Thursday, April 08, 2010

It's just a question

Having been out of touch for a few days, it was only last night that I became aware of the newspaper reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post that President Obama had ordered the “targeted assassination” of Anwar al-Awlaki. I note that the references were not to “capturing” or “kidnapping” him so he could be brought here for trial, but to assassination. The question that arises is:

Mr. President, just who the hell do you think you are?

We (supposedly) have no king, no czar, no leader with absolute authority. So who do you think you are that you can order the murder - and let’s be honest here, that’s what we’re talking about, the cold-blooded murder - of an American citizen? An American citizen who has been convicted of no crime, who has had no day in court, but is to be stabbed or shot down in the street or have his body ripped to shreds by a bomb based solely on the kind of intelligence that has served us so well in the Middle East, from the fall of the Shah to the supposed existence of WMDs.

Mr. President, just who the hell do you think you are?

You are claiming for yourself a power, an authority, that even the Bush administration - that shredder of the Constitution, that underminer of privacy, that stripper of civil liberties, that embracer of torture, that invader of foreign lands without justification - an authority even the Bush administration did not claim for itself: the power to order, on your own authority, subject to no oversight and no need for proof beyond your personal belief, the “extrajudicial killing,” the “targeted assassination,” the murder, of American citizens.

It is bad enough that we even talk about “targeted assassinations,” bad enough that we openly embrace methods for which we previously denounced ideological enemies - and hypocritical enough that we will still denounce them for it. But with this, a bright red line is to be crossed, a bright red line that once crossed can’t be uncrossed: the officially-sanctioned, cold-blooded murder of an American citizen, someone supposedly protected by Constitutional guarantees of due process at least from their own government even if they are outside the US, guarantees that apparently evaporate in the face of the all-powerful mantra “terrorism.”

Mr. President, just who the hell do you think you are?

And once that line is crossed, where can you draw a new one? Indeed, how can you draw a new one? Bluntly, Mr. President, if some future administration approved a domestic “targeted assassination,” how could you object? Because “domestic” is different from “foreign?” That sort of absolute distinction was supposed to exist regarding US citizens. If the one can be ignored, why not the other?

Once that bright red line represented by the murder of Awlaki is crossed, what is to prevent the slippery slope, what is the impenetrable roadblock on the path, to the targeted murder of some future administration’s domestic political opponents based on a claim that they were a danger to “security?” And if that seems far-fetched, just remember that it was not that long ago that an administration embracing torture and ordering the murder of a US citizen would have seemed equally unthinkable.

Mr. President, I say again: Just who the flaming hell do you think you are?

Footnote: An edited version of the above was sent to the White House as an email; the editing was to keep it below the 2500-character limit. Which was an annoying experience because when I finally got it down to a length the WH system would accept, it turned out to be a trace over 2000 characters. The method they use to judge length, whatever it is, is seriously screwed up.


Jenny said...

You gotta print this speech on a giant piece of paper and gather a crowd to hold it up in front of the White House.

JayV said...

So, we've got this zinger -
"We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." - Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Then we have the report earlier this week of the coverup of the murder by U.S. forces of civilians (including pregnant women) in Afghanistan.

Then we have the whole WikiLeaks videos (too troubling for me to watch over and over) where children and journalists are murdered.

Now this from Obama is pure Orwellian and tyrannical.

What's a citizen in this country to do if he/she is threatened with assassination for speaking his/her mind?

And Yahoo's front page "trends" Tiger Woods and other sports-related funny biz, as if that really mattered to us!

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