Intensifying imperialist competition has saddled U.S. rulers with an impossible political mission. On the one hand, they must brutally crush their international rivals and enemies to protect their dwindling sources of profit. On the other, they must sustain their facade of law-abiding democracy to hold the ebbing loyalty of workers.
This dilemma explains why the New York Times — representing finance capital, the dominant faction of the U.S. ruling class — both praises and admonishes its presidential candidate of choice, Barack Obama. On May 30, the Times published a multi-page exposé of Obama’s assassination-by-drone campaign: “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.” The following day it printed a cautionary editorial on the same subject (“Too Much Power for a President,” 5/31).
Both the article and opinion piece portrayed Obama as an extremely capable if flawed leader. Taken together, they were more a fawning character study than a hostile critique.
U.S. capitalists face challenges to their global energy empire from al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Iranian bosses, and ultimately their Chinese and Russian rivals. In an effort to rally the rulers’ camp around Obama’s response to this challenge, the Times article depicted a fearless, remorseless warmaker who is prepared to cross any border to search out and murder U.S. foes. “[Obama] approves lethal action without hand-wringing....he has followed the metastasizing [growing] enemy into new and dangerous lands.” The newspaper also praised Obama’s “legal skills” in preserving George W. Bush’s military kangaroo court [judge, jury and executioner] and torture practices under the heading of “rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention.”
The Times spun Obama’s early threats to invade Pakistan as brilliant, farsighted militarism: “In a 2007 campaign speech...Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan — even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn’s campaign bluster.”
Run-up to World War III?
Unfortunately for the U.S. imperialists, however, Obama’s drone killings create other problems, a point that’s been duly noted by the Times. One is the potential for a free-for-all, drone-dominated run-up to World War III. “With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies.” (See drones article, page 4.) Another is the foolish notion that drones can replace ground war. “Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. ‘It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness’” (NYT, 5/29).
The Times’ superficially critical editorial was aimed at the other segment of its readership, one that is equally critical to the imperialists’ wartime goals: the U.S. working class, and especially those workers who vote. In line with the bosses’ charade that they follow the rule of law, it focused not on Obama’s mass racist killing of Islamists, but on procedural issues: “[Obama] is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners...without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.” Since White House-ordered assassinations might seem open to question in an election year, the Times demands that an “outside” ruling-class authority rubber-stamp these atrocities.
The Morality of Mass Murder
To help consolidate the patriotic allegiance of its working-class readers, the Times portrayed drone-launcher Obama as a latter-day example of President John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage.” (In 1955, JFK published this ghost-written book to extol eight senators who took unpopular stands for the greater good of U.S. imperialism.) After weakly censuring bomber Obama, the Times editorialized, “To his credit, Mr. Obama believes he should take moral responsibility for these decisions, and he has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.” (In the name of killing infidels, both of these saints justified and endorsed “just wars” by the main expansionist forces of their day.)
The “Secret Kill List” article went so far as to characterize Obama’s top drone advisor as a modern-day saint. State Department chief counsel Harold Koh was quoted as saying, “If John Brennan is the last guy in the room with the president, I’m comfortable, because Brennan is a person of genuine moral rectitude. It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.”
Of course, the Times, Obama and Saint Brennan have no moral problems with the long history of mass murder by U.S. capitalism, from the slaughter of Japanese civilians with atom bombs to the massacre of three million Vietnamese and, more recently, a million Iraqis.
Obama & Co.’s drone “morality” is proving a harder sell to people who actually live in their deadly robots’ sights. Liberal U.S. imperialists like George Soros are well aware of this problem. The multi-billionaire Soros owns and runs Human Rights Watch (HRW), which recently quoted a Yemeni activist: “These drone strikes are stupid policy....Every time they kill Yemeni civilians they create more hatred of America” (5/31). At the same time, these random killings breed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism in the U.S. and elsewhere.
‘Democratizing’ Drone Slaughter
Soros understands that Yemeni unrest might destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia, the cornerstone of U.S. capitalists’ oil-dependent empire. He also understands that broader support for the U.S. cause is needed from the United Nations and the “international community.” Soros proposes that:
To win Yemenis’ confidence, the U.S. should transfer command of all drone strikes from the CIA to the U.S. military and provide a detailed rationale of why its targeted killings in Yemen are legal under international law. It should insist on more transparency as well from the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which also reportedly conducts drone strikes in Yemen under a veil of secrecy approaching that of the CIA. That will not only give Yemenis information about U.S. strikes but also allow them to seek redress for any unlawful attacks (HRW, 5/31/12).
To that end, these preposterous proposals mimic those of the New York Times: Keep up the drone killings but make them “more democratic,” with stronger “legal justification” to placate the people being bombed.
Reject Bosses’ Elections and Racist Wars
Capitalist “anti-war” measures inevitably mask a maneuvering toward greater slaughter. In reality, it’s the bosses’ system that propels imperialist war and wreaks untold horrors on the international working class. For the capitalists, war is no aberration. It is the logical extension of a profit system that feeds on misery and exploitation. War becomes necessary when the system’s day-to-day profiteering — from massive layoffs, social service and education cuts, and the legalized persecution of immigrants — is no longer adequate for the rulers’ needs. In turn, capitalist war escalates the racism and sexism used to justify the exploitation of hundreds of millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as of black, Latino and immigrant workers in the U.S.
For the U.S. ruling class to maintain its profits and its top-dog position worldwide, a president like Obama is ideal. While Mitt Romney is ready and willing to pursue the same murderous capitalist agenda, Obama is more capable of winning workers’ loyalty to the rulers’ class interests. The task for Progressive Labor Party, in unity with our supporters in mass organizations, is to blast through the capitalist fog of elections and lesser-evil candidates and expose the rotten system underneath.
Given the all-out ruling-class offensive, joining and building the PLP to organize a communist revolution is the only answer for the working class. It is the only means we have to free our class from history’s most vicious oppressive system. It is the only way to create a society without bosses and profits, run by and for the international working class. Join us!