Who. What. Why. America’s Culture of Killing: It Doesn’t Begin at Home


In this 31-minute interview, host Jeff Schechtman asks guest Laurie Calhoun to explain what she sees to be the connection between mass killings in the homeland (such as occurred in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017) and US foreign policy. Both the audio and a full transcript are available here.

The simple, one-size-fits-all principle of US foreign policy

I’ll never forget the evening of September 10, 2014, when I googled to find Obama’s public address calling for war on ISIS in Syria. I accidentally pulled up his address from September 11, 2013, and was trying to understand it. After a few minutes, I realized my mistake: I was watching the speech where Obama was calling for war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, not his most fearsome opponents.

September 11, 2013, speech:

September 10, 2014, speech:

After watching both short YouTube films of the 2013 and the 2014 speeches consecutively, I came up with this simple theory of US foreign policy:

If X, then bomb. If not-X, then bomb. Therefore, bomb.

Recall the Bush principle according to which X & not-X are mutually exclusive and exhaustive:

You’re either with us, or you’re with them.

All of this translates as follows in the current Syria crisis, where X = pro-Assad

If pro-Assad, then bomb. If anti-Assad, then bomb. Therefore, bomb.

The last time Obama called for war against the Syrian government, Raytheon stock jumped 20% over the course of a few days. I’m sure that the company execs will be happy with whatever pretext is offered next.

As for the people of Syria trapped in the midst of this quagmire? Refugees are understandably flowing in a steady stream to Europe, despite the mainstream media’s insistence over the past year that evil ISIS was luring new converts, both Americans and Europeans, to join the cause and strike in the West. Political leaders who support laying Syria to waste in a scenario starting to look more and more like Fallujah don’t really have answers to the question what to do when all of the Middle East has been evacuated because of Western bombing.

Can anyone truly deny that the record of this approach to US foreign policy is abysmal? Witness: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Next up: Syria.


For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can, Chapter 9: Death and Politics

Is ISIS or Al Qaeda the Greater Threat to Peace and Stability? There is a Third Way.

US officials have been debating the all-important question: ISIS or Al Qaeda? I suggest that the policymakers need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

Before the 1991 Gulf War and the establishment of permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East, Al Qaeda did not exist. Before the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, ISIS did not exist. Before 2012-13, when the “appropriately vetted moderate rebels” in Syria were furnished with 600 tons of weapons covertly by the caustic incompetence agency, President Obama derided ISIS as “JV”, that is, “junior varsity”. One year later, they had taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. But wait, there’s more.

Before Obama ousted Libyan president Muammar Gaddaffi in 2011, Libya was not democratic, but it was far more stable than it is today. Before Bush ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was being run by a dictator (empowered by the US govt), but it was far more stable than it is today. But wait, there’s more.

From 2002 to 2012, the US government bribed two successive presidents of Yemen to cede their country’s sovereignty, permitting the assassination of persons whose names had been added to hit lists by US analysts. Today Yemen lies in shambles, with security conditions far worse than before its leaders collaborated with the US “killing machine”.

US leaders denounce the “evil enemy” and then implement policies which create even more of them. Debating who is the most nefarious “bogeyman du jour” is a red herring. The sad truth is that US foreign policy is a disastrous Ponzi scheme, and it went from bad to much worse under both Bush and Obama. US interventions abroad now serve only one purpose: to provide politicians with rhetorical fodder, at the expense of the security of millions of people on the other side of the world.


For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can, Chapter 9: Death and Politics

Obama’s Lasting Legacy? The Global Drone Wars

President Obama had a choice when he entered office in January 2009. Instead of calling a halt to the Bush administration’s use of summary execution by Predator drone, he expanded the practice, with no thought to what the world would look like once other countries and leaders began dispatching their political enemies by remote control in the name of national self-defense. With the use of China-produced lethal drones by the Nigerian government, the Global Drone Wars have begun.


It’s hard to imagine how a Harvard-educated lawyer could fail to comprehend the concept of suspect, or to draw the obvious conclusion from the proportion of innocent men detained at Guantánamo Bay: that roughly the same proportion of men executed by Predator drone in so-called signature strikes have been innocent as well.

Obama’s persistent failure to consider anything but short-term political expedience as a guide in setting policy led him to embrace drone killing as “smart war”. The price paid later on down the line will be the global instability created by a precedent in some ways even worse than the US development and use of nuclear arms, because it is so much more insidious.

Lethal drones are within the reach of even the least powerful of political leaders and the pettiest of despots. They will follow Obama’s lead in denouncing their enemies as “evil” before stripping them of their rights along with their lives. By promoting remote-control killing under a delusional pretext of “just war” Obama has spearheaded a global war on universal human rights.

As Obama’s presidency draws to a close, the White House seems quite concerned with securing his legacy. What will it be? Relations with Cuba? Negotiations with Iran? Obamacare? No, the true legacy of the Obama administration will be the Global Drone Wars.


For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, Chapter 4: Lethal Creep