I generally prefer not to spend too long gawking at the travesty that is the American media - at least not to the point where I'm willing to dedicate hour after hour of my life to laying out exactly how it is systematically destroying our minds. Not that it isn't a noble profession for those willing - just that I tend to drift toward broader thoughts. But avoiding the lies is nearly impossible these days. The disinformation campaign is just so pervasive that you find yourself having to refute the same tired talking points again and again and again.
Luckily, every now and then someone comes out with something so incredibly and awfully fallacious that it actually ends up as a great example of everything that is wrong with mainstream discourse in this country. And it's amazing how often that someone ends up writing an opinion column in the Washington Post.
George Will, apologist and enabler for the Empire (as well as just about every morally reprehensible position you can think of), has been writing op-eds for the Post since before the evil bloggers who make him feel insecure in his faculties were even thought of. He was busy then showing great moral courage by daring to write negative things about his old friend Richard Nixon - concern trolling Democrats into believing he was a conservative who could think for himself. Few have perfected the art of looking like a serious, intelligent voice who challenges preconceived notions - while in actuality offering few original thoughts and only cementing into place official dogma - better than he has.
In other words, he's exactly the type of columnist the establishment can get behind.
He is so wrong, so often, that he really throws a wrench into my usual mantra of "don't attribute to incompetence what you can more justifiably attribute to malice or personal gain". And even though his op-eds look almost like satire to those of us who don't spend their weekends sucking down the latest dose of pretentious beltway drivel, there's a real chance he doesn't realize how far away from reality he is. At the least, he's a useful stooge for the powers that be.
Speaking of stooges, in this terrible, awful, no good piece, Will cites John Yoo of torture memo fame to try and justify the drone wars - America's "targeted killing" program. Yes, really. The legal and propaganda arms of the great American exceptionalism justification machine finally together and out in open view. The anticipation is no doubt palpable.
And, predictably, the entire frame of discussion was skewed from the very beginning. In Will's quest to apologize for America like no one has before, he makes every leap of logic and sad appeal to fear and authority imaginable. Somehow I've managed to 'condense' these into eight separate topics, in hopes that I maintain coherency even while Will and Yoo do not.
So without further ado, here's how to get everything on the war on terror mind-numbingly wrong:
1. Claim drone strikes are precise and reduce civilian casualties
The idea that any type of American bombing - even that of drone strikes - is a precise endeavor is at best foolishness, and at worst propaganda. I'll leave it up to you to decide which Will is embracing here:
The new technology is the armed drone, which can loiter over the suspected location of an important enemy person and, in conjunction with satellite imagery, deliver precision-guided munitions in a matter of minutes.
Yoo correctly notes that “precise attacks against individuals” have many precedents and “further the goals of the laws of war by eliminating the enemy and reducing harm to innocent civilians.”
Notice the language: "an important enemy person", “precise attacks against individuals”. Curious. How many drone strikes can you remember which only killed a single person? After checking the ~220 listings so far on the twitter account dronestream (an attempt to list all drone strikes from 2002-2012 and counting), as well as doing some google searching, I only came across two mentions of 1-death strikes. In fact, the average number of people killed per strike is somewhere between 6 and 10, with anywhere between 1% and 80% being civilians, depending on who you trust and what year you're talking about.
Overall, civilian casualties are consistently underreported[PDF]. There is a serious discrepancy (detailed in the previous link) in defining exactly who is a 'civilian' and who is a 'militant'. It is not an easy question. What little we know about the attacks, which occur usually in or around small villages, is usually what is dictated to us through anonymous government officials or singular news sources. But one thing should be clear: the government carrying out these strikes has an incentive to downplay the civilian casualties they cause. Which is why, earlier this year, Obama redefined 'militant' by counting "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants" - as if not only were America at war with each of the six countries it targets with drone strikes, but total war. This blatant attempt to propagandize comes with a human cost: the increasing disparity between the value placed on Western lives and Arab ones.
It is that exact disparity which allows the deranged minds of pundits like George Will to consider drone strikes as "precise" even though they regularly kill countless innocents. It's also what allows them to continue to assert that America is acting in good faith when targeting rescuers (a tactic used to intimidate not just potential rescuers, but anyone seeking to report on the strikes), those attending funerals and other gatherings, and even anyone who just simply shows a pattern of 'suspicious behavior'. You see, in all these cases we were just mistaken, or we mean well, or we're killing their 4-year-olds so they don't kill our 4-year-olds, or it's simply worth the cost (right Ms. Albright?). Either way, the super-serious insider types will sure as hell find some way to rationalize it - anything to move the goalposts and make it seem like what we're doing is humane and rational.
