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Obama's moral dilemma: torture and deadly drones

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We are rapidly approaching the 100-day milestone whereby we judge the achievements of newly elected presidents. President Obama will get high marks and much praise for many of his accomplishments since taking office. But, there are two specific moral issues that are of such magnitude that they could put an indelible stain on his presidency. I’m speaking of the issue of torture of detainees and of U.S. drones raining death on innocent civilians.

Before examining these issues I want to make clear that I was for Obama from the very start and did everything in my power to help him get elected. I agonized over the dire possibility that John McCain and Sarah Palin might get elected. I felt that Obama was finally the president that would provide the kind of honorable, courageous, visionary leadership to restore this nation to greatness.

Yes, President Obama has acted swiftly in many areas to erase the stains that the Bush administration put on our national character and he has instituted innovative strategies in both domestic and foreign policies. That is well and good and highly commendable, but there are troublesome signs on the horizon with issues involving humanity and morality.

Let’s examine torture first and his apparent understanding and policies regarding this immense moral issue. Constitutional scholars contend that Obama cannot look the other way because, by his oath of office, he is bound to adhere to the part of the Constitution that states, “by his oath of office, he is bound to adhere to the part of the Constitution that states, This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land;" That means he (President Obama) must enforce the Constitution and the law of the land.

In the face of this clear statement by our founders relative to a president’s responsibilities, President Obama, a constitutional lawyer and professor, seems to be taking a different view. While he has stated that no one is above the law his mindset is clearly on looking forward rather than backward. To many that would seem to indicate that he does not intend to call for the investigation and potential prosecution of those in the Bush administration who may have committed war crimes.

I find that to be quite disturbing. We just got rid of an administration that completely ignored the US Constitution and fashioned the presidency based on its view of the power that it should hold. Are we going to see a replay of that type of governing from the current White House? I certainly hope not, but I am quite concerned.

The term,” innovative forms of interrogation”, created by the Bush administration, has allegedly included methods of torture such as water boarding, beatings, and starvation that are in violation of the Geneva Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other international law. As such, the law of the land and our constitution must be enforced by our President. I do not accept the current statements by Obama that it is imperative that we look forward and not spend time with events of the past. If he enforces the Constitution he has no choice and must see that an investigation is initiated.

The majority of Americans, and certainly the corporate-controlled mainstream media, have not been overly interested in this moral issue and, that again, is very troubling. For those who have little to no concern about torture, perhaps they should imagine themselves being put through some of these innovative exercises involving pain and fear, perhaps water boarding. They would find themselves being literally drowned, in a state of panic and fear that they were going to die. This is not the way human beings, that have not been proven to have actually committed a crime, should be treated by either the laws of man or the laws of the Creator.

If this issue of torture is not addressed and resolved by this American government, it will become a scar upon our national soul. If we look away and refuse to investigate and prosecute those who have instituted these distinct violations of international law, then this will become a permanent image of what America stands for in the eyes of the world.

Now to the other moral issue that involves the latest innovative method of warfare; the use of unmanned drones to enter the airspace of other nations to attack targets that are deemed enclaves of the enemy. Remember, when the Bush administration instituted pre-emptive military strikes against Iraq that “we thought presented a threat against us”? I’d like to know the difference between that pre-emptive military strike in 2003 and our current practice of using deadly drones to enter Pakistan territory and drop bombs wherever an enemy is thought to be hiding.

Drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) are of two types; Predators, the older version and the Reapers, the newest. You will hear a lot more about them as they are destined to become one of the Pentagon’s most favored weapons of choice in the future. Their use in Afghanistan has been growing in recent years. The word is that newer versions of these drones will be bigger, faster, much more sophisticated with much greater bomb and missile capability.

In a quote from David Swanson’s recent article, “60 drone hits kill 14 al-Qaeda men, 687 civilians” he states, “Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians”. If those statistics are true, then I find it to be appalling and unconscionable.

As the numbers of drones increase, the number of military casualties and deaths decrease, while those of civilians increase. Can that sad commentary be thought of an advancement of the human race?

Less than 100 days into his presidency, Obama has taken a highly questionable turn with regard to war. While he was against the Iraq War from the start he is now readily accepting the escalation of military action in Afghanistan. He should have thoroughly read the history of the disastrous Vietnam War, a classic example of escalation but, apparently, he hasn’t since he is totally ignoring the tragic results that claimed the lives of over 55,000 U.S. troops and nearly two million Vietnamese. History teaches us that those who think they can merely bury an ugly past will soon learn that it will return to haunt them.

One definition of collateral damage: “Collateral damage is damage that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome”. In this article let’s just call it what it truly is; the flagrant killing of innocent human beings. I’m sure most of us have heard the many stories of Afghan villages being bombed by these Predators and Reapers – how many times have bombs been supposedly been meant for al-Qaeda leaders but have wiped out wedding parties instead? When you bomb a village you have to understand that you are going to kill civilians.

Our government’s stated formal reason for our current military involvement in Afghanistan/Pakistan is that it is to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in order to prevent terrorist attacks upon on America. However, there is much evidence that it is but a part of a much larger, far more ambitious plan for the future.

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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense (more...)
 

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