December 21, 2011

Will the President Kill You?

Things are getting a little hysterical these days. Take this appearance on CNN by law professor Jonathan Turley, wherein he states:

It's even worse than coming into your house. President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he's satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

I will not quibble with Jonathan's summary of the President's powers, which the President first arrogated unto himself before noted liberal Carl Levin of the Senate helped him along by codifying our right of "self defense" against a broader array of terrorists, or "associated forces" of terrorists, or people in general who might "substantially support" "associated forces" of terrorists (or the Taliban - I'm not technically sure that they are "terrorists;" it's possible they are an indigenous people resisting a foreign invasion, but I hasten to add that I do not support, substantially or otherwise, the right of indigenous people to defend themselves against any invaders when those invaders are Americans, because then those indigenous terrorists are acting contrary to our right of self defense, which is why we undertook the invasion of their country in the first place).

Anyway, note the qualifying language: if he's satisfied you are a terrorist. All these so-called experts make it sound so arbitrary. He has to be satisfied first that you are a terrorist. Granted, as Congress keeps broadening the categories of those against whom the President is empowered to take action under various Authorizations for Use of Military Force, the definition of "terrorist" keeps expanding. In a sense, this might seem surprising, here in the waning days of 2011. Bin Laden is dead, the government tells us Al Qaeda has been rendered essentially "inoperative," it's been over a decade since any kind of serious terrorist attack occurred here in the Homeland (the "Homeland" being what we used to call "America.") I know that in our culture we equate sequence with causation (we try, whenever possible, to avoid statistical rigor in our public discourse); thus, if there have been no major terrorist attacks (other than the many instances of mass murder on campuses, at 7-11 stores, various other venues in Shooting Gallery America, but those don't count unless there is a kind of Muslim/political connection to the mayhem), we assume it is because of the War on Terror. It's true, of course, that about 8 years passed between the first, half-assed attack on the World Trade Center in 2003 and 9/11, and those years of calm cannot be ascribed to a Department of Homeland Security or War on Terror that didn't exist yet, but, you know...what the hell's the point of all this logic?

It's actually easy not to be a Terrorist, after all. I don't know what criteria the President uses to "satisfy" himself that someone is a Terrorist (and no criteria are published or even exist, for all I know), but I have a hunch that if you just shut up, vote for one of the two major parties, and stay away from Occupy demonstrations, or Tea Party gatherings - you know, just don't cause any goddam trouble - the President will be satisfied that you're not a Terrorist, and the odds of your being assassinated are probably less than being killed by a lightning strike. If you live on a golf course in the Dallas area between the months of April and October. Even if the 5th Amendment and Due Process have been repealed, let me ask you this question: if you're not guilty, why do you even care about the 5th Amendment? Will anyone accuse you of anything (thus activating your need to invoke Due Process) if you haven't done anything at all? Okay, someone might, but I don't see how that's the point. Let me rephrase that: yes, it is the point, that's exactly when you wish you had some process for determining your guilt, when you're not guilty and someone accuses you of something, but in order to be safe from those once-a-decade attacks (they don't really occur that often, but for the sake of argument), we should certainly be willing to tolerate the occasional, mysterious annihilation of Americans who behaved in ways that satisfied the President they were doing something covered by one of the new vague standards of terroristy things. Surely that's exactly what John Adams had in mind.

Anyway, Winston Smith came around to seeing things that way, but why go through all the miseries of his learning experience?

1 comment:

  1. hammerud6:21 PM

    Out government is following the path of every government, grabbing for more and more power and control. As a Christian, I believe that all people are sinful, and since governments are comprised of people, the power of government needs to be limited, and attempts by government to expand power need to be countered. Cultures "asleep at the wheel" allowed too much power to be focused in too few people with the result that history has given us a Hitler, a Stalin, a Mao, a Pol Pot, an Idi Amin, etc, etc. We need to wake up, and soon. We are no better than the people in those societies that produced such monsters, and we are fully capable of doing the same.