Obama’s Hit List


I read this very interesting article that asserts President Obama is going down the same onerous road as his predecessor in dispensing justice to perceived enemies of the state…..at the expense of breaking the law and further endangering the national security as well as the national psyche.  What is the matter with America that she has become afraid of people, not nations mind you, but individual people, that it makes her break her own laws as well as the laws she has agreed with the international community upon for decades?!?

The Obama administration now claims a right to kill American citizens without trial, without notice, and without any chance for the marked men or women to object legally. The Bush administration’s “targeted killing” program has been radically expanded to include Americans far from any war zone. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified earlier this year that the targeting-to-kill decision depends only on “whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us.”

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The Obama administration has decided to pursue a Bush administration policy of extra-judicial punishment for individuals anywhere in the world, even American citizens, and claim no one has the right to oversight.  It is an extraordinary position to take on the heels of an administration whose party was soundly defeated in the presidential elections in part one may argue for just such a disregard for law and the rights of US citizens.  There has been no hue and cry on the part of the people for their president to undertake this action, so why does he feel the need to do so?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

It’s clear to this viewer that the Obama approach to the war on terror, is  just as pernicious as Bush.  In fact it is a continuation of the former President’s policy at at time when the “threat” level is not as imminent as it was after 911 all the inaccurate and misleading press propaganda to the contrary.  What we are witnessing is the way in which government works; it’s march towards diminution of citizen rights is gradual, slow, deceptive and relentless.  New faces have little to do with changing the progress of government’s march toward this goal.  Obama isn’t ‘change we can believe in’, he’s more of the same.

 

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The main difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is that the Obama team publicly claims a right to do what Bush’s lawyers authorized behind closed doors. Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2006 that Bush could order killings of suspected terrorists within the United States. When Newsweek contacted the Justice Department to verify this novel legal doctrine, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that Bradbury’s comments occurred during an “off-the-record briefing.” Newsweek’s report generated no media stir. Apparently, unless the government disclosed that it had actually begun assassinations within the United States, it was a non-story.

An article by Charlie Savage in the New York Times in mid-September noted that “There is widespread agreement among the administration’s legal team that it is lawful for President Obama to authorize the killing of someone like Mr. Awlaki.”

It is comforting to know that top political appointees concur that some “law” gives them the right to assassinate Americans. But this is the same “legal” standard the Bush team used to justify torture. Since Bush’s lawyers told him that waterboarding wasn’t torture—despite a hundred years of U.S. court decisions to the contrary—the president was blameless, or so he recently claimed to NBC’s Matt Lauer.

There are other ominous parallels with the worst abuses of the Bush administration. When Bush decreed in November 2001 that he had the authority perpetually to detain anyone as an enemy combatant, based solely on his own assertion, administration defenders rushed to assure the media that the new policy did not apply to Americans or inside the United States. Seven months later, after José Padilla was arrested in Chicago and labeled an enemy combatant, the administration acted as if only fools would believe the president would not use his boundless power any way he could.

Similarly, Obama’s power grab has not spurred much opposition, perhaps in part because it is assumed to apply only to killing Americans abroad. (Hopefully farther away than Niagara Falls, Canada.) But the basis of the policy is that the entire world is a battlefield, thus the president has unlimited “commander in chief” powers everywhere.

Once the principle is accepted that the U.S. government can label Americans as enemies of the state and kill them without judicial nicety, the bureaucratic wish list of targets will continually expand. A similar metamorphosis occurred when the FBI decided to use illegal powers to target people who garnered official displeasure. Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.”

