President Obama Should Have Said: “George Zimmerman Could Have Been Me!”

Obama Zimmerman

Last Friday President Obama startled Washington reporters and the world by expressing his thoughts about the Trayvon Martin verdict. That decision acquitted George Zimmerman of criminal guilt for killing an unarmed teenager in Sanford, Florida.

In his remarks, Mr. Obama spoke sentimentally of his own experience of racism, and about the dangers of Stand Your Ground laws. He cited the need to consider context in order to understand African-American rage over the Zimmerman verdict. Famously he said Trayvon Martin could have been him 35 years ago.

In fact, the President would have spoken more honestly had he identified with George Zimmerman.

Professor Cornel West (Union Theological Seminary) suggested that in an interview on “Democracy Now.” True, he found the Zimmerman verdict disturbing not simply because Trayvon Martin’s death went unpunished, but because it revealed what has been termed a “George Zimmerman Mentality.” That mind-set shaped by racism, fear, suspicion, and vigilantism has long afflicted our country in general and whites in particular even in this supposedly post-racial era.

More specifically, West charged that Stand Your Ground laws based on States Rights are ultimately aimed at controlling the black community. I would add that they are the modern equivalent of legalized lynching. In practice, the laws permit armed whites who feel themselves threatened by dark-skinned people to shoot those they deem threats to their security. Whites standing their ground have no legal requirement to retreat from the situation even if an escape route is available. The Zimmerman mentality represents lethal violence as a preferred option rather than a last resort.

Ironically, the Stand Your Ground, shoot-first attitude happens to be a key element of Mr. Obama’s own drone program. Sharing Zimmerman’s attitude of fear and racism, its “signature strikes” have been responsible for the deaths of at least 221 totally innocent dark-skinned children who happened to be nearby when Mr. Obama chose to fire his own weapon at those merely suspected of being or associating with “terrorists.” In effect, all of those children were Trayvon Martins who would be alive today had they not been in the wrong place at the wrong time when a man with a weapon perceived a threat from a profiled target.

Such observations made me wonder what key passages in Mr. Obama’s remarks would have sounded like if they were slightly altered to substitute references to Muslims, suspected terrorists, and innocent victims of drones for his original words about Trayvon Martin and African-Americans.

With those substitutions key sections of Mr. Obama’s text would have read as follows (I have placed my additions in italics to distinguish them from the President’s actual words):
______

“The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the 221 children I have recently killed by my drone policy. . .

“First of all, you know, I — I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the families of the drone victims, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s — it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it. . .

“But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. On second thought, I would have done better to identify with George Zimmerman. Another way of saying that is that I am George Zimmerman today.

“And when you think about why, in the Muslim community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the Muslim community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away. . . .

“And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the Muslim community interprets what happened one night in _________ (Name the country – Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia . . .). And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. . . .

“Now, this isn’t to say that the Muslim community is naive about the fact that Muslim young men are disproportionately involved in resistance to U.S. policy, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although Muslims do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.

“We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor Muslim communities around the world is born out of a very violent past in relation to the United States, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.”
______

Now the substitutions I’ve made may strike you as awkward. But I’m sure you get my idea.

The point is that Mr. Obama has no moral ground to stand on in lamenting George Zimmerman’s violence or the ridiculous nature of Stand Your Ground Laws. Rather than identifying with Trayvon Martin, the President would have done better to note his similarities to George Zimmerman. Rather than wringing his hands over Stand Your Ground laws, the President should have recognized the identical logic that informs his own drone murders.

Mr. Obama thinks like Zimmerman; he profiles like that vigilante; he patrols the world with Zimmerman’s lethal intent. Even more to the point, the President pulls the trigger even more quickly and irresponsibly than the armed vigilante from Sanford.

President Obama is the poster child for the George Zimmerman Mentality, for Stand Your Ground and its disdain for dark skinned people.

9/11 Reconsidered in the Light of U.S. Drone Policy

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So, let me get this straight: you direct airborne vehicles to fly into buildings in order to destroy enemies your Leader has unilaterally judged are terrorizing your people. Those “taken out” don’t necessarily terrorize directly. Nonetheless you kill them because they’re associated with, are near, and/or are sympathetic to the ones who do actually or potentially terrorize. Alternatively, those killed have been designated “signature” terrorists, because they look like those you and your inner circle have decided are terrorists or potential terrorists.

