Yesterday, NBC reported that:
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.The United States claims to be a model democracy, a beacon of light for the world to follow. The rule of law is a fundamental concept in a democratic society. All citizens are supposed to be entitled to due process and equal protection under the law. The accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”
But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.
Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about a newly obtained, confidential Department of Justice white paper that hints at the details of a secret White House memo that explains the legal justifications for targeted drone strikes that kill Americans without trial in the name of national security.
“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,” the memo states.
In the post 9/11 world, America has declared war not only against terrorism. She has declared war against her own cherished values. Under the Bush Administration, the United States lost it standing in the world for several reasons. The U.S. launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq based upon the false claim that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. waged war in Afghanistan. Since the beginning of the Afghan war, U.S. has imprisoned many so-called enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay and held them indefinitely without charges or trials. Additionally, America used torture against allegedly terrorists. Finally, the Bush Administration deployed drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to assassinate alleged terrorists. Frequently, those drone attacks killed innocent women and children. In sum, all of those problems tarnished America's image before the world.
Our first African American President, Barack Obama, was elected based on the promises of hope and change. Unfortunately, Obama has continued and even expanded some of the Bush Administration's reprehensible policies, namely the use of drones. He has used drones far more frequently than Bush. Obama is using drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. As Commander-in-Chief, he is responsible for the deaths of many innocent civilians.
Sadly, most people do not care. The American people are shielded from the grotesque realities of war. Too often, we are presented with an abstract, sanitized, video game type image of war. We do not see the obliterated corpses of innocent women, children and men. If we did, maybe our attitude about the President's use of drones would change. As reported on CNN,
U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.Instead of ending terrorism, such actions will only breed more future terrorists.
The study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- about 2%.
In contrast to more conservative U.S. statements, the Stanford/NYU report -- titled "Living Under Drones" -- offers starker figures published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization based at City University in London.
"TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 - 1,362 individuals," according to the Stanford/NYU study.
Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of "double-striking" a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.
To make matters worst, the Department of Justice's memo basically gives Obama a license to kill Americans without any evidence, trial or proof of an imminent attack. According to news reports, that license is not necessarily limited to use against Americans abroad. It is possible that the federal government may be able to use such power against Americans here at home. Such power is contrary to America's values. In the words of Kanye West, "no one man should have all that power."
To some people, Obama is like Jesus. They have complete unconditional faith in his judgment. Not me. All men are fallible. We all make mistakes. No one person should be judge, jury and executioner. What about Obama's successors? If we do not act now, it will create a dangerous precedent for future presidents. Imagine if someone like Mitt Romney or some other right wing Republican had that power. How many more innocent people must die before we end this madness? Where is the peace movement?
When George W. Bush was President, large numbers of progressives marched and protested against war. Many progressives oppose senseless wars and the death penalty. Yet, with cult like devotion, many of those so-called "progressives" blindly defend the President's right to kill Americans. That is deeply disturbing and disappointing. Now, only a few people are protesting against the Obama Administration's wars. Hopefully, the release of that Department of Justice memo will wake up the peace movement.
Instead of simply marching and blogging, we should join U.S. Representative Barbara Lee's call. We must urge Congress to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force law. It is time to end this perpetual war. No President, even if he is a Democrat, should be given a blank check to launch undeclared wars around the world.
This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.