Obama’s Presidential Tears
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted
In the early hours of December 14, 2012, a deadly shooting took place in Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut. Watching at the articles reporting the event was difficult, they contained too much violence. Instead, I waited for a while until the reports moderated their tone. A few months ago, I read a statistic claiming that every American sees at least 2,000 assassinations in films until he graduates school. Maybe that is what is needed for one to become insensitive to such a horror. I cannot compete with Americans on that, and find almost impossible to watch their media. When I finally read about the event, I saw the picture of one of the fathers. Seldom have I seen a human face so decomposed by pain and sheer horror. Seldom have I seen a picture of a man that so obviously loved his son. It was a picture of absolute mourning and immediately reminded me of “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” This verse looks strange at first, does it sanctify death? However, it is at the center of the Sermon of the Beatitudes; thus there must be something else there. I will skip the theological analysis. “Blessed are they that mourn” because their mourning is a sign of their love, and love is God’s main commandment. Blessed be the victims and those who love them.
Meanwhile, far, far away from there…
Odd things happen when one is in a remote location. My only access to English American television in Bolivia is a once a week replay of CNN’s Christian Amanpour program. As I got ready to watch it on the aftermath of the shooting, I witnessed President Obama carefully wiping a tear from his eye while speaking about the massacre. Minutes later, Christian Amanpour was speaking about “Two Americans Killed in Yemen Drone Strikes,” a program that had been originally broadcast about ten days earlier. Yet, this delay couldn’t have been more blessed.
Christian dealt in that program with the story of two American citizens killed in two separate U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, a teenage boy and his father. They are among more than 3,000 people estimated to have been targeted and killed in drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere in the last decade. The father, Anwar al-Awlaki, was born in the state of New Mexico, after he moved to Yemen, President Obama put him on his “kill list;” two years afterwards he was killed by a drone. Two weeks after that, an American drone struck again in Yemen and killed another American citizen. Anwar’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was a minor and a noncombatant. He died while eating at an outdoor restaurant along with several other people, including children. He had travelled to get information about his father and to recover his body. Christian interviewed the boy’s grandfather, Dr. Nasser al-Awlaki, who had been born in Yemen, arrived to the USA on a Fulbright scholarship in 1966, and settled down in the USA; together with him was Hina Shamsi, a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union. Later on, in the most disturbing part of the program, Christian interviewed Matthew Waxman on the issue. He served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, and he is now professor at the Columbia Law School. In other words, he represented the killing machine; his words were also oddly relevant regarding the Newtown Massacre.
Empire spoke in that show; it couldn’t have chosen a colder speaker. Matthew’s hatred was palpable through thousands of miles and several days separating us. He was there to kill two American citizens for a second time. He addressed the legitimacy of Obama’s Administration drone war from an odd angle, “We’re not talking about criminal justice here. We’re talking about military and intelligence operations in an ongoing war or armed conflict with a transnational terrorist organization or other actions that the United States is taking, military and intelligence actions in defense of the United States.” While saying this, ice tears appeared on his eyelashes. In other words, he seriously claimed that due process doesn’t mean judicial process. The US government claims that it has the power to assassinate a person, even its own citizens, without justifying the act to anyone. The US claims that it can do that without a legal process, and without giving the victim the opportunity to defend himself. This is justified by this entity as part of a war fought against a rather ambiguous (I would like to write “imaginary” here, but…) enemy. Hina Shamsi, the ACLU attorney present during the interview answered “There are extraordinary circumstances in which the government may use lethal force in response to an actual concrete and imminent threat. And those circumstances were not met in the case of any of the three citizens that we brought the lawsuit…when you look at the case of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old boy, eating dinner outside; no one has made any allegation that he was engaged in wrongdoing. And his case is representative of either a wrongful targeting or the case of a civilian bystander being killed.”
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Mr. Waxman reaction was terrifying. “It may be argued that we would be better off either as a democracy or in codifying, as you said, our rules and making them more concrete, explainable and so forth. We may be better off in making them very transparent and perhaps even creating a process by which they could be reviewed by a court. As the law stands now, that is simply not a requirement.”
In recent years, I have heard at least two senior members of the American Government justifying attacks on other humans by saying things like “they were not American citizens, they were not protected by the American Constitution.” Professor Matthew Waxman was justifying the crimes being analyzed in the interview using similar arguments, by claiming that the war was legal, and—what can one do?—in a war there are victims. Implied was the typical American disregard for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which became international law in 1994. I won’t analyze the basic human rights violated by the USA in these actions; this task is trivial. Instead of properly explaining its violent behavior (it can’t) the USA Government just ignores international law, mimicking its Israeli allies. Fact is that every person on this planet has the right to demand its rights honored and that no country, not even Empire, has the right to violate even the smallest one. American citizenship is an irrelevant variable in this matter even if an honorable professor decides to ignore the world beyond America. President Obama had the same right to order the assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki as Adam Lanza had to perform the Newtown Massacre. Let me be excruciatingly explicit: neither one had the right.
“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, ‘We see;’ therefore your sin remaineth”
The ugliest thing was that Professor Waxman argued that while aware his argument was false. He said, “They carry risks that we — that we may erode, that the perceptions of our drone program may erode respect for certain international norms. And those are important to us, not just morally, ethically and legally, but strategically. I think we have an interest in upholding and promoting those international standards.” Professor Waxman, these are not “standards,” these are “international laws.” Please, recognize reality, you have no right to commit crimes against other humans. You can’t justify them, not even with an imaginary enemy.
It is not just me denouncing time and again America’s illegitimacy (and Israel’s and Bolivia’s illegitimacy). Hina Shamsi answered the eminent professor, “…it harms the U.S. in a number of different ways. Primarily, the idea that the United States is involved in a potentially global armed conflict, where it can declare people suspected enemies and target them for killing wherever they may be found, is not accepted by virtually any other allied government. No other government agrees with the scope of the United States’ position, which undermines its legitimacy and it shows the extent to which it is an outlier. The United States is an outlier right now.” Of course, she was wrong. Israel supports the USA. Israel supports American crimes because they are a proper justification for its own extrajudicial assassinations (see Minority Report: IDF arrests Palestinian prisoner released in Shalit swap and Scary Sicarii: Israeli Extrajudicial Executions). President Obama, is this how you want America to be perceived? Are your soldiers just following orders? This is the way you want to be remembered?
In an extraordinary comment, Christian Amanpur said, “Isn’t there some truth to that, that one is seduced by drones, not only creating far more enemies, but almost institutionalizing this perpetual out-of-sight war, this joystick war?” America has been seduced by its own rhetoric of violence, forgetting its basic principles. Indirectly recognizing this, President Obama said during a televised reaction to the Newtown Massacre, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” Regardless of politics, I would like to see your tears, Mr. President, also for another citizen of your country, a kid named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was killed by your illegitimate orders. Until then, you and your government are outliers. Blessed be the victims, may God have mercy on their souls.