The New York Times has a big feature out about the President personally approving every single unmanned drone attack, and boy is the BBC’s US President editor distraught. It’s been making the rounds of the media today, lots of debate, and Mardell is not taking it well.
It doesn’t make the President look bad in the mainstream media, but it sure angers the anti-war crowd. The report features several high-ranking Administration figures, and even Mardell realizes that they’re talking with His approval. It was clearly coordinated with the New York Times as an opening move in the official election campaign now that the Republican race is finally settled. I’m not sure this is going to go over very well on either side, and I don’t think it’s going to give Him any kind of boost in approval. What I think may be going is that this was all going to be revealed in a book due out soon, and the White House
coordinated with gave some interviews to the New York Times to give His side of the story in an attempt to head that off at the pass.
The President has to tread a very careful line on the war against Islamist military and terrorist action. On the one hand He needs to keep the anti-war crowd on side and withdraw the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other, He has to reassure the rest of the country that He’s still taking strong action to fight our enemies. So on one side He’s ending the official war business in Iraq and Afghanistan, drawing criticism from those who say it’s retreat and leaving a mess before our work is really done, but on the other side He gets to have Bin Laden’s head figuratively on the spike outside the Tower of London.
These drone attacks are supposed to help Him walk that line, and it’s pretty obvious from the NY Times piece that’s the message He’s trying to send. He’s telling the people whom Mardell loathes as wanting justice “from the barrell of a gun” that He’s still keeping us safe. He’s also telling the anti-war crowd that He’s really on top of things, and doing this to avoid civilian casualties and not to worry because He has the moral authority to make these decisions. I guess when you win the Nobel Prize for Peace, you get to choose your targets.
And it’s killing Mardell inside. So he spends most of his piece giving you different voices critical of the whole drone process, the usual journo trick for expressing views by proxy. Some say they’re murder, he writes. Some say they’re illegal, and other say the strategy doesn’t work. Then he frets that the President will find the “sci-fi” aspect too attractive anyway, which is him expressing his disapproval of the drone attacks. Not a single word from anyone holding the point of view that maybe killing Al-Alwaki or Zawahiri might have prevented more attacks on civilians or troops or anything of the sort. It’s all negative. Regardless of which side of the issue one is on, there can be no question that this isn’t a balanced or impartial take.
It’s not difficult to guess which side of the issue Mardell is on. One can almost hear him sighing as he types the words. This warmongering continues to be the only one of the President’s policies about which Mardell is critical or has written anything negative. He eventually had to figure out a way to spin Gaddafi’s death as vindication for the President’s supposed strategy of “leading from behind” on Libya. He’s even criticized the fact that troops will still be in Afghanistan for a while longer, until security is finally handed over to the Afghans, showing that he doesn’t know the difference between that and a cease-fire. Amusingly, even though this reads like an angry letter from a spurned worshiper, Mardell still can’t quite bring himself to remind you the very relevant fact that the President has killed more people with these drone attacks than Bush could ever have dreamed of. That would just be too much negative about Him in one place, and we can’t have that.
His piece isn’t journalism: it’s an op-ed disguised as a question. But I guess that’s what he’s really paid to do, isn’t it?