Will exemplifies this perfectly when he implies that the only alternative to drone strikes would be "targeting, with heavy bombing, not a person but his neighborhood". But you can't blame him: that's just the type of logic it takes to make the precision argument sound good.
2. Compare the war on terror to WWII
President Franklin Roosevelt was truly astonished when told by a reporter that Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, had been shot down by U.S. planes over a Pacific island after Americans decrypted Yamamoto’s flight plans. FDR had encouraged this “targeted killing” — destroying a particular person of military importance — a phrase that has become familiar since Israel began doing this in 2000 in combating the second Palestinian intifada.
But was the downing of Yamamoto’s plane an “assassination”? If British commandos had succeeded in the plan to kill German Gen. Erwin Rommel in Libya in 1941, would that have been an assassination?
The message is clear: the war on terror is a real war. And not just any war - this is just like ultra-justified WWII, baby. Yamamoto did Pearl Harbor; Osama bin Laden did 9/11 - we killed them both and got our revenge. Case closed.
But just as he ignores the fact that American foreign policy is in many ways responsible for radicalizing bin Laden in the first place, Will also does not mention that Yamamoto and Rommel were among the strongest dissenting voices in their respective countries. Rommel actually plotted to get rid of Hitler and was forced into suicide because of it, while Yamamoto fought hard against Japan's treaty with Fascist Germany and Italy, and also was not very keen on the idea of attacking America in the first place (despite eventually coming up with the plans for Pearl Harbor). But these are uncomfortable facts for the version of history Will is trying to tell, and he must seethe at the idea they can easily be found on Wikipedia these days.
The comparison of the war on terror to WWII suits the purposes of American machismo more than anything. Attempts to conflate Pearl Harbor - an aggressive, preventative attack and full scale act of war - with 9/11 - a desperate response to decades of US support for Israel and despotic Arab regimes - only serve to further the idea that America can never be in the wrong. And when America reacts in both cases with surprise and anger, it shows itself incapable of more than the most puerile behavior. Our reactionary nature paints us as the bullies of the world. We say: How dare you attack us! Now you're going to pay.
Certainly, there was going to be a war with Japan after the events in 1941. But today's war is a completely American construct - we cannot forever pawn it off on the ambiguous 'terrorists'. Our hand is not forced, and if most Americans were capable of taking a more objective view of things, they would realize that.
3. Imply, if not outright champion, American exceptionalism
While Will is more than happy to celebrate targeted killings, the question never addressed is what requirements are necessary in order to carry them out in the first place. It's simply assumed that America is the final arbiter - the beacon of morality in the world which leads the barbarians to civilization. But this judgment certainly doesn't come in the form of a trial, or even a court order. There is no transparency, no appeal to international law - indeed, the U.S. only accepts those ICJ cases it finds favorable. In the end, our leaders simply decide who lives and dies, and by their very position we know they are right.
Will makes this argument without ever directly mentioning it. In his mind, we've long accepted what he calls "the reality of American exceptionalism", so why bother with the semantics? The only question he's concerned with is how America's targeted killings - which appear so much like that dirty word 'assassination' - can be best justified. To this effort, he invokes five examples of assassinations or attempted assassinations, each a 'bad guy', in a clear attempt to tug at our heart strings:
Isoroku Yamamoto - Pearl Harbor, as mentioned.
Erwin Rommel - Nazi.
Moammar Gaddafi - Super-villain.
Saddam Hussein - Super-super-villain.
Osama bin Laden - 9/11! 9/11!
These are the connections we're supposed to make when we see these names. The lesson is that America kills bad guys, the world is supposedly better off for it, and thus we shouldn't complain. Everyone can resume their regularly scheduled jingoism.
Will assumes his readers have an American-centric mindset, and won't question his logic here. But anyone who is even remotely self-aware should be able to see his posturing for the moral relativism it is. For instance: given what we know of Yamamoto and Rommel regarding how they were moderating voices in their respective countries, if they were acceptable targets for assassination, would (American generals) Patton and Eisenhower have been as well? It's not as if - outside of war time - the allied forces would have ever dreamed of assassinating either of the Japanese and German generals. Not only would it have been counterproductive, there was no reason to believe either had done anything that required they be 'brought to justice'.
