March 07, 2013
Why Obama Won't Admit that He Can't Assassinate Americans in America
UPDATE - Holder: "No Domestic Drone Strikes"
The Constitution is clear that due process must be extended to all US citizens on US soil at all times. Further, the due process clauses of both the 5th and 14th Armaments are expressly linked to killing.
"nor shall any person ... be deprived of life ... without due process of law"
"nor shall any State deprive any person of life .... without due process of law"
Why then did Rand Paul spend 15 hours yesterday on a moral rampage over the Obama Administration's refusal to answer his question over whether or not an American citizen can be killed via drone attack on US soil?
The answer is obviously no. Why then all the fuss?
It's simple: President Obama needs the controversy in order to make those opposed to him seem like they are crazy.
In effect, by not answering Rand Paul's rather simple question he is creating another birther controversy. He's attempting to make the opposition out to be extremists, and a little off kilter.
In order to understand this, recall that the Birther controversy lasted as long as it did because the White House refused to release Obama's birth certificate until his first term in office was nearly over.
We have to acknowledge that a great deal of the Birther controversy was in fact fueled by paranoid conspiracy theorists. Obama was seen by this group as somehow part of a larger Red plot to infiltrate America and take it over from the inside.
Even if that was the core constituency of Birtherism, a group that to this day won't acknowledge that Obama was born in Hawaii even after his birth certificate was released, that a much greater number were drawn into skepticism by the fact that Obama wouldn't do the one very simple thing needed to prove that he was a natural born citizen.
By not releasing his birth certificate the ranks of Birthers grew.
It would be so easy to prove that he was born in Hawaii, so why doesn't he just do it? He must be hiding something....
President Obama's strategy for winning the 2012 election was that of divide and conquer. And one of the ways you do that is to convince a portion of the American people that the opposition is filled with crazy nutjobs. This is especially effective with low information voters, some of which see voting as kind of a statement of belonging to a group.
Do you want to be part of the reality based community, or are you a crazy birther?
I see what is happening right now with Rand Paul and the Obama Administration as part of the same strategy.
Any one who has read the Holder memos on drone strikes immediately notices two things:
1) The memo overtly states that the policy applies only to the overseas killing of Americans. And it's not subtle about this.
2) The memo clearly states that the persons being killed belong to al Qaeda, a group which we are at war with. In a war, you don't go to a judge before you drop a bomb.
So, if the Obama administration never asserted the right to assassinate an American citizen on American soil, then what is all the hullabaloo over?
There is a paranoid fringe on both the Right and Left that sees a grand conspiracy in nearly everything. The "black helicopter" paranoia of the '80s and '90s have been replaced by the drone paranoia of the present decade.
Surrounding this fringe, but not part of it, are those that simply don't trust government. I count myself as part of that latter group. I don't believe in grand conspiracies, yet I do not want to give the government the tools it would need should future leaders try and oppress the American people. It could happen, even if the probability of it happening is low we should guard our liberties like precious jewels.
Since the majority of the American people have not actually read the Holder memo on drone strikes, they simply do not know that the Administration never asserted a right to assassinate Americans on US soil.
Rand Paul knows this.
What he's asking the Administration to do is prove that they don't believe something which they never claimed they believe.
I can't believe that even he believes the slippery slope argument that he's making. I'm also not sure the political game he's playing or what he thinks he'll get out of this. He's certainly getting a lot of attention and a lot of support from the Right.
Part of this support is simple partisanship. We simply like any one who is willing to stand up to Barrack Obama. Rand Paul certainly has some backbone, doesn't he?
Mostly I think this support comes from people who haven't actually read the Holder memo. We've read the headlines that a memo was released which claimed that Obama can kill American citizens. And we've heard that the Administration hasn't denied that it has this right. So .......
It's the birth certificate controversy all over again. It could be over today. All we are waiting for is for the President to deny that he has a power which he never asserted.
Instead, we get nothing.
Worse than nothing. We get Eric Holder going out on a limb and imagining a hypothetical situation where a drone strike would actually be appropriate: another 9/11.
Is that shocking? No, it's not.
Holder is simply saying what the Bush Administration said before it: that it would shoot down a hijacked plane if we thought it was going to be used as a piloted suicide missile in the same way the 9/11 attacks occurred.
There is nothing extraordinary in this. Of course the President has the right to authorize the downing of a hijacked plane! Did we learn nothing from 9/11?
