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Tilting at Windmills

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February 9, 2010

TOO WEAK AND TOO TOUGH AT THE SAME TIME.... I suppose it was only a matter of time before far-right voices started criticizing President Obama for having too much success killing terrorists. Here's former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, writing, "Dead Terrorists Tell No Tales."

The CIA reportedly succeeded in killing the head of the Pakistani Taliban -- the most recent in a flurry of drone attacks the agency has launched in South Asia and the Middle East. Another strike in Pakistan reportedly took out one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists; another in Pakistan took out a master bomb-maker for the al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf; and a strike in Yemen targeted a senior military leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group behind the Christmas Day attack (his fate has yet to be determined).

President Barack Obama's escalation of drone strikes is one area in the counterterrorism fight where he has earned plaudits from even his most vocal critics on the right. Hold the applause. Obama's escalation of the "Predator War" comes at the very same time he has eliminated the CIA's capability to capture senior terrorist leaders alive and interrogate them for information on new attacks.

I see. The conservative line for the better part of a year is that President Obama isn't doing enough to go after terrorists. Reality shows the exact opposite is true, but for the right, this is an inconvenient detail best ignored.

If Thiessen's piece is any indication, however, the argument is now shifting. President Obama is doing too much to go after terrorists, and is taking out too many bad guys before they can be captured and tortured.

I can see the campaign slogans now: "Vote GOP: Obama kills too many terrorists."

Matt Yglesias, who's been doing a fine job making Thiessen look painfully foolish of late, added, "[Thiessen] thinks torture is an excellent thing, and like the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition he thinks it's morally obligatory for the government to torture people. From inside this twisted mental space, the notion that killing terrorists is too soft on terror starts to make sense. After all, in Thiessenland it's better to let four terrorists go free if that lets you torture a fifth. That's just how awesome he thinks torture is. But he won't write the word 'torture' or say clearly 'the problem with Obama killing these terrorists is that he should be torturing them.'"

Post Script: Just as an aside, Thiessen noted the president has "earned plaudits" from the right for striking at terrorists. He disagrees with the praise, but stated as fact that conservatives have lauded Obama's efforts. I'm not at all sure that's true. Has there been a spate of praise for the administration's counter-terrorism efforts that has snuck quietly under the radar? Where have these conservative "plaudits" been hiding the past year?

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Of course, killing terrorists with drones before they carry out an attack denies Thiessen and the whole Bush-Cheney-Yoo crowd the sadistic satisfaction they get torturing American prisoners in order to publicize how tough they are on defense.

"Don't kill 'em, capture 'em so we can deny them their Miranda rights and waterboard them before turning them over to those sissy interrogators at the FBI."

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 9, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Just one question -- we executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded US soldiers, even though the Japanese homeland was, indeed, under attack. So torture is just great when we're scared, but is a capital offense when others do it.

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on February 9, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

How about this: "Vote GOP: Hangin's too good for terrorists."

Sad that W didn't stand up to spare Saddam. We never did find out where he hit the WMDs.

Posted by: Art Hackett on February 9, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Sad that W didn't stand up to spare Saddam.

That's because W was a compassionate conservative.

Posted by: dr2chase on February 9, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Where are the plaudits Obama deserves? A right-winger leans back, takes another gulp of beer, and grudgingly mumbles "Yeah, I guess he did good. THIS time, anyway. But about that..."
That, for the right, is high praise. The highest Obama will ever get anyway.

Posted by: Rich2506 on February 9, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Where have these conservative "plaudits" been hiding the past year?

Read carefully. Thiessen says the plaudits were "earned." He didn't say the brother got paid.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on February 9, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Drone killin' is cool, eh? Cause it's our guy doing it...great, just fucking great...

Posted by: neill on February 9, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

New GOP bumpersticker for 2012

"PALINaroundwithterrorists: Better Info if they're Not Dead, More Death if They're Alive"

Posted by: stevio on February 9, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Suskind wrote an article (cant locate) indicating Abu Zubideh was a low level, mentally disturbed individual who was elevated by the Bush administration as the #3 man in al queda. Palin chimed in saying - "it's okay to torture him, just dont call him a Retard."

Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots
Waterboarding, Rough Interrogation of Abu Zubaida Produced False Leads, Officials Say


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/28/AR2009032802066.html

Posted by: RolloTomasi on February 9, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I love the end of Thiessen's article: "With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al Qaeda leader, actionable intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can't tell you their plans to strike America."

Three comments:

1) I think we are getting actionable intelligence. We are killing them. And without actionable intelligence, we could not kill them.