For that matter, what about killing Gaddafi and Hussein to "economize violence"? Again this begs the question. If a group of Vietnamese in the 1960s had decided that assassinating top US officials would have economized violence and saved countless lives by ending the war there, would they have been justified in doing so? What if a similar event had taken place with Iraqis in the mid 2000s? Or are we still pretending there is an argument over whether these wars were just?
And if we're okay with assassinating both military generals and heads of state, then can our presidents (who also fit the bill as commanders-in-chief) be targeted as well? Accepting this logic would open up Obama to threats from both positions. After all, he is the leader of a regime which callously destroys life all around the world, is militarily occupying another country (and economically occupying countless others), and denies basic rights to its citizens (see FISA, NDAA, etc). It would be incredibly easy to justify, if you're willing to accept Will's argument. American spin-doctors have sold such tactics with far less to work with.
But what about Osama bin Laden? Surely we were justified in taking him out, right?
Well, can other countries come into the United States and assassinate the terrorists we harbor? You know: Luis Posada Carriles, Armando Fernández Larios, and the many, many Cuban expat terrorists now residing here. Even now, these terrorists are "hid[ing] among civilian populations". If those who seek justice had access to "precise" enough weaponry, and made "serious" calculations on civilian risk, could they fire missiles into homes in Florida? Could they destroy the School of the Americas? It is, after all, a well-known terrorist training camp.
Better yet, is it alright if they decide to invade America because we refuse to extradite the terrorists they are after?
Of course it's not. You see, as Americans we're not subject to the same rules as everyone else - we are morally superior and thus our actions are good by default. We are as gods, alone capable of judgment over the world. We will not entertain any notions of universal humanity, and any who stand against us shall be struck down by our righteous power. It is our divine right to take what we wish, and we prove that fact day after day.
It is by our standard that morality and ethics are judged. You dare postulate your infinitesimally pathetic concepts of good and evil in our direction? We turn Euthyphro on its head!
Now, you might say that this is all a front for the fact that we're acting like hypocrites, or that we're holding ourselves to a much lower standard than we hold everyone else. You might even make the point that because America wields by far the most power and influence, its actions should be held to a much higher standard than those of other countries.
But you'd be wrong. Because we sure as hell can't be.
4. Claim drone strikes weaken terrorism rather than strengthen it
Nearly the entire premise of Will's argument - and indeed that of the war on terror in the first place - is based on the false premise that you can bomb terrorism into non-existence:
Drones enable the U.S. military — which, regarding drones, includes the CIA; an important distinction has been blurred — to wield a technology especially potent against al-Qaeda’s organization and tactics. All its leaders are, effectively, military, not civilian. Killing them serves the military purposes of demoralizing the enemy, preventing planning, sowing confusion and draining the reservoir of experience.
The United States can win only by destroying al-Qaeda’s “ability to function — by selectively killing or capturing its key members.”
This is the same argument we've been hearing for a decade - just reworded. And just as many of the enlightened individuals among us knew then, this approach has proven to be completely backwards. If anything, the drone wars are the best thing that could have happened to terrorist groups' recruitment efforts. It seems like every day now there's one more reason to be outraged at American acts around the world. Hell, if I were an even more cynical person, I might suspect the war on terror to be purposefully designed to create terrorism, rather than end it.
And indeed, the Bush administration knew as early as 2004 that the policies they had enacted were continually radicalizing Muslims around the world. As Glenn Greenwald put it in that very same article:
We can’t combat Terrorism by sending our military into Muslim countries. Doing that only exacerbates the problem, since it inevitably intensifies the anti-American sentiment that enables and fuels the terrorist threat in the first place. All of that is so basic. It’s been empirically proven over and over during the last decade. It’s not Noam Chomsky or Al Jazeera pointing out these basic truths, but instead, a 2004 Task Force handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to review and assess the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts, principally the wars they were waging in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since then, we've see the same story come up again and again. There are headlines in some of the biggest news outlets like: "In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes breed anger, and sympathy for al-Qaeda" and "Drone attacks create terrorist safe havens, warns former CIA official".
Gregory D. Johnson writes, in a New York Times op-ed:
Testimonies from Qaeda fighters and interviews I and local journalists have conducted across Yemen attest to the centrality of civilian casualties in explaining Al Qaeda’s rapid growth there. The United States is killing women, children and members of key tribes. “Each time they kill a tribesman, they create more fighters for Al Qaeda,” one Yemeni explained to me over tea in Sana, the capital, last month. Another told CNN, after a failed strike, “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined Al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake.”