Blank checks for killing enemies of the state is the recipe for domestic tranquility that most dictatorships have used throughout history. And apparently this is a standard that many Americans might embrace. Some movement conservatives—such as columnist Jonah Goldberg—are already whooping for the U.S. government to assassinate people such as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Should the government be entitled to kill anyone who exposes its lies? Or should the standard be broader, permitting governments to kill anyone who is inconvenient?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

In fact, debacles over false charges against Gitmo detainees may have spurred the expansion of the targeted-killing program. Dead men file no appeals. Assassinations could be less embarrassing than trials because most of the American media will roll over and permit the government to blacken its victims however it pleases. As long as officials, speaking anonymously, assure reporters that the deceased were bad people, the story is closed.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed far more graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. But while the feds are demanding extraordinary measures to inform people about private risks, nothing is being done to warn people of the health risks of an unleashed Leviathan.

What sort of warning labels would be appropriate for Obama’s killing program? A picture of a sniper’s crosshairs on a mother holding a baby in her cabin door, à la Vicki Weaver? A picture of young demonstrators lying dead on the ground after a National Guard volley, à la Kent State? A picture of children lolling in the streets moments before they are obliterated, courtesy of the helicopter gun-sight video from the Wiki-Leaked “Collateral Murder” recording made by the U.S. military in Iraq?

If Obama gets away with this power-grab, the rhetoric for the 2012 race for the White House should be retuned. Instead of listening to candidates compete based on the number of new benefits they promise to lavish upon voters, prudent citizens will focus on which presidential candidate seems least likely to kill them or members or their family. We might hear campaign slogans like “Vote for Smith: he won’t have you killed unless all of his top advisers agree you deserve to die.” Unfortunately, as with other campaign promises, there will be no way for voters to compel politicians to honor their pledges.

Obama’s doctrine enabling the targeted killing of American citizens is at least as much an assassination of the Constitution as anything George W. Bush perpetrated. Yet most of the media has ignored the issue or treated it like an arcane legal dispute of interest only to people in desert hideaways 6,000 miles away. The more power the government has seized, the more craven the media has become.

Thanks to sovereign immunity and cowardly judges, it is unlikely that any Obama administration official will be held liable, regardless of whom the U.S. government slays. Americans have had plenty of warnings that the federal government is destroying the leashes the Founding Fathers created. Once it is accepted that the executive branch is entitled to kill Americans without a trial, only damn fools should expect Leviathan to limit its ravages here and abroad.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy.

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15 Responses to “Assassin Nation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanConservative, Roy F. Moore. Roy F. Moore said: RT @amconmag: James Bovard | Assassin Nation | http://bit.ly/gz0Wqu […]

  2. hahahahaha….this is your tide American Conservative, Obama’s just riding it. Where were you when Bush & Co. created this mess? Cheerleading. This is not Obama’s policy, it’s Bush’s and years ago when this was first raised as an issue you folks were calling such critics traitors.

    If Obama tried to loosen the efforts against Terrorism(TM) you would be calling him traitor. This article is rich with hypocrisy.

  3. The American Conservative was an early critic of the Bush administration and the war. Don’t confuse these folks with the National Review.

  4. […] today from the January issue of American Conservative […]

  5. river c. should read The Bush Betrayal written by the author of this article.

  6. good to see once again the Kenyan King walking in the very same foot steps of his predecessors, bashing Bush then doing likewise and more

  7. […] of Attention Deficit Democracy, discusses the Obama administration’s claim that they have the right to kill American citizens without a trial, without notice, and without any chance for targets to legally object; the […]

  8. @River C… Why don’t you ask TAC why they came out against invading Iraq while the NYTs was publishing neo-con propaganda day after day? Maybe you should ask why the refused to endorse Bush in 2004 while the NYTs was sitting on the story of Bush spying on US citizens as to not hur his chances of re-election?

    Oh, I know why you don’t ask because you’re an idiot (as your comment demonstrated). In fact, you Obama supporters are exactly the same as Bush supporters. It’s uncanny how similar the Obama apologists are to the Bush apologists. Go worship the state so more.

  9. “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    What part of that don’t people understand?

    If someone is actually in the act of perpetrating violence against American citizens, then the police or military have an exemption, but that’s all.

