Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Hell No, Obama! Not Even You!

I'll accept up front criticism for not objecting to this BEFORE the election. It was a cowardly thing to do on my part, but in this case I sincerely believe that cowardice was justified, given that the alternative was President (I hate poor people, let's bomb Iran, greed is good) Mitt Romney. Apparently, I'm not alone in my cowardice, though. [h/t FE]

But now that a secret white paper (outlining the Administration's argument for its right to kill American citizens overseas who can, in disturbingly vague terms, be viewed as a "threat" to the US) has been leaked to the press, and there is no longer any doubt that Obama has claimed for the executive branch the role of judge, jury and executioner, with absolutely no oversight, no one in the US can afford to simply ignore this outrageous abuse of power. Here's why this matters:
According to the white paper, the Constitution and the Congressional authorization for the use of force after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave Mr. Obama the right to kill any American citizen that an “informed, high-level official” decides is a “senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or an associated force” and presents an “imminent threat of violent attack.”
It never tries to define what an “informed, high-level official” might be, and the authors of the memo seem to have redefined the word “imminent” in a way that diverges sharply from its customary meaning. It talks about “due process” and the need to balance a person’s life “against the United States’ interest in forestalling the threat of violence and death to other Americans.”
But it takes the position that the only “oversight” needed for such a decision resides within the executive branch, and there is no need to explain the judgment to Congress, the courts or the public — or, indeed, to even acknowledge that the killing took place.
As carelessly defined as this argument is, an "imminent" threat could be construed to justify killing a hated member of the opposition party who "intelligence sources" confirmed had booked a room in same hotel as a member of Al Qaida while on a tour of the Middle East. Sure the political blow back for such a killing would be swift and furious, but according to this white paper the President who carried it out would be within the law. Now I know Obama is a popular president and is (mostly) trusted by a majority of voters. I voted for him twice myself. But all anyone needs to see how insane, dangerous, and un-American Obama's argument here is, is to imagine a President Rick Perry or President Sarah Palin with the same power, making the same arguments.

September 11, 2001, obviously had a dramatic impact on our national psyche and reportedly (and understandably, if true) served to put unprecedented pressure on our intelligence services, who had been seen to fail tremendously in not preventing the attacks. A shift seems to have followed in how we, as a nation, went about protecting ourselves. In the interest of doing whatever it took to not let it happen again moving forward, our very character began to change. The pressure on and naturally resulting desperation among the national security segment of the government has even seeped into the popular culture, where we see angry, driven, and even imbalanced CIA agents (such as Jessica Chastain's character Maya in Zero Dark Thirty or Claire Dane's character Carrie in Homeland) cutting all kinds of ethical corners, unimaginable for a real  American "hero" before 9/11, in their determination to get the culprits and prevent them from striking again. This fear-driven obsession is cowardly and corrosive, and it's time for us to put an end to how it's enabling a power grab among the residents of the White House.

No American, not even President Barack Obama, has the right to destroy this country's soul in their pursuit to protect it. What we temporarily might (only might, mind you) gain through an abdication of our rock solid commitment to due process and governmental checks and balances (the foiling of a particular plot) must be weighed against what we unquestionably lose (our collective sense of right and wrong and, more importantly, our built-in defenses against tyranny).

I objected strongly to the executive overreach that defined much of George W. Bush's time in office. I am just as opposed to it in Barack Obama's time in office. Congress needs to curb this now.

17 Comments:

Blogger Ravenna Taylor said...

I like very much what you have written so well here. I only question the presumption that President Obama is more to be trusted than the Republicans you mention. In fact, as a Constitutional scholar, he surely knows the ramifications as you have framed them; and having acted thus, not in ignorance but in flagrant disrespect for the Constitution, I would say he is equally as dangerous as anyone else who might wield this power.

2/06/2013 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Fair enough (and a good analysis of his unique insights given his history). I won't argue that anyone should/could be more/less trusted with this power than anyone else. The power should not exist. Full stop.

2/06/2013 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Hagler said...

Thank you for writing this. As a libertarian I've often been appalled by how many people are just fine being ruled by a murderous tyrant as long as he's a murderous tyrant from the political party they're fans of.

2/06/2013 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Minstrel In The Gallery"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_lQ0H4zZEA

The minstrel in the gallery looked down upon the
smiling faces.

He met the gazes --- observed the spaces between the
old men's cackle.
He brewed a song of love and hatred --- oblique
suggestions --- and he waited.
He polarized the pumpkin-eaters --- static-humming
panel-beaters --- freshly day-glow'd factory cheaters
(salaried and collar-scrubbing).
He titillated men-of-action --- belly warming, hands
still rubbing on the parts they never mention.
He pacified the nappy-suffering, infant-bleating
one-line jokers --- T.V. documentary makers
(overfed and undertakers).
Sunday paper backgammon players --- family-scarred
and women-haters.
Then he called the band down to the stage and he
looked at all the friends he'd made.

The minstrel in the gallery looked down on the
rabbit-run.
And threw away his looking-glass - saw his face in
everyone.