A similar story is told in the Guardian:
According to Noor Behram, the strikes not only kill the innocent but injure untold numbers and radicalise the population. "There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can't find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.
"The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they're doing is far greater."
But it's not just death the drones bring to local populations - it's fear. Terror. Yes, I said terror. From the recent (Sept. '12) Stanford/NYU project Living Under Drones[PDF]:
US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. [emphasis mine]
The fact that this is not just counterproductive, but profoundly immoral, cannot be understated. Anyone claiming that we act with noble intentions, or in self-defense by deploying drones all around the world needs to read this report and let it truly sink in.
And yet this is apparently not enough for the 'serious' foreign policy experts who sit in their comfy chairs and sterile surroundings, never having spoken to or considered the opinion of the average Arab or Muslim whose worth they're so willing to pontificate. In this way, they show not only a fundamental lack of understanding about the effects of death and destruction on communities, but a complete disregard for the value of human life.
Every person whose existence is cut short (by whatever means) carries with them a significant web of connections - people who will be strongly affected by the loss, and likely will never forget it as long as they live. Killing is never - ever - a single-victim crime; through the scars of grief and loss, it damages those affected forever. This is why it's so repulsive, so sociopathic, for these self-serving apologists of power to attempt to rationalize away the deaths of human beings as "collateral damage". What else can be said about those who use this terminology? They are broken and damaged, and because their faults are too painful for them to come to terms with, they seek to break the rest of us as well.
5. Frame the war on terror as an “undefined war with a limitless battlefield.”
John Yoo's favorite war on terror legal justification - which he uses to rationalize nearly every war crime conceivable - reads like postmodernist nonsense. It's a war, but it's an undefined war. It takes place anywhere and everywhere, including with ourselves in our own country. There are combatants, but they're not lawful combatants, they're unlawful ones. Every definition is as amorphous as he needs it to be, like his ideological equal Dick Cheney's version of the Vice Presidency. Each is just vague enough to justify any abuse of power you want.
And, of course, George Will eats it all up. He comes off sounding so relieved that he managed to find some legal reasoning to support the morally bankrupt positions he loves to take, that I'm sure he was giggling with delight as he wrote this:
Fortunately, John Yoo of California’s Berkeley School of Law has written a lucid guide to the legal and moral calculus of combating terrorism by targeting significant enemy individuals.
Look, I don't think I need to warn people not to trust anyone who non-sarcastically starts off a sentence with "Fortunately, John Yoo". It should immediately set off alarm bells in your mind - like a van with "candy" painted on the side of it, or an obnoxious blinking ad claiming you've won a free iPhone. I mean, maybe you could get away with something like: "Fortunately, John Yoo is only referenced by people like George Will." Or, better yet: "Fortunately, John Yoo is such a piece of shit that I don't even have to make any more arguments in this section."
6. Accept the legitimacy of targeting methods
To George Will, when American drones kill, they are targeting members of al-Qaeda. Again, whether he says this because he wants us to associate 9/11 with all those who die from drone strikes, or because he truly believes it, is up in the air. Either way though, it's a ridiculous assumption to make.
The first problem is that - as shown - drones kill all sorts of people. And even deferring completely to the supposed good faith of those ordering and carrying out drone strikes, the targets for drone strikes are 'militants' - not al-Qaeda. As we've discovered, 'militants' are any males of military-age who may be marked for death simply due to their "suspicious behavior". Not all of these 'militants', of course, are even going to belong to a terrorist group - many of them are members of local militias, and many of them are not even fighters of any kind. But even if a 'militant' was a member of a terrorist group, that group wouldn't necessarily be part of - or even aligned with - al-Qaeda. And almost certainly, its members wouldn't have been among those who planned 9/11.
So the reality has absolutely nothing to do with seeking justice, despite what the name-dropping of al-Qaeda might suggest. A more telling picture is painted, amazingly enough, by Will's acknowledgement in the very same column that America "goes to war to prevent future injuries, which inevitably involves probabilities and guesses." Probabilities and guesses? You mean like: "I guess that guy looks like a terrorist.", or "This one has an AK-47. What's the probability a non-terrorist would have an AK-47?"
No, of course not. What Will means is that America is almost literally recreating the script from Minority Report. And he's loving it.