Sound familiar? Sounds like the loose logic attributed to the still-undisclosed Obama rationale for extra-judicial drone killings in at least five countries. . . . Or like the logic of 9/11.

You recall, of course, why Osama bin Laden allegedly mounted the 9/11 attacks. If you’ve forgotten, you can read about it in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver)
According to the “Letter to the American People” finally posted there in 2002, it was all response to U.S. terrorism.

More specifically, after repeatedly invoking the authority of Allah, bin Laden said the attacks were retaliation for unprovoked western aggression against Arabs in the form of:
– Eighty years of occupying the Arab world (since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1921).
– U.S. support for Jewish crimes against Muslims and Arabs in Palestine.
– The killing of more than 500,000 children during the sanctions American regime against Saddam Hussein.
– U.S. desecration of Muslim holy sites, Mecca and Medina by the stationing of American troops there following the first Gulf War.

And bin Laden didn’t confine his rationale for 9/11 simply to retaliation for general acts of terrorism in the political or structural sense. He had particular more easily recognized instances in mind. He wrote,

“It will suffice to remind you of your latest war crimes in Afghanistan, in which densely populated innocent civilian villages were destroyed, bombs were dropped on mosques causing the roof of the mosque to come crashing down on the heads of the Muslims praying inside. You are the ones who broke the agreement with the Mujahideen when they left Qunduz, bombing them in Jangi fort, and killing more than 1,000 of your prisoners through suffocation and thirst.”

According to bin Laden, the entire American people were guilty of such acts of terror against the Muslim world. After all, he said, they elect the officials who formulate such policies. The American people pay the taxes that fund the manufacture of the tanks and planes involved. They’re the ones who populate the army directly involved in illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was all too much to take, bin Laden implied. So on the 80th anniversary of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, he was unilaterally declaring what might be called a “War on American Terror.” And, of course in a state of war, international law simply does not apply. As a Great Man once said, he would have to “work the dark side.”

More particularly, the rules of warfare allowed bin Laden to attack those doing their own shadowy work inside the World Trade Center. Everyone there matched the profile of what we now call “signature terrorists.” After all, they worked in that iconic center of economic oppression and terrorism that in the eyes of bin Laden was symbolically and actually responsible for the devastating debt that impoverishes the entire Third World. That debt and associated trade policies administered from the Twin Towers cause the deaths of at least 30,000 innocents who die every day from hunger-related and debt-related causes.

More specifically still, according to bin Laden, the usurious interest rates — in many ways the basis of “world trade” – are the culprit. They and those who determine and enforce them, like those working in the Twin Towers, are as guilty of terroristic murder as if they put guns to the heads of the innocents and pulled the trigger 30,000 times each day. They’re as guilty as if they flew planes into 10 Twin Towers on a daily basis.

Bin Laden wrote: “You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury.”

What I’m saying here is that 9/11 was a prescient expression of drone warfare. The only difference was the 9/11 “dronists” possessed a courage of conviction entirely lacking in today’s U.S. drone terrorists. While the latter inflict death across the world entirely isolated from danger in their fortified air conditioned theaters, their 9/11 counterparts sacrificed their own lives to kill those they judged guilty of terrorizing their people. In any case, the rationale for 9/11 was nearly indistinguishable from that of Bush, Brennan and Obama, namely,

1. Those who have been terrorizing our people have gathered together by the thousands in the Twin Towers.
2. If they are not actually terrorists in the strict sense, their association with and sympathy for terrorists makes them guilty.
3. Since we have declared war on our opponents, the rules of war dispense us
from any obligation to observe peacetime procedures connected with international law.
4. We can do all of this because Allah is on our side. (Or as Bush/Brennan/Obama would put it: as the “Exceptional Nation” we are GOOD, while our opponents are BAD.)

Does anyone else see the oily, greasy, slippery slope we’re all sliding down? Barbara Lee perceived it immediately when she warned us against becoming “the evil we deplore.” Under drone warfare policy, we’ve now become the exact evil we claim to be fighting – right down to the detail of flying airborne vehicles into buildings where the innocent will be killed along with the guilty. We’ve manifested unmistakably for the entire world to see the very evil of which bin Laden accused us. That was his intention in the first place.

As another Great Man once said, “Mission accomplished.”