Politicians follow laws or make their own but often don’t think that one of the oldest moral admonitions applies to them: the law of karma. That’s the one, seeped in Buddhist philosophy, but accepted by other religious traditions, that says ‘what goes around comes around.’
It’s a variant of the biblical injunction to do unto others what you want others to do unto you and the notion that for every action there’s a reaction.
The concept has many interpreters including this one: “Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts. Karma means ‘deed’ or ‘act’ and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, that governs all life.”
Here’s President Obama committed to high tech warfare turning the skies into a shooting gallery. The idea of course is to precisely find and target enemies using super computers and image enhancement technologies to neutralize (i.e. kill) individuals who in military parlance are labeled “bad guys,” as if all of combat is an extension of the cowboy and Indian movies many Americans grew up with.
Hundreds of millions were invested to enable some soldier, or more likely, some “contractor,” to sit in front of screens in a desert base outside of Las Vegas to play video games with the lives of alleged enemies by steering a fleet of armed robotic drones on missions of elimination on the other side of the world.
The button is pushed, but then, as is the case in every casino every day, in Vegas, something goes wrong. In the flash of an eye or miscalculation, Winners invariably turn into losers in gambling dens as on battlefields when the wrong people get bombed.
Call it collateral damage even as others call it murder. Soon, Afghan President Karzai is up in arms, shocked (just shocked!) that no one shared the targeting list with him, so that he and his entourage have to witness another case of homes destroyed and the bodies of the innocent strewn all over a village while peasants wail in grief and anger.
One consequence, karma strikes: the attackers have now unintentionally stirred counter-attackers and, soon, the fighting escalates even as the intent was to stop it by bumping off a few terrible terrorists.
Washington now has to apologize or pay compensation as another “surgical” strike goes awry. A technical triumph turns into another PR disaster.
Few media outlets reference the proven limits of American airpower. More bombs were dropped on Vietnam than in all of World War 2 but the Vietnamese prevailed. “Shock and Awe” in Iraq inspired Iraqi resistance, not passivity, while the bombing of Tora Bora in Afghanistan did not “get” bin Laden whose company built the cave complex in the first place and knew its ins and outs.
Speaking of “collateral damage”: that was also the name of the video released by WikiLeaks that showed US helicopter pilots killing civilians, including journalists, in Baghdad.
The matter was investigated thoroughly but it was not the military perpetrators who were persecuted; only one soldier, Bradley Manning, who allegedly released it was held responsible. Manning is now on trial in America for disseminating secret information.
Last week, a judge ruled that his trial will go ahead, assuring his scapegoat/martyr status, and, as a warm up to the expected persecution of editor/publisher Julian Assange who a British court has ordered extradited to Sweden. That decision was made on the basis of an interpretation of a legal standard that was, bizarrely, never even raised in his trial. Once in Stockholm, it is expected he will be “invited” to the USA.
The point of the exercise was to show one and all what happens to people that leak precious secrets. Unexpectedly, WikiLeaks quickly dropped out of the news to be replaced by our leaks.
While all this was going on, none other President Obama himself started gloating about his decision to give himself the power to order killings of perceived enemies. He talked about controlling his own personal kill list, no doubt to show how tough he is in an election campaign where the downslide of the economy domestically has him searching desperately for an upside internationally.
It was also revealed that the U.S. had worked with Israel on dangerous cyber-viruses implanted in Iran and other countries.
This moment of bravura in turn led to outrage in Congress, not because of his newly self-defined power to assassinate but because it should be a secret kept from the public. Legislators also feared that, once publicized and rationalized, our cyber attacks could lead to others feeling justified in attacking us.
Karma strikes again. Now the warrior in chief is being accused of being a leaker in chief with multiple investigations up the yin yang underway.
As the press reported,
President Obama yesterday insisted the White House wasn’t behind national security leaks that wound up in flattering news stories. Stung by criticism that his aides were dishing secrets to the New York Times and other media to bolster his re-election campaign, Obama said he’d investigate.
“In some cases, these are criminal acts,” he said at the White House. “We have mechanisms in place where if we can root out folks who have leaked, they will suffer consequences.”
Wait, there’s more:
The Democratic and Republican chiefs of the Senate and House intelligence committees denounced the leaks this week and said they were drafting legislation to limit access to top national secrets. The FBI said it was launching its own investigation.
Later, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he has assigned two US attorneys to lead criminal investigations into the allegations of unauthorized leaks: the US attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. and US attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
Now we have an army of investigators galore, all certain to stumble over each other.
Meanwhile, the New York Times which first exposed the administration’s expanded covert/cyber warfare reported that official investigations like these rarely go anywhere, much less lead to effective prosecutions or new truths emerging.
What has happened is another case of karma writ large, with a president who was trying to go on the offensive now on the defensive, accused of the very practices that he is accusing others of.
Anyone with any memory—and that usually excludes the press—will remember that all of this bad karma leads to paranoia and paralysis in high places as it did in the days leading up to Watergate in a June like this one in ’73 when Henry Kissinger and President Nixon were on the warpath looking for leakers to punish.
In the end, it was their gooses being cooked. When will karma strike again?
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at NewsDissector.net. Schechter’s new book Blogothon features blogs and essays on key issues (Cosimo Books). He hosts the News Dissector Radio Hour on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.