Monday, February 11, 2013

With Friends Like These: Twisted Lefty Support for Drones and the CIA

As Congress prepared to grill John Brennan, Obama’s appointment to lead the CIA, protesters from Code Pink and other organizations lined up outside in preparation to protest the hearings. As they waited, Code Pink cofounder, Medea Benjamin, was interviewed by KPFA’s Brian Edwards Tiekert (Thursday, 2/7/13, KPFA’s “Up Front”). In the interview, Benjamin listed numerous perfectly good reasons why Brennan should be on trial, rather than being rubber-stamped to head the CIA (e.g., he was rejected for the position four years ago because of his support for torture and “extraordinary rendition,” plus his continued to support for the use of drones to assassinate anyone he sees fit).

However, when Tiekert asked her who she would rather have running the CIA, instead of stating the obvious (i.e., Nobody should run the CIA because the CIA should not exist), she proposed Dennis Kucinich.

Of course Kucinich is no longer an option, having accepted a media job with Fox News. But the fact she named anyone at all implies she is okay with the existence of an organization that exists primarily to promote the interests of America’s largest corporations through the neutralization or elimination anyone or anything that stands in the way. She also suggested in the interview that she takes issue with the CIA’s current tendency to act like a “death squad,” as if this were something new. The CIA has always engaged in assassinations or trained its proxies to do it for them. The only thing new is the candor and brazenness of the President, members of Congress, cabinet members and media in their discussions of assassinating “enemies,” foreign or domestic. That is, in the past the CIA carried out its assassinations in secret because it was assumed the American public would find it distasteful. Today, in the era of endless war against terrorism, the right (indeed obligation) to assassinate is portrayed as so vital that it trumps all individual liberties and rights, including those for American citizens and those etched into the Constitution—and many Americans embrace this logic.

Benjamin has been an outspoken critic of the drone program since its inception, particularly because it has resulted in so many civilian deaths. Thus, it was strange to hear her argue that drones, because they are a military weapon, should be left in the hands of the military, not Brennan or the CIA. Does this mean she is also okay with the use of drones to slaughter people, so long as it is soldiers, rather than spies, who are pushing the buttons, or is she so naïve that she believes the military will use drones “responsibly,” and somehow miraculously avoid civilian casualties?

It might be argued that Benjamin is just not that quick on her feet; that these were simply bloopers coming from an activist who was not sufficiently prepared for her interview. It is true that she was being interviewed outside Congress as she prepared to enter and disrupt it, so perhaps her train of thought was disrupted by adrenaline. However, one would think that someone in her position, who has spent years being critical of U.S. foreign policy and jingoism, would have a stronger critique and mistrust of the CIA and the military. Likewise, as an activist famous for her street theater and disruptive tactics, one would expect her to be well-prepared for addressing the media.

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