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Obama's Principles and Will Create Kill List as Test for New York Times

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The New York Times chose this "terror Tuesday" to publish an article called "Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will," a bizarre article that never explains what Obama's principles or will are or even offers any evidence that Obama has any principles or will.

There is one section in which the authors point out that Obama went out of his way to sneak the despicable John Brennan into his White House despite Congressional opposition, and that none other than Harold "these bombs are not hostilities" Koh swears Brennan is a moral man. Perhaps we should assume that Brennan's morality oozes upward from his "cave-like office in the White House basement" since his support for Bush's crimes is redeemed by Koh who only supports Obama's crimes.

Early on the article refers to "American values," suggesting that Obama's royal dilemma has been to defend not his principles, but America's principles. The trouble, of course, is that the New York Times never explains what those are. This being the New York Times, one would naturally assume that wars and killing and lies about wars and killing form the core of those values, but this goes unstated.

Obama is depicted as "keeping the tether short" by personally deciding on each and every drone kill. And yet, despite this personal care and attention, Obama has dramatically increased drone kills. The New York Times writes that Obama's role of "personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda" is "without precedent in presidential history." This is either because whatever the "shadow war with Al Qaeda" is has been created by Obama, or it's because Bush let subordinate(s) oversee it. This meaningless claim immediately follows bragging about how many of Obama's advisers the New York Times interviewed in order to produce it, and yet somehow the underwhelmed reader is still left to simply guess what is supposed to be meant. Presumably it is that Obama has created a new form of murder.

In fact, Obama has created drone wars, and an insider picture of how he runs them is found at the end of the article:

"Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government's sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects' biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die. This secret 'nominations' process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia's Shabab militia."

How do Obama's principles and will manifest themselves in this "due process" as he bestows it upon his victims? Well, according to the New York Times, he kills "without hand-wringing" and calls the decision to kill a U.S. citizen "an easy one." (Killing the same man's teenage son is so easy it goes unmentioned.) Obama is "a realist," who is "never carried away" by any campaign promises he may have made. He shrewdly maneuvers to keep in place Bush's powers of rendition, detention, and war, not to mention (and the New York Times doesn't) torture -- not to mention his huge leaps forward in formalizing and legitimizing those abuses.

Now, the New York Times does repeatedly claim that Obama is following "just war" theories, but such theories have always led to any desired interpretation, and the New York Times doesn't even hint at where it thinks they lead, or where it thinks Obama thinks they lead. The job of the Times, however, in its defense, is not to think.

After this observation,

"And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the 'single digits' -- and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants,"

one might naively expect the New York Times to look into some of those independent counts. Instead, the New York Times finds some accaptable (i.e. U.S. government) skeptics to quote briefly before moving on:

"But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it 'guilt by association' that has led to 'deceptive' estimates of civilian casualties."

Much later in the article, the New York Times gets around to mentioning Obama's practice of targeting individuals without being able to identify them at all. This technique of "signature strikes" was recently expanded by Obama to Yemen.

The same article, despite this unanswered debate over who is being killed, gratuitously refers to drones as "a precision weapon."

Much earlier, we're told, with no evidence, that Obama's droning has "eviscerated Al Qaeda," even though the next sentence notes that the drone strikes have become Al Qaeda's best recruiting tool.

We're also told, with no evidence, that Obama has a "distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting." Ha! Tell that to Democrats who tried to vote against military appropriations in 2009. Rarely has such vicious arm-twisting and extensive backslapping and rewarding been witnessed. How do we know that Obama doesn't have a "distaste" for pushing for only those measures that don't violate his principles? How do we know that murdering lots of people with high-tech equipment in great secrecy isn't perfectly in line with his principles? How can we be sure that isn't why he created it? And why should we care, as long as he's getting away with it, whether it has anything to do with his principles or not?

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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