Recently, Clark posted a short thought about how our political outrage tends to wax and wane with the power our preferred party is holding at the time we access our emotions.
On that thought, as the resident liberal around here and a generally pro-Obama guy as these things go, I am outraged and disgusted by the legal analysis in the Justice Department white paper that is believed to be close to, if not the actual analysis, the Obama administration uses to justify extrajudicial killing of American citizens believed to be enemy combatants.
Take a look at that memo. Let your eyes adjust to the NBC News watermark, which might take a while, much of which will be spent trying to wrap your mind around NBC News breaking a story. Then read the memo. It is as broad a claim of executive power as you are likely to see. It is garbage. It claims virtually unlimited power while shedding crocodile tears for the cherished principles it dismantles in making the claim.
One ambiguous phrase is stacked on top of another until the inescapable conclusion is that extrajudicial killing is justified whenever the United States wants to use it. The threat matrix is basically an Excel spreadsheet where every cell says "Well, what do you WANT to do?"
The memo carefully cites prior case law as a prelude to stretching any leeway given to the Executive Branch well beyond reason. It is permissible to respond to imminent danger? Excellent. Imminent threat now means… threat. Seriously. The opinion literally reads the word 'imminent' out of the limitation on the grounds that imminence is complicated. "Senior operational officer" and "associated forces" – theoretically limitations – are not defined at all, so "what do you WANT to do" is the de facto standard. The "feasibility of capture" limitation is no limitation at all, since it justifies any scenario short of "you can not kill an Al Qaeda official who accidentally walks, unarmed, into a military prison." The less said about the wave of the hand the opinion gives to the need to limit collateral damage, the better, since the number and lethality of drone strikes in the last year should have embarrassed anyone out of citing that principle here.
Some pages follow about the Constitutional rights unique to Americans caught in the sights of the War on Terror but, honestly, who gives a shit? After you get through reading the broad authority given to assassinate, the idea that the 4th Amendment might somehow give pause is a joke. The power claimed to drop bombs in civilian areas to kill enemy combatants of ambiguous operational importance is the real moral horrorshow here. The Constitutional rights stuff is picayune academic jerking off.
There is probably a well-reasoned analysis of the appropriate circumstances for using drone strikes to kill enemy combatants. The analysis would genuinely grapple with what it means for a threat to be 'imminent'; for capture to be 'unfeasible'; for collateral damage to be 'humane.' This memo is not it, though it desperately pretends to be.
This document is David Addington's unitary executive wet dream, so we'll see how consistent the right stays. I'm predicting a surge in demand for fainting couches. Consistency is not for the faint of heart.
UPDATE: Might as well give credit where credit for something appalling is due: Republicans are lining up to agree with the broad executive power to kill on a hunch in the white paper. Consistent. Disgusting, but consistent.
Last 5 posts by Charles
- Not All Layers of An Onion Are Equally Worth Peeling Back - February 26th, 2013
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