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Alexander Cockburn
Alexander Cockburn
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Hairy-Chested Liberals Exult: Big Question, Who Do We Kill Next?


Pinko terror-simps and the "rule of law" gang may cavil and whine at the lack of legal propriety in the execution of Osama bin Laden, but it's not cutting much ice with liberal America. For long years, what might be called the "progressive" segment of American voters have chafed at Republican gibes that their guy Obama is a wimp, all the more irritably because deep down, many of them thought the charge had some merit.

But now, the former professor of constitutional law is really and truly an American. He's flashed his long, long Cadillac of a birth certificate, not merely the short unconvincing subcompact going the rounds for years. Better still, he has cojones . Bigger cojones than those of George W. Bush, who said that the capture of Osama was of no interest to him. Obama didn't task the Navy SEALs, "If Osama shows no sign of resistance, it is your duty under Rules of Engagement to bring him home alive to face a fair trial." No. He said to make sure it's bin Laden, then kill him.

We have Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma to thank for making Osama's orders clear. In an interview with CNN's Eliot Spitzer, he described the photographs, thus far denied the American people but available to members of Congress.

Inhofe: "Three of the first 12 pictures were of Osama when he was alive. And they did this for the purpose of being able to look at those and seeing the nose, the eyes and his relationship for positive identification purposes. And that was good.

"One of the shots went through an ear and out through the eye socket, or it went in through the eye socket and out — and then exploded. It was that kind of ordinance that it was. Now, that caused the brains to be hanging out of the eye socket, so that was pretty gruesome.

"But the revealing shots really, I thought, the pictures, were the three that were taken on the USS Vinson in the Northern Arabian Sea, and they were the ones that showed him during the cleanup period ... they had taken enough blood and material off his face so it was easier to identify who it was."

So the SEALs grabbed bin Laden, took the live pics, then shoved his kid to one side and gave him the business, twice in the head, once in the chest.

Maureen Dowd holds up the liberal end of The New York Times' panel of columnists. Many's the tetchy column she's written across the past couple of years railing at Obama for selling out to the bankers and being way too submissive to his Republican assailants.

It's wondrous what two expanding bullets to the head of an unarmed man will do. Dowd has written no less than three columns back to back, imparting to her large audience her raptures. Call them spiritually hairy chested.

"No wonder," Dowd glowed, "the president's top generals call him 'a Cool Hand Luke.' (Actually, the generals tend to call him far less complimentary names.) If we could have seen everything unfolding in real time, it would have had the same dramatic effect as the intercutting in the president's favorite movie, "The Godfather," when Michael Corleone calmly acts as godfather at his nephew's baptism at church, even as his lieutenants carry out the gory hits he has ordered on rival mobsters.

"Just substitute 'Leave the copter, take the corpse' for 'Leave the gun, take the cannoli.' ...

"The president's studied cool and unreadable mien have sometimes distanced him from the public at moments of boiling crisis.

But in the long-delayed showdown with Public Enemy No. 1, these qualities served him perfectly."

In another column, Dowd writes, "I want memory, and justice, and revenge. ... Liberal guilt may have its uses, but it should not be wasted on this kill-mission. ... Morally and operationally, this was counterterrorism at its finest.

"We have nothing to apologize for."

It fell to the NYT's young conservative columnist, Ross Douthat, to make the sensible observation that "Now that Democrats have learned to stop worrying and embrace the imperial presidency, the United States lacks a strong institutional check on the tendency toward executive hubris and wartime overreach. ... The absence of any sustained outcry over the White House's willingness to assassinate American citizens without trial should be equally disquieting."

Douthat's reference to American citizens concerns Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric believed to be in Yemen. Toward the end of April, Obama signed off on three extrajudicial assassinations: bin Laden's, Gadhafi's (near miss) and al-Awlaki's (a miss). The Pentagon says a bid on al-Awlaki's life was made by drone attack on May 5 and they reckon they didn't nail him but hit a car, which may or may not have contained bad guys. Hey, who's counting?

Obama is certainly not the first U.S. president to have taken a keen interest in assassinations. Assassination has always been an arm of U.S. foreign policy; just as in periods of turbulence, like the '60s, it has always been an arm of domestic repression as well. This is true on either side of the executive order.

President Gerald Ford issued an order in 1976 banning assassinations. "No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination," stated Executive Order 11905, now presumably inoperative.

Line up Obama with his fellow assassins, from Eisenhower through Bush, and I believe he's the most repellent of the bunch, down there with Woodrow Wilson. None of his rivals quite match the instinctive egotism that allows Obama effortlessly to affect the earnestness of a man taking the moral high road while executing a cynical program of electioneering by assassination.

