Saturday, February 7, 2009

Crime for thee but not for me

Unlike Bill Clinton who rushed back to Arkansas to execute a mentally disabled man or George W. Bush who made fun of a condemned woman asking him for clemency, Barrack Obama arrived at the White House without any direct responsibility for killing people. It took all of four days to change that. Within four days of taking office Obama ordered missile strikes into Pakistan. The second of these strikes resulted in the death of a family with three children, the youngest a girl five years of age. By doing so Obama accomplished at least two things. He committed a war crime - that of attacking a country that the US is not at war with. And he became directly responsible for killing children. By itself maybe the attack is not that remarkable. The most powerful nation on earth now kills innocents with contemptuous ease and regularity. What was perhaps more disheartening was the equanimity with which the same liberals who had protested vigorously against the violation of international law under Bush received this news. Mostly, it was not worthy of comment, and certainly not of distraction from the ongoing celebration of ourselves for electing Barack Obama president. To point out that Barack Obama had become a killer of children was so gauche as to be beyond the pale. That he will continue on the path of more murder, more slaughter in Afghanistan is accepted and the statement by his defense secretary Robert Gates dropping the facade of democracy promotion, though continuing with the slaughter, is seen as some kind of victory. As if it mattered to those girls that their death was not in the service of democracy but in the service of ... well it is not clear what it was in the service of, but I am sure it involved Hope and Change (TM).

That racists and right wing bigots view people who don't dress like us or live like us as less than human is conventionally accepted. However, the devaluation of the lives and humanity of the brown and the black and the foreign has also been a persistent, if less often voiced, part of the liberal American view of the world. And this lethal condescension is not unique to our liberals. Richard Seymour, the author of "The Liberal Defense of Murder" who blogs at Lenin's Tomb, writes in a recent essay in the Guardian
In every country whose rulers have opted for empire, there has developed among the intellectual classes a powerful pro-imperial consensus, with liberals and leftwingers its most vociferous defenders.

Liberal imperialists have resisted explicitly racist arguments for domination, instead justifying empire as a humane venture delivering progress. Even so, implicit in such a stance was the belief that other peoples were inferior.
This belief becomes lethal when considering the "cost" of imperial adventures. The fifty people in a wedding party killed by a US bomb are important only insofar as they are a useful club with which to beat the Bush administration. That these were human beings with lives and loves is an understanding so far from the picture as to be nonexistent. With the coming of the Obama administration these people will also lose their value as clubs. And because they have been dehumanised more will be killed with ease. Ask most anyone how many people were killed in the Vietnam War. Like as not the answer will be 58,000 or thereabouts. Think upon the question and the answer.

Liberals came around to opposing the Iraq war in large numbers only when it became clear the beating we were taking in world opinion. The initial military victory was cheered on in most liberal venues - at least if the liberal New York Times and NPR are any indication. The slaughter in Falluja may have caused a slight discomfort but the effect did not last very long. My fear is that by the time the inhumanity that is sure to be practiced - after all our enemies are less than human - in this, the "right" war, leads to a further slide of US power and prestige many many more will have died. One's heart bleeds for what has happened and what will happen. But not, it seems, of bleeding heart liberals.

Commenting on the strikes the Guardian says
The strikes will help Obama portray himself as a leader who, though ready to shift the balance of American power towards diplomacy, is not afraid of military action.
Well, that makes it alright then.

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