Embracing Death as a Problem Solution

Republicans have long accused Democrats as being “soft on national security” and Republican politicians usually do very well against Democrats when people are polled on which political party will keep them safer. I believe that what gets labeled as “national security” actually contributes to our insecurity because resources devoted to the military, intelligence activities, building more nuclear weapons, and, more recently, homeland security, consume resources which could be used to build a better society; therefore, I have favored the Democratic approach of devoting more resources to domestic programs.

There is a relationship between the “soft on national security” label applied to Democratic politicians and the “soft on terrorism” label pinned on President Obama. Instead of confronting his label by building a case for how terrorism can best be countered by more effective law enforcement and using diplomacy as the preferred means of resolving international conflict, President Obama is using military force as the prime means of reducing a terrorist threat to the United States and to the world. Thus, Obama has quadrupled the use of drones as compared to George W. Bush and he has ordered the killing of far more “terrorists” thus far than did Bush during his two terms in office — almost a four-to-one ratio by one recent count.

Many Obama supporters have taken the argumentative approach that Obama’s kill-rate has trumped the “soft on terrorism” charge. The
prime exhibits is this argument are the killing of Osama bin Laden, the cleric Anwar al-Alwaki and Muammar al-Quaddafi.

I believe, as does Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, that the use of drone strikes probably creates more terrorists because the murdered man’s surviving family, friends and circle of associates want to get back at the United States to avenge the killing caused by the drone strike. Some analysts contend that killing older, less violence-prone leaders, sometimes brings younger, hotter blooded, more violence-prone men to take their places. Studies have shown, for example, that men between the ages 18 and 35 commit a disproportionately high percentage of all violent crimes.

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has been a rare voice of sanity in a frenzied climate in which everyone who our government says is a terrorist, is, ipso facto, a terrorist. Paul has said we don’t know who at Guantanamo Bay is a terrorist because none of the detainees have been adjudged such by a court of law. We also know that there have been many cases of mistaken identity in assigning detainees to Guantanamo and others have been fingered by someone trying to get even with a personal enemy or pointed out by bounty hunters. In Iraq, the International Red Cross concluded that up to 70 percent of the thousands being held by the U.S. military had not been charged with a specific crime.

The title of this blog is “Employing Death as a Problem Solution.” I have been distressed by the extent to which U.S. citizens see death as a solution to a problem, particularly in the War on Terrorism. At sporting events held shortly after 9/11, the national anthem was sung with unusual gusto, and the line which drew the most boisterous reaction was, “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” These sporting crowds wanted the people of Afghanistan to suffer severe retribution for harboring the perpetrators of 9/11.

After Osama bin Laden was killed there were loud chants of “USA! USA! USA!”, indulged in mostly by young men. When Brian Williams asked Texas Governor Rick Perry if he has ever lost any sleep due to the 234 condemned  inmates put to death during his tenure, right after Williams said the number of those executed, there was loud applause and cheering from the audience, very satisfied that Perry had presided over the deaths of so many.

When President Obama authorized the assassination of a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, he voided a constitutional protection that even the legal protection eraser of George W. Bush didn’t try to blot out. And the killing of another U.S. citizen in that missile strike against Alwaki was considered to be acceptable collateral damage.

The demise of Col. Qaddafi in Libya has brought a surge of support for his violent death as acceptable retribution for the many great crimes he committed against his own people and the citizens of other countries. Yet it is an inauspicious beginning for a people who want to form a government that is a polar opposite of Qaddafi, to savagely beat this former leader, firmly in their control, kill him, then celebrate the killing.

The administration of George W. Bush crossed constitutional and legal boundaries when it authorized torture; created a new category of criminal termed an “enemy combatant;” treated U.S. citizens, such as Padilla and Hamdi as “enemy combatants” with diminished legal rights; outed Valerie Plame, putting her CIA contacts under the threat of death; and wiretapped without a court order. As indicated in a prior blog, President Obama has adopted some of Bush II’s perversions of the law; however, even President Bush didn’t claim the right to kill a U.S. citizen based solely on the president’s say-so. Bush also put far fewer innocent civilians and misidentified “terrorists” at risk of serious injury and death by authorizing far fewer drone strikes than has President Obama.

As a measure of morality, many people in the world probably don’t see a significant difference between a government that kills innocents in targeted strikes to kill “terrorists” and non-state individuals and groups who kill innocents to achieve political objectives.

A recent media report described an intense debate going on in the White House as to whether or not those lower-level “foot soldiers” who carry out acts of violence formulated by their leaders, could be  targeted by U.S. air strikes or even U.S. operatives on the ground. That this debate has even been going on is troublesome, but if the side that wants to target lower-level “foot soldiers” wins out, there will be a great increase in the number of innocent civilians killed as collateral damage.

It is President Obama’s use of military force as the major means to try to eradicate terrorism which is another reason that there be a strong Democratic challenger to him in the primaries, or a favorite son approach be adopted to allow the nomination to go to someone with a much better vision for the nation.

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