Israel The Political Animal

Glenn Greenwald criticizes Bibi AND Obama’s “policies” of intentionally killing innocent Muslims


Cross posted from Cif Watch by its managing editor, Adam Levick.

Every person has their own definition of terrorism.” –Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn Greenwald makes characteristically hysterical claims about Israel and the US in his latest ‘Comment is Free’ piece titled Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza‘:

Here are the most egregious examples:

1. He claims that “overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians, including children”.

There’s nothing new here in Greenwald’s use of the most unserious hyperbole to impute the most violent and malevolent motives to Israel. Greenwald ignores the fact that Israel uses unprecedented restraint in targeting only Hamas leaders and terror targets, which would explain that the death toll in two days of fierce fighting is 19 Palestinians and 3 Israelis.

2. According to Greenwald, Israeli attacks on Palestinians “are preceded (and followed) by far more limited rocket attacks into Israel which kill a much smaller number, rocket attacks which are triggered by various forms of Israeli provocations.”

It’s unclear which Israeli provocations Greenwald is referring to, but Hamas’s main grievance against Israel, per the words of their leaders and their very founding charter (which, evidently Greenwald hasn’t bothered to read), has been the Jewish state’s stubborn desire to exist.

3. Greenwald claims that”most US media outlets are petrified of straying too far from pro-Israel orthodoxies….US criticism of Israel is impossible for all the usual domestic political reasons.”

I’ve documented numerous examples of Greenwald advancing the most bigoted rhetoric about US Jews’ supposed control of the US government and media, and this latest charge is nothing new.  Indeed it is relatively mild compared to his previous smears, such as his warning about the “absolute”, “suffocating” “Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy” by the Jewish lobby.

4. Greenwald writes: “Provocations from the Israelis were geared toward disrupting an imminent peace deal with Hamas.”

Greenwald is referring to a temporary truce  – which was being brokered in the days following an attack (with an anti-tank missile) which injured four Israelis – motivated by Hamas’s concern regarding the damage IDF attacks was inflicting on their military capacity. More broadly, however, it takes either extreme naiveté, a considerable degree of hostility towards Israel, or a cynical indifference to historical reality to make the serious argument that Hamas is, or could ever be, a peace seeking movement.

5.  Greenwald argues that the Obama administration “supported the Israeli“ attack on Hamas terror chief Ahmed Jabari, as it represented the model of “extra-judicial assassination[s] – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children – which is a staple of the Obama presidency.” ”Obama…could not possibly condemn Israeli actions in Gaza without indicting himself…Extra-judicial assassinations, once roundly condemned by US officials, are now a symbol of the Obama presidency”.  ”There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression”

This later paragraph is where the convergence between Greenwald’s anti-Americanism and his anti-Zionism is most clear.

Greenwald is defined by his opposition to the policy of killing Islamist terrorists (who are planning terror attacks against American civilians) in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but his commentary also suggests that President Obama is an enthusiastic supporter of killing innocent civilians in these regions.  According to Greenwald, Obama is muted in his response to Israel’s violent acts because he lacks the moral authority to issue a credible condemnation.

To understand the extent of Greenwald’s obsession with “Obama’s” drone war, it would be helpful to review a piece he wrote before joining ‘Comment is Free’, published at, titled “US again bombs mourners”.

If you find that title a bit overblown, or something out of PressTV, you need to also read the strap line.

The Obama policy of attacking rescuers and grieving rituals continues this weekend in Pakistan

Just the work of an editor, you think?


Here are some quotes from Greenwald’s essay on June 4, 2012.

“In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that after the U.S. kills people with drones in Pakistan, it then targets for death those who show up at the scene to rescue the survivors and retrieve the bodies, as well as those who gather to mourn the dead at funerals.” [emphasis added]

“On Sunday, June 3, the US targeted mourners gathered to grieve those killed in the first strike.”

Killing family members of bombing targets is nothing new for this President.”

“The US is a country which targets rescuers, funeral attendees, and people gathered to mourn.”

“That tactic continues under President Obama, although it is now expanded to include the targeting of grieving rituals.”

However, the main source Greenwald provided to back up his claim is the discredited “Bureau of Investigative Journalism” (BIJ), the organization which fed the BBC information pertaining to the Newsnight story falsely alleging “a senior Thatcher-era Tory” was a paedophile.

