A reader writes:
Wait a minute, your "concern has always been with the power to detain without due process" but you're fine with the power to *kill* American citizens without due process?
I'm sure torture started the same way: who can work up much sympathy for monsters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? So we compromise our values because he's a really bad guy and we know it. But then it spreads, and we torture a few more folks - bad guys, but not quite as bad. Then it spreads and we torture guys we are pretty sure are bad, or who we think have information that can help save lives. Then it spreads a bit further and ... oops. We tortured someone totally innocent. Then it spreads further and becomes routine and ... oops. We have Abu Ghraib. Rare exceptions tend to become routine with terrifying frequency.
The military doesn't need some special order to kill someone in a war zone. If he's shooting, I'm sure our side will shoot back and everyone will be fine with it, me included. Nor do they need a special order to kill someone if they try and arrest him and he starts shooting (any more than cops need a special order to shoot a criminal trying to kill them). But I'm not fine with the idea that the President can declare an American citizen guilty and pass sentence of death without a trial, that authorizes him to be killed without first attempting capture, outside of a battlefield.
What this order allows is CIA agents in the field, or military personnel, who happen to encounter him or *thinks* they've spotted him, to kill him. No effort at capture is required. And if it's too dangerous to try and capture, or he's in an inconvenient country where we can't get at him (like Yemen, which is where he apparently likes to hide), why, let's just call in a Predator strike since this order puts him on the valid target list for that as well. Gee, I hope we don't torture the wrong guy....I mean, shoot the wrong person. Or drop a Predator missile on the wrong house. Or put some innocent citizen on the hit list because we think he's bad but we don't have to actually prove it. It's not like mistakes ever get made, do they? How could this ever backfire on us? I'm sure it will be fine, and really it's all for our own "security".
Not to mention the precedent it sets. I think there's a trooper Wooten up in Alaska who might be pretty concerned about an executive's unchecked power to do something like this; if you don't want a President Palin being able to put American citizens on the CIA's hit list without judicial review or having been convicted of anything, then you can't support this either. Like all government programs, it's a whole lot easier to start down those roads (perhaps with the best of intentions on your merry way to hell) than it is to stop later on.
I've enjoyed reading your thoughtful analysis of events over the years, but your willingness to speak out of both sides of your mouth on Obama is becoming so self-contradicting lately, I'm really having a hard time fathoming it. Within two days, you've now asserted that "It's time for the sane center and the left to rally behind this president" and than, one day later, with yesterday's post "American Tyranny The Tea Party Cares Nothing About", you present Radly Balko and Adam Serwer's devastating case against the naked tyranny of this Trojan Horse we elected - a case that should set any rational person's hair on fire.
And this has happened time and again, with you re-posting Greenwald screeds correctly castigating Obama as an unprecedented threat against civil liberties and an accessory to war crimes and then, a few post down from it, urging your readers to stand behind the man.
If only a mere fraction of the constitution-shredding and Geneva Convention-defying horrors that Greenwald has been documenting daily about this administration were true, this would be the most indefensible presidency imaginable. And yet with all these ghastly policies and assaults on basic constitutional protections clearly documented, you continue to defend him. It's both irrational and an insult to the intelligence of your audience.
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