But the intelligence on the ground is a far, far cry from that found in fiction. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who traveled to Pakistan recently to experience the drone wars firsthand, describes how it works:
What information are they using to establish their targets? Basically it is a form of bribery, where the CIA gives former Pakistani military large sums of money to pass out to sources on the ground in Swat, where the Taliban are most active. Sometimes, — and it is impossible to tell how much — these bribes lead to the settling of old and local scores .”
This is nothing new - bounties and bribery have long been used in Afghanistan, and there had been reports of their use along with drones in Pakistan at least as early as 2009. The most telling part, though, is that there's no reasonable expectation for the intelligence to get any better. It's bounties, bribes, and paid informants (double-agents) all the way down.
Occasionally, they do get lucky and manage a situation where there's some actual evidence that the various pieces of flesh they find in the rubble used to be a member of a terrorist group. One such case was that of Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama's decision to put al-Awlaki on the Emperor's glorious kill-list was apparently an "an easy one". That is - even though he was a US citizen whose only visible crime consisted of inciting violence - his face was easily recognizable as that of a 'terrorist' and he said some vile things you normally only tend to hear from the likes of the (Constitutionally-protected) KKK. Selling his death as acceptable, then, would be "an easy one". Selling the murder of his 16-year-old son (and a 17-year-old cousin) two weeks later was a little more difficult - but still totally doable. After all, he should "have [had] a far more responsible father".
7. Embrace the "enemy" mindset
These type of killings bring up the usual questions. Who is our "enemy"? How exactly do we define 'terrorism'? Will doesn't concern himself with these, but he's sure they've already been adequately thought through by someone in a more powerful position than he's in. He'll defer to their judgment, and only worry about how he can convince us to as well. But it's a tough sell: most people find it difficult to trust a list whose criteria they aren't even allowed to know. Or one on which Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist all the way up until 2008.
The pervasive theme throughout not just Will's incredibly simplistic discussion of drones, but almost all of the establishment media's coverage of the war on terror, is that America just so happens to have its natural share of enemies that we must fight off to survive - that such a do-gooder nation is bound to attract all manner of evil foes. Amazingly, they've completely embraced a similar notion to "they hate us for our freedom", which everyone in their right mind discounted as ridiculous. It's only rarely that any dissenting voices manage to sift through and call into question whether or not our blatant disrespect for the self-determination of every other country on earth is actually the cause of it all.
But that's the very nature of nationalism; it breeds a sort of absolutist groupthink wherein 'my' country and its faithful denizens are always in the right, and all others are tirelessly working to find a way to ruin 'us' - a common theme that runs through the veins of literally every expansionist or imperialist state in history. As Joseph Schumpter put it when describing how the Roman public was kept always willing to go to war:
There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest—why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing-space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, and it was manifestly Rome’s duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people. [emphasis mine]
If this sounds familiar, it should. This is the same control system which led to the unprecedented weapons buildup during the Cold War, and now shifts its focus to the war on terror and all its machinations. It's the poisonous idea of the 'enemy'.
In order to maintain the power structure in society - especially democratic society - there must always be an enemy to keep the masses focused on something other than their own oppression. And whoever this current enemy may happen to be, it's certain they cannot be considered our equals in humanity. At best they are a lesser form of people; at worst, mere beasts.
You see this regularly in contemporary times when people make distinctions in 'culture' between the West and other parts of the world, saying things like "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man" or blaming the victims of Western oppression by claiming they are in that position because they're unfamiliar "with the works of Voltaire and Rousseau". These are not arguments - they're blatant displays of xenophobia and outright racism, justifications concocted to ease the guilt felt when committing inhumane acts. If those who are slaughtered by Western military forces can be dehumanized to the extent where we no longer need to care for them, our conscience can be relieved. So it was during every Cold War conflict, and so it is now.
American soldiers' propensity for referring to their targets using racial slurs is not a coincidental happening - it's simply the easiest manner of degradation available. Lower your enemy's standing, and it becomes much easier to pull the trigger. We have to be conditioned like this - so that we hate each other (or ourselves) enough that we willingly embrace violence. Humans are, after all, not naturally enemies of one another. Sometimes we might show distrust toward strangers, speak ill of those who act in a way we consider damaging, and come into conflict when there are limited resources amongst us, but generally we have the capacity to settle our disputes without taking each others lives. We actually tend to prefer to live together, in order to deal with the much more dangerous environmental threats we face.
