Friday, April 09, 2010

Rule of Law

Consider what David Swanson wrote:


President Obama has ordered the murder of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Like the innocent but tortured Abu Zubayda (innocent at least of any of the crimes he was accused of), Awlaki is now the mastermind terrorist of the universe. And once he's dead, who's to say he wasn't? Who can demand a trail or access to documents? He'll be dead. See the beauty of it?

When the government makes an exception to the rule of law, then there is no law, because now anything is possible. And certainly foregoing any of the legal “niceties” for a particular case is making an exception I would say.

One might be tempted to believe that as the U.S. moves closer and closer to that ideal police state, so beloved of the corporate world, that the rule of law becomes stronger but what really is happening is your rights as a human being are evaporating. After all, if the president declares your death sentence without an accusation, no reading of your rights, no lawyer, no trial, what rights do you have remaining? The answer is none of course.

Using their wartime powers presidents have usurped civil law all through recent history. In other words, as they claim more power under the umbrella of war our rights diminish. When President Nixon stepped down from the office in order to avoid impeachment a lot of people at the time thought that Nixon had seriously damaged the office of the president, in fact weakening it, if only that had been true. Or, if it had been true the effects were ephemeral for certainly the power of the president has grown since those days under Nixon culminating today in the form of Obama who rather than dispensing with the expanded powers of the president he inherited from Bush is now expanding them further which is being ignored for the most part.

For example there is the drone war being conducted by the CIA under orders from President Obama. The CIA is the personal and private army of whoever is president. In this case the use of drones by the CIA in places like Pakistan was initiated by President George W. Bush and is now being expanded by Obama. Thus the powers of the president grow with each successor and the rule of law becomes expendable and diminishes.


The U.S. government runs two drone programs. The military’s version, which is publicly acknowledged, operates in the recognized war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and targets enemies of U.S. troops stationed there. As such, it is an extension of conventional warfare. The C.I.A.’s program is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including in countries where U.S. troops are not based. It was initiated by the Bush Administration and, according to Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush White House, Obama has left in place virtually all the key personnel. The program is classified as covert, and the intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.

Murder is nothing new in the history of the U.S. who has assassinated foreign leaders with impunity not to mention the victims of Obama’s drone war in Pakistan where targets are chosen from highly questionable sources accompanied by highly questionable results, mostly the deaths of innocent villagers or farmers. What is, among other things, disturbing from the above quote is the secrecy that accompanies this, for lack of a better term, murder incorporated. And now this same den of killers are being aimed at Americans, which is not to say that it is any more horrific than targeting the people of Pakistan, but that Americans no longer have any rights what-so-ever as long as Obama, or any president, reserves the right to murder anyone on his say-so alone. We have reached the point where the rule of law no longer exists.


At April 10, 2010 5:33 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

But Rob, WHERE are the expressions of outrage from the public? The media? Our representatives? People seem to think this is just another "opinion" topic--which is better, cornflakes or oatmeal? Is it okay or not okay to condemn an American citizen (or any citizen) with no stated evidence, no indictment, no trial? There's no right or wrong answer, it seems, it all revolves around a talking point. No big deal.
At least Olbermann seems finally to be waking up...

At April 10, 2010 5:51 AM, Blogger A Sane Person said...

The constitution protects US citizens against being deprived of life, without due process of law, so this is clearly unconstitutional - or has it been argued that identifying a possible terrorist threat is a "due process of law"? Shouldn't, as Mimi says, the public and the media and representatives be up in arms over a blatant violation of the constitution? Yet there's more talk about the Health Care Bill being unconstitutional than the president-approved murder of US citizens.

At April 10, 2010 10:50 AM, Blogger rob payne said...

I tend to think that you are correct, that for many people they just really don’t care all that much.

Sane Person,
The thing is we really don’t know if the accused is a terrorist or not, or how he was identified as a terrorist, in fact we know nothing other than Obama ordered his death because he is considered to be a terrorist. Maybe John Yoo could write some kind of perverted and twisted rationalization that there is some kind of due process of law but there isn’t any, all we have is a tyrant. And a bloody one at that.

At April 12, 2010 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many American servicemen you are willing to lose over a man who plots to kill your fellow citizens.


This is no different than a man who is boarded up inside a compound, accused of murder and refuses to come out alive. If law enforcement shoots and kills him because he'd rather die than make it out alive, you're not depriving him of his rights, he's making a choice not to stand trial.

This man made his choice on which side to stand on, and now has to live with the consequences.

If he wants to stand trial, he has every right to turn himself in to exonerate himself. No one's going to stop him.

At April 13, 2010 12:30 AM, Blogger rob payne said...


You are missing the point entirely. The point isn’t about service men any more than it is about Anwar. The point is you are losing your rights over a lot of malarkey regarding terrorism.

At April 14, 2010 7:40 AM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

Mimi, the purpose of having a Democratic president is precisely to tone down the outrage. That is a function of the two-party system. The Republican Party functions on reaction. That part of the electorate is based on fear and hate. They embrace the status quo and presume (the vast majority of the incorrectly) that they are near the top and liberalization of anything jeopardizes their position. On the highway they function under the same mechanism that causes someone to pass you so that they can stop at the red light in front of you.

The Democratic Party, at least at the top, promises more egalitarian solutions. In fact, those promises aren't often kept and never kept in full.

Bill Clinton, who might as well have been a Republican with his trade deals, his "reform" of welfare, and his expansion of the drug wars, managed to keep support of the Left not by his actual policies but by getting caught in a lie about sex. Liberals admit that humans can have moral failures and rallied around Clinton because of the hypocrisy of the Republicans. Republicans have no trouble with hypocrisy.

It's an interesting dynamic.

My only disagreement is the presumption by some here that the buck stops at the President's desk and that the President is the one making decisions to murder Americans. I suggest that more people here watch professional wrestling to understand the dynamics of American politics.


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