May 03, 2012 journal, we cannot blame China or Russia for killing when we do kill automatically anywhere in the world with our remote satellite guided predator drones. God help the American people to awaken to this nightmare of murder by the military. O Lord I pray that you would change the hearts of these belligerent tyrants at hand. We have become what Russia was with the same leadership totalitarian brutal murderers. I can agree with some of this article by Tom Englehardt, Tomdispatch. News analyst. "Weakling at Home, Imperial President Abroad-He has few constraints (except those he's internalized). No one can stop him or countermand his orders. He has a bevy of lawyers at his beck and call to explain the "legality" of his actions. And if he cares to, he can send a robot assassin to kill you, whoever you are, no matter where you may be on planet Earth. He sounds like a typical villain from a James Bond novel. You know, the kind who captures Bond, tells him his fiendish plan for dominating the planet, ties him up for some no less fiendish torture, and then leaves him behind to gum up the works. As it happens, though, he's the president of the United State, a nice guy with a charismatic wife and two lovely kids. How could this be? Crash-and-Burn Dreams and One That Came to Be Sometimes to understand where you are, you need to ransack the past. In this case, to grasp just how this country's first African-American-constitutional-law-professor-liberal Oval Office holder became the most imperial of all recent imperial presidents, it's necessary to look back to the early years of George W. Bush's presidency. Who today even remembers that time, when it was common to speak of the U.S. as the globe's "sole superpower" or even "hyperpower," the only "sheriff" on planet Earth, and the neocons were boasting of an empire-to-come greater than the British and Roman ones rolled together? In those first high-flying years after 9/11, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their top officials held three dreams of power and dominance that they planned to make reality. The first was to loose the U.S. military -- a force they fervently believed capable of bringing anybody or any state to heel -- on the Greater Middle East. With it in the lead, they aimed to create a generations-long Pax Americana in the region. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was to be only the initial "cakewalk" in a series of a shock-and-awe operations in which Washington would unilaterally rearrange the oil heartlands of the planet, toppling or cowing hostile regimes like the Syrians and the Iranians. (A neocon quip caught the spirit of that moment: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.") This, in turn, would position the U.S. to control the planet in a historically unique way, and so prevent the rise of any other great power or bloc of nations resistant to American desires. Their second dream, linked at the hip to the first, was to create a generations-long Pax Republicana here at home. ("Everyone wants to go to Kansas, but real men want to go to New York and LA.") In that dream, the Democratic Party, like the Iraqis or the Iranians, would be brought to heel, a new Republican majority funded by corporate America would rule the roost, and above it all would be perched a "unitary executive," a president freed of domestic constraints and capable -- by fiat, the signing statement, or simply expanded powers -- of doing just about anything he wanted. Though less than a decade has passed, both of those dreams already feel like ancient history. Both crashed and burned, leaving behind a Democrat in the White House, an Iraq without an American military garrison, and a still-un-regime-changed Iran. With the arrival on Bush's watch of a global economic meltdown, those too-big-not-to-fail dreams were relabeled disasters, fed down the memory hole, and are today largely forgotten. It's easy, then, to forget that the Bush era wasn't all crash-and-burn, that the third of their hubristic fantasies proved a remarkable, if barely noticed, success. Because that success never fully registered amid successive disasters and defeats, it's been difficult for Americans to grasp the "imperial" part of the Obama presidency. Remember that Cheney and his cohorts took power in 2001 convinced that, post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, American presidents had been placed in "chains." As soon as 9/11 hit, they began, as they put it, to "take the gloves off." Their deepest urge was to use "national security" to free George W. Bush and his Pax Americana successors of any constraints. From this urge flowed the decision to launch a "Global War on Terror" -- that is, a "wartime" with no possible end that would leave a commander-in-chief president in the White House till hell froze over. The construction of Guantanamo and the creation of "black sites" from Poland to Thailand, the president's own private offshore prison system, followed naturally, as