Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Obama comes clean on death panels

As it turns out, Obama really is bringing death panels to America. However, it is not as part of health care reform. It is part of the war on terror. Obama is claiming the right to assassinate American citizens with no judicial oversight if they are deemed to be terrorists by his death panels--the intelligence agencies. The first victim is likely to be Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born Muslim cleric.

When he was a candidate, Obama was against even eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant. Now, as the President, he thinks it is OK to execute American citizens without a warrant, without charges, and without a trial. This is absurd.

I voted for Obama. At the Democratic primary, I stood up on a chair and emphatically expressed the importance of nominating Obama over Clinton. I thought it was crucial for America not to end up with two presidential candidates who voted for the biggest foreign policy disaster of my lifetime (that would be the not so pre-emptive Iraq War).

I appreciate Obama's efforts on reducing nuclear weapons. I appreciate his efforts on health care reform (though I think he could have done more). On the issue of civil rights, however, he has been a complete disaster.

First, he reversed his position on telecom immunity for warrantless wire-tapping. Then, he proposed closing Guantanamo without eliminating the fundamentally unjust concept of indefinite detention without charges. Now, he is claiming the power to order assassinations of American citizens believed to be terrorists.

Believed by who? Well, the same agencies who were wrong about Iraq's WMD's. The same agencies who thought that Chalabi was credible. The same agencies who were wrong about Canadian resident Maher Arar, wrong about the Chinese Uighurs, wrong about Afghan teenager Mohamed Jawad, wrong about Beaverton's Brandon Mayfield, etc.

People may believe that Obama should have the power to order assassinations of suspected terrorists. What people cannot believe, at least those that have read it, is that our Constitution provides this type of unchecked power. In the Hamdi decision, the Supreme Court ruled that American citizens deemed to be enemy combatants are entitled to due process.

The sad part of this, and there are lot of sad parts (like Obama being a Constitutional lawyer), is that a Supreme Court decision on Obama's assassination policy cannot be made until after someone is assassinated. This provides Obama with a convenient excuse--he did not know at the time that assassinating American citizens was unconstitutional. After all, who knew that assassination was a denial of due process?

For now, the Democrats in congress are silent (even the ones who pretended to be outraged over Bush's civil rights abuses). The Republicans support Obama's assassination policy. Of course they do. It validates the Bush/Cheney approach to fighting terrorism. However, I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Republicans reverse course and attempt to impeach Obama if Anwar al-Awlaki is actually assassinated. If so, I will support them. I am pretty sure that executing an American citizen without charges and without a trial rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

One thing is for sure, when al-Awlaki is assassinated, you can bet that the Obama administration, intelligence agencies, and the media will not portray it as an outright assassination. Instead, they will tell us that American authorities tried to capture him, but that he resisted, so they had no choice but to kill him in self defense. Another thing is for sure--most Americans will believe them.

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