Commentary | Most Americans are probably unaware that in 1976, President Ford signed an Executive Order outlawing political assassinations. Executive Order 11905 has been affirmed by every President since, and both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan actually strengthened Ford’s edict. Despite the clear prohibition against political murder, the Obama Administration not only ignored these long standing rules, but added American citizens to the kill list. Instead of reacting with outrage, most citizens are cheering the President’s decision. The Liberals, who claim to uphold human rights are silent, as are the Conservatives, who strongly supported the use of drones on foreign citizens.
Our 44th President, Barack Obama, believes he has the power to order the death of American citizens anywhere in the world, without due process, without conclusive evidence, without giving the target the right of an attorney, without a trial, and without a guilty verdict. We can now be blown to atoms by simply adding our names to a top secret list and pushing a button on a joystick in a command center.
The support for this murderous policy among the public is enormous. Eight out of every ten Americans support the use of drones and two out every three approve of using them to kill their fellow citizens. They base their support on the claim that drones kill our sworn enemies while saving our soldier’s lives. The response is based on pure emotion; after all don’t we want to kill the bad guys and save the lives of the good guys?
However, very few of the supporters of drone attacks are willing to consider the consequences of their use. How many innocent victims have been killed by drones when they go just a few yards off target or we failed to detect the target’s wife and children in the house with him? How many non-political civilians have been radicalized after their home was demolished in a drone attack?
How exactly would the lives of our nation’s soldiers be protected if we use a drone to kill an American in one of the 50 states or the legally recognized US territories? The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the use of the military on American soil, except when there is an organized and widespread insurrection against the Federal government. Local law enforcement, not the military, is delegated to enforce the law in the United States.
At best, the current use of drones in the so-called War On Terror is a badly thought out policy of convenience. It is war on the cheap and the consequences be damned. One can only imagine the uproar in the press, and among the Democrats in Congress, if George Bush were the one behind the current drone policy. If Bush, not Obama, had issued the White Paper justifying the use of drones to kill Americans, every headline would be screaming for his impeachment. Every talking head, including British fop Piers Morgan, would bellowing “Bush is a killer” at the top of their lungs.
As of this date, drones have been used in foreign nations, but the White Paper issued by the Justice Department places no restrictions on where drones may be used in the future. Simply stated, Mr. Obama has declared that he has the power to kill Americans without due process anywhere on the planet, and he also has the power, under the frightening NDAA, to imprison our citizens indefinitely, without legal representation, and without even bothering to notify their families. If the Administration decides the individual is a threat to national security, they can be blown to bits or disappeared forever with the stroke of a Presidential pen.
Put aside your emotions and any inclination you may have to patriotically support anything the President tells you is for the good of the nation. Instead, let this sink in for a moment. The current President of the United States has made an absolutly unilateral decision, without the support of Congressional legislation, that he has the power to detain American citizens essentially forever or even kill them by simply putting their name on a secret kill list. Now, let me ask you one simple question. Do you honestly feel that that Obama is acting in a manner that follows the Constitution? Do you honestly believe the President of the United States should be able to order the death of American citizen’s without trial, legal representation, evidence or a guilty verdict?
Former Congressman and Morning Joe host, Joe Scarborough, was one of the few voices who spoke out against Obama for his drone policy, when he made the following comment on MSNBC:
“There are no checks and there are no balances. We can kill you. We can pick you out of a list and drop a bomb on you, and not only can we kill you, we can then kill your 16-year-old son who is not even affiliated with al Qaeda, and then we can blame it on the father for us having to kill the son.”
The Obama Administration disputes its critics by the use of the nebulous and questionable legal language we witnessed in the stunning Justice Department Memo written to justify the murder of US citizens under the so-called Laws of War.
“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future. An informed, high-level official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been recently involved in activities posing a threat of a violent attack and there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”
Not only does the DOJ White Paper justify murdering Americans, the document makes no effort to define “recent” or “activities” or who might be a “high level official.” The 16 page memo simply grants the Obama Administration power to kill any citizen they decide are leaders of al-Qaeda or members of their “associated force.” The terms are vague enough to include almost anyone and there is absolutely no concern that citizens of the United States have certain special protections under the Constitutions. Instead, it gives President Obama the power of life and death over each and every citizen of our nation.
Obama’s Justice Department ruling on the use of drones relies on the concept that the War on Terror meets the definition of a legally declared war. How this magically allows the President to kill United States citizens on American soil is quite a reach, even if we were to accept the concept that the Patriot Act is somehow a legal declaration of war.
Certainly Mr. Obama would be hard pressed to cite any precedent set by prior Administrations that permitted the execution of citizens without trial, even when our nation was fighting a declared war. There are many examples of our soldiers and citizens who were brought to trial for treason against the United States during time of war. None of them were summarily executed on the order of the President without due process.
Perhaps the loyal opposition in the Republican Party will show some spine and speak out against the Obama Administration’s use of drones to kill Americans on Thursday, when John Brennan begins his confirmation hearing to become Director of the CIA. Brennan is the chief architect of the Obama Administration’s drone policy and the hearings are the perfect opportunity to bring this controversial policy out in the open. However, the vast majority of Republicans support the use of drones and it remains to be seen if using drones to kill our own citizens is enough to make them reconsider their support.
The founders of our nation warned against America becoming embroiled in foreign wars. They desired to create a nation of limited government, that gave all powers not specifically granted to the central, federal authority to the citizens and the individual States. The use of drones to kill foreign citizens is a matter of ethics and morality, but the use of drones to kill American citizens is a serious Constitutional issue. To allow the President of the United States to make a unilateral declaration that he has the right to order the murder of American citizens by placing their name on a secret kill list is a dangerous step on the road to tyranny.