American Attorney General Says It's Cool for America to Kill Americans:
So, not to veer from our happy dance over the impending doom of rotund junkie Rush Limbaugh (not quite so epically Breitbartian, but it'll do), but the Rude Pundit must say a thing or two about Attorney General Eric Holder's sanctimonious, bullshit speech justifying warrantless surveillance, military tribunals, and the murder of American citizens abroad at Northwestern University law school yesterday. If this had been Alberto Gonzales or Michael Mukasey, the cacophony of outrage on the left would have been loud and sustained. Some Democrats would have campaigned on their anger about the executive branch being judge, jury, and executioner. Instead, we'll get a few blog posts and maybe a New York Times editorial, if they're in the mood.
After offering support for military commissions and trials, Holder veered into what ought to be the most controversial aspect of the Obama administration's continuation and expansion of Bush administration policies, the constitutionality of targeted killings, whether on the technical battlefield of Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, especially whether or not that can include Americans. Said the AG, "Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad...the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens – even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans. Of these, the most relevant is the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which says that the government may not deprive a citizen of his or her life without due process of law." And then he followed with the chilling statement that "due process" can mean, in essence, that the President has determined an American should be killed, with no judicial review, not even FISA, and that what we've always understood "due process" to mean as Americans is, in fact, worthless. Jesus, that's an expansive, breathtaking, frightening thought because, one day, President Trig Palin might have that power, too.
Holder kept coming back to the question of violent acts. In determining who is worthy of a drone missile in their face, Holder said that one of the principles must be that "the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States." And what does that mean? "The evaluation of whether an individual presents an 'imminent threat' incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States...the Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning – when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear. Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed."
Yet when the U.S. blew the shit out of Anwar al-Awlaki, he had not been charged with killing or plotting to kill anyone. And post-shit-blown, there wasn't even a half-hearted effort to paint him as actively involved in violence. He was a propagandist who occasionally hung out with people who did bad shit. Simply put, al-Awlaki's case fails Holder's first test. That renders everything else Holder said the simpering, mollifying lies of the powerful.
The biggest lie, among a pile of Yoo-worthy lies, is that everything is justified because this is a war we're in, goddamnit, and do you want to die? Do you? Hell, Holder even gave an example from the last "good" war: "[D]uring World War II, the United States tracked the plane flying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – the commander of Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway – and shot it down specifically because he was on board." Yeah, and?
The effort to stop terrorism is not a war. Hell, our actual war, the one in Afghanistan, is barely one. We can keep calling the fight against a few hundred, disorganized, widespread asshole zealots with guns a war. But it ain't one. "War," in this case, is just a legalistic term of art that frees the hand of the Executive to do whatever the fuck he wants, which, if the Rude Pundit recalls, we kind of hated under Bush and Cheney. If Holder or Obama said we were just pursuing criminals, which is what we're doing, they'd have to follow niceties, like civil rights and protections. But we can't have that, now, can we, or we'd just seem weak?
Oh, good, sweet people of the left, this is less about bashing Obama and more about holding to a principle. What Holder's saying is pretty much the exact opposite of what the country was founded on, since the King being able to get all killy without trial was one of the problems mentioned in, you know, the Declaration of Independence. So it's curious that there's so much silence about this on our side, as curious as it is that non-Ron Paul Republicans who can't stand the idea of the government making you have health insurance have no problem with the government just outright blowing you up where you stand.
Don't worry, though. As Holder said, "In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out – and we will not. This is an indicator of our times – not a departure from our laws and our values." See? We're murdering Americans in accordance with our values. Of course, Holder also said, just a moment earlier, that "it is important to note that the legal requirements I have described may not apply in every situation." So, you know, there's always an out.