Moreover, the specific link Greenwald cites as proof that the US  targets innocent civilians in Muslim countries – rescuers, funeral attendees, and people gathered to mourn – does not back up his claim at all.

The link to a nearly 2500 word BIJ report (which cited a more detailed BIJ report) on the drone war in Pakistan includes a claim in the headline that the CIA “targets rescuers and funerals” but failed to support  the dramatic claim in the subsequent story.

Typical are passages like this:

“A team of local researchers…found credible, independently sourced evidence of civilians killed in ten of the reported attacks on rescuers.”

But, there was this one passages which claimed intent:

“More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”

However, there was nothing in piece, nor the longer report, which even attempts to corroborate the claim (largely anecdotal evidence by unidentified Pakistanis) that the strikes against innocent civilians represented deliberate US policy.  Further, not considered by either BIJ or Greenwald is the possibility that the “mourners” weren’t actually mourners at all, but, rather, additional terrorists.

Most telling in the BIJ report was this passage:

“Often when the US attacks militants in Pakistan, the Taliban seals off the site and retrieves the dead. But an examination of thousands of credible reports relating to CIA drone strikes also shows frequent references to civilian rescuers.” [emphasis added]

It is unclear to whom these “credible reports” are attributed, but their admission would suggest that it is difficult, at best, for US drones to distinguish between Taliban terrorists and those unaffiliated with the murderous terror group.

The assertion by BIJ that there is a CIA “policy” of killing innocent mourners and rescuers is not supported by the reports cited. Greenwald’s even more unhinged claim that President Obama’s “policy” is to kill such innocent rescuers, funeral attendees, and people gathered to mourn” is not supported by the facts, and parrots the most unserious anti-American propaganda repeated by extremists on the ground in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Greenwald’s June post at contained a hideous smear of the US President, suggesting that Obama personally is an advocate of killing innocent Muslims.

Interestingly, a New York Times report on February 5th, ‘U.S. Drone Strikes Are Said to Target Rescuers“, citing the same BIJ report, interestingly, was much more sober, and included the following:

“American officials have questioned the accuracy of such claims [that innocent civilians are targeted], asserting that accounts might be concocted by militants or falsely confirmed by residents who fear retaliation.”

“…most other studies of drone strikes have relied on sketchy and often contradictory news reports from Pakistan.”

“A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying “targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.” The official added: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation.” [emphasis added]


Greenwald seems to really believe the most unserious, hateful anti-American propaganda – what you’d typically find in PressTV or Arab media outlets – about American and Israeli villainy.

In fact, in a Sept. 14 CiF piece, Greenwald summed it up clearly:

 ”…the US and Israel have continuously brought extreme amounts of violence to the Muslim world, routinely killing their innocent men, women and children.”

Finally, there’s this quote from Greenwald’s post referenced above:

“If a Hollywood film featured a villainous King ordering lethal attacks on rescuers, funerals and mourners — those medically attending to or grieving his initial victims — any decent audience member would, by design, seethe with contempt for such an inhumane tyrant. But this is the standard policy and practice under President Obama and it continues through today.”

In Glenn Greenwald’s world, Hamas, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremists – reactionary, racist, antisemitic, misogynist and extremely homophobic political forces – seem to get a moral pass, but democratic Israel stands accused of slaughtering innocent Palestinians and Barack Obama is an inhumane and villainous figure who murders Muslim children.

The convergence of anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism is truly a work of art.  For Greenwald, and his leftist followers, it is a given that Islamist terrorists are feared by the West not because they threaten the democratic world, but because of racism against Muslims.

For Greenwald, as with Guardian Associate Editor Seumas Milne and other Guardian Left commentators, Israel and the U.S. are the greatest imperialists threats to world peace, and so the reflexive anti-Zionist stance they take simply represents a logical extension of  their broader anti-imperialist, post-colonialist politics.

Finally, supporters of Obama should pay close attention to Greenwald, as the leftist ideology which his views on Israel and the US inspire  represent crude, ugly caricatures of the President which often go far beyond even those of the far right.