did the creation of his own privately sanctioned form of (in)justice and punishment, a torture regime. At the same time, they began expanding the realm of presidentially ordered "covert" military operations (most of which were, in the end, well publicized) -- from drone wars to the deployment of special operations forces. These were signposts indicating the power of an unchained president to act without constraint abroad. Similarly, at home, the Bush administration began expanding what would once have been illegal surveillance of citizens and other forms of presidentially inspired overreach. They began, in other words, treating the U.S. as if it were part of an alien planet, as if it were, in some sense, a foreign country and they the occupying power. With a cowed Congress and a fearful, distracted populace, they undoubtedly were free to do far more. There were few enough checks and balances left to constrain a war president and his top officials. It turned out, in fact, that the only real checks and balances they felt were internalized ones, or ones that came from within the national security state itself, and yet those evidently did limit what they felt was possible. The Obama Conundrum This, then, was what Barack Obama inherited on entering the Oval Office: an expanding, but not yet fully expansive, commander-in-chief presidency, which, in retrospect, seemed to fit him like a... glove. Of course, he also inherited the Bush administration's domestic failures and those in the Greater Middle East, and they overshadowed what he's done with that commander-in-chief presidency. It's true that, with President Truman's decision to go to war in Korea in 1950, Congress's constitutional right to declare war (rather than rubberstamp a presidential announcement of the same) went by the boards. So there's a distinct backstory to our present imperial presidency. Still, in our era, presidential war-making has become something like a 24/7 activity. Once upon a time, American presidents didn't consider micro-managing a permanent war state as a central part of their job description, nor did they focus so unrelentingly on the U.S. military and the doings of the national security state. Today, the president's word is death just about anywhere on the planet and he exercises that power with remarkable frequency. He appears in front of "the troops" increasingly often and his wife has made their wellbeing part of her job description. He has at his command expanded "covert" powers, including his own private armies: a more militarized CIA and growing hordes of special operations forces, 60,000 of them, who essentially make up a "covert" military inside the U.S. military. In effect, he also has his own private intelligence outfits, including most recently a newly formed Defense Clandestine Service at the Pentagon focused on non-war zone intelligence operations (especially, so the reports go, against China and Iran). Finally, he has what is essentially his own expanding private (robotic) air force: drones. He can send his drone assassins and special ops troops just about anywhere to kill just about anyone he thinks should die, national sovereignty be damned. He firmly established his "right" to do this by going after the worst of the worst, killing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan with special operations forces and an American citizen and jihadi, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen with a drone. At the moment, the president is in the process of widening his around-the-clock "covert" air campaigns. Almost unnoted in the U.S., for instance, American drones recently carried out a strike in the Philippines killing 15 and the Air Force has since announced a plan to boost its drones there by 30%. At the same time, in Yemen, as previously in the Pakistani borderlands, the president has just given the CIA and the U.S. Joint Operations Command the authority to launch drone strikes not just against identified "high-value" al-Qaeda "targets," but against general "patterns of suspicious behavior." So expect an escalating drone war there not against known individuals, but against groups of suspected evildoers (and as in all such cases, innocent civilians as well). This is another example of something that would be forbidden at home, but is now a tool of unchecked presidential power elsewhere in the world: profiling. As with Bush junior, the only thing that constrains the president and his team, it seems, is some set of internalized checks and balances. That's undoubtedly why, before he ordered the successful drone assassination of Awlaki, lawyers from the Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council, intelligence agencies, and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel held meetings to produce a 50-page memorandum providing a "legal" basis for the president to order the assassination of a U.S. citizen, a document, mind you, that will never be released to the public. In truth, at this point the