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

By Alexander Cockburn

May 12, 2011 7 min read

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 www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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