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Saturday, September 29, 2012

What could bring Obama down

Reaper drone
Predator drone

These babies.

While conservative commentators keep droning with intelligence-challenged and stupidly contrived criticisms against Obama--birth certificate, inability to understand or do anything, all racial-based cant--some critics on the left raise issues of genuine import.  The Displaced Plainsman reviews them in a post that explains why LK cannot support either presidential candidate.

There are two major charges against Obama:  he has illegally ordered drone strikes that have killed innocent people in Pakistan and Yemen, and he illegally dispatched troops to Libya.

The charges about his actions in Libya are dubious.  During the Arab spring uprising, he refused to lend active on-the-ground military support to the rebels.  He let the United Kingdom handle that.   He did commit Air Force resources to enforcing a no-fly zone to protect the rebels from air attacks.     

This month after the violence against embassies relative to the stupid video that Muslims took offense to for insulting Mohammed, he did send combat-ready troops to Libya and Yemen to protect American personnel after the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya. 

In the matter concerning Libyan rebels,  Obama was severely criticized because he did not do more, but then was criticized by the GOP because he did not inform Congress of his actions in the required timeline.  State Department and administrative counsel provided a detailed statement on the legality of that level of support.  He is being criticized for not anticipating the attack on Ambassador Stevens and for sending armed troops into Libya and Yemen without Congressional approval, but his duties as commander-in-chief permit and require him to take measures to protect American personnel deployed in foreign countries for diplomatic purposes.  Those criticisms are carping, not substantive.

The matter of the drone strikes is quite different.  What makes it different is that we have never before had the technological means to seek out declared enemies of the U.S. in remote places and use remote-controlled armaments to take them out.  Furthermore, the matter of security and military secrecy compounds the issue.  Early on, The Columbia Journalism Review and more recently Mother Jones has reported on the complications involved in those actions.

Obama is charged with violating the Constitution when he approved of a drone strike that killed American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim iman who turned against his country.  The charge is that he ordered the execution of an American citizen without any form of due process through the courts or military tribunal.  There may be convoluted legalities involved in that killing, but it recalls for me an operating principle from my days in the U.S. military:  if a person openly betrays and is traitor to his/her country and  advocates and plots against it, the person is regarded as a declared enemy who can be disposed of by military means.  In effect, the person has disqualified himself from any protections due an American citizen and the rules of war apply.

Obama's vulnerability is in the "collateral damage" done by the drone strikes, the killing of civilians not directly engaged in combat.  We've been there before. 

When Lyndon Johnson made his decision not to seek a second full term as president, the deciding factor was the anti-war protests sweeping the nation.  Those protests were expressed and motivated by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a little Vietnamese girl running naked down a road with other children aflame with napalm from American aircraft.  

Nick Ut, a photographer with The Associated Press in Los Angeles, won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1973 for the photograph of 9-year-old Kim Phuc running along a road with other children following a napalm strike on the village of Trang Bang, 25 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. The photograph was titled, "The Terror of War." 

 Obama's critics on the left are the ones to examine this issue.  Obama has claimed that every precaution is taken with the drone strikes to prevent any civilian casualties, but according to diplomatic personnel from the countries involved, those casualties are the source of anti-American attitudes that are growing in those nations. 

The protests against the killing of innocents has not reached the intensity of that which brought down Lyndon Johnson as of yet.  The picture that provokes that level of rage has still to be published. 

The Vietnamese were not associated with any direct attacks on America such as 9/11, which may explain the absence of rage against the innocents killed in drone attacks.  However, the potential is there on the left wing.  

[Note:  When blogger published this post, it eliminated some of the links to sources.  I have restored them.]

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States