"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
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In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that after the U.S. kills people with drones in Pakistan, it then targets for death those who show up at the scene to rescue the survivors and retrieve the bodies, as well as those who gather to mourn the dead at funerals: “the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.” As The New York Times summarized those findings: “at least 50 civilians had been killed in follow-up strikes after they rushed to help those hit by a drone-fired missile” while “the bureau counted more than 20 other civilians killed in strikes on funerals.”
This repellent practice continues. Over the last three days, the U.S. has launched three separate drone strikes in Pakistan: one on each day. As The Guardian reports, the U.S. has killed between 20 and 30 people in these strikes, the last of which, early this morning, killed between 8 and 15. It was the second strike, on Sunday, that targeted mourners gathered to grieve those killed in the first strike:
At the time of the attack, suspected militants had gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another US unmanned drone attack on Saturday. The brother was one of those who died in the Sunday morning attack. The Pakistani officials said two of the dead were foreigners and the rest were Pakistani.
Note that there is no suggestion, even from the “officials” on which these media reports (as usual) rely, that the dead man was a Terrorist or even a “militant.” He was simply receiving condolences for his dead brother. But pursuant to the standards embraced by President Obama, the brother — without knowing anything about him — is inherently deemed a “combatant” and therefore a legitimate target for death solely by virtue of being a “military-age male in a strike zone.” Of course, killing family members of bombing targets is nothing new for this President: let’s recall the still-unresolved question of why Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone attack in Yemen two weeks after his father was killed.
I ask this sincerely: what kind of country targets rescuers, funeral attendees, and people gathered to mourn? If a Hollywood film featured a villainous King ordering lethal attacks on rescuers, funerals and mourners — those medically attending to or grieving his initial victims — any decent audience member would, by design, seethe with contempt for such an inhumane tyrant. But this is the standard policy and practice under President Obama and it continues through today. Recall the outrage that was sparked when WikiLeaks released its Collateral Murder video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter during the Bush era firing on unarmed rescuers, who had arrived to retrieve the initial victims who had been shot and were laying wounded on the ground. That tactic continues under President Obama, although it is now expanded to include the targeting of grieving rituals.
This explains why Obama now finds support for his conduct among the most radical right-wing factions in the U.S. Consider the debate that took place this weekend on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes regarding President Obama’s kill list. In opposition to Obama’s drone policy — and harshly critical of him — were the ACLU’s Director of National Security Project, Hina Shamsi (who said: “There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than” Obama’s kill lists), and The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill (who caused substantial controversy by denouncing Obama’s drone strikes as “murder). So it was the ACLU and The Nation as Obama’s harsh critics.
But the task of defending Obama fell to one of the most extremist right-wing militants in America: former George W. Bush speechwriter and co-founder of the far right RedState.com blog Josh Treviño, whose ideology and character are evidenced by past comments such as this and this. That is who MSNBC has to turn to in order to find a defense of Obama’s militarism. Joining the RedState.com founder in defending Obama was Col. Jack Jacobs, one of the key military officials in the Bush-era Pentagon propaganda program exposed by David Barstow.
Also defending Obama’s militarism this week was another former Bush speechwriter who wrote an entire falsehood-filled book advocating torture: The Washington Post‘s Marc Thiessen. He celebrated what he accurately called “the Obama-Bush doctrine” and wrote: “the two men’s counterterrorism policies are virtually indistinguishable — except in the liberal reaction to them” (though Thiessen, as is his wont, distorts reality when he claims that venues such as The New York Times Editorial Page and Amnesty International have failed to harshly condemn Obama: both have). Meanwhile, cited as a vocal Obama defender in The New York Times ”kill list” article this week was Gen. Michael Hayden, the implementer of Bush’s illegal eavesdropping program while NSA chief who was then named CIA Director by Bush: “Mr. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director and now an adviser to Mr. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mr. Romney, commended the president’s aggressive counterterrorism record, which he said had a ‘Nixon to China’ quality.” This is not new: while the ACLU and others have harshly denounced Obama time and again, the hardest-core factions of the American Right have spent a couple of years now heaping praise on him for his behavior in this realm.
