Sunday, October 02, 2011

Editorial: Those who stood and those who shrank

Foreign Policy in Focus

Foreign Policy in Focus calls itself "a think tank without walls" but we'd suggest "a think tank without thought."

How else to explain some of the crap they posted and, most importantly, the topic they avoided:

  • Michele Bachmann "Blames" Obama for Arab Spring

    Posted: Sun, 02 Oct 2011 06:00:00 -0400
    Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann attributes President Obama with "laying the table" for the Arab Spring.
  • U.S. Congress a Standard Bearer for Israeli Expansion

    Posted: Sat, 01 Oct 2011 06:00:00 -0400
    Earlier this month, Rep. Joe Walsh and 30 co-sponsors issued a resolution supporting Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
  • The Curse of Cluster Bombs

    Posted: Fri, 30 Sep 2011 08:35:00 -0400
    U.S. cluster bombs continue to kill and maim impoverished Laotians, but the war criminals responsible have never been brought to book.
  • Answering Obama's UN Address

    Posted: Fri, 30 Sep 2011 08:20:00 -0400
    Until there is a change in the Obama administration's policies, the president has little credibility in preaching to the world about the importance of peace.
  • When Creation Myths Converge: U.S. and Israeli Colonialism

    Posted: Fri, 30 Sep 2011 08:00:00 -0400
    Both the United States and Israeli believed their wildernesses -- and those that inhabited them -- needed to be tamed.
  • Review: The Survival of North Korea

    Posted: Thu, 29 Sep 2011 16:14:02 -0400
    If North Korea isn't about to collapse, then policymakers must stop complaining and deal with it.

What's missing?

No later than Saturday, they should have been addressing the biggest issue of the week, possibly of the month and year: Barack Obama ordering the assassination of two American citizens.

We saw who would speak out and who wouldn't.

We were disturbed by what we saw.

We spoke out against the PATRIOT Act as did many other people we once admired. But a lot of them have accepted the legislation today, now that a Democrat is in the White House. And many of them will apparently accept anything now that a Democrat is in the White House.

What took place Friday was offensive and illegal. As it was explained in that day's "Iraq snapshot:"

First, in Yemen today, two American citizens were killed. Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn were killed by Barack Obama who, in a deliberate distortion of the powers of a US president, ordered a drone attack on them. Their crime?
There is no crime. They're American -- they were American citizens. In the United States, you're not guilty of a crime until you've been convicted of one in a court of law. These are the basics and they're not difficult to grasp unless you're an idiot serving in the US Congress who disgraced yourself today whooping with joy over this attack on US citizenship, attack on the US legal system and attack on the US Constitution -- the last one should especially concern Congress since they take an oath to uphold the Constitution -- clearly not an oath they take very seriously. Or maybe they're just too stupid and ignorant to grasp what they're swearing an oath to? Maybe we need to get some Constitutional tutors to spend time with members of Congress? And this was bi-paristan stupidity -- Democrats joined Republicans in treating this as a joyful moment.

Congress members weren't the only ones self-disgracing. And what followed has generally shown you who you can trust and who you can't.

Rachel Maddow?

We loathe her but were going to link to her because supposedly she'd done a powerful segment. We were going to link to it. Without watching because no one can stand her back and forth wobble that she thinks is so cute and visually arresting or her smug delivery. Elaine, Rebecca, Ava and C.I. were skeptical that she delivered anything worth linking to and bit the bullet and watched her Friday show.

Someone needs to explain to Rachel that charges never brought in court aren't convictions. She spent forever going over and over this innuendo or that assertion and implying they were factual. Then she and that lousy bastard Spencer Ackerman were discussing the assassinations in terms of how Barack Obama could spin it best for political gain. Spency isn't a legal scholar, Spency's Barack's boy toy and has been that since 2007 and especially proved it in 2008 when he advised that good campaign strategy would be to start calling someone on the right a "racist" whether it was true or not.

Rachel gave the kind of weak ass segment that, had Bush been in the White House, would have resulted in loud outcry. In the last forty seconds, they briefly touched on touched on issue but they did not, as MadCow claimed, "figure it out."

