Tag Archives: death

Learning to Kill: President Obama’s Evolution in the War on Terror

There is a fascinating and disturbing article in Newsweek entitled, “Drones: How Obama Learned to Kill”. The article is long, but worth reading when you have a moment. It is excerpted from a new book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, written by Daniel Klaidman.

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The book explores how President Obama’s thinking on anti-terrorism activities has evolved since he took office. Specifically, the book describes the decision-making process that the President and his top advisors go through before deciding to kill a terrorist target.

I have to admit that even writing these words makes me uncomfortable. I am a pacifist at heart and feel a strong urge to ignore the realities of what happens outside of our bordersin the name of keeping us safe.

I can only imagine the heavy burden placed on a President and his top military officials when forced to make a decision like this. Some striking excerpts from the book that help me better understand the complexities of what these officials deal with:

The president is not a robotic killing machine. The choices he faces are brutally difficult, and he has struggled with them—sometimes turning them over in his mind again and again. The people around him have also battled and disagreed. They’ve invoked the safety of America on the one hand and the righteousness of what America stands for on the other.

If there is a person in the camp who is a clear threat to the United States we should go after him. But carpet bombing a country is a really bad precedent.

…both men were grappling with the same reality: their advice could ensure death for strangers who lived thousands of miles away—or spare them.

I really struggle with this. I realize that there are people whose sole aim in life is to harm the United States for a wide variety of reasons. From the comfort of my home I cannot fully condemn the activities of leaders who have willingly taken on the responsibility and are doing their best to grapple with the difficult choices to keep us safe.

I also know that when George W. Bush was President, I was probably much less willing to explore this issue and more willing to cast stones.

But I have to wonder if there is a better way to keep us safe. Of course, I believe that promoting economic and democratic stability around the globe is one of the best ways to lessen vicious animosity towards the United States. But I also wonder if there aren’t more opportunities to use the legal system to bring people to justice.

I understand that this is extremely complex and that a protracted court case could actually exacerbate the risk.

I clearly don’t have the answers to this complex problem and I realize that I probably come from an idealistically naive perspective. Of course, I never do have the answers in this blog, which is why I always ask…

What do you think? How do you feel about the recent killings inflicted by the United States on terrorist suspects? Do you think there is a better way to keep us safe? What does that better way look like? Do you think that President Obama is going to suffer any legal consequences for his actions? Should he? Do you feel conflicted about this issue like I do?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.


Filed under International, Peace, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Terrorism, War

Respect the Future

I am still not sure if I will typically write more than once a week, but I read a moving story today that was fairly related to the story that I posted for discussion this past weekend. Maybe I’ll try to have weekly themes. We will just have to see how this blog evolves.

This thought-provoking and truly heart-breaking story was published yesterday in the New York Times and was written by David Brooks. The article tells the story of a husband, whose wife suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, who recently killed his wife and then himself. It is entitled “Respect the Future” and can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/opinion/brooks-respect-the-future.html

David Brooks reports in the article that a majority of the readers who commented on a news article recounting the incident sympathized with the husband, who did the killing. I have known people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, as I am sure have many of you.  I have long believed that this is one of the most cruel diseases which can afflict a person. This disease can rip families apart and turn friends and lovers into strangers. I even remember getting tears in my eyes when I read that Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s disease, (and I have never been a Ronald Reagan fan, as many of you know). It is simply devastating to watch a person whose body is perfectly healthy, slowly lose their mind.

This article really moved me and raised a lot of questions for me that I thought I would share:

Do you feel sympathy with the husband in this situation? What could drive a man who clearly loved his wife to do such a thing? Are there any circumstances under which you, personally, could condone this act? And if the husband had not been successful in his suicide attempt and had survived, would you convict him if you were on the jury?  Are there things that friends, family or society could have done to make this couple’s existance more bearable? Have any of you been faced with a similar experience of feeling isolated or hopeless when caring for a loved-one? And do have any advice or thoughts to share with others about how you could have been better supported by those closest to you or about how you recieved support from people you least expected?

Please share your thoughts when you have a minute! I will try to make next week’s stories more light-hearted, but end of life issues are certainly issues that effect all of us at one time or another. Thanks for reading.

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Filed under End of Life, Health, Relationships

Taking Responsibility for Death

This week’s story was published in today’s Sunday New York Times. I haven’t decided if I will just pick out weekend articles or if I will also write during the week. I suppose it will depend on whether or not there is a story that begs discussion that I stumble across during the week. It will also depend on whether I have the energy at the end of a day to think much about it. But the more comments we recieve, the more I will feel inspired to write. That is really meant to be the heart of this blog – it is meant to be a space where people can safely discuss important issues that challenge every one of us on a daily basis. So, please dive in and share your thoughts!

I have also been thinking about what I meant when I wrote that I don’t want this blog to be political. Any one who knows me knows that I wear my politics on my sleeve and that I am very passionate about current political issues. But politics have become so polarized and I do not want to buy into this polarization. All of us, regardless of political persuasion, deal with significant issues every day in which we can find common interest and comfort from people from all walks of life.

This week’s story is entitled “Taking Responsibility for Death” and can be found here: http://nyti.ms/H2tZ26 I find it interesting that this is one of the most e-mailed stories of the day today at the New York Times. This is an article that discusses the difficult reality that all of us eventually face when confronted with the fact that every one of us will face the death of loved ones, and ultimately of ourselves. It discusses some practical steps that all of us should take to prepare for this inevitability.

I wonder if this is the most e-mailed article because sending someone something that a respected newspaper has published about this topic is an easier way to open the discussion than to bring it up more personally. With the commonality of this issue, why are we all so uncomfortable to talk about end of life issues? And how – when every person, regardless of political affiliation, will deal with this reality – has this issue become so politicized?

I have some close friends who lost family members at a very young age and they have shared with me that people simply do not know what to say to try and console them. They have shared that people do not have to try to think of the perfect thing to say – that it helps for a person to simply acknowledge what they are going through. But so often, people are afraid to say anything at all. What is it that makes people so uncomfortable, even when trying to support a friend who has lost a loved one or who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, to look the realities of death in the face and to stand together to face the issue head-on? And does this discomfort change as people get older – does it lessen or does it get worse?

And how many of my (many ;-)) readers have thought about developing a living will? Or talked with their parents about their end of life issues? In fact, how many of you have a legal will at all? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could move beyond the taboos associated with talking about death and dying and support each other more as we struggle through these difficult issues?

This week, I challenge each of us to do one thing to make sure that we have our legal and personal affairs in order to make things easier on the people who depend on us when it is our time to go. And to remember that life is short, so we need to appreciate every precious moment we get to share with the people we love.

Thanks for reading. Please share your thoughts!

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Filed under End of Life, Health, Parenting, Relationships