Glenn Greenwald would never, ever falsely “accuse” Obama of being a Muslim as some of his right wing opponents shamefully do.

Greenwald’s demonization of the President, however, is much worse, advancing the hysterical charge that he personally orders (or at least approves policies sanctioning) the murdering of innocent Muslims throughout the world.

The anti-Zionist, antisemitic and anti-American rhetoric advanced by Greenwald represents a classic example of Guardian Left ideology.

Those within the mainstream American Left who don’t succumb to the false moral equivalence between Islamist terrorists and Western democracies, and who don’t buy into the defamatory suggestion that Obama is engaged in a war against Islam, should begin to view him as, at the very least, a crank – a shrill and vitriolic anti-Obama extremist.

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The Political Animal

National Security Leak


Something is leaking. I’m sorry, that’s someone. Or ones. About the U.S.’s continuing drone campaign against Al-Qeada and our ongoing cyber warfare against Iranian nuclear capabilities. A fascinating fissure in the negative reaction to the inside dope is its left-right nature. At the farther left reaches, President Obama is decried as no more than an extension of Bush-Cheney – only, in fact, better, more effective. From the right borderlands, little credit is given for aggressive and expertly pursued national security objectives; rather, as the Hannity jerks the GOP chain, comes a flooding outcry that the President has – through the leaks for which the right thinks him surely responsible – actually endangered national security, and even lost the trust of allies who will feel they cannot rely on our secrecy as clandestine conspirators.

Everybody plays their assigned roles. Does the public never tire of these morality plays? Or is it more likely powerless to prevent them? The actors will apply their makeup, don their costumes, and take the stage in the town square – ticked buyers be damned.

Righteous bags of windy high dudgeon are shocked, shocked that Obama is deciding who gets targeted by drone. Really. Who did they think was deciding – the national security advisor, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the remote pilot? Imagine the outcry had the case been revealed that lower level, unelected officials were making such life and death decisions. Of course, in war, very low-level unelected officials – privates – will in fact commonly make such decisions, and they do not ask for passports before pulling the trigger. We might turn the decision over to a judicial panel, as some, like The New York Times, have suggested. Wait, then, for the Times somewhat later, along with Karl Rove, to accuse the President of creating a Star Chamber.

We already knew, too, about the Stuxnet virus. Now there is the Flame virus, which according to Kapersky Labs, though more sophisticated than Stuxnet, may actually predate it and which appears to share some code with the earlier virus, indicating some level of cooperation or alliance among the designers. It is so sophisticated that upon revelation of its existence, it was apparently terminated by transmission of a suicide code that destroyed much of the evidence of its origins and nature. Now the handwringing is over what the U.S. might be unleashing by such cyber warfare. You can check on your own whether they are the same or different hands that have been tying themselves in knots for some years now over the threat of Chinese (and others’) cyber warfare against the U.S. Is the thought, seriously, that if the U.S. does not develop these capabilities others will not, and use them?

One wonders, too, if those worried about the consequences of cyber warfare are among those concerned also about a nuclear weapons program in the arsenal of a tyrannical, eschatological theocracy, but who warn of the dangerous consequences of any conventional attack on Iranian facilities. Are they parties who believe, Trita Parsi and Roger Cohen fashioned, that Iran would be likely to negotiate away its ambitions if only the U.S. was more open to its adversary’s other-minded, but still genuine good will? Are they people who are willing, really, to do anything at all?

The particular outcry against the leaking of this information is a correlative without an objective. We know, know that no administration before has ever revealed classified information through back or journalistic channels intended to serve either, or both, its national security and political objectives. Who would wish to live in such a world?

In reality (and welcome to it) if you are a left/libertarian political opponent of the government and of the required apparatus of secrecy in national security pursuits, then revelations of classified materials intended to embarrass the government, as those by Wikileaks and Bradley Manning, are an honorable calling and “whistle blower” prosecutions an oppression. If you are a Republican, then you become the touring theatrical company of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Graham said Obama and Biden’s altered positions constituted “the biggest double standard in recent times.”

The harsh criticism flared as McCain introduced a resolution calling for an independent investigation and the uncommon bipartisanship lawmakers had first displayed when the issue of the security leaks came to the fore openly disintegrated.

