Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Remote Control Execution

Of the scores of people dubbed terrorists and taken out by American military drone strikes, three men -- all killed in the fall of 2011 -- were U.S. citizens. 
And their lives illustrate the complexity of the issue, recently brought to light amid a newly discovered government memo that provides the legal reasoning behind drone strikes on Americans. 
Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed by a missile strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011, while al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, was killed in the country just weeks later.  
Since the attacks, family members have called the deaths unjust and sued the U.S. government, calling the killings unconstitutional. 
I'm not as concerned with the deaths of these particular Americans (they seemed to have chosen their fate) as I am with the precedent being set. It's becoming a tedious old saw, but if a Republican POTUS had ordered the remote-control deaths of three American citizens, one a 16 year-old boy, the wails of outrage would be deafening.

Hell, they're still whining about wiretapping under the Patriot Act, or water boarding  confessed terrorists, but there's not a hue and cry over the summary execution of citizens?

By "our" collective silence, we have affirmed this constitutionally dubious practice and thus given this particular President enormous power to become judge, jury and executioner. Again, these guys may well have deserved their end, but the use of the words "may well have deserved" is deeply troubling.

This may well be legal and justified but far too much in this administration is done with far too little debate, from health care to sweeping gun control, because "the time is now". Let's not make the snuffing of Americans' lives one of the things we have "to pass to see what's in it", regardless of how execrable those lives are. We're either a nation of laws, or we're not and citizenship either means something, or it doesn't. 

Pardon me if AG Holder's assurances don't quell my concerns; he's hardly a disinterested party.

We've needed one of those vaunted "national conversations" about the increases in executive power and now that we have a President who feels justified in executing American  citizens by remote control, under his own authority, the time may be right.

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