During a press conference ahead of executive action on gun control, U.S. President Barack Obama shed tears as he thought of the countless dead who have been massacred thanks to relaxed gun laws across the country. Today, the White House pushes ahead with closing some of the most moronic loopholes in American gun law, loopholes that allow the worst of society to get their hands on the worst of weapons. Sadly it does not repeal the 2nd Amendment, but that would be impossible in every sense of the word, and comprehensive gun reform is unpassible in Congress, so this will have to do.
As critical as I am of the President, far be it from me to sink to the level of conservative pundits in the aftermath of the conference: Republican hobgoblins like Ben Shapiro were quick to bravely take to Twitter and mock the President for crying (which, in Shapiro’s case, ended in a weird satirical rant about Star Wars), whilst Fox News contributors suggested that a raw onion was probably placed under the podium. The spiteful right lazily strikes again.
One cannot fathom the amount of times that conservatives have ungraciously missed the point and, more importantly, missed the opportunity to criticize President Obama on sane grounds. The suspected placement of a raw onion is not the issue here. The issue is Obama’s selective compassion when it comes to victims of violence. This would be the charge of Shapiro and Fox News contributors too, if they had an intellectually sound bone in their bodies, but alas, one could rant forever about the moral and intellectual failures of the spiteful right.
In an opinion piece after the conference, liberal outlet Salon remarked that for conservatives, “Obama’s tears were indicative that he lacked the levels of sociopathy supposedly necessary to lead a country”, but in fact this assessment is gravely wrong – one need only to ask the victims of Obama’s foreign policy death and violence campaigns, and they can tell you that no President has ever wept for them, and that Obama’s levels of sociopathy are more than sufficient to run the American Empire.
To take a single example that spans a region, the drone strike warfare Obama employs has massacred so many people that the programme is now thought to be responsible for creating terrorism, not destroying it. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2004 and 2015, a total of 421 strikes happened in Pakistan, 370 of which happened under Obama. Of these strikes, at least 423 civilians died, as did at least 172 children.
In a similar period of time, drone strikes in Yemen committed by the U.S. (not Saudi Arabia), killed at least a further 100 civilians, anywhere between 6 and 10 of them children. In Somalia and Afghanistan, the story is frighteningly similar: Each time the U.S. performs a drone strike, a child usually dies. These numbers are conservative estimates and the death toll may be twice as high in some countries, and the effect this has had on the consciousness of the victim populations is staggering:
Children describe how they run in fear when they see a drone flying overhead, and the stress that follows makes them unable to sleep, eat, or go to school without suffering traumatic panic attacks. Even an everyday noise like shutting a loud door is enough to put some children in an extreme state of fear. This psychological war mechanic has led to a new form of aerial totalitarianism in host countries. Where, President Obama, are the tears for these children?
At this point, mindless supporters of the President are free to deliver some philosophical spiel about the nature of intentions and collateral damage, or to argue some form of “lesser evilism” whereby murderous drones are excusable because they prevent American troops from being shipped abroad. But one does not need a philosophy degree to know that if you can reasonably expect a consequence to happen because of your actions, you are responsible for that consequence.
If you can reasonably expect that your actions will kill children, horrifically referred to as “fun sized terrorists” by some drone operators, then you cannot abdicate moral responsibility for their deaths. The argument about keeping American troops at home is bogus too: It implies that the lives of American adults who volunteer for war are worth more than Middle Eastern children who consented to no such violence. It also ignores the glaringly obvious fact that America has no international mandate to violate the sovereignty of nations with troops or drone strikes either.
What makes this more frustrating is that no press conferences or executive actions would be required to stop this bloodshed. Obama could silently and swiftly put an end to the Saudi death campaign in Yemen, Israel’s death campaign in Palestine, and his own death campaigns in Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It would simply involve a foreign policy U-turn. It would probably hurt his relations with the Department of Defense and with allied nations, and European nations would surely fill the gap, but at the very least it would reduce the national security threat to the U.S., and end the murder of children by the President’s hands.
To that end, snarky conservatives like John McCain are right for the wrong reasons: This press conference was “bad political theatre”, although the tears were probably sincere, but the reason it’s so bad is because it selects politically convenient victims that Obama shares no responsibility for, at the expense of those he and his government has helped to kill. It is a gross form of hypocrisy to kill children in the Middle East whilst weeping for the children of America.