Replied Attorney General Holder,

“We have brought more leak cases . . . than any other administration,” Holder said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I was getting hammered by the left for that only two weeks ago, and now I’m getting hammered by the right for potentially not going after leaks. It makes for an interesting dynamic.”

A low lying truth beneath all the high drama is that these “revelations” revealed little.  The “baseball card” terminology for the information cards on which Obama receives his summation of each Al-Qaeda figure manages to reduce in its play lingo the moral seriousness of the enterprise, but the President was reported to be doing nothing other in a war than he should be doing – unless you are opposed to the activity to begin. David Sanger’s New York Times article on the administration’s commitment to a cyber campaign against the the Iranian nuclear program was published on June 1. It was on May 28 that Iran’s Maher center publically announced its own discovery of Flame. The Center had already been studying the virus and obviously had already known about it for some time by that date.

Certainly, it is worth noting how close together are the Iranian revelation, the Sanger article, and the suicide command. What is clear is that the leaks informed no party critical to this issue or the drones issue of anything it did not already know. What the leaks may have done is told other parties some things the administration wanted them to know. Critics from the left may not like any exercise of American power. Republicans may not like the added national security credibility these stories give Obama, stories that are, nonetheless, a pale political shadow of Nixon’s 1968 “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War or his 1972 October surprise, or Judith Miller serving as the Bush administration’s classified Scooter Libby pipeline to the public. But no one has identified, in the light of these realities, any actual detriment to American national security, and national security can leak in more than one way only.


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The Political Animal

Discussing Drones: the Right Way, the Greenwald Way


Last week, in response to “Glenn Greenwald’s Mitt Romney Surrogacy,” a commenter defended Greenwald by describing his work as “independent non-partisan scholarship.” Not that very long after the laughter faded, I read at the Boston ReviewDavid Luban’s “What Would Augustine Do? The President, Drones, and Just War Theory.” If you don’t have the time right now to read Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, Luban’s article provides an excellent brief primer on some essential issues and their practical application to the U.S. drone warfare against Al–Qaeda.

Beyond Luban’s instructiveness on the issues in general and in specific application, he also illustrates a crucial point I made about Greenwald’s style of argumentation. I quoted Brad DeLong about Noam Chomsky.

What I object to is that Chomsky tears up all the trail markers that might lead to conclusions different from his, and makes it next to impossible for people unversed in the issues to even understand what the live and much-debated points of contention are.

Even a quick comparison of Luban to Greenwald is telling on this score. Greenwald hails his former work as a “Constitutional and civil rights litigator.” He trades on this in his focus on potential national security abuses, but as I pointed out here, he is, these days, nearly silent on those civil rights abuses being daily pursued by GOP legislatures and that the Romney presidency Greenwald is doing his best to produce would support federally.

Luban has credentials, too. He is “University Professor and Professor of Law and Philosophy, and the Acting Director of the Center on National Security and the Law” at Georgetown University. What Luban offers at Boston Review, while he offers his own judgments on certain issues, nonetheless provides fair acknowledgement of the debatable issues – the “trail markers” as Delong put it, which might also include in some contexts, the history and evolving focal points of a debate. Greenwald does none of this. Indeed, as I some time ago wrote in “The Hypocrisy and Bullshit of Glenn Greenwald,” it is precisely his point not to. A bullshitter, Harry G. Frankfurt tells us,

does not limit himself to inserting a certain falsehood at a specific point, and thus he is not constrained by the truths surrounding that point or intersecting it. He is prepared to fake the context as well, so far as need requires.

That is,

The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

A bullshitter

ignores these demands [of the truth] altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Thus a bullshitter does not argue against “trail markers,” or even acknowledge and record them as part of the discussion. He simply ignores them.

The first lesson from Luban is that the relevant issues, conceptually and practically, are complex. Greenwald simplifies everything.

Writes Luban,

In the war context, striking the military target is the intended effect, the collateral damage is the unintended effect, and it is the former, not the latter, that determines the moral character of the action. The requirement of proportionality between the intended and unintended effect is a modern refinement of this principle.

These are distinctions Greenwald will not honor. So he will write in the most inflammatory manner, of

Obama’s penchant for violence, aggression and civilian slaughter.

