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On Thursday, Obama delivered a speech on U.S. counter-terrorism policy (the GWOT) at the National Defense University. The most memorable parts of the speech were not the words he spoke but rather the interruptions by anti-war activist and CODE PINK founder Medea Benjamin. If you want to read good takes on Obama' speech, I'd recommend this, this, or this.  In essence, my main takeaway was that words are not a policy change because policy change only occurs when you change policies.  

I want to address the interaction between Obama and Medea Benjamin. In response to Medea's heckling (or birddogging as I've heard some call it), Obama responded, "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn't listening to me and much of what I said. But these are tough issues. And the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong."  Medea was listening to what he said because her questions were directed at issues he was clearly evading.  He said that he didn't agree with much of what she said. Let's look at the questions and statements she shouted with which he claimed to disagree.

What about the indefinite detention?
This is a question. One cannot disagree with a question, only its phrasing or its premises. Obama signed the NDAA just a few months ago despite its provisions for indefinite detention, and his oft-cited 2009 plan to close Gitmo would not have ended indefinite detention either. Progressive former senator Russ Feingold voted against it precisely because it did not address that key issue.
What about the 102 hunger strikers?
He can't disagree with that either.  It's a question.  He might only disagree with the premise if he acknowledges that the tally is now 103.
What about the killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki? Why was he killed?
Again, this is a question. He cannot disagree with it as such, and its premise is true:  16 year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone.  In his letter to Pat Leahy, Eric Holder claimed that Abdulrahman was not "specifically targeted," but that language seems intentionally vague as Marcy Wheeler and Jeremy Scahill have both explained.
Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives?
The first and second questions had factual premises and demanded explanations.  This question is different.  One cannot disagree with such a question, per se.  However, saying "I don't agree" would be effectively a "no," a rather disturbing answer.
Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities?
Again, one cannot disagree with a question.  He cannot disagree with its premise either, i.e. that he can stop the signature strikes.  The targets of signature strikes are unidentified; they are merely killed for "suspicious activities."  Think stop-and-frisk, but instead of getting stopped and frisked, you get killed.
Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed?
As this is a yes-or-no question, a disagreement is an effective "no."  The U.S. tends not to like to apologize for the atrocities it commits or facilitates in other countries.
Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.
A question and a statement.  With the former, a disagreement is an effective "no," i.e. that he will not compensate the families of innocent victims.  Ending the drone war or at least taking such actions as compensating the families of innocent civilians could reduce "blowback," making us safer at home.  That statement is true.  Three scholars from the University of Arizona published in article in the Middle East Policy Journal last fall that highlighted five forms of "blowback":

    -Attacks on America targets such as the 2009 Khost bombing of a CIA Camp
    - Increased ability of Al Qaeda to recruit new members, particularly those who had loved ones killed in drone attacks
    - Decreased U.S. accountability, resulting from control of the drone program oscillating between the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff
    - Continued destabilization of Yemen
    - An increasingly precarious alliance between the American and Yemeni governments

Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA?
A disagreement would be an implicit no, but transferring control over the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon, where there would be more oversight, is entirely within his power.
You are commander-in-chief. You can close Guantanamo today! You can release those 86 prisoners [cleared for release]. It's been 11 years.
Yes, he is commander-in-chief; that is a fact. It is also a fact that Gitmo has been open for 11 years.

Although the President often likes putting the blame on Congress, he certainly shares  the burden for the continuation of the moral stain that is Guantanamo Bay Prison.  The executive branch, not Congress, placed the moratorium on transferring prisoners to Yemen.  According to Human Rights First, Obama could have appointed "a high-level White House official with responsibility to ensure timely and effective implementation of the president’s plan to close Guantanamo" at any time.  He could have also--again, at any time-- directed Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, or Chuck Hagel "in concurrence with the secretary of state and in consultation with the director of national intelligence, to certify detainee transfers and issue national security waivers, to the fullest extent possible consistent with applicable law.”

In an op-ed this morning in the NYT, Joe Nocera furthered this argument that Obama has more power to close Guantanamo than he admits: "One reason innocent detainees can’t get out is that the courts have essentially ruled that a president has an absolute right to imprison anyone he wants during a time of war — with no second-guessing from either of the other two branches of government. By the same legal logic, a president can also free any prisoner in a time of war."

I love my country. I love the rule of law.
Since these are statements, one can disagree with them.  A disagreement would either mean that Obama believes that Medea Benjamin does not love her country and the rule of law or that Obama himself does not love his country or the rule of law.  I would infer he means neither; however, the failure of the Department of Justice to bring accountability to the banksters or the Bush administration architects of the torture regime shows that the administration's respect for the rule of law is wanting.  The drone program itself, as it has operated, is also in clear violation of the rule of law.
Abide by the rule of law. You're a constitutional lawyer.
The first part is a command, the second a statement.  The statement is factually true; he cannot disagree.  Does he disagree with her command, i.e., to abide by the rule of law?