When it comes to his militarism, secrecy obsessions, and ongoing killing, that’s the company President Obama keeps. Many progressives like to fantasize that conservatives refuse to give President Obama credit no matter what he does, but that is absolutely false. While the ACLU and human rights groups have repeatedly sued the administration and denounced Obama himself in the harshest possible terms, while U.N. investigators formally condemn him, the the neocons and warmongers who were once so despised in progressives circles have watched as he has vindicated their record, and have, in return, become his most enthusiastic defenders. There’s an obvious reason this revealing, counterintuitive split is so acute, even if it’s one many progressives would prefer to ignore.
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For those who now embrace the Cheney-Rove tactic of chanting the “Terrorist!” mantra to justify everything the President does: even The Washington Post now recognizes that many of Obama’s drone targets are not actually plotting against the U.S., because “the Obama administration has embraced a broader definition of what constitutes a terrorism threat that warrants a lethal response” (that includes two more relatives of Anwar Awlaki, related to him by marriage, whom the U.S. is now targeting in Yemen for death). The U.S. has been continuously killing people in the Muslim world for close to a full decade now. The amount of gullibility it takes to believe that the U.S. is merely killing “Terrorists” — over and over and over and over — is just staggering (and for those who do believe that there are so many Terrorists trying to attack the U.S. even after a decade of supposedly killing them over and over, you might ask yourself: why are there so many people so eager to attack the U.S.?). Along those lines, The Guardian‘s correspondent Paul Harris this weekend detailed the ways in which Obama has replicated, and in many instances exceeded, many of Bush’s once-controversial abuses.
Finally, after his condemnation this weekend on MSNBC of President Obama’s “kill list,” Jeremy Scahill noted: “I’ve been called a terrorist, a neo-Nazi, a traitor and a racist. I also want Romney to be president.” He adds: “Re-read some hate mail I got during Bush administration. Amazing how partisan lemmings sound so much alike, regardless of party.” Indeed, many of Obama’s hardest-core followers have not only embraced the core Bush/Cheney policies, but also the Rovian rhetoric used to justify them. As much as I was called an America-hating Terrorist-defender during the Bush years — and it was frequent — that’s the accusation hurled at me with far greater frequency now by the current President’s defenders. As Digby wrote this weekend: “there can be little doubt that this president, for whatever reason, has managed to persuade many liberals to support security policies they were adamantly opposed to just a few years ago.” That’s undoubtedly true, though it’s not just the policies finding ample support among Obama’s most enthusiastic followers but also the rotted mindset that accompanies them. Ask Jeremy Scahill about that.
UPDATE: Whenever this Obama policy is raised, it cannot be emphasized enough that “secondary explosions” — attacking those who rescue victims of an inital explosion — has, according to to official U.S. Government dogma, long been a hallmark of The Terrorists:
This is not the first time Americans have used this technique; it was used here:
The widow of a Birmingham, Alabama, police officer denounced confessed bomber Eric Rudolph as a “monster” Monday after a federal judge sentenced him to life in prison for the 1998 blast that killed her husband.
U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith in Birmingham sentenced Rudolph to two consecutive life terms without parole in connection with the January 1998 bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic, which performs abortions. . . .
In the later Atlanta area blasts, Rudolph targeted federal agents by placing second bombs nearby set to detonate after police arrived to investigate the first explosion.
In January 1997, a bomb exploded at the Northside Family Planning Services clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. A second bomb went off an hour later, injuring seven people.
A month later, four people were wounded in an explosion at Atlanta’s Otherside Lounge. Police found a second bomb and defused it before it went off.
And then we have this, from a 2007 Homeland Security report on Terrorism, explaining that this is a hallmark of Hamas terror attacks:
When describing Hamas, Homeland Security even christened such attacks with a name: “the double tap.” Whatever else is true, this conduct is something the FBI, DHS, the DOJ and federal courts have all formally denounced as Terrorism.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)