Apex Predators

Adam Serwer compares Bush's stupid-ass WMD joke, with Obama's stupid-ass predator drone joke:


Other people have compared this to George W. Bush's joke about missing weapons of mass destruction, but I think this is sort of irrelevant. The American people have really refused to cope with the human cost of using drone attacks against suspected terrorists because for the most part, as long as we feel "safe," we're indifferent to what the government does in the name of security. The president joking about drones just further justifies that numbness, and it's inappropriate even without the comparison.
I suppose the relative lack of outrage has to do with whose lives were the butt of the joke -- we recognize the names and faces of the American service members who died because of Bush's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction as friends, relatives, and family members. The people who die in drone strikes are anonymous -- they have no faces or names -- except for the suspected terrorist targets the administration celebrates as being neutralized.
I laughed at that joke. And then a day or so later, in full-throated patriotic mode, celebrated the capture of the Times Square bomber, never even attempting to make the connection. I don't mean a crude causal one. The point is that for family of all the innocents killed by predator drones, or killed in the Iraq War this high moral talk of "terrorism" and "evil" is silly. Making bad jokes about the the weapons we use to prosecute those deaths says something about who we are. "Serious Liberalism" is insidious. Here's an antidote.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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