president could clearly have ordered those deaths without such a document. Think of it as the presidential equivalent of a guilty conscience, but count on this: when those drones start taking out "behaviors" in Yemen and elsewhere, there will be no stream of 50-page memorandums generated to cover the decisions. That's because as you proceed down such a path, as your acts become ever more the way of your world, your need to justify them (to yourself, if no one else) lessens. That path, already widening into a road, may, someday, become the killing equivalent of an autobahn. In that case, making such decisions will be ever easier for an imperial president as American society grows yet more detached from the wars fought and operations launched in its name. In terms of the president's power to kill by decree, whether Obama gets his second term or Mitt Romney steps into the Oval Office, the reach of the commander-in-chief presidency and the "covert" campaigns, so secret they can't even be acknowledged in a court of law, so public they can be boasted about, will only increase. This is a dangerous development, which leaves us in the grip -- for now -- of what might be called the Obama conundrum. At home, on issues of domestic importance, Obama is a hamstrung, hogtied president, strikingly checked and balanced. Since the passage of his embattled healthcare bill, he has, in a sense, been in chains, able to accomplish next to nothing of his domestic program. Even when trying to exercise the unilateral powers that have increasingly been invested in presidents, what he can do on his own has proven exceedingly limited, a series of tiny gestures aimed at the largest of problems. And were Mitt Romney to be elected, given congressional realities, this would be unlikely to change in the next four years. On the other hand, the power of the president as commander-in-chief has never been greater. If Obama is the president of next to nothing on the domestic policy front (but fundraising for his second term), he has the powers previously associated with the gods when it comes to war-making abroad. There, he is the purveyor of life and death. At home, he is a hamstrung weakling, at war he is -- to use a term that has largely disappeared since the 1970s -- an imperial president. Such contradictions call for resolution and that should worry us all. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. TOM ENGELHARDT-Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of "The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's" as well as "The End of Victory Culture," runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, "The United States of Fear" (Haymarket Books), has just been published. Tremblingdave-What to do between the rantings and ravings of evil racists with no other agenda item than to rid themselves of the first African-American president, on the one hand, and the tremendous disappointment Obummer has turned out to be on the other... One part of me says to hell with the racists, let him stay in just to increase cognitive dissonance and exacerbate the contradictions of the evil view of life the sick racists have. But the other part of me screams ever more loudly "Stop this sick merry-go-round of the lesser of two evils." The further we go into that perverted argument of the lesser of two evils, the more we are being forced to feed out of the same latrine that these evil lying monsters are feeding off. In the meantime our planet is going to hell and we are about to watch our elected officials turn us into night-glowing survivors of a grotesque sci-fi film. mayhem, and doing violence to the US constitution and it's laws and the very essence of our nation. The only conceivably more disastrous atrocity would be to have a next Imperial President named 'Mitt'. Don't forget, the top officials of our 'democracy' are almost assured of surviving the apocalypse, even a nuclear one. Can't you envision Imperial Emperor Mitt appointing the Koch Bros. and the rest of their .1% buddies to top White House 'advisory' positions, assigning them their survival suites in the government bunkers designed to withstand nukes, allowing them time to stock their future with endless cases of Cristal and frozen filets? And them all joining to instigate the last 'World War', the real 'War to End All Wars', dreaming of a world populated (very sparingly) by only the .1%? 