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Salon.com: A “Debate” to be Ashamed Of

Last night the question about the United States’ use of drone warfare was first directed to Mitt Romney, his response was Machiavellian in nature,

Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world.

For Romney, the end justifies the means. Sadly but unsurprisingly Obama responded in a similar Machiavellian spirit, articulating his response by skirting the issue while retaining the veneer of tough rhetoric and bravado,

We’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities.

Yes, “maintain vigilance” especially when drone strikes in Pakistan kill one terrorist for every 50 deaths, according to a recent article from Policymic. The same article makes mention of who is to blame for all these innocent deaths,

The New York Times and Associated Press have both reported that President Obama acts as “the final decision maker” in drone strikes targeting individuals, placing the burden for answers squarely on the Commander-in-Chief.

Yet, the Commander-in-Chief had very little to say last night regarding this topic. He avoided it at every cost.

This debate was indeed, as Salon.com points out, something to be ashamed of. Most of the time it was simply Romney making points that Obama would articulate better; what better way to display that than both candidates obsessing over who loves Israel more and who supports the most “crippling” sanctions on Iran. Even though Obama’s delivery was stronger, unfortunately, the debate did not imbue us with the promise of a better four years to come — no matter who wins the election.

The Salon article below by Andrew Leonard explains how Romney and the Far-Right’s  endorsement of Obama’s unconstitutional and inhumane tactics — such as assassination of American citizens, drone warfare and detention without trial — allows for a type of quid pro quo between the “Right” and the “Left” to the detriment of Human Rights and peace.

A debate to be ashamed of

A progressive nightmare: On drones, Israel, and Iran, the candidates presented a united hardline front

BY 

(Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

It was the moment progressives had been waiting for. Bob Schieffer turned to Mitt Romney and said, “What is your position on the use of drones?”

Twitter gasped. Up to that point, Schieffer had thrown one softball after another, but here was the high hard one down the middle. For many liberals, President Obama’s aggressive deployment of drones to kill suspected terrorists in northwestern Pakistan is a stain on the current administration that cannot be washed away, a profound betrayal of civilized values. A campaign of murder from the skies in a country that is supposedly our ally — how is this remotely conscionable?

But liberals are also accustomed to Obama getting a free pass on the topic from the mainstream media and political elite. So just hearing the word “drones” spoken was shocking — here it was, finally, a chance to address this ongoing national shame before an audience of millions and millions of Americans.

And then came Romney’s response, which basically boiled down to drones are awesome!

Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.

End of discussion. Obama did not even mention the word “drones” in his followup to Romney’s comments, aside from a vague “we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities.” And all those progressives whose ears had perked up when Schieffer raised the issue returned to their default position: Soul-killing despair.

There were numerous other instances during the debate when the two candidates vied with each other to express hardline positions on issues that drive progressives crazy. The fight to see who could declare himself the greater friend to Israel, and the (closely related) struggle to establish who supports the most “crippling” sanctions on Iran come immediately to mind.

OBAMA: Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I’ve made that clear throughout my presidency.

ROMNEY: I want to underscore the same point the president made, which is that if I’m president of the United States, when I’m president of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And — and if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily.

OBAMA: We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.

ROMNEY: Crippling sanctions are something I’d called for five years ago… And they do work. You’re seeing it right now in the economy. It’s absolutely the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions. I’d have put them in place earlier, but it’s good that we have them.

And so on. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a debate in which the two candidates expressed so much fundamental agreement on major foreign policy issues. But nothing underscores the dilemma that progressives face on the lack of a meaningful foreign policy choice more than the exchange on drones. Romney’s endorsement of drone warfare laid out with perfect clarity why President Obama has been free to pursue policies — extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, drone warfare, detention without trial — that appear to clearly violate basic human rights, not to mention the U.S. Constitution.

He can do so because he is never going to be questioned from the right on such tactics.

Quite the contrary — the main line of attack is to berate Obama for being too soft. Ponder this: In the same debate in which Romney applauded the president for using “any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us,” he also slammed Obama for his “apology tour” throughout the Arab world. If you’re perplexed at how to reconcile Obama’s drone war of terror in Waziristan with the idea that he’s been wandering the globe saying “I’m sorry” to our enemies, well, join the crowd. It’s not easy.

It was probably always true that a president whose middle name was Hussein would be required to protect his flank from the right more than the left on foreign policy issues related to the Mideast. It’s also true that when voters are asked to rank what issues they think are most important, the moral ambiguity of drone warfare doesn’t register anywhere close to the top ten. One can also make a realpolitik argument that targeting Al Qaeda networks with drone bombs in Pakistan is amuch smarter and more efficient use of resources than invading an entire country that had no connection whatsoever to the 9/11 attacks.

But the stain remains. And no matter how sincerely Obama touts his record supporting democracy during the Arab Spring in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia; no matter how strong a case can be made that intervening in Libya to prevent a likely horrendous massacre of civilians by Gadhafi was justifiable; the net effect of Obama’s foreign policy, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in Israel and Iran, is to breed more resentment and hatred of the U.S. in the Islamic world.

