We live in a political world and I am a political girl (or boy).
Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist and author of books about the expanding boundaries of the war on terror (Dirty Wars) and the outsourcing of the military operations (Blackwater) faces a problem when speaking about his new book, The Assassination Complex: how to speak to people about a VERY political problem that doesn't stick to party lines in an election year.
Scahill, to his credit, didn't try to be apolitical in his appearance Wednesday at the Free Library of Philadelphia. He didn't avoid the subject and he certainly was not tousling either candidates hair. He has serious issues to bring up about both the major candidates, either of whom will continue many of the military malpractices he has spent his career exposing. But he doesn't make a false equivalency either: One is a professional, the other a clown. That doesn't mean one gets a free pass on important issues (he would like to see more voices featured on the national stage, not you Jeb!).
Knowing this, Scahill speaks with the patience of people that focus on intractable issues. When you are working on poverty or healthcare reform or the military, you know progress comes slowly through many channels and it seems to take some of the panic out of presidential races. January 20 there will be a new leader and the effort will continue.
The focus of the evening was his latest book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program, which, as the library employee who introduced him pointed out, pretty much tells you what you need to know about the book. Since the very program which he spoke on is predicated on the authority of the president to carry out what he describes as assassinations, the election did come up and the candidates.
For dark and potentially divisive material, Scahill was an affable presenter and willing to take any questions. He invited anyone, book handy or not, to go through the signing and ask him a question after he ran out of time in the presentation. At times, the talk was a bit conspiratorial, he frames the problem as pressure from the defense department when I think there is plenty of pressure from the electorate before a candidate ever gets a briefing. No one had to tell Trump that there are people we should bomb. But it's not tin foil-hat stuff, it's documented and obvious influence by donors and agencies, so it is bound to sound a bit paranoid, but as we learned in the last few years, it's not paranoia if the government is tracking your phone calls.
Scahill spoke about some of the history that brought us here and the process by which targets are chosen and some of the legal acrobatics that allow it. He doesn't lay blame on wholly on one side: While Republicans get the war reputation, having someone like President Barack Obama carry on this policy of firing bombs at target persons has legitimized it for much of the country. But there was so much to cover. Like why this is such a bad policy. There are the easy answers killing is bad and the legal justifications do sound very strained, but they come kind of cheap in war, for both sides. Fighting and killing, even for good reasons, is ugly business, but that doesn't justify everything.
I guess I will just have to read the book to learn more!