October 02, 2012

The Desk Set

A few years ago, in these very pages and while still possessed of a capacity for patriotic outrage over the systematic debasement of the core Constitutional principles on which the country (according to my study of history and law) was founded, I quoted Hannah Arendt's brilliant coinage "Desk Murderer" to describe certain highly-placed government officials who carelessly, wantonly destroyed human lives in distant countries and could not even be bothered to respond to methodical counts of the death toll. Professor Arendt used the term to describe monsters like Adolf Eichmann, who sat calmly and methodically at their desks and worked out the logistics of the Holocaust - train schedules, food supply, payroll, as if he were simply engaged in running a railroad whose end product happened to be death.  There were many Germans working in this "business" in the Third Reich, and for many of them the limited range of their function shielded them, to a large extent, from a daily appreciation of the true horror of what they were engaged in.

So the term occurred to me when considering the death toll in Iraq, now generally accepted to have been a "mistaken" war, or a "dumb war," in Barack Obama's phrase (when he was campaigning in 2008 and before he tried negotiating an extention of the American occupation beyond 2011). To wit, the Johns Hopkins/Lancet study which had concluded, using standard epidemiological approaches to such questions,  that something on the order of one million "excess deaths" (over and above what would have happened under Saddam Hussein had there been no invasion) had occurred in Iraq following the American occupation.  When "confronted" with this finding (at some Rose Garden White House/media love fest), George W. Bush simply dismissed it as "flawed methodology."

And that was that.  When the Obama Administration not only adopted all of the Bush era "modifications" of civil liberties (end of habeas corpus for American citizens; free-for-all domestic spying; use of the "state secrets" defense in court to end any and all attempts to win compensation for illegal detentions and torture; maintaining Guantanamo as a due process-free concentration camp; and, the Crown Jewel, assassination of American citizens by Presidential diktat), I knew we had undergone a paradigm shift that we're not likely to recover from while the nation remains in its current form.  Which is to say - never.

But the young, the idealistic young...along come research groups from the Stanford and New York University Law Schools, in a combined report called "Living Under Drones," and the problem of becoming a militaristic empire resurfaces all over again.  As noted by The Australian (you didn't think this report would get much play in the States, did you?):

A NEW study by researchers at Stanford and the University of New York has found that American drone strikes in Pakistan are killing far more civilians than advertised, taking out few high-value targets, and have become the primary recruiting tool for the terrorist groups the policy is aimed at combating.The report, "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan", is based on "more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting" conducted over nine months.
The research found that in the past eight years drone strikes have "killed 2562 to 3325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children". Meanwhile, only 2 per cent of those killed were "high-level" targets. This means the strikes have killed three times as many children as terrorist leaders.
The report also shows that the impact of the drone war isn't limited to those directly affected by strikes because the constant presence of drones overhead "terrorises men, women, and children".

The writer goes on to state that it's "stunning" that this issue is not a bigger feature of the current presidential campaign.  Well, I don't know, mate - is it really as stunning as all that?  How exactly are President Barack Obama and the Carpetbagger supposed to talk about this one?  Granted, perennial troublemaker Glenn Greenwald, who writes for an English newspaper (The Guardian), is a graduate of NYU Law, and resides in Brazil (where the 2011 winner of the Miss BumBum contest is pictured above-I hope this answers your question, Willy, about my marketing ploys) has been all over this story.  
So what are these legal upstarts suggesting?  That President Barack Obama is another Desk Murderer?  Just because the drone campaign has, you might say, a 98% failure rate?
Well....not in context, when you think about it.  It is true that, in the first place, we're not even at war in Pakistan.  We're just killing people there, mostly by remote-controlled drones (which are operated, quite literally, by guys at desks in Langley, Virginia [CIA drones] and by the military at bases in Texas and Nevada).  Well, what are you gonna do?  Washington, D.C. has it in its collective head that the American people will only support a warmonger, and to be a warmonger you have to remain continuously at war.  President Obama has internalized that, and the Carpetbagger, given half a chance, would double down on our military adventures and start bombing whatever Muslim country might be left that we're not currently bombing.  
What is kind of funny is to watch the polemical gyrations of the Liberal Desk Murderers, such as Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Paul Krugman and lots and lots of Hollywood's glitterati. For in an ethical universe, to support a Desk Murderer, one who these idealistic students claim is "terrorizing" the indigenous population of Pakistan through systematic commission of war crimes, such as bombing rescue operations and targeting funerals of Pakistanis already killed by missiles, is, through moral accountability, to be a Desk Murderer yourself.  We're not too far gone to see that still, are we? Well, for the Liberal Desk Murderers, there is no doubt that Barack Obama is most definitely their guy - he's the cool brand, and what Obama actually does in office is not nearly as important as how he does it. Plus, maybe both Barack Obama and the Carpetbagger are Desk Murderers, but Obama is the Desk Murderer with the more equitable tax plan and the greater commitment to Medicare and Social Security.  Sorry about all the dead kids, but first things first.  It's important to keep our focus where it belongs, on our short list of self-involved topics.
Yes, I know what you're thinking - when the Liberals champion their own Desk Murderer, we have crawled into a hermetically-sealed madhouse and locked the door behind us. You won't get much of an argument from me.  


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