We could use a real debate on how to resolve that paradox. But we’re not going to get one.

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  • Owen

    @Sam Seed: them you’ll be dead….. Have fun

  • http://aayjay.wordpress.com AJ

    Shirin,

    In the areas that you mentioned, it is very uncommon to meet a middle class person that would not speak or understand English. The British ruling South Asia is perhaps the reason. English is not the norm in Saudi Arabia. Very few people speak that and even those that do feel self-conscious about it. So I would not just attribute the absence of Saudis here to the lack of motivation only. BTW here is one Saudi lady that does speak English and blog as well :)

    http://saudiwoman.me/

    On her blog, you might come across other Saudis involved in promoting social changes.

  • Shirin Esfahani

    Zakariya Ali Sher:
    It’s nice to see Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi Muslims like yourself all over the blogospheres appreciating/critiquing current problems we face as Muslims within our own as well as external community.
    Question is when will the Arabs (not the expat Muslims working there)from UAE, Saudia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, et el wake up and join us?
    Personally I blame them more then the Jews or Christians or the Americans or even the Israelis. They are more the slaves of the West than anyone else.
    To them I say, forget your Ferraris and Mazerratis and come out and play with us, the commoners.

  • Generation MuslYm

    Watching the debate, I felt like the two candidates were in a race to see who could kiss Israel’s arse the most. All this war talk about Iran also was a big dose of deja vu from the months leading up to the war in Iraq. And I agree with chameleon about Obama using the “wiped off the map” myth. That misquote was debunked time and time again and it disappointed me that Obama would use such retort. That will mean more politicians will think it’s okay to use that myth. was shocked no one from the liberal blogs like Thinkprogress pointed the inaccuracy of that quote out. Which is a good reason I stopped relying on websites like that to get my information.

  • http://www.wmonline.com BuddhaShrink

    We really do need to make our voices heard!

    And there are some great voices with important and powerful statesments in the above comments.

    Xithurel, I admire you and your courage to be a minority voice; and I agree, “humanity is worth believing in.”

    Like Chameleon, I too was shocked to hear Obama repeat the often repeated lie regarding Ahmadinejad. Here is a great quote that supports Chameleon’s words:

    “Likewise, Iran is not out to destroy Israel. One of the more pernicious legends about Ahmadinejad is that he threatened to do so – a claim so entrenched in mainstream Western discourse as to seem to be a fact. But the claim is false, as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intelligence minister admitted in April 2012.”

    The above quote is from an article entitled, “The Mad Mullah Myth,” Harper’s Magazine/November 2012.

    The article’s concluding paragraph begins with this sentence: “Stereotypes depicting Iran as an aggressively radical country are not merely wrong, but, worse, dangerous, because they skew Western thinking toward the inevitability of confrontation.”

    During the debate, when asked, What is the greatest threat to the U.S.? Obama said terrorism and Romney said Iran, making Obama the better of the two.

    I respect and support those who vote for Jill Stein. That said, Either Romney or Obama will be president. Of those two, Obama, in my opinion, will be far better for humanity; the humanity that Xithurel correctly stated is “worth believing in.”

    I love it when we are having good discussions on these posts instead of having to deal with trolls.

  • Ummer

    I don’t know how you people could actually even watch the two, it would surely make someone aware of whats going on literally sick!

    Turn off your TVs, stop watching their lies… indict them for their actions, and never vote for them.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    @ Shirin:

    You are correct. Iran is a totalitarian regime, but I’ve always said that the real reason the US doesn’t want it to get nuclear weapons is because it would effectively ‘legitimize’ them. Iran wouldn’t be a tiny, insignificant country; the US would have to deal with them as equals, or at least as a real threat. Threats of military invasion would no longer work. And THAT is far more offensive to some in the government than any other possibility.

    @ JD:

    Well, to be honest I have issues with the Saudi regime which I have posted elsewhere, just as I have issues with the whole US political process. I don’t have a problem per se with Americans voting based on foreign policy. There are plenty of Americans who have friends, relatives or even background in Israel. There are quite a few who hold dual citizenship. I cannot begrudge them for worrying about their former homeland. Of all people, we Muslims should understand that even more acutely since many of us have backgrounds or family still in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Mali, Albania, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, or any of a dozen other countries. We have the same sorts of concerns.

    US law is supposed to forbid foreign campaign donations. I’m not so sure it should. The US government has actively meddled in affairs of other countries for decades. We build military bases, threaten to cut off aid, start wars, invest in infrastructure, even support terrorist groups. We have If our government feels some sense of entitlement in tampering with other nation’s sovereignty, then why shouldn’t free citizens of those countries be able to do the same? And that applies as much for Israel as it does for Pakistan, Great Britain, or even Canada if you want. Turn about is fair play.