2/06/2013 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voting for Hitler because you are scared of Stalin is not a very good argument. There are other candidates... it is about time people like you wake up and vote for something other than the two parties that have landed us in trouble in the first place.

2/07/2013 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Godwin's Law proven so early? Must be some sort of record.

By the way, the phrase "people like you" would fit right in with the rhetoric of both Adolf's and Josef's supporters.

2/07/2013 07:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember how everyone bashed Bush for using drones? The Obama administration has used them more often, and has pushed for domestic surveillance using drones. Yet Obama supporters don't speak out against it.

The real scary thing is that these things pushed by Obama will no doubt carry on to the next President. If history tells us anything... that next President, like it or not, will most likely be a Republican.

Honestly, I think liberals are only now starting to criticize Obama because he is in his second term. After all, if they don't say anything now.. how can they argue when a Republican uses the same methods?

The Democrats and Republicans actually have a lot in common. The only difference is that the Democrats smooth over their bad policies by throwing the 'little man' a treat or two.

2/07/2013 07:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, 'people like you'. As in people who are 100% loyal to a political party and never break from that path. You are a loyalist and extremist for the Democrat party. I would say the same thing if you were a Republican. That kind of voting is a big reason why we have so many problems in this country. There is division created from both sides by political loyalists and extremists like you. I call it as I see it.

2/07/2013 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"You are a loyalist and extremist for the Democrat party."

You are a very bad analyst.

In a very tight race, where the options were 1) vote for the guy who will steer the economy in the right direction, continue to advance progressive causes, and continue our highly unethical way of conducting a "war" on terror versus 2) vote for the guy would very likely make the financial situation much worse for the middle and working classes, reverse some of the advances made in social issues, and continue or ramp up the unethical aspects of our "war" on terror, I chose to support the first one. I don't see that as extremist in the least. I see it as pragmatist.

2/07/2013 08:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad analyst? Have you ever supported a candidate on your blog other than a Democrat? You've beaten the Democrat drum for years... anyone can search your blog to see that. In the past you offered almost weekly criticism of Bush and other Republicans. You came off as a fanatic. I think this is the first time you've spoke out against a Democrat. You didn't say anything when Biden attacked the film and video game industry.

2/07/2013 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Being a Democrat hardly makes one a loyalist or extremist. Just as being a Republican hardly makes one a loyalist or extremist. It simply makes one a Democrat or Republican. Your litmus test for not being a "fanatic" is illogical.

As for my railings against Bush, he struck me as dangerous, arguably criminal, and probably not even in control. You would find comparable, weekly criticism across the blogosphere, even on the Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan's site.

I see no rational comparison at all with Bush and Obama, despite how I strongly object to some of his war on terror decisions.

If that makes me partisan (and it probably does), that still is a far cry from "extremist" or "fanatic."

You remain a bad analyst in my opinion.

2/07/2013 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have questions about the drone program but have no problem with them taking out Al-Alawki in Yemen.

Other than that, it's problematic but at least Obama isn't trying to justify torture.

2/07/2013 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

He's trying to justify murder, which is worse.

You don't toss out over 200 years of commitment to due process to get one man. Anecdotal exceptions don't justify discarding the rule of law. It's not so much that Obama made an executive decision and was willing to face the consequences, but that he's cowardly twisting the law to try and cover his ass for it.

2/08/2013 07:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al-Alawki was hardly hiding behind his US passport....he was encouraging all Muslims to kill US citizens. At that point, how is he any different from, say, Osama bin Laden?

I am not saying the Administration is justified in any other case. But this particular case....I can't get bent out of shape about it.

2/10/2013 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Bird Monk Party said...

OK presumption or not. Homeland Security is the biggest job boom in the U.S. since 9ll. Whether you oppose the idea of an American plotting against the United States Government via Al Queida (sp) in Irag or Afghanistan as an enemy or not, plenty of credence given to GW Bush and his father when it comes to starting wars in outlying regions of the world. Me thinks you dost protest too much when it comes to a Black Man, you choose the label, having the power to enact what a lot of other folks in the Congress gave lip service to! Scared of a black man with this power. Some will say too much power. Those of you have quipped about POTUS inability to do this or that are now alarmed.

2/12/2013 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Wow, Bird Monk Party...did you, like, read every other word in the post to come to your conclusions or something?

Why not try reading it again, just to see how many of your charges sound downright asinine in response to the actual text. Start with the bit about my having voted for Obama, twice, and work your way back from there.

2/12/2013 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger CharlesRKiss said...

Oh, come on! Obama is being played by the Joint Chiefs for a sucker; clearly it's in their interests to call on dogs. It's their doing.

I could even add an exciting little racist conspiracy card here by saying he's being played for the "Yesman-Blackman-Freshman," short on the character needed to say, "No!" to the real white power (speaking of cowards).

Sadly, this is very unlike JFK during the Cuban Middle Crisis who refused to get bullied by their paranoia, eg. "Dr. Strangelove."

Besides, Obama will be out in three years, then what?

2/15/2013 03:32:00 AM  

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