See the Drones? Forget the Drones!

by Dennis Loo  |  February 25, 2013

Former Obama White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who now works as an MSNBC reporter, revealed yesterday (Sunday, February 24, 2013) on MSNBC that while being prepared in 2008 to assume the Press Secretary job for the incoming Obama Administration, he was specifically told to deny the drone program’s existence:

“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was you’re not even to acknowledge the drone program,” he explained on MSNBC. “You’re not even to discuss that it exists.”

Gibbs admitted that it was a troubling instruction since the drone program was already known to exist so that his denial of its existence put him in the peculiar position of saying to reporters in effect, “listen to what I’m saying and ignore what you already know to be factually true.”

But then again, isn’t that in fact what the Press Secretary’s job is now?

Here’s how Gibbs specifically put it:

“Here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition,” Gibbs continued. “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program — pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

What the vast majority of people in this country rely upon, of course, is what the Press Secretary says. He or she is the designated spokesperson for the president to the media who are in turn the conduit to the people about what their president and the White House more generally are doing and thinking. Even those people who know better and recognize that the Press Secretary is more Press Flack than truth teller are still strongly pulled in the direction of what the Press Secretary tells the nation. Moreover, Obama campaigned on an explicit pledge to restore transparency to government. His administration, however, was not even yet in the White House and his incoming Press Secretary was already being told to deny the drone program’s existence.

What makes this even more revealing about how much contempt the governing parties have for the public is that while campaigning for the presidency in 2007, it was none other than Obama who first publicly advocated using drones in Pakistan.

As I wrote in September of 2008:

As reported by the New York Times on September 11, 2008, in July 2008 Bush secretly approved Spec Ops forces to launch ground military attacks inside Pakistan without prior approval from the Pakistani government. The NYT essay notes: "It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country." It's unclear because such actions are blatantly against international law. (During the Vietnam War when President Nixon announced on April 30, 1970 that he had begun bombing Cambodia and thereby expanding the war, a fury broke out in America. During the widespread protests that followed, four students were famously shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4.)

The Times" article continues: "Pakistan's government has asserted that last week's raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

"Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion," said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, during a speech on Friday. "In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops."

What gives this story even more resonance is the fact that the Bush regime is now finally embracing the tactics that Obama had called for back in August 2007.  At the time, Bush, John McCain and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton derided Obama for offering such a bellicose proposal. Bush said: "he's going to attack Pakistan" in disbelief.

As Reuters reported on August 1, 2007: "Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said."

So there you have it: the reactionary Bush White House has now adopted a plan that it previously publicly described as overly aggressive - can you imagine this White House thinking anything is too aggressive? - a plan offered up by the Democratic Party's standard bearer, Obama, the man that many progressives pin their hopes on.

This reminds me of the line from a comic who wondered what the world is coming to when the world's best golfer is black and the best rapper is white. (Emphasis added).

So there you have it: an ex-Press Secretary feels free today to tell us how he was instructed to lie, now that he is no longer holding the job that required him to lie, instructed by an administration that touts itself as the most transparent in history, led by a president whose credibility rests upon his persona as honest and forthcoming. This ex-Press Secretary was instructed to even to lie about something that at least those in the media knew to be a lie, and those who had been paying attention to the news and the Obama campaign knew to be a lie.

Obama was trying to distinguish himself during the campaign as someone who could be relied upon to be properly aggressive because when you run for the presidency, you are also auditioning for the 1% who actually run things.

So this issue reveals both the Presidential office holders’ duplicity and the very carefully concealed fact that whoever is running for president is also sending out messages while running for the office that the real powers will recognize.

Do not believe your own eyes, they’re telling us. How long they can get away with that and how long people will engage in self-delusions remains to be seen.

Main Covert Drone War See the Drones? Forget the Drones!