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If Barack Obama Tortured, Would Some Liberals Support Him? Probably

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Photo Credit: U.S. Army

It’s an article of faith on the activist left that if George W. Bush--instead of Barack Obama--had been running an out-of-control drone war bombing civilians in Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen, massive protests would fill the streets. When I recently spoke with CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin, who has been a one-woman force against the unaccountable and covert drone war pursued by Obama, she said: “It’s been very hard during the four years of the Obama administration to get people to pay attention to this and be outraged enough to do something. During the Bush years this would have been easy, and we would have had thousands and thousands of people out on the streets, but now its been very difficult and tedious.”

Now, there’s data to prove Benjamin’s contention. Salon’s Joan Walsh takes a look at the research of Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler, and reveals that, yes, liberals are hypocrites on the drone war. It seems that many Democrats and liberals put party over policy--so much so that they would express opposition to a drone war if someone else without the last name Obama was running it.

Here’s Walsh on Tesler’s findings:

In a YouGov poll of 1,000 voters last August, Tesler found significantly more support for targeted killing of suspected terrorists among white “racial liberals” (i.e., those liberal on issues of race) and African-Americans when they were told that Obama supported such a policy than when they were not told it was the president’s policy. Only 27 percent of white racial liberals in a control group supported the targeted killing policy, but that jumped to 48 percent among such voters who were told Obama had conducted such targeted killings (which Tesler refers to as the “Obama cue”)...

The U.S. is moving into uncharted political, military and moral territory with the use of drones, as well as expanded claims of presidential powers on targeted killings, on what seems to be a global battlefield in a time of endless war. Some of the very people who might be expected to raise objections to such moves are instead accepting them because they are made by Obama, and they like and trust him.That’s common sense, on one level, but in a country that’s supposed to be governed by laws above men, it’s disturbing – and certainly worth talking about. 

Obama’s remarkable life story, and remarkable rise to the presidency, has made some liberals silent on an issue fundamental to how our democracy is operating and how our foreign policy is being conducted. The fact is that liberals’ acquiescence to the drone war has consequences. Civilians are being killed by American drones, but there’s no effective pushback on Obama because the Democrats who voted for him trust him on this issue (and many other issues). And conservatives aren’t coming out swinging against the drone war either--and if they did, they would be rightly called hypocrites. 

All of which means that, without effective liberal pushback, the secret and global drone war will continue to be waged without very much dissent. And if a Republican president ever takes the drone war policy to even more extreme heights, these liberals’ cries will be rightly derided as hypocritical. It’s a dangerous worldview to blindly accept what your leader is doing only because you trust him. If Obama started torturing people, would liberals also be silent? The answer, unfortunately, is probably yes.

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