Now, Obama may not have actually heard Medea Benjamin's questions and statements. However, it's never wise to disagree with something that you haven't heard.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Constitution is a great document, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nupstateny, NedSparks, blueyedace2

    one that we all support. But like all written documents, it is a guide, not something that is immutable. When faced with either allowing innocents to be killed, or bending the Constitution, I would hope that any of us, and certainly any president, would err on the side of saving lives versus hewing to a literal interpretation of a centuries-old document.

    There are people on the other side of the world who would like to kill innocent Americans (as well as innocent fellow Moslems). The question is not "is it legal?"; the right question is "is the illegal act justified by the circumstances?". But first, you have to be willing to accept that there are murderers out there planning attacks, and I think that too many here have convinced themselves that this is a myth. It is not, unfortunately. I agree with the president.

    When a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.
    And I am happy that we have a president who thinks deeply about the life-or-death implications of him doing his sworn duty to protect us.
    It is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives.
    I'm glad I am not in his shoes; but I am glad that he is there for us, doing the dirty deeds that someone must do.
    •  Well a half-dozen paragraphs are nice and all... (13+ / 0-)

      but you see, a President does not get to pick or choose parts of that guide document that he wants to abide by at the expense of others.


      "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

      by lunachickie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:26:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ben Franklin comes to mind (15+ / 0-)

      "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither".

      A "guide"?  "Bending" the Constitution?  That sounds too much like the supposed Bush quote; "It's just a damned piece of paper".

      Tell me, who decides when it's OK to trash the Constitution?  And what recourse do regular people have when law gets "interpreted" into its antithesis?

      I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

      by tle on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:36:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The recourse is in the form of (0+ / 0-)

        frequent elections, which we have. When Americans decide that they'd prefer a literal reading of the Constitution over the protection of their families from the threat of Islamic terrorism, their voice will be heard.

      •  The Constitution is not self-enforcing. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade, Sandino

        People have to act. Most of the Constitution is a directive requiring actions from the various agents of government. Those directives presumably take precedence and protecting the nation is one of them.
        The Amendments, an after-thought, are anomalous is that they enumerate a few prohibitions, which are, in turn, hedged by exceptions. That is, they don't have to be honored, if disregarding them is "warranted."
        Fact is that when the Constitution was adopted and promulgated, human rights were on nobody's agenda. If they had been, owning human beings could not have been considered legal.
        The focus on human rights is a revolution and it has not yet been accomplished. Civil rights were easy, especially at a time when it was still assumed that most people had little or no interest in carrying out the obligations of citizenship themselves. It's easy to let everybody vote when 75% of the eligibles don't bother.
        People used to wring their hands over low voter turnout. They weren't sincere.

        We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:59:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's like listening to Colbert do "The Word" (8+ / 0-)

      without the pop up messages on the right side of the screen.

      "The thing about smart motherfuckers is that they sound like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers." Robert Kirkman

      by JesseCW on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:38:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  An silly and insulting argument that has been used (15+ / 0-)

      for centuries by the clueless, cowardly and/or dishonest to justify violating the constitution. Dishonest because it's never ever ever necessary to violate the constitution to save anyone's life and I challenge you to prove otherwise.

      Give me a SINGLE example where this has EVER been true.

      According to your logic, Bush was justified in violating the constitution too when he lied to take us to war, wiretapped us without warrants and locked up all those detainees without charges. And so will even the most radically RW (or LW) presidents yet to come, because...national security!

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:45:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm alive, and so are you. (0+ / 0-)

        We are free to chit-chat on the internet because somebody is defending us against guys who want to kill us. If Obama and the CIA not killed so many terrorists, innocent Americans would be dead who are alive today (maybe even one of us). The Constitution is not more important to me than my life.

        •  and yet if you open the wrong web site (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sandino, aliasalias, JesseCW

          or chat with the wrong individual on line

          or use the wrong combination of words together

          or sit at a restaurant where some random group of strangers happens to also be sitting

          you slip closer into the sticky, tangled web of being branded and targeted yourself.

          There are no checks and balances here.

          There are no trials here.

          Everybody's freedom's are being damaged here.

        •  Perhaps if the United States, (7+ / 0-)

          including numerous presidents and the CIA, had not killed so many innocent people across the world, there would not have been so many terrorists in the first place.  And a lot of innocent Americans would be alive who are dead today.

          "If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life." — Albert Schweitzer

          by mozartssister on Sat May 25, 2013 at 12:24:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Or--meant to add-- (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            417els, kurt

            supported other countries who do, as well.

