The Next Step

Copyright © by Len Holman, 3/11/13


  Did anyone but the most diehard liberal really believe that it wouldn’t or couldn’t happen here, that the government wouldn’t take the authority upon itself, that—sooner or later—the hubris and wrong-headed thinking of the movers and shakers in the U.S. government wouldn’t influence those with the joysticks in their hands to get around to flying drones with lethal payloads in the skies over America in search of terrorists? 

  In a letter to Sen. Rand Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder (yes, he’s still around) wrote that “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”  This is an incredible statement, not the least because it was actually made public.  It also implies many wonderful things for our security and so many horrible things for those who would threaten that security. 

  For such drone use, Holder says the circumstance would have to be “extraordinary” whatever that means in real life.  If you or I use that term, we might mean “not ordinary, not usual.”  If this administration uses it, it could mean…well, just about anything it WANTS it to mean if that serves the purpose of ferreting out those terrorists sneaking furtively from pillar to post, planning to execute nefarious deeds in Arizona or Minnesota or.., well, pick spot.  The force used would be “lethal,” not surveillance or air shows, and Holder asserts, as those administration hirelings under Bush did and now do under Obama, that such lethal force would have three strands:  it would be necessary; it would be appropriate; it would be both legal and constitutional, all of which might prove as fearsome burdens to civil rights thinkers like Nelson Mandela or Mohandas Gandhi, but not to our last two Presidents, whose omniscience and acute and perfected judgment are renowned. 

  Now, Senator Paul is not one of the people I would want to go on a field trip with, but I heartily endorse the gadfly part of his mission.  No President (or his enigmatic attorney general) should be allowed, without comment, without accountability, and without fear of being cross-examined by the nation’s press (which seems to have gone on vacation.  I.F. Stone would be ashamed), to casually mention that America’s skies are now drone-friendly and we all live under a potential threat, a threat which is not merely potential to Pakistani villagers, for example.  And what happens if such drone use becomes an actuality?  There will be no court involved and no due process and no outcry UNTIL…until a mistake is made.  Until someone or a bunch of someones is killed.  Until buildings are destroyed.  Until traumatized children are discovered cowering in the rubble of an apartment house.  Then we, the people, will finally see the carnage and ugliness of war close up—and we won’t like it. 

  Attorney General Holder has clarified his comments with yet ANOTHER clarification by responding to Paul’s questions which asked whether the President has the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill Americans.  Holder’s response was a beautiful piece of ambiguity, as befitting a man who appears to be better suited for lawyering in a small town in an inaccessible part of the U.S. than for being the nation’s top legal guy.  He wrote: “It has come to my attention (come to his attention?  He just happened to stumble over news of Paul’s filibuster?  News that people in Iceland knew about?  That people in the Falklands knew about?) that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’  The answer to that question is no.”  Paul said he was “satisfied” with this answer, thus losing the title of “Civil Rights Hero of the Week.”  How can anyone be satisfied with such an evasive, mealy-mouthed, non-answer as this?  What does the term “combat” mean in this context, and who decides what that meaning and context are?  What does “engaged” mean?  Is that different from “planning” or from “discussing violence?”  And, again, who decides what that means?  And that “American soil” thing.  Does that mean just territory in the 50 states, or U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, or embassies (which are considered “American soil?” 

  We now have in custody Bin Laden’s son-in-law, who will get a New York trial and speedy sentence of death or—at the very least—several lifetimes in a Supermax facility somewhere.  He is another tangible sign that the war on terror continues unabated, and that the government’s rationale for doing whatever it wants is still alive and bombing.  With Africa and Iran in play, the possibilities are endless.  Kudos to Senator Paul for at least TRYING to get some things straight, but this administration may be too Byzantine to get ANY straight answers anymore.  Meanwhile, my advice is to start keeping an eye on the sky.


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