an article in the New York Times about the process in the White House for routine approval of the “targeted killing” of people we deem inimical to us. What this article revealed, in several dimensions, about where this nation has gone, has put me into a rather significant depression.
You can read the article linked above, and Glenn Greenwald discusses several aspects of this issue at greater length than I can. But what other nation in the world spends such vast resources on a global basis killing individuals, some of whom it does not even know by name, who it thinks might wish to do it harm, whether or not they are actually capable of doing so? And why should any nation be allowed to do that?
Just as we decided in the Bush days that “torture” would continue to be illegal but that “enhanced interrogation” would be permitted, we are now deciding that “assassination” will continue to be illegal, but that “targeted killing” will be permitted. Bush had the Office of Legal Counsel draw up a memo justifying the use of torture, and when this administration wanted to “target” an American citizen this was the process,
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.
A significant portion of the media and public objected to the Bush assumption of the power to detain people based on secret OLC memos, but there is absolutely zero objection over Obama’s assumption of the power to execute anyone, including American citizens, based on secret OLC memos. Is no one other than Glenn Greenwald and me appalled by the idea that “due process” can now be “satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch” in this nation of laws?
Just as with justification of torture by claiming that it “provided valuable intelligence,” something which has never actually been proven, supporters of killing by drone claim that it is justified because it is keeping us safe, which is another highly questionable claim and does not rebut either the legal or moral argument against the process in any case. Glenn Greenwald makes that point better than I can do.
I knew, of course, that this drone killing was going on, but the NYT article drove home the level to which the President himself is involved in it. Weekly meetings to decide who will be killed. A President who “approves lethal action without hand-wringing,” and for whom the decision to order the death of an American citizen was “an easy one.”
The most stunning thing for me was that the administration would allow this to become public at this time. Similar information about Bush did not become public until after he was out of office and his successor had made clear that prosecution would not be forthcoming, but Obama’s staff is releasing this during a reelection campaign. It seems clear that not only do they not believe that it will be damaging, they clearly believe it will enhance his chances at reelection.
The leaking itself is controversial. As Glenn Greenwald points out, Obama is prosecuting people who release classified documents at a rate greater than all of his predecessors combined, yet this article is based on the statements of no fewer than thirteen members of Obama’s staff, none of whom are named other than as officials, “who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.” That’s a definitive statement that they know they are leaking information in violation of the law, but they are releasing information that they believe enhances Obama’s appearance rather than damaging it, so they feel quite okay with it.
Obama clearly seems to believe that release of his program of killing, a program which includes the assumption of imperial presidential power beyond even that which George Bush engaged in, will enhance his chances of election, and it seems to be working, since there has been no backlash that I have seen. Public sentiment seems, overall, to be completely in favor.
Democratic supporters are still saying that we must not let Republicans win because they will do horrible things, and that we have to keep the “good guys” in office. These are the good guys? What can Republicans do that is worse than this? These “good guys” have turned this nation into the world’s biggest killing machine.
And there is no end in sight; this killing will never end. We have killed “Al Qaida’s number two man” a couple of dozen times now, and another one is already in place. Do we think that we will ever run out of people that might want to harm us to aim our drone missiles at? This is America now, and I find that depressing beyond words.