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Friday, June 1, 2012

Krauthammer’s Stinging Rebuke of Our “Drone Warrior President”

One of the treats of living in the DC area is home delivery of the Washington Post. Today’s edition is particularly strong, carrying with it strong news stories and valuable opinion pieces. There is a great report on the courageous Chen Guancheng, the blind Chinese legal activist now in the United States, and his appearance Thursday before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. The Style section has an extraordinary piece on the death of a Pentecostal snake-handler written who by a photojournalist who was actually with the Pastor Randy “Mack” Wolford when he was bit and then died. The photo of Wolford’s mother stroking her son’s foot as he lies dying is powerful. I was also moved by the columnist Michael Gerson’s column on empathy. Gerson tells the moving story of Vice President Biden’s recent speech to families of dead military members in which Biden recounted his own struggles with suicidal thoughts in the wake of deaths in his own family.

But for me the very best column was by a man who I often disagree with, the neoconservative wordsmith Charles Krauthammer. Krauthammer’s hawkish stance on foreign policy is light years removed from mine, but on this we both agree: President Obama’s drone policy, as detailed in a chilling New York Times article recently, is a remarkable testament to political hypocrisy and doublespeak. Here is how Krauthammer puts it:

So the peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for America having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people Obama now kills, has become — just in time for the 2012 campaign — Zeus the Avenger, smiting by lightning strike.
A rather strange ethics. You go around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by electing a president profoundly offended by George W. Bush’s belligerence and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that you personally play judge, jury and executioner to unseen combatants of your choosing and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.
Of course, Obama’s hypocrisy is made possible in part by the hypocrisy of the liberal media establishment’s relative silence in the face of Obama’s drone policy, a point brought home in the Post the day before by Marc Thiessen in an article appropriately titled “The Obama-Bush Doctrine”:
Take this week’s New York Times report on Obama’s drone war. Imagine the outcry that would have erupted on the left if the Times had reported that during his time in office, Bush was personally selecting “every new name on an expanding ‘kill list’” of terrorists to be vaporized? Imagine if the Times had described White House officials boasting about how Bush “approves lethal action without handwringing,” or how Bush had told aides that the decision to kill an American citizen with a drone was an “easy one”? Imagine if the Times had revealed that Karl Rove, “the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings” each week in the Situation Room where decisions were made as to who would live or die?

Thankfully, there have been consistent voices on these issues, Andrew Bacevich in particular. He has been unrelenting in his criticism of Obama’s foreign policy as he was of George W. Bush. If you are looking for an alternative to the media “coverage” of American foreign policy, I suggest Bacevich’s work and the insights of others like him at TomDispatch.com

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