Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.

The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

White House and extrajudicial assassination policy

A Nation magazine article by the man who drove Blackwater, Inc. to change its business name, Jeremy Scahill. An excerpt appears below.

But first, let's take a look at America in the modern world, and ... in Pakistan. There are ridiculous, bloodthirsty war hawk arguments driven mostly by greed and conquest. And then there are actual concerns of the citizenry, questions people have and assumptions about the way the world works with which they've been raised. And then there's some overlap in between. The overlap is the part of consciousness with which I'm most concerned.

So let's say citizens believe by and large that we live in a modern world of professionals. Where there is a task at hand--whether it's repairing a road, connecting a phone line, advising a family on marriage problems or locating international criminals plotting mass murder in a hidden cell--there are experts who can be hired to attend to the work with the greatest level of skill who necessarily possess an impending desire for society to keep its shape under duress, adherent at all times to a high moral code.

Since the last example in the list is the one we're trying to address here at EE, let's just snap back to the U.S. situation in AfPak, and I'll ask you this: What if you trusted spies right now about as much as you trust bankers? Even if your whole heart belongs to the land of the free, it has to be clear to you the CIA UAV unmanned drone program is not hunting terrorists like a team of former high school football team captains on a network TV show. There is somebody here who doesn't want to do his job and is letting technology do it for him--and a remote controlled drone isn't a Cuisinart. Controlling a rocket-laden aircraft with a video camera and a satellite feed halfway around the world from Langley, Virginia is cowardice. This is not the search for OBL described to us over the last decade. It's been shooting rockets at pregnant women and kids just in case it happens the guy running toward the tool shed with an AK-47 over his back was a top-ten list superterrorist. This is canned tuna work on a caviar budget, and people's lives are being destroyed for it. Their survivors are making plans for which terrorist cells cannot in any sane way be blamed. Americans have jihad of the same order in the very scripts of their most popular westerns and detective stories. His wife and child were murdered in front of him--he would stop at nothing.

Yes, what I am saying here is I believe average folks maintain a sense of justice that exists outside the law. In the same breath I am saying that part of the human psyche where the desire for something as hard to define as justice resides, there exists no rational sense of the limitations and potential detriment caused by the decision to follow that voice of relentless justice.

Flouting international law for a relentless drive for Dirty Harry-style justice is going to cost the rest of law: national law. U.S. law. When individual actors and departments of government declare by their actions that they are above the law, the rest of law is called into question. Why are the rest of us beholden to law--dating back to scripture ("Thou shalt not kill")--and in a modern society where professionals know best (attorneys for example), why is "might makes right" still an argument any citizen should seriously consider? There are other arguments, "democracy comes at a cost," "freedom isn't free," but show us where, exactly to look for the democracy. Residents of "tribal regions" aren't part of this picture of democracy. At home, legislators like Dennis Kucinich who are trying to explain that the ideas in the constitution are important, too--possibly more important than just pushing back against law while the professionals do their spy work and carry out extrajudicial assassinations--aren't really invited to democracy. Their names are taken off the guest list.

Keep in mind those who miss the days of September 12, 2001--the sense of urgency, no measure too drastic or decision too carelessly finalized. If we have time to think, there may be time for democracy. If the citizens involve themselves we may not have to trust the professionals to search their hearts for the clear knell of that high moral code after the "launch" order has been delivered from superiors.

The following excerpt is Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich speaking to the Nation's Jeremy Scahill April 15.

"In the real world, things don't work out quite so neatly as they seem to in the heads of the CIA," says Kucinich. "There's always the possibility of blowback, which could endanger high-ranking US officials. There's the inevitable licensing of rogue groups that comes about from policies that are not strictly controlled and that get sloppy--so you have zero accountability. And that's not even to get into an over-arching issue of the morality of assassination policies, which are extra-constitutional, extra-judicial. It's very dangerous from every possible perspective."

He added: "The assassination policies vitiate the presumption of innocence and the government then becomes the investigator, policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner all in one. That raises the greatest questions with respect to our constitution and our democratic way of life."

Kucinich says the case of al-Awlaki is an attempt to make "a short-cut around the Constitution," saying, "Short-cuts often belie the deep and underlying questions around which nations rise and fall. We are really putting our nation in jeopardy by pursuing this kind of policy."

1 comment:

Chris O'Brien said...

If America had a soul DK would be the President.