Tag Archives: drone

Rethinking the D.C. “Scandals”

As “scandals” (both real and manufactured) continue to garner news coverage, I’ve changed my views a little bit on at least one issue.  With the news today of the Obama administration admitting 4 American citizens have been killed by drone strikes, I now count 4 scandals.  I still believe that much the emphasis in DC is on politics, I still believe a the scandals are being overblown simply to inflict as much political harm as possible on the Obama administration.  However, as more information continues to trickle out, I do have serious concerns about how the Obama administration has handled 2 issues, while the other 2 in my mind are pure political fluff.  The 2 “fluffy” issues first:

- Benghazi – It would be different if Republicans were focused on improving diplomatic security.  However, given that Republicans have been against increasing funding for diplomatic security, given that they’ve given NO indication they care about anything other than using the issue to try to politically harm Obama and Hillary Clinton, it’s hard to see much of a scandal here.  Hey, Repubs…how about spending a little more time worrying about how to prevent the NEXT attack, rather than worrying about what words were used by the Obama administration to describe the LAST attack?

- IRS “Targeting” Tea Party groups – I’m sorry, but despite the play this is getting in the press, I don’t find a lot wrong with the IRS specifically paying more attention to Tea Party groups claiming tax-exempt status.  Given the Tea Party’s hatred of government, given the Tea Party’s goal of decreasing the size of government, given their goal of DECREASING TAXES, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to more closely scrutinize Tea Party organizations who are trying to claim tax-exempt status.

And two scandals that do have me concerned about the direction of the Obama administration:

- Justice Department/AP/Fox leak investigations. This one has become more troubling to me as more information comes out.  Investigating the sources of leaks? I’m fine with that, and given the hawkish-ness of Republicans in general, if this was coming out during the Bush administration, you can be damned sure you’d have a lot less uproar from the right. Hell, they’d probably be joining the call to stop the leaks by any means necessary.  But with the hated Obama in office?  Since when have Republicans been big fans of the press?  It certainly is troubling though to see the Justice Department apparently pursue criminal charges against a Fox News reporter for reporting leaked information.  That’s an incredibly dangerous precedent, labeling a journalist as a “co-conspirator”.  Go after the leaks, by all means, but don’t criminalize journalists for reporting leaks.

- Drone Attacks on Americans – In the newest of the scandals, Eric Holder today admitted that four Americans have died due to drone strikes overseas.  Holder said 3 of the 4 “weren’t targeted”.  Sorry, but given the disappointing levels of paranoia and secrecy within the Obama administration, saying they were killed but “not targeted” doesn’t bring a lot of comfort.  Killing American citizens without trial is one hell of a scary path to follow, regardless of the alleged terrorist or criminal activities of the target.

I obviously lean pretty far to the left…but…I’m becoming increasingly disappointed in the Obama administration.  The political naivety of Obama’s first term seems to be swinging towards a more secretive, paranoid, and closed administration as his second term gets underway.  What happened to the promises of a more open and honest government?  What happened to promises for ENDING the brutal practices begun under the Bush administration (ever gonna close Guantanamo, Mr. Obama)?

The right’s pure hatred for Obama certainly has led to gridlock in Washington, and has certainly fueled the flames of the “scandals”.  The right’s attempts to DIRECTLY link Obama, or Hillary Clinton, with these scandals is an overreach on their part, and distracts from any serious discussion of the underlying issues.  It’s pretty obvious that Obama (or Hillary Clinton) didn’t play any role in the decisions that affected security in Benghazi, and any attempt to turn word-choice after the fact into a “scandal” is failing miserably.  It’s pretty obvious that Obama himself had no role in the IRS ‘targeting’ of Tea Party groups.

However, despite the right overplaying their hand and blowing the scandals out of proportion, Obama certainly isn’t doing himself any favors lately.  He’s rapidly losing any chance to accomplish anything on his 2nd-term agenda, and if he doesn’t make a bold move and quash the scandal machine, it’s going to be his own political failings that are blamed for a lame-duck 2nd term, rather than the blame falling on Republicans hell-bent on gridlock.

Winning the battles on terror, losing the war

Pakistan

We're winning the war against Al Qaeda. The cost? Turning an entire region against us in the long-term, including former ally Pakistan.

Three successful drone strikes in recent days have killed some VERY high-ranking Al Qaeda members.  Good news, right?  Yes, no doubt.  But, those drone strikes have occurred in Pakistani territory.  Leon Panetta has come out condemning Pakistan for allowing safe haven to fighters who attack U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, who then retreat to Pakistan for relative safety from retaliation.  Panetta says we’re “not going to take it” any more.

I find it amazing that Repubs still attack Obama for being soft on defense.  It sure helps when the entire Republican party seems to be made up of a bunch of dim-witted fools who believe anything their leaders tell them.  Repubs continue to use the attack because their idiot backers continue to believe ANYTHING that’s anti-Obama.  This despite the incredible successes Obama has had in combatting terrorism and dismantling Al Qaeda.

The continuing, bold drone attacks in Pakistan continue a very aggressive defense policy from Obama, policies that Republicans would be DROOLING over…IF it were a Republican in the Oval Office.

