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Letter to Sasha

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Author 64732
Message BK Faunce

Obama family
Obama family
(Image by Public Intelligence Blog)
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Dear Sasha:

This will not be easy.

No one wants to write a letter to someone's daughter that's critical of her father, and no daughter wants to read a such a letter. But when you are the daughter of the (former) President of the United States, and your father is using you in an effort to cover up the crimes he committed while in office, you need to hear about it.

You were a child when your father entered the White House, but you are an adult now, completing your first year in college. You should know the difference between right and wrong. You should be capable of making ethical decisions based on universal principles, most importantly, adherence to the rule of law. Yet a recently released family photograph (above) indicates you are having some difficulty in this area.

Pictured from left to right are your mother, Michelle, your sister, Malia, your father, Barack, and then you. Your father curls one arm around Malia's waist and one arm around yours, while you rest your left arm gently against his left shoulder. Everyone in the photo is smiling: everyday folks, pleasantly lit, casually dressed and happily entwined in each other's lives, the perfect image of the perfect family. One would never know from this beautifully staged photograph that one of the individuals pictured in it is a war criminal. But that's what state-sponsored propaganda does: it hides the crimes beneath a veneer of respectability. It reframes the narrative by re-packaging the killer as a loving, protective family man. It makes evil banal. And it doesn't matter whether you know this or not; it's the message you help send when you allow yourself to be used in photographs such as this.

It's not just that your father conned voters in 2008. It's not just that he filled his cabinet with corporate goons like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. It's not just that he lied about single-payer health care. It's not just that he lied about ending the war in Iraq. It's not just that he lied about the water quality in Flint. It's not just that he tried to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medical. It's not just that he imprisoned whistleblowers. It's not just that he was known as the first "bank president," or that he was considered a "puppet of oligarchy" by the democratic base. It's not just that, after his presidency, he liked to hang out on the Italian Riviera, or that he was paid $400,000 a speech by his Wall Street buddies (the same buddies he bailed out with taxpayers' money), or that he bought a $12 million mansion. It's not just that, even now, he's running around attacking progressives, warning about the "activist wing" of the party and continuing to defend the ruinous corporate "status quo" he helped to perpetuate.

It's not just all that.

Your father murdered people. Lots of people. Innocent people. He ran a secret drone assassination program that was used to eliminate anyone suspected of being a terrorist. No charges. No trial. No habeas corpus. No rights. Don't like this or that individual? Send a drone in and bomb away. Your father even applied this extra-judicial logic to American citizens, assassinating them without due process as well. Noam Chomsky, whose work you should read carefully, described your father's drone assassination program as "the most extensive global terrorist campaign the world has yet seen." He's your father. But he's also a global terrorist.

After the assassination program became public, your father dispatched his CIA Director, John Brennen, to assure the public that it was perfectly legal, targeted only terrorists, and had "zero" civilian casualties. He was lying on all three counts. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, your father's drone assassination program killed very few terrorists while murdering over 5,000 innocent civilians. The first strike your father ordered hit a Yemeni tribe by mistake, killing 55 people, including 12 women, 5 of whom were pregnant, and 21 children. Children.

Little bodies blown apart in the burst of an instant. Do you think they suffered? The unimaginable pain that strikes before the agonizing death? Maybe some of the children didn't die right away. Maybe it took a while. Maybe one or two weren't blown into a million pieces. Maybe the children blown into a million pieces were the lucky ones. Maybe the drones your father sent only tore off a hand, or an arm, or a leg. Maybe some of the children actually survived. Imagine the terror they must have felt at the time, and the hatred they must feel now. Death from above, brought to children throughout the Middle East by your father, Barack Obama. He's the guy in the photograph with his arms lovingly laced around his two daughters. He's also the guy who slaughtered innocent women and children. These are war crimes.

Sadly, that's not the worst of it.

Not only did your father bring death and destruction to thousands of innocent people. He bragged about it: "Turns out, I'm really good at killing people," he told aides.

Roll that comment around in your mind for a moment. He's your father. He's taken care of you your entire life. But he's also joking about indiscriminate, state-sponsored murder. Notice he made sure the comments went public by having his aides leak them to the press. Your father wanted the world to know he's good at killing people. On one level the idea is directed at killing the bad guys, being tough, standing up to terrorism, keeping American safe and all that. But the language is telling: it indicates your father is not just assassinating terrorists with drones. The word he uses is "people" --- he's good at killing "people" --- a clever (and deceitful) way to include innocent civilians and unindicted Americans in his killing fields. Translation? Innocent civilians are equated with suspected terrorists? They're all "people"? They're all the same? And if they're all the same, then murdering them with a drone strike is perfectly okay. See how that works?

Like the family photograph, your father's comments on extra-judicial murder are an attempt to gloss over reality, to erase his crimes by cloaking them in folksy humor and in that way normalizing the behavior.

This is where it will get difficult for you. It is self-evident to those of us who believe in the rule of law that your father, former president Barack Obama, must be charged, arrested and brought to trial in the Hague. There can be no justice unless and until the guilty are held accountable. Your father is not the only one who should be indicted for war crimes, a list that includes virtually every top official in the previous administration. But his would be a much needed first-step toward restoring America's reputation as a law-abiding nation. The question before us is which path will you take.

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BK Faunce is a retired Associate Professor of English (UMW / UCSC) specializing in British Romantic Literature, Film Theory and Writing. His recent work examines the use of state power and its impact on visual culture.

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