For Immediate Release
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
President Obama’s Priestly Assassinations
WASHINGTON - A New York Times investigative piece “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will” reports today: “Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict. …
“In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the ‘single digits’ — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
“But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The CIA accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it ‘guilt by association’ that has led to ‘deceptive’ estimates of civilian casualties. ‘It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,’ the official said. ‘They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’ …
“It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die. … David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements. …
“In fact, in a 2007 campaign speech in which he vowed to pull the United States out of Iraq and refocus on Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan — even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn’s campaign bluster. (Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had become ‘Dr. Strangelove.’) …
“Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. …
“Some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the CIA for identifying a terrorist ‘signature’ were too lax. The joke was that when the CIA sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.
“Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well. ‘We are not going to war with Yemen,’ he admonished in one meeting, according to participants. … Mr. Obama had drawn a line. But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when CIA analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence. And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory. …
“Moreover, Mr. Obama’s record has not drawn anything like the sweeping criticism from allies that his predecessor faced. John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama’s liberal reputation and ‘softer packaging’ have protected him. ‘After the global outrage over Guantánamo, it’s remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians,’ said Mr. Bellinger, who supports the strikes.”
COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net
Rowley, a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She said today: “These New York Times reporters do a good job explaining how Obama’s political calculations and desire to show toughness in the ‘war on terror’ has led him to his role as judge, jury and executioner. Whereas Bush detained and tortured, Obama impresses the former Bush officials with his taking of no prisoners, thus avoiding all the messy legal questions that tend to arise in court. This, however, is the only little bit of transparency that exists so far showing how this new type of ‘due process’ functions. Hopefully there will be judges asking to see the secret memo inventing the new ‘due process’ (written by the same Office of Legal Counsel that OK’d waterboarding). How have they decided that CIA and Pentagon Power point presentations can fully substitute for the entire body of law governing American judicial process?”
RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
McGovern, who was a U.S. army officer and CIA analyst for 30 years, now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He said today: “So THAT’S it. New York Times writers Jo Becker and Scott Shane today provide insight into how President Obama is helped to resolve the ‘moral and legal conundrum’ of ordering ‘kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical.’ Counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, is ‘beside the president at every step.’ Colleagues compare Brennan’s role to that of a ‘priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.’
“So that’s why Brennan’s alma mater, Fordham University, last week conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, and asked him to deliver the commencement address. Many graduates had greeted the honoring of Brennan with astonishment, and strongly criticized him for his key role in ‘justifying’ things like drone killing and ‘mosque crawling’ (infiltrating mosques with pretend-Muslims from NYPD/CIA). A few of the Fordham’s justice-oriented graduating students faced into the prevailing winds with exceptional courage, and a few days later wrote about it.” McGovern cited the just-published student pieces:
“White House ‘Assassination Czar‘ Confronted at Fordham” by Ayca Bahce
“Counterterrorism Adviser Non-Transparent at Fordham” by Michael Pappas
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