            It's not that we are to blame--it's just that we are responsible for our actions on the world stage.  And we often pretend we are not.  

            It's a long, vicious cycle of violence, with complex causes. And everybody pretends they're the good guys.

            "If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life." — Albert Schweitzer

            by mozartssister on Sat May 25, 2013 at 12:25:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, I was waiting for that one. (0+ / 0-)

            It's all our fault. Okay.

            •  That's exactly what I did NOT say. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              barleystraw, kurt

              See added comment, right above you.  

              But pretending we're 100% innocent in the world while  others are 100% evil is simplistic, jingoistic, and ultimately unhelpful, not to mention untrue.  Actions have consequences, including ours--so we'd do well to act carefully and wisely if we want to protect our long-term best interests.

              We have a long history of supporting countries and politicians across the globe who oppressed their own people and others.  We also directly--as with Native Americans, as with drones--have a history of turning a blind eye to what we're actually doing to other people who "just don't matter" as much.  

              No matter what side you stand on or where you cut the chain of cause and effect to say "This was the beginning," there's always a justification for violence, for striking back.  Which is why this goes on and on and on . . .

              Or what is your explanation?  Why us, on 9/11?  Why not Canada or Uruguay or Nepal?  Because they "hate our freedoms"?  

              "If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life." — Albert Schweitzer

              by mozartssister on Sat May 25, 2013 at 03:13:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  For one thing, they hate that we're rich. (0+ / 0-)

                We're wealthier than most any other country. They hate that we're friends with Israel. And they hate our breed of evangelical protestantism. And they hated people like George W. Bush, who is obviously an idiot. People who think that if we just leave them alone they will stop are hopelessly naive. This is a tiny percentage of Moslems who are violent in nature and have lots of reasons to kill Westerners. The drone attacks have coincided with a reduction in terrorist attacks, and the drone attacks themselves have declined over time. So it is clearly working.

                •  Coincided? Are you saying that there is a (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  causality here? As far as most of the world is concerned Obama is just another aggressor like Bush. It is not only that we are rich (or that our masters are rich, more appropriately). It is that we exploit resources and deny access to these resources to other countries. We have supported corrupt dictators with American military force while these dictators stole from the people. I/P is a huge issue that places the US in the position of being blames by just about every country in the world holding us responsible for what Israel does. Basic issues like access to water, the ability to trade, the ability to access International courts are limited by the US.

                  Drones are not working. Carpet bombing did not help in Vietnam. The Blitz did not work for the Germans. And allied air attacks on Germany did not end the war or even reduce military armament production. Drones unify our enemies against us. Something that may be a smart tactical move maybe a very bad strategic move.

                •  We left them alone for 100 years. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Did they attack us?

                  Between the end of the conflict with the Barbary Pirates and our attack on the Moros in the Philippines, did we have any conflict with any Muslims anywhere?

                  "The thing about smart motherfuckers is that they sound like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers." Robert Kirkman

                  by JesseCW on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:17:50 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Well actually is kind of is. People's behavior is (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              partly shaped by their history. And we have a long history of interfering in the affairs of other countries despite being warned by people like Washington to avoid this habit. We resented the Soviet Union because we felt it to be a threat. Many countries and peoples across the world resent us because they perceive us to be a threat. Our policy towards the Middle East, Latin America and Asia is deeply resented. We also go to war pretty quickly. And I mean over the long haul. So when we act in a way that is seen as bulling we have to expect some blowback. And there is precious little real difference between our ethics and the ethics of our adversaries. I know 911 changed everything, right. But the US has been making war on innocent people for most of the 20th Century. WWI and WWII were necessary but American involvement in those wars lasted less than 6 years combined. If your country was invaded or foreign forces stationed against the will of the people you would scream blue murder. And possibly resist. So read a little history before you wave the flag. And think about how you would feel if the stuff that we do to others happened to US.

            •  No, doc2. It's your fault. You and the other (0+ / 0-)

              supporters of the abuses of peoples abroad which have endangered us.

              Don't say "our".  We're not in favor of creating terrorists from Yemen to Pakistan by blowing children into bits for entertainment.

              That's you and yours.

              "The thing about smart motherfuckers is that they sound like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers." Robert Kirkman

              by JesseCW on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:16:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Bullshit (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aliasalias, barleystraw, JesseCW

          I asked you to prove it and you didn't even try. ASAIC you may as well be a troll for spouting this self-evident McCarthyite bullshit.

          And bullshit all the more because even if killing some of these "terrorists" has kept us safe, you have no proof that it had to be done unconstitutionally.

          If you believe this bullshit then you're a sad fool. If you're just saying it then you're a troll. Only you really know which you are.

          I bet you still believe Saddam was behind 9/11 and had WMD, too.