    Perhaps the bigger question should be equality. If it can be a foregone conclusion that Israeli lobbyist want to influence elections for their benefit, then why not have it be the same for lobbyists from other countries? If we are willing to accept that some American Jews will vote based on how a candidate interacts with Israel, then what about Chinese Americans who are concerned about US foreign policy towards Taiwan? Or American Muslims who might still worry about their friends and loved ones in a country like Pakistan or Iran? Or Burmese Christians concerned about the oppression of the Kachin and Naga minorities in their country of birth? That these concerns are not treated the same way in the media is rather disturbing.

    I have long said that we, as American Muslims, should be working together to get better recognition and representation. In terms of numbers, we are probably about the same as our Jewish cousins, so why are we not given equal time? Black American Muslims (who are one of the larger groups in our community) might not feel so strongly on the same issues, but certainly we could stand together with Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and even recent Christian immigrants from Africa and Asia, many of whom share the same views and culture that we do. We NEED to make our voices heard, otherwise we will continue to be ground under foot.

  • JD

    I am starting a new group

    Muslims for Saudi Arabia

    We will organize and vote for the president of America depending how much Saudi butt they will kiss and how much unequivocal support they show Saudi Arabia no matter what they do …

    really people are going to vote on the President of this country based on there support for a foreign nation and candidates for President of US spending time telling us how much they love and support a nation far away from us ? These people need to deported to Israel since they love it so much.Your in America please show some loyalty to your country

  • Shirin Esfahani

    Mutt Rmoney admitted that since Pakistan has nukes and on the way to getting even more nukes, it must be befriended.
    Thank, Mutt. You are proving a point that might IS right. And that means Iran, even if it currently not, it should strive to have as many nukes as possible.
    That’s the only way for Iran to gain respect and stop US+Israel hegemony.

  • Xithurel

    I voted for Jill Steins and the green party I will NOT cater to a mass murderer that Obama is. Here is one Jew who wishes to actually live in peace – with the whole LIVING planet.

    I encourage all of you to vote – for Jill Steins. If you really have to vote, but you feel like you can’t vote for either because of what they have done and continue to plan to do; a Jill Steins vote would at least keep your conscience clear. As well as push for a third party alternative in the future, instead of a Coke and Pepsi regime.

    I know there will be more deaths in the name of Israel. Believe me, please, when I say I DON’T WANT THAT. I may be a minority right now and maybe just the only voice here; but the thing about minorities is that they grow. Just keep holding on and don’t give up just yet. Even if you don’t have a faith in any sort of God; humanity is worth believing in.

  • Rights

    I couldn’t really tell precisely what parts of the “debate” were the debate. Often the two candidates simply stated the same things, just in different words. And when you take out the petty nitpicking and the Israel mantra consensus, there isn’t much left.

  • Crow

    Romney wants to indict Ahmadinejad over something he didnt say. So why shouldnt netanyahu (no more Lebanon on the map) and evet the bouncer (bomb Aswan dam) be indicted for things they DID say.

  • Chameleon

    Perhaps the most shameful remark and the one that disappointed me the most in all this pro-Israel, anti-Iran chest-thumping competition was hearing Obama repeat the long debunked lie that Ahmedinejad says he wants to “wipe Israel off the map”. No such comment was ever made by Ahmedinejad, and the transcripts prove it. My respect for Obama’s intelligence and integrity took a massive hit with that one, since that lie forms almost the entire basis for the slaughtering sanctions now being imposed on the Iranian people.

    It boggles my mind how flagrantly and unconditionally these two puppets support a non-democratic state founded upon a racist ideology. But then again, why should we be surprised? It is no different, really, from those leaders who licked the boots of Hitler and his racist Aryan ideology extolling the virtue of a “homeland” for a single “pure” race.

    Racism and democracy will never be compatible – EVER. That is the root of the Israel/Palestine problem. Israel needs to grow up and become a real democracy that respects diversity and minority rights instead of the racist sham of a democracy that it is today. Creating a second racist state of Palestine for Arabs is NOT the solution either. The land is simply too fragmented for that to work, and it is doomed to fail because it is a solution based on hate and alienation. They need to learn to live together under one true democracy, not behind a placebo of walls.

  • http://www.wmonline.com BuddhaShrink

    This is referred to as the “Israelification” of U.S. foreign policy in an article/essay entitled, “How We Became Israel,” in the latest Harper’s Magazine, November 2012.
    It is a good read and helps explain why a feeling of mine that the U.S., if it were a Catholic church would appropriately be name, Our Lady of Perpetual War, ever since the 1970s.

    This essay, by Andrew J. Bacevich, also appeared in the “American Conservative” in September and possibly could be found on the internet (I haven’t looked yet).

  • Heinz Catsup

    If only Ron Ron could’ve been a choice instead of these 2 @$$hats…

  • Sam Seed

    Both of them are evil, killing of civilians (due to collateral damage) by using a remote control is evil. Let’s see if this would be justified if the tables were turned and the US was on the receiving end of the drones.

  • moosern

    OF course sanctions against Iran will stop them from developing nuclear weapons. They stopped North Korea.

  • mindy1

    Eh, being politicians I would not be surprised if whoever wins changes their mind if they think it would be good for their ratings :P

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