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General News    H3'ed 9/28/21

Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Hellfire World

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Droning On
Assassins-in-Chief and Their Brood

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What a way to end a war! Apologies all around! We're so damn sorry or actually, maybe not!

I'm thinking, of course, about CENTCOM commander General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.'s belated apology for the drone assassination of seven children as the last act, or perhaps final war crime, in this country's 20-year-long Afghan nightmare.

Where to begin (or end, for that matter) when considering that never-ending conflict, which seems for Americans, anyway finally to be over? After all these years, don't ask me.

Hey, one thing seems clear to me, though: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley undoubtedly didn't apologize for that last Hellfire missile attack he, in fact, originally labeled it a "righteous strike" or the endless civilian deaths caused by American air power, because he's had so many other things on his mind in these years. As a start, he was far too preoccupied calling his Beijing opposite, General Li Zuocheng, to warn him that the president of the United States, one Donald Trump, might have the urge to start a war with China before leaving office.

Actually, had Milley called me instead, I would have assured him that I believed The Donald then incapable of doing anything other than watching Fox News, going bonkers over the election, and possibly launching an attack (nuclear or otherwise) on Joe Biden and the Democrats, no less Congress remember January 6th! or even his own vice president, Mike Pence, for certifying the vote. Maybe, in fact, Milley should have skipped the Chinese entirely and called Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Anthony Gonzalez to warn them that, sooner or later, the president might go nuclear on them.

Of course, in our increasingly mad, mad world, who really knows anymore?

I do know one thing, however, mostly because I wrote it so long ago and it stuck in my mind (even if in no one else's): ever since the presidency of George W. Bush, who reportedly kept "his own personal scorecard" in a White House desk drawer of drone-killed or to-be-killed "terrorists," every American president has been an assassin-in-chief. No question about it, Joe Biden is, too. I don't know why the label never caught on. After all, assassination, once officially an illegal act for a president, is now, by definition, simply part of the job and the end of the Afghan War will do nothing to stop that.

I first labeled our future presidents that way in 2012, after the New York Times reported that Barack Obama was attending "Terror Tuesday" meetings at the White House where names were regularly being added to a "kill list" of people to be droned off this planet. The first such Obama assassination, as Jo Becker and Scott Shane wrote at the time, would, prophetically enough, kill "not only its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and [leave] behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents." Sound faintly familiar so many years later when U.S. drones and other aircraft have reportedly knocked off at least 22,000 civilians across the Greater Middle East and Africa?

Killers on the Loose

OMG, apologies all around! There I go, in such an all-American fashion, droning on and on.

Still, it's hard to stop, since it's obvious that presidential drone assassinations will go on and on, too. Just think about the thrill of what, in the wake of Afghanistan, Joe Biden has started to call "over-the-horizon capabilities" (of the very sort that killed those seven kids in Kabul). In fact, it seems possible that this country's forever wars of the last two decades will now morph into forever drone wars. That, in turn, means that our 20-year war of terror (which we always claimed was a war on terror) will undoubtedly continue into the unknown future. After all, in the last two decades, Washington's done a remarkable job of preparing the way for such strikes, at least if you're talking about ensuring that extreme Islamist terror groups would spread ever more widely across ever larger parts of this increasingly shambolic planet.

Here's the thing, though: if, in 2021, you want to talk about assassins-in-chief who never feel the urge to apologize while putting so many in peril, you don't have to head over the horizon at all. Take my word for it. You need look no further than former president Donald Trump or, at a state level, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, among others, or simply most Republican politicians these days. Once you refocus on them, you're no longer talking about drone-killing foreign terrorists (or foreign children), you're talking about the former president (or governor or senator or congressional representative or state legislator) assassinating American citizens. When it comes to being that kind of assassin, by promoting unmasking, super-spreader events (including unmasked school attendance), and opposition to vaccine mandates, among other things, you're speaking of the murder of innocents right here in the U.S. of A.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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