          Btw, there is no Santa Claus.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 01:03:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If I am a fool then so is the president himself. (0+ / 0-)

            And if I am a troll, I've certainly waited here a long time to reveal my true nature. Feeling a bit of CT today? Anyhow, you are alive, and whether or not you appreciate it President Obama is doing his best to keep you that way. My guess is that you probably will someday realize that he was right to do so. I hope for your sake that you get over this ridiculous bias you have against your own country.

            •  Still haven't answered my question (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Have a good day, Mr. Nixon.

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 01:14:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What question? The thing about (0+ / 0-)

                proving that one of the guys we killed would have eventually killed some of us? I thought that question was too stupid to even address. You realize why it is stupid and impossible to prove, right?

                •  So you admit that you don't know (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  barleystraw, JesseCW

                  or really care if they were in fact terrorists, so long as you're "safe", making your disinterest in respecting the constitution kind of quaint in comparison.

                  Got it.

                  I'll ask one last time, to give you a chance to not look like the authoritarian Islamophone you appear to be: How do you know that all of the people Obama has ordered killed were terrorists, and why was it necessary for him to violate the constitution to have them killed?

                  Also, were you just as OK with this when Bush was president, or are you one of those "I trust Obama to break the law" fake liberals?

                  "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                  by kovie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 03:07:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't know that Obama's record is (0+ / 0-)

                    perfect, and I never claimed to. What I know is not very important in terms of whether it is good policy for the United States. All we can do is elect good people like Obama to tell us what he thinks needs to be done, and it is up to us to judge whether we think what he says is true. For some reason you think he is lying when he says what he is doing is necessary. You think that you must personally be presented with proof every single time the US initiates an attack or else you will go online and say the attack was a mistake. That's fine, that is your right. But I don't think you understand the concept of a representative democracy. Obama makes these decisions on our behalf. And I, and the majority of people around the world who are the targets of terrorists, applaud his efforts. I do trust Obama, as crazy as you think that is. And I am as liberal as they come.

                    •  No I expect this President to follow the law. (0+ / 0-)

                      Both national and international as dictated by the Constitution. To uphold the Oath of Office which demands that the Constitution be protected and no your sorry ass. It was wrong when Bush did it and it is just as wrong when Obama does it. Our nation is a nation of war criminals. We have tortured people and Obama is required to prosecute the war criminals whether it is good for our national morale or not. The US of A has committed war crimes and violated treaties that we signed. The Constitution requires that those treaties be treated as the Law of the Land. But those who committed war crimes are still free. So no Obama's decision making on doing the right thing is not something I trust or have confidence in.

                      But if you sleep better knowing that innocents are being slaughter so you can feel secure then go right ahead.

                •  Care to offer any facts that lead to that (0+ / 0-)

                  conclusion? Or are you a student of the Cheney-Rumsfeld School of Sophistry? Why did we not send in our teams of Super Ninja JSOC operators and arrest this guy and his kid? Are we not Number 1!!!!!!!!! Hell Yah Murica

                  So you have an administration that can send an executioner to a remote desert and deliver vigilante justice yet we are too afaid to send some lawyers to question bankers over corruption because the bankers feelings may get hurt.

                  We have a President who claims the right to decide who lives and who dies without a court or a trial and claims to power to make war anywhere in the world he deems fit because of a "threat" but said same President lacks the power and authority to decide to close a military base prison in a foreign country because those meanies in Congress say no.

    •  some death toll statistics (8+ / 0-)

      Using Wikipedia let's compare a couple of things.

      Here's the list of ordinary Americans kill here in the USA since 2002 (that's over a ten year period):

      * 10 people in the Sniper shootings
      * 1 in Little Rock Ark at a Recruiting center
      * 13 in the Fort Hood shooting
      * 3 in Boston Marathon bombing
      total: 27

      US school shooting deaths since 2002:
      * 1 Red Lion PA
      * 2 Cold Spring MN
      * 1 DC
      * 1 MD
      * 9 Red Lake MN
      * 1 TN
      * 1 Essex VT
      * 2 Bailey CO
      * 1 Cazenovia WI
      * 6 Nickel MinesPA
      * 1 Tacoma WA
      * 1 Printeville OR
      * 33 Blacksburg VA
      * 1 Cleveland OH
      * 6 DeKalb IL
      * 1 Federal Way WA
      * 1 Ft Lauderdale FL
      * 1 Cambridge MA
      * 1 Larose LA
      * 1 Madison AL
      * 3 Huntsville AL
      * 1 Austin TX
      * 1 Salinas CA
      * 1 Topeka KA
      * 1 Marionette WI
      * 2 Omaha NB
      * 3 San Jose CA
      * 2 Blacksburg VA (this is a different shooting)
      * 3 Chardon OH
      * 2 Jacksonville FL
      * 7 Oakland CA
      * 1 Homer GA
      * 1 Silkwater OK
      * 28 Newtown CN
      * 3 Hazard KN
      * 1 Chicago IL
      * 1 Midland City AL
      * 1 Orlando FL
      * 2 Cambridge MA (also a different shooting)
      total: 137

      First, I only included stuff here in the US and only the deaths, not survivors. And it's Wikipedia.

