TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
I had thought that it would be obvious to my distinguished recipients that the commentary transmitted below (which I received from a lawyer friend who is among those working to try to free detainees at Guantanamo who are clearly innocent) was an ironical commentary on the ease with which the United States government, its intelligence agencies and its military have in recent years been assassinating people whom they do not like, principally though not entirely through drone attacks, and on the apparently unquestioning acceptance by the mainstream media and most American public opinion of the rightness and propriety of such assassinations. Press reports clearly suggest, matter-of-factly, that these practices are, lamentably, increasing under the Obama administration.
From appalled responses which I have been receiving, it is clear that this was not, in fact, obvious -- and I apologize to anyone whom I have confused or offended.
Of course, President Obama has not -- and will not -- order drone attacks on Guantanamo. The irony is that Guantanamo may be one of the few places outside the United States where the U.S. government, its intelligence agencies and its military appear not to deem themselves to enjoy carte blanche to assassinate those whom they consider or suspect to be "bad guys" in the "war on terror".
The situation is similar with respect to Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the quadriplegic spiritual leader of Hamas, was not killed while in his Israeli prison. It was after his release that he was obliterated by a rocket fired from an Israeli helicopter as his wheelchair was pushed along a Gaza street after he attended early morning prayers. Those major Palestinian prisoners being discussed for possible release in exchange for Gilad Shalit might well have mixed emotions -- and concerns for their life expectancy -- relating to their potential releases.
Such trumping of the "rule of law" through extrajudicial killings of the sort being increasingly practiced by the United States of America is unworthy of any country which purports to be a democracy. It makes it difficult for me to recognize, let alone identify with, the country of my birth. The banalisation of governmental assassinations deserves to be vigorously resisted by decent people everywhere.
That is what I had in mind in circulating the commentary below. I now recognize that I should have taken the time to make it clear when I did.
TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Truth through irony...
EXCLUSIVE: Obama Orders Air Strikes on Guantanamo Bay
by Charles Davis / January 6th, 2010
WASHINGTON — A series of U.S. predator drone strikes just after dawn this
morning killed at least 220 suspected terrorists, many presumed to have
ties with al-Qaeda, at the naval detention facility in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, according to two senior White House officials.
“We hit the jackpot,” said one official who requested anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the matter. “We killed a whole damn bunch of them there
terrorist sons of bitches,” the source said, the sound of clinking glasses
and celebratory gunfire audible in the background.
The strikes come just days after the attempted Christmas Day attack on a
Northwest Airlines flight by a 23 year old Nigerian man alleged to have
received ineffective crotch bomb training in Yemen. President Barack Obama
himself authorized the mission, according to the officials, upon receiving
word that nearly half of the men based at the Guantanamo Bay facility were
Yemeni nationals, some of whom were suspected of being Muslim and having
maintained an interest in herding sheep, possibly in order to recruit them
as suicide bombers.
In launching the attack, Mr. Obama has not only diffused a perceived threat
to U.S. national security, but he has fulfilled a key campaign pledge to
shutter the Guantanamo detention facility, which had become an object of
widespread international condemnation. Meeting the pledge had proved
difficult, however, in the face of congressional opposition, with GOP
lawmakers and centrist Democrats seeking to block the planned release of
the Yemeni men housed there to their native country, where they argued it
would be more cumbersome and expensive to bomb them.
While the U.S.’s legal authority to imprison men and boys at the Guantanamo
detention center has been a matter of some dispute, its right to conduct
drone attacks against targets it deems potential threats has provoked
little controversy either at home or abroad, at least in countries
populated with white people. Indeed, even as Mr. Obama has overseen a
significant escalation in drone attacks, authorizing strikes in Pakistan,
Somalia and Yemen, in addition to U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s
received a Nobel Peace Prize, a recognition of his efforts to promote peace
Given international acceptance of the drone attacks, the Obama
administration expects the same level of support for today’s strikes, which
likewise took place on foreign soil — as it happens, in a country deemed by
the U.S. government to be a state-sponsor of terror. As one American
official put it, “if we can kill ‘em without trial in Yemen, why the hell
couldn’t we do the same a whole heckuva lot closer to our own shores?”
Though questioned by some human rights groups long considered hostile to
freedom, the Guantanamo attack has been met with overwhelming praise from
those who actually matter, with political analysts predicting a healthy
boost in the Mr. Obama’s approval ratings among the general public as
“The president has shown that he’s tough, a regular blue collar guy not
afraid to throw a few punches and kill a couple hundred bad guys trapped in
cages when he needs to, which is really going to help him win those
independents come 2012,” said University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato
in an interview. “You can’t overestimate the electorate’s hunger for mass
killing. Monday Night Football’s got nothing on Shock and Awe.”
Cable news commentators were similarly aflutter with praise for Mr. Obama.
“Can’t you just imagine this guy’s masculine musk? I mean, I just want to
douse myself in whatever his sweat glands are emitting,” said a visibly
aroused Chris Matthews on his afternoon MSNBC program, Hardball.
But not all praised the president’s decision. In a fiery speech on the
Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Mr. Obama’s challenger during the
2008 election, denounced the administration’s approach to the war on terror
as timid, “gook league” and lacking in theatrics.
“Why weren’t these men doused in acid and set ablaze amid fireworks and the
loud and proud blaring of the national anthem? C’mon,” McCain thundered.
“Why was their no consideration of the history books, here — or
pay-per-view? And frankly, my friends, why weren’t these men killed the
moment our intelligence agencies learned they were actively living in the
A couple of other people also disagreed with the president’s decision,
questioning the morality and wisdom of handing one fallible man the
unilateral power to order the death of anyone he chooses, but no one really
takes them seriously.