'Course, they'd have to share their world with two- and three-headed cockroaches, but since they share each other's DNA, they might get along. And they'd get to live happily ever after in their new, uncrowded paradise, with the entire Earth at their disposal. Until they discovered that their neighbor was wiping his butt with crisp new billion-dollar bills, while they were limited to perforated rolls of million-dollar bills. Then they'd curse their neighbor's 'god', and yet another war would commence the repeat of our current disaster, with the .1% starting an Occupy revolt against the .001%." Thekidde-Indeed. The election choice this fall brings to mind the phrase "between a rock and a hard place". The US is moving toward revolution of one sort or another as a tipping point of inequity is achieved. mysterioso-And what better way for Cheney/Bush to invoke "national security", and have it blessed and allowed to be expanded by the people than to instigate 9/*1-1. sandi2-"It's been a long time coming and we should be glad we have a guy with scruples and morals in the white house".And, who would that be? Surely you're not talking about the guy who has no problem assassinating teen-age American citizens or bombing schools. Mark S.-Between my utter disappointment with the now-Imperial, Warrior Presidency of Obama and the retrograde melignancy of the right-wing, know-nothing, retrograde Morlocks of the Rethuglican Taliban Party, if I could leave my country of birth and never return I would do so in a heartbeat. The sad fact is that if I said the same thing 10 or 20 years ago, I might feel a modicum of guilt or unease. Now, I mean it in unencumbered and guiltless honesty. America is now a horror that gives lie to all of the mythology of its "Founders" and loyalty oathes. Ryan Langemeyer-It has taken over three years for the progressive pundits to see what I saw in the days right after Obama was elected: Summers, Geitner appointed to fix what they had broken, and then Gates and many other appointees from the Bush era being re-appointed by a so-called progressive candidate. It made me sick. I will never vote for a Democrat again Moondancer875-They're ALL the same! They just have a different label - an elephant or an ass. Do you really think President Obama chose those appointees from the Bush admin.?? Does it not occur to you that he had no choice in the matter? The elite and the mega-corporations are the ones calling the shots. Don't say you'll never vote Democrat again - do the right thing and DON'T VOTE AT ALL!! Half Liger Half Wholphin My feelings and thoughts exactly. I used to engage in argument with people who would tell me there was no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. To those people, I apologize and regret my past fatuous arguments. oma is the Trojan Horse president. The minute we rolled that particular Trojan horse into the camp out popped hundreds of neo-conservatives, neo-imperialists, and Wall Street cronies. Why, the Democrats even had their very own version of the utterly detestable John Yoo named Harold Koh. Yup, he was in there too, huddled in the dark, cramped, and stuffed belly of that Trojan. htfd-If we only had representation, you know in the house and senate. Don't even begin to think democrat or republican, because they are the same feeble lot of criminals deaf, dumb and blind to 'we the people' that voted for them. Just think if Pelosi had allowed impeachment procedures to take place back in 2007 than a lot of the problems that are crippling the US today could have been brought to light and possibly fixed. Especially an executive office stepping well over it's constitutional bounds. So instead we have a president that has to top the last narcissist. Caroline-Engelhardt has been turning far right for a long time, that is why it seems to me that there are so many RW trolls commenting here, they must be following him. I'm on one RW site and I can't bear to read some of the comments but occasionally I do, as it makes me even more determined to fight them off. During the horrible GWB years, I took part in demonstrations against that Reign of Terror, although I'm not as fearful now, I continue to do what I can to give the people a voice and let those in charge know that the people need to be listened to. We do not want am imperial president, we want a president that takes care of the needs of its citizens. We do not want endless wars, we don't have to always be in charge of the world's policing, that is why tomorrow, May 1st I'm again taking part in a demonstration. Find one in your area, it will make you feel that you are doing something to help. The idea of a Romney 1% Presidency is abhorrent to me and I will do all I can so that doesn't happen within my control. I will vote, I will protest, I will not vote for another Republican as long as I live. Howard Kaplan-coke,pepsi,obama, romney--slightly different but still the S.O.S. If we ever end our oligarchy we might achieve a new era.... The US military is basically Blackwater? Jyrkpcnp-So friends, how do we bring our country back to a more peaceful and/or "centrist" position? 1) Elect a "centrist" president? If so, who? 2) Stop all wars and bring our troops and military contractors home? 3) Reign in consumerism? 4) Bring outsourced jobs and production back to the USA? 5) Bring our federal budget under control? 6) Negotiate peace with our enemies, real and perceived? 7) Control the TSA, CIA, DOD, FBI and other "security" agencies? 8) Develop alternative energy to decrease oil and gas dependency? 9) Fire our Congress and Senate, and start over?