      Nonetheless, we can see that it's five times more carnage involved over more than the last ten years.

      This doesn't include hate crimes against Gays, hate crimes against Moslems, Hate crimes against Blacks or shootings in theaters, etc.

      We're spending trillions of dollars on these this global war on terror and we're destroying our protection of human rights. With no end in sight and nothing to show for it.

      What if we had spent all that money doing good things here in the USA, like fixing up schools, hiring more teachers at better pay, creating jobs repairing our broken bridges and highways, helping college kids pay for school, shoring up Social Security, enhance our communities?

      •  If it weren't for the drone strikes, (0+ / 0-)

        your list of casualties due to terrorism would be much longer. That is why we do them. Because we must.

        •  not true: check Canada etc. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sandino, aliasalias, JesseCW

          Canada's not killing people with drones.

          Canada is not collapsing from runaway terrorism.


        •  Drone strikes create more terrorists (5+ / 0-)

          than they kill. The military admits as much. Shit, that is their entire purpose.

          •  That is just so ridiculous on its face. (0+ / 0-)

            Let's think about this, shall we? If drone strikes "create more terrorists than they kill", what should be the outcome of a long pattern of drone strikes? There would be a) an increase in terrorism, and b) an increase in the need for further drone strikes.

            Yet terror acts by these groups has gone steadily down over the years. And we have reduced the frequency of drone strikes and just the other day Obama announced a further reduction in future strikes. So your theory, which many anti-drone folks love to trot out, has some serious holes in it. Where are all these terrorists created by prior drone strikes? They could not have been killed by other drone strikes, because you believe that drone strikes create more terrorists than they kill. You've got a bit of a problem.

            Perhaps you should rethink your premises.

            •  how about this from that hippie org. the CIA? (5+ / 0-)


              A former top terrorism official at the CIA has warned that President Barack Obama's controversial drone programme is far too indiscriminate in hitting targets and could lead to such political instability that it creates terrorist safe havens.
              Grenier emphasised that the use of drones was a valuable tool in tackling terrorism but only when used against specific identified targets, who have been tracked and monitored to a place where a strike is feasible. However, recent media revelations about Obama's programme have revealed a more widespread use of the strike capability, including the categorising of all military-age males in a strike zone of a target as militants. That sort of broad definition and the greater use of drones has outraged human rights organisations.

              The BIJ has reported that drone strikes in Pakistan over the weekend hit a funeral gathering for a militant slain in a previous strike and also may have accidentally hit a mosque. That sort of action adds credence to the claims that the drone campaign is likely to cause more damage by creating anger at the US than it does in eliminating terrorist threats.

              "We have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield. We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan,"
              he said

              The BIJ estimates that there have been up to 41 confirmed US drone strikes in Yemen since 2002 and possibly up a 55 unconfirmed ones. Grenier said the strikes were too indiscriminate and causing outrage among the civilian population in the country, lending support to Islamists and seeing a growth in anti-US sentiment.

              "That brings you to a place where young men, who are typically armed, are in the same area and may hold these militants in a certain form of high regard. If you strike them indiscriminately you are running the risk of creating a terrific amount of popular anger. They have tribes and clans and large families. Now all of a sudden you have a big problem … I am very concerned about the creation of a larger terrorist safe haven in Yemen," Grenier said.

              (all emphasis mine)


              There are estimates as high as 98% of drone strike casualties being civilians (50 for every one "suspected terrorist"). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA is deliberately targeting those who show up after the sight of an attack, rescuers, and mourners at funerals as a part of a "double-tap" strategy eerily reminiscient of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.
              These numbers and reports alone should cast much doubt on the effectiveness at protecting the U.S. and combating terrorism that the Obama admnistration uses as justification for drone strikes. If a drone kills an actual terrorist but leaves multiple, sometimes dozens, of innocent civilians vaporized as well, this creates a brand new set of enemies and blowback. According to Jeremy Scahill’s reporting at The Nation, U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are the primary source for Al-Qaeda’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula. Obama’s “signature strikes” — where targets are hit for displaying “suspicious behavior” and which Petraeus also wants to expand — are backfiring and can only boomerang back to us.

              without the ants the rainforest dies

              by aliasalias on Sat May 25, 2013 at 11:54:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  When quoting the BIJ so frequently, (0+ / 0-)

                you should read up a bit on their reputation. They were practically put out of business last year due to inaccurate reporting that led to libel. The US drone program is a serious one, and you should inform yourself (and others) using serious sources, not biased organizations built to disseminate one particular worldview. We make fun of WND here, but there are WND equivalents on the left as well.

