice. Firstly, that
dead is dead. Everyone who has died via drone, and everyone who has lost family
suffered just as much an American would (to, uh, say nothing of the American
citizens killed by drone). Everyone who has feared to congregate for a wedding
or a funeral because a drone might be silently passing overhead is just as psychologically
tortured as an American would be. No matter how much Obama tells himself that
he minimized casualties – even while the White House’s number of civilians killed
is not to be trusted – he still…