Threats to Democracy


The New York Times editorialized the other day, in “Too Much Power for a President,”

It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight.

The Times argued,

No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

This is a discussion always worth having, but it can never be productively engaged if one does not honestly acknowledge some of the essential terms of the debate. Proponents and defenders of drone attacks against Al Qaeda and affiliated groups have long maintained that the declared hostility and the campaign of terror waged by those organizations constitute a new paradigm of war, by non-state actors. Drone killings are not “assassinations” but military actions. Opponents and critics who, like the Times, simply continue to use terminology like “assassination” and “far from a battlefield,” state thereby a position, but ignore by this reiteration the opposing view and evade, plain and simple, the actual argument. If one argues that the President is acting as Commander in Chief in a condition of war, then it is not, as the Times said,

too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief.

It is, instead, a coherent position. In contrast, the the Times takes the position that

[a] unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obamashould publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based.

That last recommendation is appropriate, as would be some Presidential characterization of what conditions might represent an “end” to this particular non-state war. The legal justifications for government acts should never be secret or war be pursued without a conceivable close. But the “campaign of death,” i.e. war, is not “unilateral.” It is founded in the Joint Resolution Authorization for the Use of Military Force of September 18, 2001. In war, the President makes these ultimate decisions. Harry Truman, and not an unelected panel of judges, made the decision to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That is, in fact, our constitutional system.

Many of those who regularly inveigh against the drone program do so with dire threats about the loss of American liberty inherent in the whole war on terror, including its accompanying intelligence and detention regimes. There is probably no more frequent vocalizer of shrill and hysterical threat than Glenn Greenwald, whose stock self-identification is as former Constitutional and civil rights attorney. Let it be noted, then, that in contrast to the current President and his party, we have in the United States a political party in the current Republican Party that has become, functionally, the most undemocratic force the nation has seen outside of the old apparatus of Jim Crow in the South.

While all politicians stretch the truth, evade, and double talk, and can be caricatured by their political opposites as ideological threats to liberty and the “American way of life,” examining the substance of claims can help us determine the truth. Already there has probably not been, since Richard Nixon, a more baldfaced liar and awkwardly grinning and dishonest prevaricator in pursuit of the presidency than Mitt Romney. Even more to the documentable truth, while the GOP for nearly four years has made those wild general arguments against the Obama administration, that it, through the Affordable Care Act, for instance, would be robbing Americans through expanded federal power of their liberty, the GOP itself, at the state level – the level at which, historically, Americans have actually most often been deprived of their rights – has been since 2010 aggressively attacking and limiting,  in a manner unprecedented, the democratic rights of varied groups of Americans.

Google Glenn Greenwald and “drones” or “terror” and its variations and you will get pages of hits. Try, instead, Googling Greenwald and “reproductive rights” or “war on women.” Google Greenwald and “labor.”  Google Greenwald and “Wisconsin” or “Scott Walker. Google him on Michigan and its emergency manager law – the single most tyrannical act in American governance. Google him on the Michigan GOP’s abuse of the “immediate effect” practice in passing legislation.

Google Greenwald and “voter suppression,” in Florida or anywhere else.

While Greenwald and his minions have relentlessly attacked the Obama administration as a threat to liberty and, literally, American life, as they drone on monomaniacally about how there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, the Republicans have been already, for two years, without yet having won the Presidency and potentially both Houses of Congress, depriving Americans of their rights in ways that have real effects ever day, on workers and women, gays, and whole towns and cities.

The eye, for these people, is forever on the drone. They need to put it back on the ball.


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4 thoughts on “Threats to Democracy

  1. Fantastic post. Indeed, when one tries to Google Geenwald on Wisconsin, voter suppression, or the war on women, you’ll get….nothing.

    The GOP is making it very clear that they intend to drag the country kicking and screaming back to the days before the New Deal….and all Greenwald and those like him want to do is slam the only person and party that could prevent this from happening. They constantly drag out the stupid, putrid “both parties are the same” canard even though the differences between the two parties is as large as the distance between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.

    And if they think that letting Ronmey get to the White House will “punish” Obama and the Democrats for going along with drone strikes, then they had better get in line for reconstructive surgery to reattach the noses they’ve cut off their faces.

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