    You would think that a guy who has taught constitutional law might have known about this. . .

  10. Hasn’t anyone here seen a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster?

    American governments have been paying for the killing of Americans without a trial well before Obama was born (wherever that was)

    Just ask John Dillinger.

  11. Whatever the TAC has been doing all these years, Bovard has been a tireless critic of empire and chronicler of its consequences, through several administrations, and all the more energetically in recent times with Presidents GW Bush and Obama.

    The “where were you when Bush was doing it” whine is getting very tiresome. It identifies clueless partisans, making it all the easier to dismiss their boiler-plate bleating. We should instead ask the kool-aid drinking duckspeakers, “where were you when courageous people like Bovard were speaking out and being called ‘unpatriotic’ and even ‘treasonous’?” The river c’s of the world come very late to the party, then criticize the host for the crowding.

  12. Stefan, don’t be fooled. No person allowed to run for office gives a damn about the Constitution anymore. We don’t have a Constitutional Republic anymore; we have a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. No candidate who believes that they should be governed by the Constitution will be allowed to run. They will be weeded out long before we even hear of them. Both parties are in on this. We will not see a patriot run for high office in this country again.

  13. OK, Stefan Stackhouse knows her constitution, ‘..“No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    If they can authorize the killing of each of us then they can authorize the killing of our family members as other dictators have done.

    Need to read this new book just out about Americans who actually take a stand against tyranny (based in part on real people & events). It’s a thriller so I recommend it.

    http://www.booksbyoliver.com

    This is tyranny & way beyond what the TSA is doing at airports. No one would have ever thought this could happen in America. Great article, James

  14. Frank,

    Although your other points are well taken, you are guilty of the same type of thoughtless jumping to conclusions as river c. who is obviously ignorant of what TAC is. What part of his comment led you to conclude that he is an “Obama supporter”? He may or may not be. Why is it necessary to hurl insults? River c.’s ignorance will be obvious to the vast majority who read this. Correction and guidance without insult as per Anonymous and Tom Blanton is much more helpful.

  15. This is only possible thanks to George W Bush who rescinded habeus corpus. My pointing this out is in no way an endorsement of Obama. I am merely pointing out the historical facts. Without the Bush Junta’s idiotic reign, the excesses of the Obama plague would not have been possible, or even really imaginable.

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Blowback-The Intended Consequence of American Foreign Policy-The Awlaki Interview


It was one of the themes of Ron Paul’s candidacy for president in 2008; American foreign policy would exact a price for Americans that they should neither have to pay or  or are not responsible for paying.  Blowback, a term coined by the CIA after their coup was responsible for re-installing the Shah of Iran to power in the early 1950s means the possible “unintended consequences” of American government’s  covert action against other countries, most notably those in the Middle East and elsewhere.  Paul used the term to refer to any policy of the US government, covert or otherwise that adversely affected the people to whom it was directed, but might have possibly been considered advantageous to American interests in the short term.  What Paul and his supporters, I counted myself among them, wanted to say was that American interventionist policy held no strategic long term advantage for anyone and the best course of action was for the US to not become obstructionist in its relations with foreign countries, especially those in the Middle East.

In the present much ado has been made about a certain Imam that might have inspired Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter of late, to commit his acts of murder and mayhem, saying the Imam, Anwar Al-Awlak used his firebrand rhetoric which he espoused while an Imam in an Arlington, Va masjid shortly after 911 and which left an indelible mark on Hasan until today.  However, that narrative is incomplete and at the same time convenient for the proponents of blowback, because it allows policy and public to aim their ire at the people who respond to acts of aggression against them in much the same way as they are assaulted.  Thanks to the American Muslim blog, I ran across a National Geographic interview with Al-Awlak while he was Imam of Dar al-Hijrah  masjid and the things he said at that time are a far cry from the firebrand rhetoric he is accused of using to incite people to acts of terrorism against America. In answer to the question of the climate in America created by the 911 catastrophe, al Awlak had this to say.