She'd have done better to brought on Chris Floyd who'd already taken on the sort of crap Rachel was chewing and swallowing:

The New York Times story on the murders relates a number of accusations against the chief target of the attack, Anwar al-Awlaki. Assertions are made, mostly by anonymous officials, that al-Awlaki was "operationally" involved in terrorist plots, although not a shred of evidence for this "operational" involvement has been offered. (Another American, Samir Khan, was also reported to have been killed in the drone hit. It goes without saying that Khan had also not been charged with any crime nor was there any evidence that he ever took part in a terrorist operation.)

It is true that the two American citizens murdered by the president did engage in a great deal of fiery rhetoric urging violent uprising against the American state. This might not be very nice -- but it does happen to be protected speech under the Constitution of the United States. Of course, that quaint document from the horse-and-buggy era has long since ceased to apply, even fitfully and imperfectly, to the operations of the United States government.

It may well be true that with their words Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan "inspired" someone to commit, or attempt to commit, heinous deeds. So has the Bible. So have The Beatles. But to inspire is not to command. Again, no evidence and certainly no proof has been offered that al-Awlaki or Khan ordered anyone to do anything, or that they were in any "operational" role to do so. (Unlike, say, the Nobel Peace Laureate who holds the top "operational" role in the American war machine, which has killed vastly more innocent people than even the most inspired terrorist groups.) If such proof existed that al-Awlaki or Khan played such a role, they easily could have been charged.

We were happily surprised to see that Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) stepped up to the plate and did so on Friday, concluding, "The President has become judge, juror, and literally executioner, and that's not the way our system is supposed to work. And it sets a new low, and a terrible precedent, for the abuse of Presidential powers." At The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss observed, "Not that killing noncitizens is kosher, but killing an American isn’t. Still, rules are rules, and American citizens are supposed to have legal and civil rights that protect them from political or prosecutorial assassinations, even if they’re bad guys. Apparently, no longer."

And, as usual, we could count on Michael Ratner not to shy away but to ask the tough questions, "Is this the world we want? Where the president of the United States can place an American citizen, or anyone else for that matter, living outside a war zone on a targeted assassination list, and then have him murdered by drone strike." Also asking the tough questions was Dean Baker, "It might seem rude to ask such questions, but is it now U.S. policy that the government can kill U.S. citizens, who are not immediately in the process of attacking the U.S. (i.e. not engaged in a firefight) any time they leave the country? In other words, there was no judicial procedure whereby Anwar al-Awlaki was determined to have committed crimes warranting the death penalty. So, do we now give the president the authority to have any of us killed if we leave the country, and if not, what is the procedure whereby it is determined who gets killed?" Glenn Greenwald pointed out:

What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What’s most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President's ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki -- including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry's execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists: criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.

And, as Ruth pointed out, two members of the US Congress did speak out against the assassinations. US House Rep. Dennis Kucinich issued this statement:

"The Administration has a crossed a dangerous divide and set a dangerous precedent for how the United States handles terrorism cases. This dangerous legal precedent allows the government to target U.S. citizens abroad for being suspected of involvement in terrorism, in subversion of their most basic constitutional rights and due process of law. Their right to a trial is summarily and anonymously stripped from them.

The U.S. has successfully tried hundreds of terrorism cases in federal courts. Intelligence operations that have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight raise serious legal questions, particularly when the outcomes of such programs constitute possible violations of international law and violations of the Constitution.

"Mr. al-Awlaki's allegedly violent rejection of America was not acceptable in any way. Neither is it acceptable to trample the Constitution through extrajudicial killings."

And U.S. House Rep. Ron Paul declared, "Nobody knows if he ever killed anybody. If the American people accept this blindly and casually . . . I think that's sad."

Many stayed silent. But the names of those who spoke out need to be remembered. At Mother Jones, the strongest response came from Adam Serwer:

The central question in the death of American extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is not his innocence. That really misses the point. Awlaki was the only publicly known name on a covert list of American citizens the US government believes it can legally kill without charge or trial. Awlaki's killing can't be viewed as a one-off situation; what we're talking about is the establishment of a precedent by which a US president can secretly order the death of an American citizen unchecked by any outside process. Rules that get established on the basis that they only apply to the "bad guys" tend to be ripe for abuse, particularly when they're secret.

As for those like Foreign Policy in Focus and the others who stayed silent? We think Jonathan Turley accurately captured that crowd, "It's almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him. Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona."
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