                •  which one the Guardian or (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  barleystraw, Sandino

                  Either way I notice you ignore what each article says and just attack the messenger.

                  without the ants the rainforest dies

                  by aliasalias on Sat May 25, 2013 at 02:37:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Alright then, lets look at recent history. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Sandino, aliasalias

                  The Gulf War ended in 1991. Al Queda struck us in 2001 over things we did in Saudi Arabia back in  1991. Revenge is a dish best served cold or so the saying goes. People have long memories. And a drone attack today may not blowback for a decade. You want to kill other people with out anyone on your side having to risk anything to accomplish this. Our adversaries see this as cowardice and will at sometime in the future at a time of their choosing retaliate.

                  And while you marvel at the "success" of the drones understand that attacks are being planned, in retaliation of the drone strikes.

            •  Don? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Don Rumsfeld? is that you?

        •  Must? A moral imperative? (0+ / 0-)

          Why not send in the superman like JSOC forces. I mean if I am going to be executed I deserve to face my executioner in person. Drones make war very cheap and very easy to the power that has them. And if innocent people get killed well that is a price you are willing to pay. Of course you do not actually pay any price the poor bastards under attack do but hey as long as you can sleep at night, right?

          But the anger at the US festers. Drones are very popular with the public which makes it much harder to simmer down that anger and bitterness when your adversary knows that the folks back home want him dead and do not care how many kids die along with him.

        •  If it weren't for this tiger proof spoon... (0+ / 0-)

          "The thing about smart motherfuckers is that they sound like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers." Robert Kirkman

          by JesseCW on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:19:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  We are creating more terrorist than we are killing (7+ / 0-)

      One thing that has always angered me is as if there is a binary choice between invading and occupying a country or droning.  

      There is another choice, especially as it applies to terrorism.  Terrorism is a police matter.  To stop it, we need to cooperate with our international allies and do the difficult intelligence work that police activities require.  

      The reason the 911 hijackers were successful is mostly due to the blatant, almost criminal, incompetence of the Bush Administration.  I am not saying they let it happen or they planned it, of course not.  But what I am saying is things that are in the public knowledge now that show this to be true.  The system was "blinking red".  The Clinton Administration was emphasizing this threat as the Bush administration was setting up, but Bush cared more about the threat from the Ruskies.   And evidence has surfaced that there were many, many warnings, beyond the "Bin Laden determined to attack" memo, that if properly dealt with would have stopped that attack.

      So we are eviscerating our Constitutional protections because  of Bush's first among many incompetently handled crises.


      And our droning and warring reminds me of a quote from my favorite movie of all time, Casablanca:

      And what if you track down these men and kill them, what if you killed all of us? From every corner of Europe, hundreds, thousands would rise up to take our places. Even Nazis can't kill that fast.
      I am NOT saying Obama is a Nazi, and he may mean well, just getting bad advice, but the result of the policy is the same, we are creating terrorist faster than we can kill them.

      Call your representative and senators and the white house (lack of capitalization intended) to STOP this crazy warmongering with Iran, please.

      by Indiana Bob on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:51:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We're "eviscerating" our Constitutional (0+ / 0-)

        protections because we're killing Islamic jihadists living in regions without extradition treaties with the US? If a US citizen decides to join a terrorist cell and plan attacks on us we cannot kill him without sending in marines to kidnap him, bring him back to our shores, and put him on trial?

        Fine, but do you want to be one of those guys sent in to extricate him? What would you say to all the families of the American soldiers killed going in to conduct the extraction? Thankfully, we have the technology to do the job with no loss of innocent American life and a bare minimal loss of innocent life period. It is very easy for people here who are alive to criticize the man keeping you that way.

        •  see previous discussion of Canada (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sandino, aliasalias, JesseCW

          they don't have to do what you're talking about.

          They are not drowning in acts of terror.

        •  This policy not working (5+ / 0-)

          It is creating more terrorist, and it is doing so because we kill innocent people in these strikes.

          And how do you know that they have joined a terrorist group and are planning attacks?  Because the government claims that?

          And advocating violence against the US is protected free speech (see Brandonburg v Ohio).

          Finally, You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, you are 8 times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack and you are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack.  

          This threat is overblown because the fear it causes allows the government to do these things.

