November 25, 2012

The Bloody Black Comedy of the State

Only yesterday, I mentioned one of my exercises in black comedy: my imagining of a show called "Down with Doug!," loosely modeled after that show called "Up with..." some dope with a different name. "Loosely modeled" isn't actually correct; many of the arguments, and even some of the details (the host's unhappy comments about the use of an unpleasant word like "murder," for example), come straight from that other dope's on-air mutterings. The problem with my fevered imaginings, and it is a very terrible problem, is that they are overtaken by events within weeks, sometimes within days, of my writing them.

And now we have this example from what we ridiculously term "real life." We are told that the Obama administration "accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials." The story repeats several times how urgent and gravely serious the administration considered this particular problem to be.

You want me to translate this into more straightforward language, don't you? Yes, I knew you did. Allow me:
Oh, my God! We have to have rules telling everyone exactly how to kill people. If we don't, they're going to go nuts and murder lots of completely innocent human beings! Everyone isn't good and pure the way we are, especially those maniacal Republicans and that monster Romney, so we have to spell out exactly how to do the killing.
No. No, that's not quite it. Let's see. Imagine Jack the Ripper saying the following:
I slash and hack women into bloody strips of meat, rip out their guts and organs, and commit many additional horrific acts intended to desecrate their bodies as fully as possible. But I am a noble and virtuous person. Thus, I do all this in an entirely admirable and moral way. Most of you loathsome creatures cannot even conceive of my goodness. I have therefore written a little book intended for your improvement: Jack's Rules for the Slashing, Disemboweling, Murder and Desecration of Women. If you follow those rules -- follow them to the letter, mind you -- you will still not approach my perfection, but at least your actions will comport with the principles of morally informed, virtuous behavior.
That's better.

The NYT story is a vile exercise in fantasy, and a lie from beginning to end. As we know from numerous reports -- and as we know from what the Obama administration itself has acknowledged -- the Murder Program murders innocent human beings. This isn't a possibility, something that the administration fears might happen. It has happened in an unforgivable number of cases. Moreover, the NYT story tells us this with stark clarity. Here's the most obvious example:
[F]or several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in addition to “personality strikes” against named terrorists, the C.I.A. and the military have carried out “signature strikes” against groups of suspected, unknown militants.

Originally that term was used to suggest the specific “signature” of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the “signature” of militants in general — for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.
The State and its invaluable subsidiaries, such as the NYT, will never spell out the full meaning of passages like this one, and most people will not permit themselves to understand it.

Obama and his fellow murderers kill people about whom they have no specific information at all. That's what this phrase means: "young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups." We know from other accounts that they don't even need to be "toting arms." Their mere presence "in an area controlled by extremist groups" can be sufficient for the State to kill them. This logically and necessarily means that the State kills people who are completely innocent. Obama and the other criminals have no information whatsoever to even suggest otherwise.

But killing innocent people is the fundamental, intractable problem with the entirety of the Murder Program. The story describes how the Murder Program was initially "aimed at ranking leaders of Al Qaeda thought to be plotting to attack the United States" -- "thought to be," that is, they were suspected terrorists. Later on, "most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan." In other words, these victims of the Murder Program are no threat at all to the United States, or if they are a threat, they are solely because U.S. forces are in Afghanistan -- where they have no right to be. I hesitate to mention this, since I realize most people won't understand what the hell I'm talking about. Nonetheless: if you break into someone's house brandishing weapons and the owner kills you, that doesn't give your pals the right to kill the owner, everyone in his family, and a bunch of people who happen to live in the neighborhood.

And then we are told the targets of the Murder Program changed again, to include still more people: "In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the United States killed militants who were preparing to attack Yemeni military forces." They weren't planning to attack the United States, or even U.S. military forces. What they were doing had nothing at all to do with the United States. So as far as the U.S. is concerned, they were completely innocent.

Therefore, in every aspect of the Murder Program, the Program targets innocent human beings, and murders them. The Murder Program is a program designed to murder innocent human beings. That is its purpose and its reason for being. This is the program that the Obama administration constantly expands, and the program that it seeks to institutionalize so that it is a fundamental, critical part of U.S. policy going forward. This is exactly what I discussed several days ago.

The NYT story also makes horribly clear that the debate about whether it is a good idea to murder innocent people is over. Worse than that, such a debate never took place. That's what we're told right near the beginning of the story:
Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.
They're "still debating" whether they should murder innocent people only as a "last resort," or murder innocent people as "a more flexible tool." Whether they should murder innocent people at all never occurred to them. It was never even a question.

Think about that for a minute. It was never even a question for them.

The NYT lays out what can only be regarded as a program that is evil in the means it employs, as well as evil in all its purposes -- but the story carefully observes all the "rules" concerning "polite" and "respectable" discussion of such matters, so that the full meaning of these acts is systematically avoided. The story further informs us that the Obama administration is committed to developing a comprehensive system of rules to make certain that evil is committed in just the right way.

Yes, you should be shaking your head right now, because that makes absolutely no sense. It doesn't make any sense, yet this is the nature of the evil that steadily spreads across our national landscape. And as I have often noted before, every system of government has laws and rules, even dictatorships and even totalitarian governments. Appeals to the "sanctity of the law" and the crucial importance of "rules" play directly into the hands of the State and those who direct its lethal operations. The law and the rules are the means by which they implement and direct their power. When a corrupt and deadly system passes beyond a certain point, the law and the rules do not prevent the commission of evil: they make it possible. Moreover, and this makes all such discussions entirely absurd, the ruling class will disregard the law and the rules whenever they wish, for whatever purpose they choose. Surely the last decade has taught us that much, if nothing else at all.

Yet most people have accepted the myths in every detail. They believe the lies. (For detailed discussions of these issues, see this, this and this; follow the links for still more.)

There is one further, deeply awful aspect to the NYT story, which comes toward the end:
Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistan-born analyst now at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the United States should start making public a detailed account of the results of each strike, including any collateral deaths, in part to counter propaganda from jihadist groups. “This is a grand opportunity for the Obama administration to take the drones out of the shadows and to be open about their objectives,” he said.
The story immediately goes on to state that "the administration appears to be a long way from embracing such openness."

But suppose it did. One way that would play out comes at the end of my black comedy, "Down with Doug!" The host exults: "I want to emphasize that all of this has been done in a completely open manner. You've seen all of it." What he's talking about is murder, presented on live television. Would that make you feel better?

And do I have to remind people that this is exactly what certain people said during the heated debates about the State's embrace of torture seven or eight years ago? I remember it because I wrote about it at the time. (For a single essay summarizing the key arguments from my lengthy series about torture, see "Lies in the Service of Evil." The articles in the series are listed and briefly described at the end of that piece.) I was appalled and sickened then, and I am appalled and sickened now. Evil does not become less evil because people are "open" about it. It is not miraculously transformed into good through some mysterious process of alchemy. Evil becomes only worse, infinitely worse. And not a single aspect of those debates changed what the State had already decided to do: utilize torture as a standard method of State practice. Yes, yes, I know Obama told us all that he "ended" torture. Surely people, at least a few people, understand now that he lies about everything. He was lying about that, too. (Note: the second part of that essay describes how even the ACLU enthusiastically fell for this particular Obama lie. Not only that, they demanded that we all thank Obama for lying to us so brazenly. It was a thoroughly disgusting display.)

So if certain "critics" of the Murder Program get what they want, the State will be blessedly open about its programs devoted to evil. It will torture and murder regularly, perhaps every day, but in broad daylight, with all of us watching.

And a lot of people will be very pleased indeed. Pleased, hell. They'll be goddamned thrilled.