Empire Burlesque 
June 21, 2011
Obviously, there was a typo in the UN resolution approving NATO’s operations in Libya. It was widely reported that the resolution authorized the establishment of a “no-fly” zone in Libya to protect civilians from being killed by military attack. However, it’s clear now that what the international body really greenlighted was a “no-life” zone, designed to, er, kill people with, er, military attacks.
It’s an easy mistake to make, really, transposing the “f” and “l” like that; a UN transcriptionist probably misheard the original intention, then mentally “corrected” it with the “y” to make it read in the more accustomed manner. Happens all the time.
In any case, a “no-life” zone is what we have in Libya, as the latest story of civilian casualties from NATO bombs makes clear. In this case, the slaughter was so open and egregious that NATO actually had to admit killing Libyan civilians for the first time; previously, we’ve been asked to believe that dumping tons of high explosives in the middle of a heavily populated city had not harmed the hair of a single innocent head.
(The three young grandchildren of Moamar Gadafy that were killed by NATO bombs last month  obviously don’t count – because, duh, they were kin to Gadafy! They bear the blood taint of evil. Stalin, who ruthlessly condemned family members of “enemies of the people,” and Hitler, who killed anyone with the slightest tincture of Jewish blood in them, would no doubt be proud to see their rigorous standards of hygiene being adopted by the moral paragons of the “Western alliance.”)
Yet even as the Nobel Peace Laureate and Constitutional law scholar continues a war in Libya that his own top legal advisers tell him is patently unlawful and unconstitutional, he is racheting up yet another illegal war that has already reaped a rich harvest of civilian deaths: in Yemen.
As Jason Ditz notes , the Peace Laureate is using the increasingly violent civil strife in Yemen as a cover for a vast expansion of his drone missile assassination program in that country. These attacks are ostensibly aimed at “eradicating” yet another handful of cranks calling themselves “al Qaeda;” the alleged involvement of this group in a couple of failed “terrorist actions” so ludicrous and inept (exploding underwear!) that a cynic might be tempted to say they were designed to fail is, evidently, a dire and imminent existential threat to the United States, requiring billions of dollars, thousands of missiles – and the lifeblood of hundreds of innocent people – to combat. So saith the Nobel Peace Prizewinner.
In the first half of June alone, the Peace Laureate killed at least 130 people in daily assaults with his big, bold, brave drone missiles, fired by big, bold, brave American operatives back in the States or at some other imperial installation hundreds or thousands of miles out of harm’s way. Some of these attacks have been aimed at alleged members of the local AQ, including, of course, the American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been publicly condemned to death, without trial, for the crime of exercising his constitutional right to say stupid and hateful things.  (Apply that stricture universally, and the entire American political class would be drone food.)
Other attacks have been aimed at – well, we don’t know. We’re not even sure if the CIA – the increasingly powerful and militarized Praetorian Guard in charge of this particular mass killing program – knows who most of the missiles are being aimed at. All we do know is that innocent people are being slaughtered in their dozens and hundreds by American missiles in Yemen.
Yet with that wise, far-seeing, 11th-dimensional chess brain that the Peace Laureate is famed for, he is already looking to the future. Now that the government upheaval in Yemen has deprived him of a reliable dictator to assist his illegal war of mass assassination, Obama has decided to build yet another secret base somewhere in the volatile region – at a cost of unknown secret billions – for the express purpose of escalating the Praetorian Guard’s robotic killing spree.
There is no rhyme or reason to any of this. Regardless of the ever-shifting explanations our leaders offer – to the public, and, who knows, to themselves – the killing machine has long taken on a momentum of its own. They are now killing people – innocent people, around the world, every day – simply because they cando it. And because it’s the only thing they know how to do, the only way they know how to maintain and extend the brutal domination of world affairs that the American ruling class believes is the sole purpose of our national existence. And because too many elites are making too much money from killing people. And because too many leaders are getting too much pleasure, and filling too many holes in their own crippled souls, from wielding an unaccountable power of life and death over the nations of the earth.
And no one will stop them because too many ordinary people, battered by too many years of the relentless class warfare that has hollowed out their lives and society, and by an endless tsunami of self-righteous, self-glorifying propaganda, have adopted the perverted values of the elite, and given up all notion of a common good or a common humanity, or else have been beaten and broken and driven into hopeless despair, as each turn of the political gyre makes things worse – more harsh, more brutal, more unfeeling, more insecure, more grating, more shallow, more hollow, more deadly, more corrupt.
