When the New York Times ran its story on Obama’s “kill list,” showing the president poring over names of people to potentially assassinate in drone strikes, it sparked a controversy. The content of that controversy was not over this extraordinary revelation about Obama’s use of power but rather over the leaking of state secrets, which Republicans accused him of doing to bolster his re-election campaign. Some liberal commentators (at Salon, The Nation etc.) were rightfully horrified and condemned such activity. But the Democrats—and much of the liberal establishment—remained silent.
Deep in the Times article, another shocking revelation that hasn’t received as much attention as the “kill list” is the Obama administration’s effort to erase the deaths of some innocent victims by categorizing “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” This excludes them from the civilian casualties count, allowing the administration to claim that civilian casualties have been minimal. All Muslim men in “combat zones” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen have been presumed to be terrorists, and therefore worthy of death, simply for being of “military age.”
How did we get to a place where innocent Muslim men can be killed with impunity around the world with little public outcry? The short answer is that Muslims have been long been constructed as “terrorists” upon whom righteous terror can be rained. The image of the Muslim enemy in the US is not new. While Hollywood and television play a key role in conveying that image to the public, they did not create it. The “Muslim enemy” is inextricably tied to a long history of US imperialism.
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