Cynical but effective. The Republicans are in a state of total confusion and have no plausible candidate to run against Obama. The progressives are solidly behind their man.

Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



8 Comments | Post Comment
it is of course totally cowardly to execute any man in this manner, alec. however, what is the terror of:
it is of what osama might say in court: the destabilization of A'stan, the creation and abandonment and execution of the Mujahadeem once they have done Uncle Sam's dirty work, as have no end of other 'contractors'. have you forgotten that oh bambi is up from chicago and has lots of chicago advisors?
Comment: #1
Posted by: michael roloff
Fri May 13, 2011 8:32 AM
Alexander, in the third paragraph you use the name Osama when you meant Obama, but that's a mistake nearly everyone makes.
As to your other points, right on. The liberal establishment's glee at the murder of an unarmed man is both hypocritical and repellant. Had bin Laden been dispatched in a similar fashion during the frat boy's reign, they would have been up in arms over it, but since it was done under Obamas's orders, it's all jake.
That bin Laden is a terrorist and his death is no loss to the world is irrelevant; we are supposed to be a nation of laws, and the real test of that is to live up to that standard when it is most difficult and inconvenient; that we do not is proof of the true nature of our imperial country.
The presidency of Obama, from either foreign policy(meaning militarism) or domestic affairs, is final proof that regarding the essentilas, Nader had it right, the differences are over minutae and style; Bush's style, combined with the failure of establishment ideas proved unappealing, therefore since the ideas could not be changed, the style had to be the selling point. Hence Obama.
Comment: #2
Posted by: michael nola
Sat May 14, 2011 8:05 AM
All killing is terrorism, Cockburn. You know that. The idea of military targets only is a fiction--what is a military target anyway but where some 18 year old kid hangs out with a special suit on?

You either kill or be killed. We did it in Dresden because that was the only way we knew to win. Taking Obama alive would have been an act of supreme idiocy. Lucky for him it was short and quick, instead of suffering a lifetime of being maimed as many of his victims have. Where we noble enough as a species to end violence then I guess your words might reflect something other than linguistic vanity and attempting to hold up the rear of the dinosauric left.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Sat May 14, 2011 8:10 AM
Hey Masako, you did it too. "Taking Obama alive", to quote you. Maybe it's their similar skin pigments that confuses you and so many others who have gotten the two mixed up.
Takling Osama alive would have been the act of a nation of laws, which we clearly are not. While neither of us were there, it's reasonable to assume that since they wounded his wife in the leg, they could have done the same to bin Laden, but that would have required a trial, and who knows how messy that would have been?
Comment: #4
Posted by: michael nola
Sat May 14, 2011 7:28 PM
Anybody remember VietNam?

Mom and Pop America would eat their TV dinners in front of the 6 oclock news
that showed burning jellified gasoline (napalm) raining down on peasants who used
water buffalo for tractors.

and Mom and Pop said 'kill those commie mothers.......Hon, whats for desert?'

same diff today
Comment: #5
Posted by: Soothsayer
Sun May 15, 2011 12:24 AM
Today Mom and Pop America buy their products that were made in those same Commie countries and say,"kill those sand nigger Semites....Hon how's about we wolf down a couple of large pizza's and top it off with freedom fries."
Comment: #6
Posted by: michael nola
Sun May 15, 2011 9:15 AM
My Dear Mr. Cockburn,
The two acts of Mr. Obama you were referring to, the "long form Birth Certificate" and the "Justifiable
killing of Osama", are not nearly heroic enough warrant another 4 years. The first just proves that he is
a smart campaigner. And the second was something any good ole boy from down heyah in Virginny
would have done anyway.
In some parts of the Country I believe you need a birth certificate to get a drivers license or even a fishing
license. (unless of course, you are an illegal alien).
I don't know what kinda weed you been smokin, but every Republican in the race would be far better that
this socialist you are cheer leading for.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Randy Page
Wed May 18, 2011 7:04 PM
Re: michael nola. You got me. Touché. You are right twice, in fact, given your comment about the mess.

The bigger point you seem to have missed however. There is no such thing as law when it comes to killing. If you can get away with it it's legal, and there just is no honorable way to do it except as an act of mercy, e.g., Kevorkian style, which is not legal.

And we're not about to swear it off. That's the ugly history of homo sapiens. The rest is high sounding rhetoric and that's about it.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Masako
Thu May 19, 2011 8:16 PM
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