Yet every day, at every turn, we are told by earnest progressives that we must support the leader of this system, a man who has entrenched and exacerbated its bloodiest and most brutal currents in almost every way. We must support, encourage, and enable assassination, slaughter, corruption and mass murder; we must,as I noted the other day , be prepared to tear small children into bloody pieces, day after day, for no other discernible reason than to preserve the unlawful, immoral domination of a bloodthirsty militarist elite. That’s what it means to be a “progressive” today. (If you want to see this hideous argument demolished with remarkable power, eloquence and savage wit, read the latest posts from Arthur Silber here  and here .)
But there is nothing new in this. Even before the Peace Prizer was gifted with the laurel, his zeal, his love for the killing machine was evident. I’ll close here with an excerpt from a piece written in September 2009  that describes where we were then – and, unfortunately, where we are now.
At some point earlier this month, Barack Obama took a moment out of his busy day to sign an “execute order.” That is, he ordered American agents to kill a man without any legal procedure whatsoever: no arrest, no trial, no formal presentation – and disputation – of evidence, no defense…and no warning. They killed him on the open road, in a sneak attack; he was not engaged in combat, he was not posing an imminent threat to anyone at the time, he had not been charged with any crime. This kind of thing is ordinarily regarded as murder. Certainly, if you or I killed someone in this way – or paid someone to do it – then we would find ourselves in the dock, facing life imprisonment or our own execution. But then, you and I are subject to the law; our leaders are not.
Let’s say it again, just to let the reality of the situation sink in a bit further: at some point last week, Barack Obama ordered men in his employ to murder another human being. And not a single voice of protest was raised anywhere in the American political and media establishments. Churchmen did not thunder from the pulpits about this lawless action. The self-proclaimed patriots and liberty-lovers on the ever-more militant Right did not denounce this most extreme expression of state tyranny: the leader’s arbitrary power to kill anyone he pleases. It is simply an accepted, undisputed fact of American life today that American leaders can and do – and should – murder people, anywhere in the world, if they see fit. When this supreme tyranny is noted at all, it is simply to celebrate the Leader for his toughness — or perhaps chide him for not killing even more people in this fashion.
I wrote a great deal about this theme when George W. Bush was president. I began back in November 2001, after the Washington Post reported that Bush had signed an executive order giving himself the power to order the killing of anyone he arbitrarily designated a terrorist. Year after year, I wrote of how this murderous edict was put into practice around the world, and of its virulently corrosive effects on American society. Now Barack Obama is availing himself of these same powers. There is not one crumb, one atom, one photon of difference between Obama and Bush on this issue. They both believe that the president of the United States can have people killed outside of any semblance of a judicial process: murdered, in cold blood, in sneak attacks, with any “collateral damage” regarded as an acceptable by-product – just like the terrorists they claim to be fighting with these methods.
Nor does this doctrine of presidential murder make any distinction between American citizens and foreigner. Indeed, one of the first people known to have been killed in this way was an American citizen living in Yemen. So let us put the reality in its plainest terms: if the president of the United States decides to call you a terrorist and kill you, he can. He doesn’t have to arrest you, he doesn’t have to charge you, he doesn’t have to put you on trial, he doesn’t have to convict you, he doesn’t have to sentence you, he doesn’t have to allow you any appeals: he can just kill you. And no one in the American power structure will speak up for you or denounce your murder; they won’t even see that it’s wrong, they won’t even consider it remarkable. It’s just business as usual. It’s just the way things are done. It’s just the way we are now.
….The murder will also serve as lesson for would-be terrorists around the world – the same lesson that the War on Terror has been teaching day after day, year after year, from the day it was launched by George W. Bush to its continuance and expansion by Barack Obama today. That lesson is stark and simple: Murder works. Murder is the way to advance your agenda. Murder is what “serious” players on the world stage do. There is no law but the law of power; there is no way but the way of violence. There is no morality, there is no liberty, we share no common humanity.
This is the example that America now sets for the world. This is what we teach our children – and the children of our victims. This is what Barack Obama affirmed once again when he signed his “execute order.”