Luban continues on this topic,

The most troubling point in the Times article is that the CIA has apparently counted civilian casualties in a self-serving, dishonest way. Any dead military-age male in the vicinity of a targeted strike is presumed a “militant” unless proven otherwise. That sounds wrong, and the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

What would constitute proof that a dead young man is not a militant? And how diligently is the CIA looking for evidence of its own fatal mistakes? After all, this is the same CIA that is investigating itself for illicitly censoring its own critics because it doesn’t want knowledge of its misdeeds and mistakes to see the light of day.

Now, while I agree with Luban’s article overall, I may disagree with him somewhat on this issue. I cannot say for sure because there is so much detailed information I do not have.

For instance, to raise some questions within a more traditional military context, when one attacks a military base from the air, does one know for sure that there are no civilians on it? Almost certainly, any domestic military base has civilian workers. Then again, are they not facilitators of the war effort, just as were German railway employees transporting their human cargo to concentration camps, or those manufacturing V-1 rockets in factories? What about the poor teen boy impressed into uniform at the war’s end, in Germany or for the Confederacy? The soldier who never fired his weapon? Or when an army assaults a town or city, its command structure knows without a doubt that civilians will die, even in large numbers. Estimates are that 15,000 French civilians died in the bombing that was preparation for the Normandy landings, nearly 20,000 during the Normandy campaign.

For some, like Greenwald, what one actually knows is a condition of no consequence. However, since Luban always identifies the relevant points of consideration, where reasonable interlocutors might depart in their judgment, the issues are always illuminated, regardless of the judgment he himself makes about them. If one wishes to argue with him – about the issues – one is able to do that in recognition of his honest intellectual engagement with the ideas and the others debating them. One need not resort to denouncing him as a foul defiler of all that is humane. One can, instead, cite the precise points of disagreement and continue argument on them in light of more information or deeper analysis.

Here is Luban on the central issue:

The verdict on Obama turns on the morality of targeted killings themselves. In my view, they are no different in principle from other wartime killings, and they have to be judged by the same standards of necessity and proportionality applied to warfare in general: sometimes they are justified, sometimes not. There are no simple answers.

Luban has certainly equal, if not clearly superior, credentials in expertise to weigh in authoritatively on the subject so that at the very least his judgment might not be simply ignored or morally denounced. Nor does he treat in that manner those who make a different judgment on this central issue, even acknowledging them in response.

Even those who favor the use of law enforcement rather than military action in the struggle against al Qaeda accept that force employed to defend against terrorist attacks is justified when lesser measures don’t work.

In contrast, here is Greenwald on Friday, deploring a Daily Beast video by Daniel Klaidman about the use of drones.

His blithe dismissal of concerns about illegality — as the words of the Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantee flashed on the screen — is nothing but pure ignorance: someone please explain to him that an act of Congress like the AUMF cannot override Constitutional protections.

This is Greenwald ignoring for a count in instances few of us has patience to make the differences between a law enforcement and war frame of the drone campaign. No one perhaps but Greenwald would argue that the presence of an American citizen on a traditional battlefield, with the opposing forces and as a declared enemy of the nation, would require of the commander-in-chief – in contrast to the SPEC who would otherwise pull the trigger – a warrant based on probable cause and an attempt at apprehension.

Greenwald simply will not honor the integrity of opposing views. How little will he honor them?

Consider Glenn Greenwald just yesterday, a player who cannot even take his at bat without edging his foot out of the batter’s box toward first base. So, to turn one of Greenwald’s favorite terms back on him – the “smear” – the very title and subhead of his post are a guilt-by-association smear: “Obama defender Rep. Peter King: Why does one of the House’s most radical right-wing Islamophobes so often find common cause with the President?”

And what is the association? That King endorses some of Obama’s defense policies. Greenwald is the man who all throughout the GOP primary season wrote favorable post tumbling after favorable post about reactionary libertarian Ron Paul, consort, in his works, with anti-Semites and other racists – and then defensively countered with his trademark contempt whenever it was suggested that he was thereby endorsing Ron Paul as a candidate. Here we have not even the parallel of Obama offering positive views of King, but of King offering them of Obama – yet Glenn Greenwald will smear Obama with it.

Salon deserves better, I guess. We all certainly do. It’s a shame.


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