Send in the drones: Obama's State of the Union
“Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.” — President Barack Obama, Feb. 12, 2013
The above statement is the most important thing President Obama said last night, all night. It is also the most overlooked, even ignored by most observers. Indeed, he made this statement while ticking off a list of euphemisms and platitudes regarding his administration’s policy of extra-legal drone assassinations.
Still, every single representative, senator, Cabinet member, Supreme Court justice, general and admiral in the Capitol's House Chamber last night understood precisely what this statement means: Obama claims a self-asserted and self-actuating power to secretly kill anyone in any part of the world, including American citizens, on his say-so alone.
Obama went further, though. All citizens and non-citizens must understand that state murder is now an institutionalized (“normal”) government function. Sure, he offered a palliative to those who just might be concerned that he had overstepped the bounds of law, morality and common decency. He told us that his folks have struggled mightily and “tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework” within which to wage war against anybody anywhere in the world. And, in fact, if pressed, he would listen to opposing views and counter-proposals if only to achieve at least a modicum of transparency and legality. He deigned to even “engage with Congress to ensure … our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances.”
Have you heard or read since his speech, or at any time today, any "talking head" or writer even suggest that despite Obama’s misleading statements to the contrary, this is the real state of American democracy in 2013?
This speech comes hard on the heels of the publication of a Justice Department white paper purporting to provide legal justification for Obama’s claim to unchecked power to assassinate American citizens anywhere in the world—including within the territorial confines of the American nation-state itself.
Recall that he has already killed at least three Americans via drone strikes in the Middle East--not to mention thousands of innocent "foreign" men, women and children. This policy has now been expanded and enhanced to include us all. And it wipes the slate clean of hundreds of years of democratic principles and practices, including most especially the Bill of Rights, wherein the guarantee of "due process of law" is enshrined as the gold standard of and template for this and every other putative democratic government on Earth.
This means that this nation-state has taken unto itself all of the unquestioned (and unquestionable) powers that once only thrived within fascist regimes and military juntas. The white paper, however, was only an add-on to the promulgation and passage by Congress of military funding measures which blessed indefinite military arrest and detention of "suspected" terrorists and their alleged supporters, including US citizens.
Next up for Senate confirmation is Obama’s choice to head up the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. He is the incumbent chief White House counterterrorism adviser and the designer, architect, implementer and overseer of the administration’s drone assassination program.
Why is no one asking why this happening right before our eyes?
The answer is that Obama has always been supremely adept at using left-sounding rhetoric to provide a progressive sheen to reactionary, anti-working class policies, programs and practices.
You see, Obama only poses as the great defender of the great American middle class. His use of that term is but an abstraction which renders invisible what and who most of us really are—get-up-in-the-morning working-class stiffs. His assertion that government is supposed to work “on behalf of the many, and not just the few” does not comport with the reality that most of us live with 365 days of every year. It is a nice-sounding idea or hoped-for goal. But it does not relate in any tangible sense to the actual existing conditions under which most of us must live in this money-driven, commodified-capitalist, consumer-credit and greed-based society. Yet Obama doggedly pursues policies and practices which facilitate as much as humanly possible this distorted version of class warfare. It's a war wherein the owners of capital grow and remain rich almost beyond measure, while the true "makers" of goods and services, the creators of capital -- us--struggle daily simply to "make it," to subsist, to survive.
Obama had the gall to brag about cutting $2.5 trillion from the deficit, “mostly through spending cuts.” But that is only the beginning. He wants to now cut hundreds of billions more from the so-called entitlement programs—Medicare and Social Security—upon which tens of millions of elderly Americans depend.
He uses Republican proposals for even deeper cuts as a misdirection move, because, in the end, he will make damn near the very same cuts. When he calls for eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy, he couches this as “everybody doing their share.” Somebody needs to ask him, though, the same thing he asks of the Republicans: Can you be specific, Mr. President, about which loopholes you mean?
He proposed to make America a “magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,” and he lauded the return of some manufacturing jobs by Caterpillar, Ford, Intel and Apple from their overseas operations. But he failed to mention that these returning jobs were effectuated only because the feds and state governments agreed to massive cuts in workers’ wages and benefits. He also said nothing about the virtually complete neutering of all workers’ union activity.
Finally, Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour would, in fact, still leave a family of just three trying to hold on with a paycheck still below the already ridiculously low official poverty line.