Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Do You Think About the Leaked White Paper Justifying President Obama's Killing of American Citizens?

When i was 12 I dreamed of being Golgo 13 all up in that spycraft
Now the kids today play at being reapers and drones
All like Ender's Game killing from afar
Like they are on their Playstation 3s and 4s
Or tweaking with their Ipads
How did i get so old?
How did the killing become so damn impersonal?
The leak of the Obama administration's white paper "justifying" the killing of American citizens by the United States government has generated, quite justifiably, a great deal of concern by journalists, as well as some in the general public.

We have reason to be concerned as citizens. The Executive Office is not a Leviathan with the power to uniformally decide matters of life and death regarding American citizens--at least in theory. In practice, the President, and the various apparatuses of  the United States government, have been killing people without the approval of the courts for a very, very long time.

I am not particularly concerned about the use of drones to kill people, per se. If one is brought down by a slingshot, rock, bullet, knife, bomb, or missile, they are dead either way. There is no sliding scale: death is an absolute value.

My primary concern is precedence. We are creating standards for foreign policy and world governance that the United States will also be subject to when other countries equal and surpass us in global power and reach.

Moreover, the extrajudicial killing of American citizens, and the casual wantonness of the "targeted assassination" program in the Middle East and elsewhere--one which is rather indiscriminate--will inevitably lead to blowback. The American people, as they have been left ignorant by the power elite, will be surprised and default to silly questions such as "why do they hate us so?" The media and the President will tell them, as Bush did, that retaliation was caused by a hatred of "American values."

The sheeple will eat it up as they always do. Empty political calories do fill the belly of the body politic.

Wars should hurt. They should cost a nation some blood and gold. The use of robotic killing devices offers an asymmetric advantage in the short-term. The UAV arms race will limit the power of these weapons among peers in the mid to late term. At present, the robotic killing machines that the United States is deploying abroad threaten to retard the country's foreign policy by making its leaders less risk averse and further insulating the public from the personal consequences of war.

I have long-argued that foreign adventures should come at a cost to all of us. Liberals and conservatives alike are guilty of surrendering to the gross temptations of bloodless war--at least for the United States. In this way, the myth of American exceptionalism is an intoxicant to which both sides of the political aisle are addicted.

I suspect that most people who are offering up an opinion online, with their friends at the bar, in classrooms, or over the dinner table have not actually read the white paper which attempts to justify the extra-judicial murder of American citizens. This is expected: most folks take their cues from the mass media and rely upon the 4th estate to distill complex information down into digestible bits of information; others are put-off by intentionally opaque and vague legal language (if anything, are lawyers not in fact magicians practicing some type of arcane art?); and I suspect a great many people are just numb and tired, Power has worked well, creating a distracted and passive public.

I am not a constitutional scholar or attorney. I have read the white paper, as well as those analyses by folks imminently more qualified to render judgement on the case law and constitutionality of Obama's killing program. Like them, I too was struck by the Orwellian new speak of the Obama administration's legalese. Others have made similar observations as well.

Slate ties the threads together nicely:
The paper itself doesn't discuss any specific target and steers clear of the specifics needed to evaluate what, exactly, is the threshold of evidence required to make a final decision on when it is legal to kill an American. The portions of the document that are currently raising the most questions and concerns are the vague sounding classification of "an associated force," and the rather elastic definition of an "imminent" threat. 
The former would appear to give the government broad leeway to target anyone they deem even remotely connected to al-Qaida, while the latter gives the government the go-ahead to target a suspect even when the officials, in the words of the memo, have no "clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future." The document, likewise, sheds little light on who makes the final decision, saying only that such determinations can be made by an "informed, high-level official of the U.S. government."
The most troubling part of the document for me, as it reads write out of Animal Farm, Watership Down, 1984, or the movie Brazil, is the following passage:
Finally, the Department notes, that under the circumstances described in this paper, there exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional questions. It is well-established that "matters intimately related to foreign policy and national security are rarely proper subjects for judicial intervention..."   
Please take the time to read the actual white paper so matter-of-factly titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa'ida or An Associated Force". 

What do you all make of this stuff? Are you surprised? Comfortably numb? Indifferent?


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Shady Grady said...

It's criminal. It's an open and blatant violation of the Fifth Amendment among other things. But ultimately no one will care until King Obama or some future Leader starts doing this in the US. It is pathetic that people who once upon a time protested the murder of Fred Hampton under quite similar justifications, line up to rabidly defend Obama for doing essentially the same thing.

The entire US is living in post-Constitutional times. As far as I am concerned this is an impeachable offense. But we all know that won't happen. Obama and Bush before him have taken the measure of the American people and decided, correctly, that we don't really care about freedom or rights.

