I thought about this song the other day when news of Pres. Obama’s so-called “kill-list” broke:
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.
Now I’ve never been a fan of the “war on terror,” and I think Pres. Obama was and is wrong to have expanded it into places like Yemen. However, I also agree with Extreme Liberal’s rather even-handed take on the controversy:
[W]hether you agree with President Obama’s position or not, the man deserves credit for standing up and taking responsibility for what our military does when targeting terrorists and the potential collateral damage that our strikes may cause. I’m glad that the person we elected is making the call instead of some career military person who hasn’t gone through the grueling process of winning the presidency, during which candidates are put under the microscope and damn near every move they have ever made is analyzed. Would you rather John “bomb, bomb Iran” McCain was making that call? I didn’t think so.
Furthermore, apropos of the Clash tune I selected for today’s post, Pres. Obama’s foreign policy is markedly different from our interventionist past when the US seemed always to be willing to help violent right-wing dictators crush the political aspirations of their own people. “Washington Bullets” recites a familiar litany of American – and Soviet and Chinese – foreign policy misadventures (familiar, at least, to those of us who remember the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s), from Chile to the Bay of Pigs to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan and China’s brutality in Tibet. The poorer countries of the world were nothing but chess pieces in a game of world domination, all to the benefit of right- and left-wing dictators propped up by the US or the USSR and China, and the poorest, most vulnerable people in the world were the pawns who were sacrificed – by the millions – while the rest of us barely noticed. And that was the way things were for decades, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike.
Pres. Obama may not be perfect, but he supported the peaceful revolution in Egypt that deposed a long-time US-supported dictator, and was willing to use force to protect the popular uprising in Libya when Muammar Gaddafi ordered his military to attack nonviolent protestors. As controversial as that latter decision was, it’s a far cry from arming death squads in Central America. Washington bullets maybe, but they were on the right side for once.
So, yeah, I don’t like the war on terror, I don’t like “kill lists,” and I think we use drone strikes entirely too much. In fact, if it were up to me we’d pull out of Afghanistan with all deliberate speed and we’d take a radically different approach to dealing with violent extremism going forward. But fighting terrorism is hardly like propping up Anastasio Somoza or deposing Salvador Allende (or supporting Pol Pot or the Shah of Iran, or the various dictators of El Salvador and Guatemala, or the Apartheid regime in South Africa, or … well, the list of past indiscretions is seemingly endless). It’s progress, albeit slow progress, but progress nonetheless.
And anyway, “Washington Bullets” is a great song. And that’s a good enough reason to play it today.