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Thursday, June 21, 2018

St. Augustine blesses the kill list. And liberalism is just a nicer, slicker, more PR-savvy way of carrying on the brutal work of empire.

Behold President Obama, on the second day of his presidency, flanked by retired generals and admirals, signing an executive order to ban torture and declaring that the prison at Guantanamo Bay would soon be closed — fulfilling, in other words, some serious campaign promises.

“What the new president did not say,” a recent New York Times story explains, in gleeful servitude to the ironies of military-industrialism, “was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes.” Those loopholes left, it turns out, plenty of room for the new administration to continue Bush-era, war-on-terror business as usual, preserving such controversial practices as extraordinary rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention.

“They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama,” Times reporters Jo Becker and Scott Shane proceed to tell us, “a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric.”

And Obama’s base of support is dismissed in an instant as fervent fools who actually believed all that nonsense about . . . what was that word again? Oh yeah, hope. If you are stressed about human rights abuses, torture, indefinite detention, pre-emptive invasion, the slaughter of civilians, the occupation of sovereign nations, drone warfare, government-sanctioned assassination, the shredding of constitutional rights, depleted uranium, toxic military waste, the counterproductivity of war and such like, my friend, you are not a realist.

Realists recognize that certain human beings are expendable.

The buzz-generating article, published at the end of May, is “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” a 6,000-word opus taking us on a tour of the Obama war room. It’s a remarkable piece of work, based on interviews with three dozen of the president’s current and former advisers. The story’s primary revelation is that Obama and his security team meet every week to discuss the “baseball card” bios of suspected al-Qaida members in such places as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and “nominate” the ones to kill in drone attacks. The president insists on having the final, life-and-death say.

The story is a mostly uncritical celebration of the process and of Obama’s “pragmatism” — which is to say, his abdication of do-gooder principles whenever they become inconvenient and get in the way of America’s safety.