Quite some effort goes into fully programming the 'enemy' mentality into our brains. We are a curious species, always asking "Why?", and we would not just accept this 'othering' of human beings unless we had long been habituated to it. In order to get people to act this way, it takes the type of society which embraces the worst we have to offer as a species. It takes one that fosters division and preaches violence - one that creates a world of liars by paying lip-service to the right lessons whilst acting out all the wrong ones.
It is in this world that we raise our children, and it's no surprise they grow up to see enemies everywhere.
8. Refuse to acknowledge any non-military solution
"Do you do this in the United States? There is police action every day in the United States. ... They don't call in airplanes to bomb the place."
- Hamid Karzai, Afghan President
Give it time, Hamid, give it time.
One of the hallmarks of American foreign policy is an unwavering adherence to military intervention. And no matter where, no matter why, the majority of the media (and by extension the public) is willing to support it. War just always seems so right.
It's not too hard to imagine how it happens. Journalists - incessantly looking for a scoop - embrace powerful politicians and military officials with inside information. Those powerful figures are more than happy to oblige, ever eager to get their version of events out in the light, so that the debate swings in their favor. The journalists most receptive to influence will be the ones chosen to receive the best information, and subsequently (due to the 'news' they're producing) those journalists' careers will also be the ones on the rise. Those who betray the trust they're given, and dare to report in an avant garde fashion, are shunned. It's a power game, and in nearly every case you have to play it to get anywhere.
By now, we've found ourselves stuck with a bunch of foreign policy 'experts' who do nothing but shill for the Empire and its military/industrial/surveillance complex by making sure the only opinions on matters of war considered 'serious' are the hawkish ones. Indeed, the only question in their minds is who we should be going after next.
The very idea that we could possibly end the war on terror through peaceful means never even enters their train of thought. Anything that doesn't involve 'tough action' is considered naive at best, and actively aiding our so-called enemies at worst. They don't even question why very little effort is made to capture rather than kill - even though it would theoretically offer better intelligence, as well as more insight into the mental workings of those who commit terrorist acts. Granted, those captured would probably just end up with their minds destroyed by torture, and besides, most of the endless war apologists don't actually care much about solving the problem of terrorism anyway. They just want America to 'win'.
Even apparent moderates like Dan Rather take this position:
Look, I'm an American. I never tried to kid anybody that I'm some internationalist or something. And when my country is at war, I want my country to win, whatever the definition of 'win' may be.
If the culmination of years and years of embracing power and authority can turn even a purposefully benign newsman like Rather into a mindless husk ready to submit to the nearest strongman, imagine how it effects pundits like our good friend George Will. Will ends his op-ed with quite the flourish, not only suggesting the single alternative to drone strikes would be carpet-bombing, but actually invoking the "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler" argument:
After the terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, the Clinton administration launched cruise missiles against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan, hoping bin Laden was there. If the missiles had killed him, would this have been improper?
In some ways, this is the most telling part of the entire diatribe. Will apparently has never even considered that trying to assassinate bin Laden by firing missiles into 'suspected terrorist camps' might be counterproductive. That it might not just give further weight to his anti-American rhetoric, but actually embolden him to strike against the United States mainland in an attack like 9/11. Or that this entire approach - continually and openly violating the sovereignty of other nations - is what inflames much of the world against America in the first place.
That alone speaks volumes of the debate we're having, where even questioning American actions is seen as terrorist-appeasement. There's no room for police action, no room for diplomatic efforts, and certainly no room for self-reflection. The supremely hard-nosed foreign policy insiders have decided that America - by its very nature - is in the right, and that war is a necessary evil we must all accede to. The rest of us are just along for the ride.
A final note regarding the level of discourse passed off as legitimate journalism
As usual, we have to ask: How can someone who is so wrong, so often - someone who never even makes the slightest effort to answer any of the relevant questions - continue to be offered a prominent voice in one of America's top newspapers?
This is not opinion journalism. There is not even an iota of original thought here.
Why are not just George Will, but the countless others espousing the same exact 'positions' - ones which always further the goals of the most powerful and most elite among us - consistently given the platform to reach the largest of audiences, when there are so many better, more thought-provoking writers out there? Well, because the media's aim is not to be thought-provoking, its to be thought-providing. They're not out to challenge anything; they're out to fit into the reigning narrative. That's how they make money, gain power, and live the American dream.
And unless we expose this rotten system for what it is, the forces of propaganda and disinformation will continue to reach far more people than those of truth and reason.