With that said…it’s a loser of a long-term strategy.  Afghanis themselves want the U.S. out.  It’s been over 10 years for god’s sake.  We’re occupiers in their minds now, not liberators.   Pakistanis?  I’m definitely not sympathetic to Pakistan for their role in underhandedly supporting violence in Afghanistan, but despite any recent successes in killing Al Qaeda personnel within Pakistani territory…it’s a loser of a long-term strategy.

Obama’s long-term military strategy clearly puts an emphasis on Asia (e.g., China) with a de-emphasis of the Middle East.  But the damage has already been done in the Middle East.  10+ years of active war in the region will do that.  There’s no doubt that U.S. actions in the Middle East in the past decade have further strengthened the impression that the U.S. is a bully in the region, uncaring about the people themselves, and only interested in protecting oil resources.  It’s a HELL of a tough line (heck, an impossible line) for Obama to walk…keeping a continued, active, and aggressive military presence in the region, while attempting to sway regional powers to support the cause.

Despite the successes in killing Al Qaeda leaders with cross-border drone strikes, there is also no doubt that hundreds of innocent Pakistani’s have lost their lives.  Despite Panetta’s bluster…it simply can’t continue long-term.  We’ve dismantled Al Qaeda in the Middle East.  Obama has had been an aggressive, extremely effective leader in the war on terror.  But at what cost?

We already had a boatload of enemies in the Middle East.  We’ve also been doing a hell of a good job at turning one-time U.S. allies into likely long-term enemies.  We can now add Pakistan to the ever-growing list of countries in the region that resent the U.S. influence in the region.  In the short-term?  We can survive it, given the devastating blow we’ve accomplished against Al Qaeda in the region.

In the long-term? We’ve alienated another nationality in the region, and created yet another long-term breeding ground for anti-U.S. terrorists.   We’re winning the battle against Al Qaeda…but losing the war in the region.

Perusin' & Musin'

Some random thoughts from perusin’ the web…

Hispanic Students Vanishing in Alabama – After an appeals court refused to block a tough new Alabama immigration law from taking effect, schools are reporting very sharp drops in attendance from Hispanic students.  Many Hispanic families have said they plan to leave Alabama, which I’m sure is cause for celebration for the bigots Alabama people who support the law.   If they keep at it, maybe they’ll be able to achieve their dream of having a lily-white, minority-free Alabama.

Black Oystercatcher Faring Well in California - It’s always nice to focus on good news for a change!  There’s been concern over the status of Black Oystercatchers on the Pacific Coast, but a recent survey in California found many more nesting pairs than expected.  Great to hear, as these are one of my favorite birds.  I’ve been fortunate to get a number of very good photo opportunities on a few trips to California and Oregon.

Bachman Says China Attacking U.S. Satellites with Lasers!!! -  During an interview on the Laura Ingraham show, Michele Bachman said China has been attacking and “blinding” U.S. military satellites with lasers.  Uh…Michele…maybe it would be best if you just slowly faded from the public spotlight.  You seem incapable of opening your mouth without complete BS coming out.  But when you’re talking on conservative talk radio, the audience demands right-wing wackiness, and Bachman certainly delivers.

Morality of U.S. Killing a U.S. Citizen with a Drone Strike - The first reaction upon the U.S. confirming the killing of American-born Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.  We had, after all, just killed someone described as the highest priority target since bin Laden was killed.   After a day or so though, many articles appeared questioning the morality of the U.S. government targeting and killing a U.S. citizen.   It’s a tough issue.   I’m against the death penalty, and think it’s simply barbaric for us to deal with criminality using the death penalty as a punishment.  But even for me, war is another issue.  I certainly don’t agree with the reasons nations go to war, but, unfortunately, even I recognize that at times, war is unavoidable.  Given that we simply do not have the capability to capture, jail, and try people like al-Awlaki, there’s often not a lot of choice in terms of how to conduct a “war on terror”.  Even with al-Awlaki technically a U.S. citizen, as distasteful as it seems, I’m not sure there’s not much else that could be done.  What a world we live in…

Israel Approves New Settlements in Occupied Territory - On the other hand…maybe there IS more the U.S. can do to combat terrorism, than rely on the military and drone strikes.  It ALL comes back to Middle Eastern attitudes towards the U.S., and that basically boils down to Israel and the issue of a Palestinian state.   This week after Palestinian President Abbas went to the U.N. for support of statehood, Israel announced they were approving the construction of 1,100 new homes for Jewish “settlers” in East Jerusalem.  I REALLY get sick of those that insist the U.S. continually, and seemingly unquestioningly, support Israeli interests.  If Israel had ANY real interest in a two-state solution, it wouldn’t be continually provoking Palestinians through actions such as this.  For once, I wish the U.S. would put their foot down and threaten to withhold Israeli aid, if they continue to build settlements in the occupied lands.

Traveller Arrested with Hummingbirds in his Pants - A Dutch traveler was arrested when airport authorities found a dozen live hummingbirds sewn into his underwear.  Evidently, this same idiot already had a previous arrest for smuggling hummingbirds.  I guess I didn’t realize there was a big black-market out there for hummingbirds.  This is pretty sick though.  I can’t imagine they would live very long all wrapped up like that, in someone’s underwear.