          Call your representative and senators and the white house (lack of capitalization intended) to STOP this crazy warmongering with Iran, please.

          by Indiana Bob on Sat May 25, 2013 at 11:49:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  International treaties are a part of US law as (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Indiana Bob

          mandated by the Constitution. Article 6, clause 2 "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

          Now drones are banned by treaties signed by the US. Other things banned are "Unlawful combatant". The treaty indicates that a combatant is either a POW or a criminal. If he is a criminal he gets a trial according to the laws of the country whose jurisdiction he is in. If he is not a criminal he is a POW entitled to be treated like a POW. Now Obama has violated this as certainly as Bush did. But even Bush was frightened at the prospect of using drones. The legal response to Al Walki was to arrest him and try him. Risky, yes but that is the law. Period. Or we are an outlaw nation that needs to be brought to justice ourselves.

    •  Hmmm.... (9+ / 0-)
      There are people on the other side of the world who would like to kill innocent Americans (as well as innocent fellow Moslems).
      Ever wonder how they feel about drones killing their innocent civilians?

      Do a little research on signature strikes.

      So, if you consider drone strikes a pragmatic way to fight "the war on terror," wouldn't you consider the creation of more terrorists as a factor when considering how effective a strategy it is?

    •  sorry but you are incredibly wrong, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barleystraw, 3goldens, aliasalias

      the Constitution is the highest law of our land and military officers and politicians swear an oath to the Constitution, not the country or any individual person...Our Constitution is our country, not some "piece of paper" that can be obeyed or discarded at will....

      I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

      Military officers oath

      “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

      Presidential oath

      "I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God."
      All Federal Employees except President
      "I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as ___ under the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God."
      Combined oath for Supreme Court Justices.....

      Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
      I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
      Emiliano Zapata

      by buddabelly on Sat May 25, 2013 at 10:02:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wrong as much for justifying the violation (0+ / 0-)

        of the constitution as for the justification for this justification, that's it's necessary to keep us safe, or has kept us safe.

        Basically, this poster is one of those folks who believe we should kill as many scary-looking Muslims as possible and to hell with the constitution and due process or whether they really are terrorists, so long as we're "safe".

        The same exact justification used to nearly eradicate Indians.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 03:12:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Then why (9+ / 0-)

    did he go on to do exactly that?

    "But these are tough issues. And the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong."

    "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

    by lunachickie on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:22:04 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this comprehensive diary (17+ / 0-)

    While I was aware that Ms. Benjamin spoke up during the speech, I did not know the contents of her comments.   You and she have raised some essential comments.

    Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

    by RFK Lives on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:22:19 AM PDT

    •  here's Medea saying why she spoke up... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RFK Lives, dream weaver, barleystraw

      Sitting at the back of the auditorium, I hung on every word the President said. I kept waiting to hear an announcement about changes that would represent a significant shift in policy. Unfortunately, I heard nice words, not the resetting of failed policies.
      Instead of announcing the transfer of drone strikes from the CIA to the exclusive domain of the military, Obama never even mentioned the CIA—much less acknowledge the killing spree that the CIA has been carrying out in Pakistan during his administration. While there were predictions that he would declare an end to signature strikes, strikes based merely on suspicious behavior that have been responsible for so many civilian casualties, no such announcement was made.
      "Speaking out isn't rude... Terrorizing villages with Hellfire missiles that vaporize innocent people is rude. Violating the sovereignty of nations like Pakistan is rude. Keeping 86 prisoners in Guantanamo long after they have been cleared for release is rude."
      The bulk of the president’s speech was devoted to justifying drone strikes. I was shocked when the President claimed that his administration did everything it could to capture suspects instead of killing them. That is just not true. Obama’s reliance on drones is precisely because he did not want to be bothered with capturing suspects and bringing them to trial. Take the case of 16-year-old Pakistani Tariz Aziz, who could have been picked up while attending a conference at a major hotel in the capital, Islamabad, but was instead killed by a drone strike, with his 12-year-old cousin, two days later. Or the drone strike that 23-year-old Yemini Farea al-Muslim I talked about when he testified in Congress. He said the man targeted in his village of Wessab was a man who everyone knew, who met regularly with government officials and who could have easily been brought in for questioning.
      When the President was coming to the end of this speech, he started talking about Guantanamo. As he has done in the past, he stated his desire to close the prison, but blamed Congress. That’s when I felt compelled to speak out. With the men in Guantanamo on hunger strike, being brutally forced fed and bereft of all hope, I couldn’t let the President continue to act as if he were some helpless official at the mercy of Congress.

      “Excuse me, Mr. President,” I said, “but you’re the Commander-in-Chief. You could close Guantanamo tomorrow and release the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release.” We went on to have quite an exchange.

      (all emphasis mine)

      One more thing, she will soon be going to Yemen and just like the trip to Pakistan it will be to meet the families victimized by this terror from the skies.