Unless, of course, you believe that there is some difference between a manned airplane and an unmanned airplane -- a so-called "drone".
The difference being ...... ??? What, precisely?
I have actually followed Ryan's objections. But if you listen to them carefully all of them are hypothetical and based on faulty slippery slope argument.
If the President can kill US citizens there, what is to stop him from killing US citizens here?
We don't need a "rule" for this because the "rule" is the fundamental law of the US: the Constitution.
I saw someone today tweeted that we need a "rule of engagement" for killing people in the US. No we don't. Rules of engagement are made for war. Inside the US we are not at war.
We don't engage the enemy here, we arrest them.
And we don't need to elaborate further since both the 5th and 14th Amendment specifically address the concern.
Which is why Holder's answer is so puzzling. If the administration wanted to clear the air why didn't they just tell Sen. Ryan, "No, we can't do that"?
Isn't the answer simple? They don't want to clear the air. They want to keep this political maelstrom going. They want to distract the American people from, well, everything!
$16.5 trillion in debt.
The worst recovery in US history -- ever!
Millions of people unemployed or underemployed.
And no end in site of the economic misery. Obama's failures are simply the new normal.
But, look kids, the Republicans are so nutty!
Rand Paul may be scoring some personal political points by trying to drag this thing out for as long as possible. It may help him with several elements in the base.
But if Paul is counting on this controversy to bolster his cred, so too must the President be counting on the same thing.
Remember the short-lived Donald Trump mania last year? It's the same thing all over again. How'd that work out for us?
Betting against Obama on this is about as big a mistake as betting against a Sicilian when death is on the line. It's a mistake second only to starting a land war in China.
So, unless Ryan has been gradually building up his resistance to iocane powder over the years I'm guessing that this will work out for him about as well as it worked out for Trump.
This is how I see this thing playing out. Over the next few weeks or months, as the next budgetary "cliff" approaches, Obama will use this sideshow to distract the American people from the true state of the Union. His allies in the media will frame the issue as "Republican extremism", "antics", or crazy black drones in the skies conspiracy theories. [UPDATE: It's happening already]
A lot of low information voters will think the Republicans are weird. They don't want to be weird.
Then at some point he will go ahead and tell Rand Paul exactly what Rand Paul wants to hear: the President does not have the authority to kill US citizens in the US.
At which point he will confirm what we all knew already, but the damage will be done. You don't "un-weird" yourself overnight. Once you get that stink, it lingers.
UPDATE: Fixed a stupid mistake. Thanks to MTB.
I'll address a couple of objections in the comments.
First, from Odie Wan Kenobe:
"I just don't see the difference between sniping a confederate from a balloon or tree as much different that a drone strike. Or say an ATF raid in WACO."
The ATF isn't the military. They're law enforcement. We can debate the merits of Waco some other time, but worst case scenario that was a case of law enforcement officers jumping the gun with a guy who was resisting arrest and a lot of innocent people dying.
The key element here being resisting arrest.
No one was on a kill list. The ATF had a subpoena for arrest. So there's no comparison here. Nor with the Civil War which was a state of insurrection, which is also addressed specifically in the US Consitution Art. 1, sec. 8, authorizing Congress, "To provide for calling forth the Militia to ... suppress Insurrections"
Tim notes that I am contradicting myself in saying the President has the right to down a hijacked plane but that we don't need a rule of engagement.
I don't think so. Here's why.
The rules of engagement are made by command so that soldiers down the line have a decision rule as to when it is ok to engage the enemy and when it is not.
In the 9/11 hypothetical I don't think the call would be the soldier's to make. The President himself (or herself) would have to make the call to shoot down a plane over US territory should it be on the way to ram itself in, say, The Sears Tower.
So, since the decision to strike isn't the soldier's to make (whether a drone pilot or an F-22 pilot) they don't need a decision rule to help them decide.
If you call that a rule of engagement, then we're just arguing semantics. If you want to call it a "rule" or whatever, I'll cede the point. As long as we both agree that the decision to use military force in the US is a) the President's alone if and when the threat is immanent and there is no time to call Congress before the decision can be made.
UPDATE: I was wrong. Holder didn't let this fester. I was expecting this weeks from now at the earliest:
Dear Senator Paul:So, there you go.
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" The answer to that question is no.