The Never Ending War

Copyright © by Len Holman, 2/12/13


  We are at war.  We seek the enemy wherever he or she is and we kill that enemy before something bad happens to us.  We use all sorts of weapons and personnel to do this and we are very good at it.  So good, in fact, that we know beforehand what will happen; we know beforehand who is going to conspire to terrorize us and we know beforehand, when and where he or she will do these things, so we kill them before they do anything, even if the “enemy” is one of us.  It’s “Minority Report,” the Drone Edition, currently available in the Oval Office. 

  The President has just released a formerly secret memo authorizing the killing of a U.S. citizen in Yemen—authorizing the killing of any U.S. citizen who may fall under a very wide umbrella of conditions.  This “white paper” asserts the authority of the administration to assassinate suspected terrorists, including any U.S. citizen, even when they are not planning an imminent attack.  To this, and the previous, administration, anything that even SEEMS hinky is considered “imminent” and worthy of an obliteration foray. The fact that the white paper exists at all is a good sign, albeit a weak and pale one, that SOMEONE in the higher reaches of the government—OUR government—still believes it’s necessary to justify what it does in our name, no matter how morally, ethically, and constitutionally suspect it may be.

  Remember, we are still in the fear-stage of the 9/11 attacks, and when we go through a stage like that, bad things happen to our civil liberties. For example, the suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War, or the internment of Japanese-American citizens during the Second World War.  The white paper is a mildly amusing read, or would be if not for the implications, for it is not very well-written, and the reader struggles to hold interest in the thing, skipping to the good parts, like a teen-ager and his porn CD.  And this could definitely be considered porn—“war porn” or “war on terror porn.”  The paper starts with the basic assertion that, since we are fighting a war, and since the combatants are a threat to the U.S., they forfeit their rights to constitutional protection; they forfeit their rights to ANY protection.  With appropriate court citations, the memo says things like this : “…the risk of erroneous deprivation of a citizen’s liberty in the absence of sufficient process…is very real.”  It goes on to say, unctuously, “…of course the risk of an erroneous deprivation of a citizen’s life is even more significant.  BUT “the realities of combat” will, of course, render the use of force “necessary and appropriate” and it specifically mentions in this context U.S. citizens “who have joined enemy forces in the armed conflict against the United States and whose activities pose an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States—and ‘due process analysis need not blink at those realities.’” 

  Who are these enemies we need to keep from invading Iowa and poisoning the corn in all those silos?  “Senior operational leaders” of Al-Qa’ida (the memo’s spelling) “or an associated force.”  This is a pretty wide net the government is casting.  There is no definition of what an associated force is.  Is it a group of disgruntled tribesmen who don’t get daily bread to eat?  Is it someone who buys falafel in a bakery and thus supports an insurgent organization?  And those senior operational leaders?  How are they identified and by whom?  The paper states that due process “is due only when the determination is made to continue to hold those who have been seized.”  It’s difficult to seize anyone from a drone, thus obviating the need to make such a difficult decision.  There is no need to worry about the finer points of the definition of “imminent,” since that particular condition “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” The paper goes on to give the example of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the memo saying that the usual definition of imminence would have required “the United States to refrain from action until preparation for an attack are concluded [and] would not allow the United States sufficient time to defend itself.” 

  Of course we DID have warning of an imminent threat, but didn’t know it, since intelligence of the coming problem was spread across so many agencies, who didn’t talk to each other.  And since we need a lot of time to “defend ourselves, it’s better to be proactive and go get ‘em way before—and if—they come to get us.  Since this justification memo goes on to say, that since there is a continuous threat of violence to the U.S., there must be a continuous attack on those enemies, foreign and not-so-foreign, and that means that we will never be out of the business of the war on terror, never free from the fears we have of being unloved and unassailable, and never out of targets for our attempts to eradicate our nightmares.  We are in the era of wholesale data-mining, domestic phone surveillance, and drones watching us from above.  It’s a never-ending war:  the U.S. against everyone, including its own citizens.


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