we stated our position clearly, and I even feel that it’s unfortunate that we have to state this position because no religion would condone this, so it should be common knowledge. But we were in a position where we had to say that Islam does not approve of this. There is no way that the people who did this could be Muslim, and if they claim to be Muslim, then they have perverted their religion.We encourage people to participate in blood drives, we encourage them to donate, and then we encourage the community to reach out. Part of the blame is on us that we haven’t been very active in reaching out to our fellow citizens, so that when these things happen we don’t have to go through this unfortunate backlash. We had a neighbor come in, and she said, “I’m coming to show my solidarity with you, to let you know that we are with you in this and that we are sorry for the difficult times you’re going through.” And then she said, “I wish you had came and visited me earlier, to give me an understanding of your religion. Although we were neighbors, we didn’t really hear from you.” This really is a message for us Muslims, that we need to reach out.

He defined “jihad” this way

The linguistic meaning of the word is “struggle.” The jihad of the individual would be to struggle against the evils of oneself. Therefore, it’s a continuous process of improvement. It is striving to become closer to God. That’s jihad for the individual.Jihad for the community is to protect the religion from any inside or outside enemy. So the jihad of the community would mean that if there is any internal corruption, we would struggle to get rid of it. And if there is an invading force from outside, then we would, too, struggle to defend ourselves, and that is where armed combat occurs. So actually, fighting is only a part of the jihad, and it’s considered to be a defensive force in order to protect the religion. If somebody defends their life, their property or their family, this is considered to be a jihad.

 

Could it be this was the ideology that attracted a searching Nidal Hasan to Awlaki at a time when he was looking for direction and purpose?  As we mentioned in an earlier post the place of worship in Virginia where Awlaki was imam was well known to federal authorities and worhshippers there remember Awlaki strongly condemning acts of terrorism on American soil, as the tone of the above interview seems to suggest.  In a heavy dose of foreshadowing, Awlaki while referring to bin Laden had this to say,

My worry is that because of this conflict,(i.e. in the Middle East-pre Iraq war)  the views of Osama bin Laden will become appealing to some of the population of the Muslim world. Never in the past were there any demonstrations raising the picture of Osama Bin Laden—it has just happened now. So Osama bin Laden, who was considered to be an extremist, radical in his views, could end up becoming mainstream. That’s a very frightening thing, so the U.S. needs to be very careful and not have itself perceived as an enemy of Islam.

True to form, America did just the opposite, entering into what George Bush and others in his administration and the  media called the “clash of civilizations”, an inevitable war of the worlds, and blowback ensued, which is just what the fanatics on both sides of the divide, in Washington and in cities across the Middle East wanted.  Throughout the Iraqi war the constant refrain was the occupation of Iraq by American troops  made America less safe today than it was before and the radicalization of people like Awlaki is proof of that.  Even in the words of the milquetoast Washington Post, Awlaki didn’t become radicalized until he returned to Yemen in 2004, the land of his parents, and witnessed  firsthand the destruction of a nominal agrarian society by an aggressive American foreign policy toward  Yemen and other countries in the Middle East. The fact that Yemeni authorities arrested him once and tried to identify him with a group he had previously eschewed and whose tactics he had condemned played no small part in his about face to  today.  Blowback; and the ability of policy wonks to point to him and by extension Hasan as a reason for repressive measures against Arab/Muslim citizens of the United States, as well as increased vigilance, read, military spending and government intrusion into the lives of all citizens is a convenience of blowback that the initiators and proponents cannot  overlook.  Quite simply, many in government want dissension and strife in areas of the world and if need be at home as well, to justify their continued occupation of such areas amidst huge military and government appropriations.  Anything that can be done to justify this trend is acceptable in their rational, and blowback becomes just another tool, at the risk of ordinary citizens, for the interference of government in people’s lives, either as oppressors or liberators or saviors.