Hellfire and Damnation: The Washington Consensus for Murder
This is an expanded version of the column appearing in the Feb. 3 edition of The
Last month, President George W. Bush murdered four children. This is not a controversial statement. There is no dispute about the facts. Indeed, Bush's own minions fully acknowledge – even celebrate – the deed. Nor has the political opposition or the national media offered the slightest objection to the principle of presidential murder.
Strange, isn't it? While the American Establishment is now convulsed over the issue of a president ordering wiretaps without court approval, the same president's assertion of the right to kill anyone on earth he chooses without charges, trial or judicial review is readily accepted on all sides. Even when these "targeted assassinations" go horribly awry – as in Pakistan last month, when 18 innocent people, including four children, were obliterated in their homes by Hellfire missiles, as the Observer reports – there is no demur, no moral shock. Just tough talk about "doing whatever it takes" to defend civilization from the barbarians.
The misfired Hellfires were reportedly aimed at al-Qaeda honcho Ayman al-Zawahiri, thought to be the Dick Cheney-style brains behind the gang's dimbulb, Bush-like frontman, Osama bin Laden. The missiles were directed by unmanned CIA Predator drones, acting on the usual "credible intelligence" that Zawahiri was in the
In other words, "collateral damage" – always "regretted" with copious crocodile tears from the damagers – was actually built into the mission. As in Bush's ongoing, ever-intensifying, unreported aerial bombing of urban areas in Iraq – which has killed thousands of civilians, TomDispatch reports – the deliberate killing of non-combatants in Damadola and other targets of Bush's "extrajudicial" wrath is meant to convey a clear message: "Knuckle under – or else."
Indeed, the Bush brass in
But of course the "War on Terror" has always been, in reality, a "War Between Terrors" – state terror versus stateless terror, with one side marshalling a military force of incomprehensible scope and power, and the other side incapable of sustaining anything more than the occasional isolated spasm of bitter fury. In fact, it's not even a war at all; as many have noted, you can't wage war on a tactic – "terrorism" (especially when you are employing it yourself). And the small band of criminal cranks loosely grouped under the scarifying rubric of "Islamofascism" poses no threat whatsoever to the national existence of the
(And no, the well-sustained insurgency in
But equating the threat from the small clutch of knuckle-dragging goons in the bin Laden gang with, say, the nuclear-armed might of the Soviet Union or the millions of troops mustered by Nazi Germany, is a key component of Bush's "larger strategy" in another occupied land: the United States. By declaring endless war on a nebulous enemy whose mafia was spawned in part by the CIA – and by allowing this Islamic Pimpernel to miraculously escape from Afghanistan and roam like a bogey-man in the backalleys of the American mind – Bush has been able to claim the powers of a "war president" to implement a far-ranging authoritarian agenda that his handlers like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have been pushing since their days with Richard Nixon: a locked-down, militarized state, bent on geopolitical domination and run in secret by a small elite of ideologues and war profiteers without interference from Congress, the courts, the press or the people.
By September 2000, the Cheney-Rumsfeld faction was openly yearning – in print – for "a new
Not even when Bush kills children. American and international law expressly forbid both the deliberate targeting of non-combatants and "extrajudicial killing," even in wartime. Yet, as Reuters reports, Bush personally ordered the Damadola hit – with its guaranteed "collateral damage." This was, by any standard, deliberate, premeditated murder. But still the Washington Establishment – Democrats included – rose to cheer the killer this week as he mouthed his bloodstained lies and cynical pieties in the State of the Union address.
No doubt the loud – and ultimately ineffectual – noise about wiretapping will go on. But the voices of those murdered children – killed without mercy, already forgotten – will never be heard again..