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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Drone memo disturbing several levels


Back in December 2005, John Yoo was asked if any law or treaty could prevent the President of the United States from torturing someone, “including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child.” Yoo, then head of President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, responded, “I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.” To put it another way, the American people just have to take the President’s word for it.

That’s what makes the revelations in the Obama DOJ’s white paper on lethal strikes targeting American members of Al Qaeda so disappointing—and so disturbing. President Obama or an unspecified “informed, high-level government official” will decide if an American citizen anywhere in the world represents an “imminent” threat to the United States, even if no evidence of a planned attack exists. With no oversight from Congress or review from the equivalent of a FISA court, the President and his team will act as judge, jury and executioner. Trust, but don’t verify.


White House press secretary Jay Carney says the additions of American citizens to President Obama’s secret kill list “are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.” But for today, you’ll have to trust President Obama on that. And in the future, you may need to have that same faith in President Rick Perry or President Mike Huckabee or President Marco Rubio or President Chris Christie.

So let’s sum up here:

  1. The drone program allows the president to kill Americans at will, without ever having to prove the killing was even close to necessary or that the target was, in fact, guilty of anything. The difference between this power and the Red Queen commanding, “Off with her head!”: practically none.
  2. The drone program is a soft power nightmare, killing off useful allies or creating enemies nearly every time a sortie is launched.
  3. People willing to kill for political gain, without being overly concerned about guilt or innocence (i.e.., governors of capital punishment killing sprees like Texas), will be given new opportunities to slaughter their way to rightwing popularity if they become president. Where pardoning death row prisoners is demagogued as being soft on crime, not launching a drone strike every week would be seen as being soft on terrorism.

Yeah, this is just a bad idea all around.

[image source]

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