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Sat May 25, 2013 at 11:29:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Rhetoric (10+ / 0-)

    Phrasing a statement as a question to avoid the appearance of having a stance is a common tactic. Look to Fox News for some great examples of asking questions that are really position statements. So Obama's remarks that "he does not agree with much of what she says" is really him addressing her point of view from which those questions arise. His "I do not agree" statement is likely informed by a perspective as leader of the United States with a duty to protect it from foreign and domestic threats. Neither person in this exchange was revealing the underlying assumptions that informed their positions. Without those being made available it is impossible to parse the reasons for the disagreement.

    Saying that Obama can not disagree simply because a policy position was phrased as a question is to miss the not so subtle reason for using such a tactic.

    "There are two kinds of truth, small truth and great truth. You can recognize a small truth because its opposite is a falsehood. The opposite of a great truth is another truth." -- Niels Bohr

    by paxpi on Sat May 25, 2013 at 07:29:26 AM PDT

  •  Obama's disagreement (7+ / 0-)

    Was obviously that any of these critiques should actually be aired in public, much less be addressed by himself and his administration.

    History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce - Karl Marx

    by quill on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:15:51 AM PDT

  •  Whose side are you on? (10+ / 0-)

    Barack or Medea?

    I stand with Medea. She speaks for me.

    Fuck the haters and the authoritarians.

    The kool kidz can demonize dissent all they want.

    I'm with the dissenters.

    "Today is who you are" - my wife

    by I Lurked For Years on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:20:10 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this. (8+ / 0-)

    I can sometime be a conspiracy theorist, sorry I can't help it.

    There is such an incredible chasm between Candidate Obama and President Obama on these issues.  So he is either some sort of Manchurian Candidate or the MIC, CIA, National Security Apparatus or whoever has threatened his wife and daughters and he knows he can't keep them safe.  He has to know what he is doing is wrong.

    I love Medea Benjamin, she has always been one of my heros.

    Call your representative and senators and the white house (lack of capitalization intended) to STOP this crazy warmongering with Iran, please.

    by Indiana Bob on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:34:11 AM PDT

  •  Meh, if you watched it she came across as rude (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jeff Simpson, FiredUpInCA, jj32, doc2

    and a little unhinged.  Unfortunately, she didn't help the progressive anti-war cause at all.  

  •  Why was the speech made at this undemocratic site? (3+ / 0-)

    The president chose to make what was billed as a major policy speech at the "National Defense University" which is a government-supported university unlike any with which I am familiar. Incoming students receive a welcome packet outlining how to obtain the appropriate security clearance to attend classes.

    The idea that a university can co-exist with a military environment in which staff and students are all under orders strikes me as more suitable to the old Soviet system than to our own. Presumably, if a student talked to the press about a topic from class, that student might find him or herself under arrest for violation of the Espionage Act if a civilian or under court martial if active military. And raising a difficult question in class might lead to a damaging notation in one's file.

    The President clearly chose this environment, rather than an open and free public venue, to avoid just the kind of embarrassing questions raised by Medea Benjamin. Whoever slipped her an invitation to join this otherwise captive audience is probably already a target for federal investigators.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Sat May 25, 2013 at 10:32:48 AM PDT

    •  Security clearance to attend classes? WTF??? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Incoming students receive a welcome packet outlining how to obtain the appropriate security clearance to attend classes.
      That's totally antithetical to the core academic values of free and open inquiry.


      •  It is a graduate school for top ranking officers. (0+ / 0-)

        They discuss things that are classified. That is nowhere near the worst part of this speech or policy

        •  They should not call themselves a "university". (0+ / 0-)

          A university is something else.

        •  Incidentally, I make no claims here that... (0+ / 0-)

          ...whether or not this particular institution deserves to be called a "university" is somehow more important than the fact that we are murdering incident people (including children) with our drone policy, or other issues with regards to either our policy or the President's speech.

          It's just that for those of us who teach at universities, the lack of openness and free enquiry is also a major issue, quite independent of politicians who might decide to give policy speeches at our universities.

        •  I might argue, however, that if the arguements... (0+ / 0-)

          ...murdering children were made openly, rather than under the cloak of secrecy and classification, that counterarguments might more easily find their way into the classrooms.

  •  Obama praised Bush. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias, Kickemout

    Both of them.  And gave Madeleine the War Criminal Albright a Medal of Honor.
    So Medea probably isn't his type.

    "I'm an antiwar propagandist as accused by democrats. Not even republicans have called me that."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Sat May 25, 2013 at 10:49:24 AM PDT

  •  When he says he disagrees with her 'question' (0+ / 0-)

    obviously he is assuming what her take on the subject is. Of course you can't disagree with a question per se but he is addressing the arguments behind these questions

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Sat May 25, 2013 at 10:51:08 AM PDT

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