But hey If Obama is smart enough to figure out which "terrorists" really are "terrorists" and should live or die we could save a lot of time and money by doing away with the court system and just have our dear leader determine guilt or innocence. Because if Comrade Obama says it, it must be very right.

Synonymous said...

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Tim Mitchell said...

This development strikes me as the result of two factors: the ongoing popularity of drones within the military-industrial complex and the "imperial presidency" ideology that permeated the Bush II presidency during its "war on terror" and has apparently carried into the Obama presidency. This is very tragic, and it sets the stage for future war crimes both abroad and at home. What's even more discouraging is that American foreign policy has become so belligerent sine 9-11 that this white paper would've happened anyway, regardless of who won the recent presidential election.

Tone said...

Does Obama deserve any credit for releasing this info and letting the public/congress know the extent of the program? At least now it can be legitimately discussed and evaluated openly.

chauncey devega said...

Interesting question. Leaked by who and for what purpose? This doesn't seem to be a Pentagon Papers situation but we shall see.

chauncey devega said...

Absolutely, these are institutional changes that we will have to live with for the future. I am traditional in that the institution bounds the man/woman/black/white/brown/straight/gay president we have now and in the future.

The Imperial presidency is color and gender blind.

chauncey devega said...

Shhhhh don't let the secret out.

chauncey devega said...

King or Comrade? Got to clarify terms. Don't fall into the right-wing silly talk trap :)

The Sanity Inspector said...

Molly Norris has not yet come out of hiding. Remember her? Molly Norris, a freeborn American cartoonist, practicing
her lawful trade in the heart of her native land, had to go into hiding
because of a death threat from al-Awlaki. I had a hard time believing
that pre-Californicated Seattle would have stood for this. Would none of
you hippies stand up for her, I wondered? Protect her, roar defiance at
The Jihad, dare them to come through you to get to her? Or were they
too busy laughing at misspelled Tea Party signs?

The fact that a harmless cartoonist at a run-of-the-mill altie rag had
to hide for her life because of a fatwa from the late, technically American imam should
demonstrate both the international and the Islamic nature of the The
Jihad against our liberty and our lives. If the call of the Jihad lures some of our "fellow" "Americans" off abroad to plot murder against the rest of us, oh yes!--Drone strike them all day every day.

chauncey devega said...

"Liberty" come now, be serious. And they must hate us because of our values too? Did Sadaam Hussein also pose an imminent threat to the U.S. and its citizens?

I am a hawk--believe it or not. But, an old school balance of power realism school hawk. This mess will blowback in our face; it will also make us less free at home and abroad.

Are 5,000 innocent Afghans, Yemenis, etc. who are killed to "protect" one American worth it? Are our lives worth more than theirs? Be careful with that calculus as it will be turned about you/us sooner than you think.

Spending millions of dollars to kill dirt farmers is a waste of resources. Our infrastructure is rotting at home, our schools stink, and we are losing the human capital war. I would be grabbing those resources in Africa and getting ready to rock and roll with China...which is going to happen if not this decade but next. Do not buy the inter-dependency hype. The great powers were making the same types of observations before World War One too.

synonymous said...

I, for one, welcome our black fascist overlord.

Synonymous said...

Orange u glad u voted for him?

Synonymous said...

BTW. What would Obama look like with long hair and lipstick?

The Sanity Inspector said...

"Blowback?" Al-Qaeda attacked us for nearly ten years before 9/11, before they finally got our attention. And the PLO and other terrorists were murdering Americans for time out of mind before that. It's our belated retaliation that's the "blowback" on them, IMO.

So many progressives act like they are sitting in some celestial grandstand, watching events unfold far below. Here's the self-test Christopher Hitchens proposed: Have you ever been threatened by an Islamist terrorist? If you've ever read any of AQ numerous communique's, you'll know that yes you have.

chauncey devega said...

You need to work harder and get out of the right-wing echo Team USA echo chamber.

What was the U.S. doing with Pakistan and the ISI in the 1970s, Afghantistan in the 1980s? Iran from the 50s on?

Coups all over the world? The U.S. supports more anti-democratic regimes than "free ones." I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but the sheeple and many GI Joe right-wing authoritarians want to drinks some America the good guy defender of liberty Kool-Aid. Those folks/fools need to grow the hell up...Santa Claus and Uncle Sam the meat salesman ain't real.

What has our relationship with Israel gained us strategically in the long run?

If you want to keep having innocent people blown up and killed in your name by drones and in person by JSOC have at it. Don't be boo hoooing when the chickens come home to roost.

I am not a progressive--as though that is a bad thing. I am a pragmatist who is also a bit of a hawk...if you actually read what I wrote above.

The Christian Dominionist neo-cons who are just the flipside of the Al-qaeda politicized Islam types have made us less safe, squandered blood and treasure and actually did what OBL wanted--began an unnecessary war that squandered trillions.