2) What's interesting is that Thiessen is suggesting that the kind of police action John Kerry proposed is prefereable to the military option Obama and before him Bush is using.

3) This is less a war based based on finding out what the other guy is going to do and stopping it than finding out where the other guy is and killing him before they can do anything. It's more effective to decimate their ranks by bombs than to take them into custody an expensive, territory ravaging process. Eventually, by process of elimination, terrorist cells are rendered leaderless and given that only a small percentage of people ever become leaders of terrorist cells their deaths will render the movement and their philosophy irrelevant. Dead men cannot communicate.


meanwhile:

What I tell you three times is true:

The stimulus worked and prevented another Republican inspired Great Depression. Hank Paulson said so himself on NBC on Sunday morning. The Republicans lie and say the stimulus did not work. The Republicans are using Lenin's disimformation tactics, A lie told long enough becomes the truth.

The stimulus worked and prevented another Republican inspired Great Depression. Hank Paulson said so himself on NBC on Sunday morning. The Republicans lie and say the stimulus did not work. The Republicans are using Lenin's disimformation tactics, A lie told long enough becomes the truth.

The stimulus worked and prevented another Republican inspired Great Depression. Hank Paulson said so himself on NBC on Sunday morning. The Republicans lie and say the stimulus did not work. The Republicans are using Lenin's disimformation tactics, A lie told long enough becomes the truth.

Posted by: Kurt on February 9, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who uses the word "plaudits" instead of "applause" or "praise" is being a pompous ass. I'd even accept "kudos."

Posted by: Grumpy on February 9, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

For anone who remembers, this is the Republican Party of the 1950's and the reason I am a Democrat.

Posted by: nonheroicvet on February 9, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Note too that McChrystal tells us that we are no longer losing ground in Afghanistan, and we are about to retake a key Taliban town. But this sort of thing, along with the Predator strikes make no impression on the Republican bedwetters.

Posted by: bob h on February 9, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen Thiessen on CNN a few times and he the epitome of a petty, dishonest, hyper-partisan right-wing tool. The man is absolutely disgusting.

There is a video out there - I saw it on Crooks and Liars - from last year where Micheal Ware(the crooked-nosed Aussie CNN correspondent who has spent the better part of the last 7 years in Iraq)takes the loathsome Thiessen apart. It was awesome! In it, Thiessen actually equates himself to the troops fighting and dying on the front lines because he was in the Pentagon on 9/11. The fact that this disgusting excuse of a human gets multiple high-profile forums to spew his tripe is mind-boggleing.

Posted by: GiggsisGod on February 9, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Few realize that this is all a subtle initiative on the part of the GOP to annex Afghanistan as a state. They'll insist that terrorists be captured instead of killed, but argue that their underwear presents too high a risk to Americans to allow them to be tortured in the U.S. The only suitable site for that would be Baghram AFB: ipso-facto, Afghanistan must be made a state of the union.

I hear Pete Sessions is short-listed for governor. Oh, and it'll have to be called something else; "Afghanistan" has bad associations, and doesn't sound American anyway. How about "Freedom Corners", or "Del Boca Kabul"?

Posted by: Mark on February 9, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Meant "mind-boggling".

Posted by: GiggsisGod on February 9, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

They're not after consistency. They're after attack, attack, attack. Doesn't matter what Obama does or says; if he does it or says it, they're against it.

*Groucho laughs from his grave*

You know, once upon a time they spent a lot of energy telling us how Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan/Pakistan are "enemy combatants" in our "war." But just kill a few of them and it's time for the fainting couch.

Posted by: Daddy Love on February 9, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

this is the Republican Party of the 1950's

And for many of the same reasons. Things moved a little more slowly then, and WWII got in the way for a while, but the disgraced GOP had been pushed from power in favor of a fresh, new, growing Democratic coalition hell-bent on delivering on liberal promises of social and economic justice (honestly, we'll look back with considerable fondness on this period right now), and because of that all Republican brains blew up at once into a storm of nativism and hysteria.

Posted by: Daddy Love on February 9, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Steve says: "it was only a matter of time before far-right voices started criticizing President Obama for having too much success killing terrorists"

I try not to get too exercised about Mr. Benen's hackishness; he's doing a job, and he's good at it. A political movement needs cheerleaders *and* idealists. But the sentence above is fucked up.

It's sick shit. You trust the government to carry out extrajudicial assassinations? Just because the military and intelligence services assert something? Just because your hero is the current CiC, you buy every assertion without question?

What if Commander in Chief Bush or Palin were raining down missiles on whoever they declared was an enemy?

Posted by: flubber on February 9, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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